I am sitting on a fold-up chair at the top of the asphalt driveway which brings us halfway up the mountain to where our house sits. The house was built in 1987, and the driveway must have been laid down then. I have become aware that the driveway is a wounded place: blacktop, a form of asphalt, is made with crushed rocks and bitumen, an oil-derived glue-like substance that holds the rocks together. Both the bitumen and the rocks have been extracted from the Earth. The driveway gets very hot in the summer, and in the winter it freezes. There are cracks in this driveway, long fingerlike cracks that are sprouting little green plants. Where our cars drive over them these plants have been suppressed, but they are doing quite well where the traffic is less regular.
Joanna Macy lists three elements that are necessary for the Great Turning that is currently taking place, moving us out of the old Industrial Growth Society toward the new Life Sustaining Civilization. These elements are: 1) holding actions, legal and societal efforts to slow the destruction of the earth, 2) new structures, in which the new life-sustaining civilization can be created, and 3) a change in consciousness, so that more and more people become aware of how deeply we are all connected—humans, plants, animals, the air, soil,  and water.
My driveway makes palpable one of Joanna’s metaphors: new life that is springing up from the belly of the old. I cannot do away with the old, for our driveway, which is steep, needs a solid surface in order to be ploughed in the winter.
But I can honor the plants that are peeking through the asphalt. And I can make a RadJoy bird to celebrate the resilience of green!
—Polly Howells

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:


  • IMG 5758

How Is It Possible to Love a Hurt Place?

Shortly after meeting in Cazenovia, New York in 2009 to design our new organization, Radical Joy for Hard Times founding member Noah Crowe experimented with the practice we’d devised to find and make beauty in [...]

  • Mind The Heart Copy

How to Fill a Hole

What do you do with a big hole? Do you negotiate around it? Do you figure it’s beyond repair and try to ignore it? Or do you take the RadJoy approach and fill the hole [...]

  • Joanne At Shell

Reimagining the Unimaginable

Author and educator Joanna Macy has taught that there are three positive ways of dealing with a difficult situation: 1.     Fight to save what matters 2.     Work to create new, positive alternatives 3.     Change consciousness Sometimes, if we’re [...]

More Revealed



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