There are so many things I love about this story: (1) It’s about dirt, Georgia red clay, specifically, and it’s both a discovery and a kind of love story, (2) It was written by someone who was embarking on her first Global Earth Exchange and wasn’t quite sure what “should” happen, but simply dove in with a sense of curiosity and willingness, and (3) She patiently sits through the rain, paying attention to what’s interesting, what’s resilient, what’s painful, and (4) She faces what’s hurt and surviving in herself as she faces the same qualities in the land. Here is the 2021 Global Earth Exchange of Katie Case, Atlanta, Georgia.
—Trebbe Johnson
I have lived in this new town home development since last October, 2020. Since it’s a community still under construction, I have borne witness to how devastating a construction zone can be on the surrounding environment. I chose this barren spot of land next to my house because everyday I look out my window and see this bare spot of Georgia red clay that has swallowed up all sorts of debris … peppered with rocks and lumber, nails, and all sorts of colorful plastic. It’s a bald spot, waiting for its turn to be churned up and then covered with concrete as it will become the foundation of a new home.
So, I decided to take some time and visit this spot of land … a tiny piece … where red clay becomes deep mud puddles after it rains, and where the neighborhood children take their make-believe play as they attempt to scavenge any kind of treasure hidden deep within this speckled, polluted dirt. As I sat there, trying to find the right state of mind, the right words, it began to rain ever so slightly. I tried to take it all in and ended up observing a little oasis of trees next to a “retention pond,” separated by an iron fence. The developers of the community decided to keep a small patch of trees for a very pitiful aesthetic. They call it a “bird sanctuary,” but the spindly pines, surrounded by iron fence, surrounded by this barren red clay do not boast of “sanctuary.”
As it began to rain harder, I attempted to take some of the debris that is lodged within the grasp of this hard red clay, and try and make the outline of the RadJoy bird. The flag at its center, guiding. My gift was my mask that I’ve been wearing all year. The real gift was getting through this past year and realizing I am more resilient than I had imagined. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought insufferable loss, but I have focused on it giving me a new perspective and new opportunities with people who I am very grateful to have in my life. I’m not sure if I gave the whole RadJoy bird justice, but there was something about just trying, I guess? And you know what, this dirt and those spindly trees and that tiny retention pond still boast of life. I watched ducks paddle around in the water, heard crows in the trees above, so in the end, life tries to find a way, and so will I.
—Katie Case