Rad Joy Bird

RadJoy-BirdThe RadJoy Bird is the signature gift that most Earth Exchange groups make and leave behind at the places where they’ve spent time. They make the bird out of materials that the place itself supplies: twigs, stones, leaves, sand, even trash.

The act of making something beautiful out of the un-beautiful is a powerful, if subtle act. It tells everyone who co-creates it that every place, like every person, already has everything that’s needed to transform what is ugly or neglected into what is beautiful and even joyful.

How we came to choose—or rather were chosen by—a bird as this symbol happened quite by accident. Two and a half days into RadJoy’s very first board meeting, one of our members brought out a variety of art supplies he’d brought all the way from London. By that time we had spent hours and hours discussing our mission, our goals, our plans. His idea was that we could arrive at our shared vision in a way that was less rational and more intuitive by making art together. With tape we stuck several large sheets of paper together. Then we all worked in silence for about an hour, each person moving around the paper, drawing, cutting out forms and sticking them on, writing, adding to what others had done.

When we finished, we carried the painting outside to a little park across the street. At first no one could discern any sense in it at all. Then Noah Crowe stood on top of a picnic table and exclaimed, “It’s a bird!” Instantly we all saw it: a crazy bird facing all the dark stuff of wounded places and striding into it, singing.

From that moment, we took the bird as our symbol. Birds are universal symbols of transcendence. They keep singing no matter what’s going on all around them. They are familiar to people in every land on Earth.

Every time people make the RadJoy Bird for a damaged place, they bring this spirit of joy, boldness, and transcendence both to themselves and to their place.