Pritchard Park, Bainbridge Island, Washington


radjoy 2016 newest

Pritchard Park, Bainbridge Island, Washington, United States—Superfund site and forced departure of Japanese Americans during WWII—Deborah Milton

Making beauty in our wounded place—Pritchard Park on Bainbridge Island WA, which is both a Superfund toxic site and the place where Japanese Americans were deported to detainment camps during WWII—flowed deeply, extravagantly and surprisingly. Six women gathered with two more expected, but their arrival was compromised by traveling on overcrowded ferries. One arrived as we were finishing up. The other chose to stay on the continent side and made her own Radical Joy Bird out of steel rods and bars she found on a littered urban beach.

We began with a rich talking circle about the meaning of birds for us, rattled and drummed a little, read a poem, talked over the process of what we would be doing and then began. We made three concentric circles with the intention of making the Rad Joy Bird in the center with mandala petals radiating out.

BUT our bird took on a life of its own and before we knew it the wings and beak were extending way out of the center circle to represent the strength of birds and the power required for our prayers to be heard: blessings for our world to be cherished by humans. Even the tail feathers extended beyond, so as we decided to let the mandala form go someone else recognized that the huge open beak was filled with song pouring forth. Thus we made an undulating line of shells pouring from the throat. As a final touch we walked the perimeter circle in a wave shape to indicate the ebb and flow of living and dying and all natural cycles but as miracles would have it before the first circuit was complete, the wavy path clearly overlapped itself and the DNA chain was born.

I think I can say for all of us that making the Rad Joy bird—making artful prayers in a wounded place —inspired us richly. Two future projects were voiced… incorporating the bird each time we do our seasonal artful prayers ( solstices, equinoxes and cross-quarter days ) AND the potential of making prayer flags to honor the stumps remaining from the pier that used to allow the shipping of creosote to the rest of the world…to be placed on high bamboo poles that would mark each stump so that when they are submerged by the tide, we would remember their presence.


  • What an enjoyable description of creating the Rad Joy Bird. It came to life through your words too, taking flight for me with Joy!