2017 Global Earth Exchange Stories

For the Birds on the Edge of Existence and the Dauntless Stewards Who Protect Them
Gainesville, Florida, USA

Shea Armstrong

Florida is home to some of North America’s most incredible birds. Each year thousands of shorebirds and seabirds make their way to our coasts in order to rest and refuel, feed and breed, and raise a new generation of their young. Upon arrival they face obstacles in the form of climate change symptoms on their breeding grounds (intense storms, nests being over washed, less room to breed), chronic disturbance from well-meaning beach goers, and pressure from an increase of predators that often follow the trail of humans leaving waste on the beach. Each year they continue to come back to the beaches to nest because that is what they have done for eons and they have no other place to go.

And each year they face the biggest obstacles during the holidays when people love to spend the weekend at the beach. It is especially on these weekends that dauntless stewards take to the beaches and put themselves between partying beach goers and the nesting birds.This year, one of the beach stewards documented some of the impacts from one of the most difficult holidays for the birds—4th of July weekend. Although personal fireworks are not legal in Florida, they persist and are a staple at most beach gatherings. 

The steward shared a 1 minute clip of a flock of magnificent Black Skimmers, a bird considered Threatened in Florida, repeatedly raising off the ground in the night because of fireworks. In viewing that one minute my heart sank to the ground, because on that evening alone the flock of birds had to endure hours of fear and disturbance. If those stewards had not been on the beach that night, keeping people away from the birds, it’s possible they could have died, all for the sake of entertainment.

After that evening, I changed my 2017 Global Earth Exchange away from my original ceremony and focused on creating art to be dedicated to the birds and the very important people who protect them. Normally I choose to create a bird each year, but as the flowers were laid, a peace symbol began to emerge. I slowly circled around the symbol and tears flowed as I contemplated just how on the edge these species are to extinction. My heart and body felt heavy and fatigued. As I stood over the peace symbol I let my attention be drawn to the purple flowers. I imagined the faces of those stewards on the beach, who put their bodies between reckless human behavior and birds that will likely not survive without our help. Imaging those faces, my tears of grief turned to tears of gratitude. They reminded me that as long as people are willing to show up for others, including other species, there remains the possibility of life being able to survive and thrive. In that moment, a recalibration of my role in humanity emerged. This 2017 Global Earth Exchange is dedicated to the ultra marathon flyers who come to the Florida coastline every year and to the dauntless stewards who protect them. May our efforts make it possible for humans to once again live wisely with other species.     

Farewell to the Family Business
Dublin, Ireland 

Claire Hayes

The 16th (the day of the Global Earth Exchange) coincided with the final day of my mother’s business closing. She and my Dad established a tv and electrical business 57 years ago and about 30 years ago she opened her own business ‘The Discount Shop’. She took after her mother, my grandmother, who had lived in a small village in Co. Monaghan, called Newbliss. My grandmother never actually closed her shop. She died aged 82 leaving her shop fully stocked with all kinds of everything – clothes, toys, food and household supplies. My mother’s shop focused more on household supplies and on the 16th my sister and I took some plastic cutlery which were in a box unsold and made this ‘bird’: 

We then said a blessing and prayed that my mother Joy would experience joy and a sense of peace, to replace the massive anxiety and distress she had. 
It is now two weeks later and my eldest brother has sold his business, which was my parents’ business. It has been an emotional and an exhausting few weeks. He had a head injury as a result of falling off his bicycle a few months ago and while it is essential that he get his health sorted, he might not be in the best position for making such a huge decision. Anyway the decision has been done and the irony is that my mother’s little shop is now full again with stuff from my brother’s shop, while he decides what to do with it all and what he is going to do with the rest of his life. 
I have been doing my best to keep out of it but slipped last week into being ‘too helpful’ and getting yelled at several times, with not particularly nice language used. I felt stupid and distressed. My Dad died almost nine years ago and if he had lived he would have been 80 today. I think I deliberately don’t allow myself to miss him most of the time, but he was such a calming force and a huge support for me, I missed him more these past few weeks that in the whole nine years put together. 
So, as I type, those tears that I have known were there and wouldn’t come out are now flowing, so that is good. 
I hope that you and Andy are really well Trebbe. I sent you a copy of my book and in case you don’t have time to read it, please read the last chapter!
I know that you will be preparing for Morocco and I wish you, Eugene and Doug a wonderful trip. There are some people out there who have yet to discover how blessed they are to be working with you in August! 

