Holding the Feathers of Grief and Joy with Trebbe Johnson

Product Description
$ 1.99

MP3 Download

A new kind of heroism is needed in facing the dire problems of the 21st century. The truth is we can’t confront any emergency, whether it’s personal, local, or global, by hoping and praying that the problem will go away or waiting for someone else to act. Trebbe Johnson suggests that we not deny our heartbreak—Rather we must give expression to our grief through tears, creative work, and sharing our lives and our stories with others. This is how we soften the grief and allow compassion and gratitude to infiltrate our being. By opening to the possibility of wonder from surprising sources, we recognize that, even in the bleakest of times, beauty is possible. She says, “I do think that somehow often in the times when we are most broken and vulnerable beauty comes through. Leonard Cohen says “there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.’” Although that beauty can’t permanently replace our losses, our sorrow, and the dire problems we’re facing, it can break through the walls of powerlessness and melt despair. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Trebbe Johnson is the founder and director of the global community Radical Joy for Hard Times, and she’s devoted to finding and making beauty in hurt places. She has camped alone in the Arctic wilderness; studied classical Indian dance; worked as an artist’s model, has been a street sweeper in an English village, and is an award-winning multimedia producer. She’s led wilderness rites of passage and contemplative journeys in clear-cut forests, Ground Zero in New York, in EPA’s toxic Superfund sites, the Sahara Desert, and other places. She participates in Global Earth Exchange—bringing people around the world together to go to places they care about that have been damaged or endangered: share stores, listen to the land, and make a simple gift of beauty for the place out of materials the place itself offers. 

Trebbe Johnson is the author of several books including: 

  • Radical Joy for Hard Times: Finding Meaning and Making Beauty in Earth’s Broken Places. (North Atlantic Books 2018
  • Fierce Consciousness: Surviving the Sorrows of Earth and Self (Calliope Books, 2023) 

To learn more about the work of Trebbe Johnson go to www.trebbejohnson.com

Topics explored in this dialogue include: 

  • How Johnson was transformed by the sounds of katydids after the death of her husband and thirty-four years of marriage
  • What is the significance of the myth “The Woman in the Cage and the Black Dog” that Michael Meade tells about how Earth’s story does not end although it may rearrange
  • How the more we open ourselves up to beauty the more it shows up
  • Disbelieving in our dire circumstances will not lead to taking action
  • The young woman’s experience of being disavowed by her teacher for her love of a nearby-by forest
  • What are the five steps to a Global Earth Exchange event
  • Why bearing witness is a powerful action
  • How our teachers may come in surprising ways, even in a brief encounter on a subway platform
  • Why we must pause, stand still, let beauty infuse our being because beauty is a life-saver
  • How we must go beyond just buying souvenirs or taking photos of our travels
  • How joy and grief are related
  • How the placing of a single Christmas tree in a neighborhood in Santa Rosa, California that was completed burned to the ground was an inspiration of hope for the entire community
  • Various creative acts of coming together that show that we are not alone are critical in these challenging times
  • Why knowing and tuning into our “superpower” helps us to know what we have to contribute to the whole of life
  • Rather than asking of someone what they do; a better question is “What do you love about what you do?” 

Host: Justine Willis Toms   Interview Date: 10/6/2023   Program Number: 3799

Music Playlist

Album - Roots
Artist - Laurie Z

Essay: Track 01 - Stranger in a Familiar Land
Music 1: Track 03 - In the Monterey Mist
Music 2: Track 05 - The Mysterious Painter
Music 3: Track 06 - From the Ashes