Harriet Sams
La Creuse, France

Story Info

Story & Experience

An eye of golden broom flower lay right at the junction of two paths. One path leading around a flooded river valley and the other to an old uranium mine. Hot and dusty, we began making a bird out of all we’d collected as we had walked to this spot.

Pine cones, twigs, ox-eye daisies, buttercups, sticks and even I wondered about a bit of dried fox poo I’d found, but my daughter insisted it didn’t get added!

I spoke a little about the french history of mining for uranium in the Massif Central area of central France, granite and uranium seams in this area. France was one of the first countries to truly embrace a fully nuclear electricity network, with mines in their own soil with, until the 1990s, dumps here too.

Around us are more than ten dumps in a hundred mile radius. There is a uranium mine museum nearby that has remained closed since COVID struck and when it opens I am half horrified, half curiously drawn to go and visit with the children. What is this monster, after all?

I grew up near Sellafield in the north west of England. Nuclear was the silent killer we knew about from Chernobyl as it blew cancerous particles across our fields. We did school projects on how terrible it was. Kids died of cancers. And yesterday we witnessed the funeral of a young friend too. This wasn’t nuclear, but the link of death was held by us, tenderly in our tears of love and grief.

There so much unknown about nuclear. We can’t smell it or see it and it can be all around. Only a Geiger counter can crack and whistle its warning if we even had one. Instead we just have stories of sorrows and fears. With new stories to add; Bill Gates to fund new nuclear plants in the USA. New fission plants to be tended for in the uk. Chernobyl has awoken under its blanket of concrete and lead. The mad rush to save the world from the monster of carbon dioxides opening the door to the monster of radioactivity.

We made the bird, these sorrows piled high in our chests. We made the wings curve, because they’re testing the power of the wind! They’re lifting this magnificent bird of hope, carrying it away like a migrant of freedom and wildness. Like nuclear particles borne of the air: uncontrollable and mysterious, yet this creation is strangely, powerfully, radically not human.

We bowed and thanked it for its beauty and wonderment, to all its component parts, all the bits and bobs of this place that go into making such a symbol of hope.

Why this Place?

La Creuse, France

This site is between a few uranium mines and dumps.

Act of Beauty

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We made the rad joy bird as we always love to do.


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