For RadJoy’s annual Global Earth Exchange (this year June 12; see below), people usually go to places that have already been hurt by human or natural acts. But there are so many ways to observe this day of giving gifts and attention to a place! For the 2012 Global Earth Exchange, Cathy Edgerly of Beverly, Massachusetts visited a place that had not yet undergone damage, but was slated for it: a grassy lot and some old buildings soon to be demolished for a parking lot.
The invitation to find a place that “makes you sad,” was resonating with me on that Saturday morning, and the poem on the Writer’s Almanac that day was one by Mary Oliver called “When I Am Among Trees.” In it she writes of her sense that the trees are asking her to “stay” and to “shine.”
I thought of a wonderful tree that I had encountered that will be cut down, as the site is being cleared for a parking garage. So for my Global Earth Exchange, I went to visit the land that will be lost to that new development. The good news about the parking garage is that it will keep so many cars off the highways. But I felt sad about the loss of the trees.
When I arrived, I felt compelled to walk every foot of the proposed parking lot and see what plants and creatures live among the asphalt and three old buildings that will also be torn down. I found so much magic, it was amazing. After each miracle, a reminder arose in the form of a question: how could I ever have expected anything else?? Birds will lose their homes and these majestic trees will be chopped down. Maybe there is a way to lessen the blow. I don’t know, but I will find out.
It takes courage to spend time with a place that you know will soon be destroyed. But Cathy’s act of walking that place—“every foot” of it—is a way of saying goodbye. It is a ceremony of mindfulness, a willingness to face what makes you sad and angry and afraid. It is a practice of appreciating the beauty that is… and then enhancing it with your own gift of beauty.

Trebbe Johnson
Trebbe JohnsonFounder
Trebbe is the author of The World Is a Waiting Lover and 101 Ways to Make Guerrilla Beauty. Her new book, Radical Joy for Hard Times: Finding Meaning and Making Beauty, will be published in Fall 2018 by North Atlantic Books. Her articles about people’s emotional and spiritual relationship with nature have appeared in Orion, Sierra, Ecopsychology, The Ecologist, The Nation, Harper’s and other magazines. She lives with her husband, Andrew Gardner, in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, a region currently under exploitation by natural gas companies.

Image Credit:

  • 42b22820 Cf66 4e71 B245 003c796e946a: Cathy Edgerly


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Radical Joy Revealed is a weekly message of inspiration about finding and making beauty in wounded places.