Molly Brown, Trebbe Johnson, their RadJoy Bird, and a meditating man at the spring on Mt. Shasta

When we make a gift to a place, whether it’s aural, visual, prayerful, or musical, we are only the first artists. Wind, waves, rain, sun, animals, traffic, or other humans will take over where we leave off. It is the act of giving that matters.
Trebbe Johnson writes that, as she travels these days down the west coast on her book tour, she stayed overnight with Molly Young Brown, author, Psychosynthesis coach, and facilitator of the Work That Reconnects, and Molly’s husband Jim in Mount Shasta, California. On the afternoon she arrived, the three of them took a hike along a trail on the mountain now called Mt. Shasta, solo and snow-peaked, and sacred to the indigenous peoples of the area, who have their own names for it.
Their destination was a spring tucked in the shelter of a gentle slope between a forest of red pines and a meadow of golden grasses speckled with rare, fragile heather. In recent weeks, this spring has completely dried up. Three young Asian men were seated around the spring in quiet meditation, and Trebbe, Molly, and Jim joined them.
After a while, Trebbe whispered to Molly, “Let’s make a RadJoy Bird for the spring.” (When members of the Radical Joy for Hard Times  network go to wounded places, they often make a bird out of found materials as their gift to the place.) Using pine needles, sticks, and pine cones, they fashioned a small bird, flying toward the spring. They whispered their wishes that this ancient source would once again flow. Then they, too, sat down to reflect and witness.
The three young men stood and set off higher into the woods, mistaking the direction of the trail. A few minutes later, they returned and, single file, made their way past the bird and the spring onto the correct trail. The third man in the group, apparently not seeing the quirky little bird, almost stepped on its wing, an act that would not have damaged it but would only have created the next phase of its beauty.
Yet for some reason, as he walked on behind his friends, he raised his arms up and down three times, like a bird in flight.
Did he notice the bird out of the corner or his eye but simply not register it? Did the bird itself communicate something? Was his own winged gesture merely a coincidence? Who knows? But it seemed in that moment like another gift to the spring.

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.


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