Moving Waters Through Urban Hearts
Denver, Colorado

Tom deBree

Confluence Park will soon be completed in urban Denver, Colorado. The project redirects converging waters of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek at a site which offered, as recently as 1858, a place for early white settlers to encamp, in sight of the Arapahoe tribal village just across the river. Today a scene of urban development surrounds the merging waters. High rise housing, business, and entertainment venues continue to extend and expand along and over the water banks in the heart of downtown Denver.

I sat down, observed and listened. Construction workers shouted signals to each other. Children happily splashed in the water. Vendors hawked fast food on the banks. After a while I drifted up a grassy slope overlooking the confluence. From there I held a wider view of the place, though I felt a bit removed, too.

I felt sad, removed, ashamed and angry with my own species of life, we homo sapiens, for the arrogance, short-sightedness, emotional indifference to place and life beyond the pressing human interests of profit and growth. The original water channels and animal habitations, those living beings Given to the site, were actually moved to align with the human design and development of Confluence Park. And now the work is almost complete. I was here last year with my granddaughters for the 2016 GEx. This year I am alone.

I composed a RadJoy Bird to watch and listen with me. The RadJoy Bird body outline I pulled into place with stray pieces of plastic yellow construction ribbon, a soft barrier warning to alert pedestrians to inherent dangers near construction sites. “CAUTION! CUIDADO!” I gathered a few discarded trash bags to shape her folded wings and her fanning tail, rocks to hold her body intact for a few hours

While I missed the candid hearts and keen eyes of my grand daughters, I was more aware of ambiguity in my feelings and thoughts this year. Sitting at some distance above the waters, I surrendered my mind and heart to the original wild of the river and creek …a wild I could only imagine… when the peace and beauty must have struck human eyes with astonishing simplicity and depth. I could see the waters joined at the very site where colonial settlers searching for gold 159 years ago became new neighbors to Native Americans peoples inhabiting the land. But, except for the sonorous rush of the waters raised from the winter snow melt-off in the Rocky Mountains, the original wild beauty of the place, was all but extinguished, not to forget the possibility of respect for different cultures and peoples. I grieve this absence. Even as I appreciate skilled labor to design an attractive site for urban human activities—recreation, entertainment, markets… I rue our hubris. People splash in the newly fashioned water run currents, no doubt designed with good intent. Yet, is our refreshment and play all we could know in their life?

Construction cranes hang out over the site, and busy hard-hatted workers pour cement. Graded social areas and descending steps access the waters. New dense housing structures rise along the banks. Yet, what was already Given here for thousands and thousands of years seems dismissed. It feels so very cavalier, the indifference to the whole of nature. How much and how far shall we humans assault the earth, air and waters of the original Gift of life to accommodate and invite further human population growth and industry? Our will is presumptively carved into the creek and river banks. I wonder what and how wisdom in the waters might have adjusted the design. The industry is not so much beautiful, as it is fast, sleek and powerful. It is devoid of care and respect for what of the wild we do not understand. So little evidence of restraint, humility, gratitude for what was Given in the first place.

Woodstock, New York, USA

Anne Hemenway

I sat near what remains of a huge 3 pronged linden tree, now a large stump decorated with rocks and shells, and prayed for the protection of our land and water.
 On both occasions, when I left the spot, the ceremonial tree stump was visited by a funny piliated woodpecker.

Honoring a Clear-cut on the Ashokan Reservoir
Ashokan, New York, USA

Polly Howells

On the afternoon of June 24, 2017, twelve of us set off from the westernmost parking lot of the Ashokan Reservoir to walk a mile to the Monument commemorating J. Waldo Smith, the chief engineer of the Ashokan, whose waters began flowing to all five boroughs of New York City in the autumn of 1917.

The land around the Reservoir is owned and managed by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. In December 2016 they removed what they considered “hazardous trees” in two straight columns leading up the 100-year old monument. They were 100-foot stately red pines, likely planted when the monument was dedicated to J. Waldo in 1936. The DEP also removed all the pines from a nine-acre lot in the vicinity of the monument. They defend their action by saying the monument needs an upgrade and the trees were likely to fall on it. This is possibly true, but it feels like overkill, and the scene is now one of devastation.

We walked around the monument, reading the inscriptions, and then spent some quiet time in the cut area, where voluptuous feathery ferns have filled in the spaces between the fallen timbers. We created a bird from the detritus, a bird that reminded some of us of a fish and so we dubbed it “fishbird.” We walked back along the reservoir and were graced, overhead, by an eagle, an osprey, many swallows, and a turkey buzzard. We heard them celebrating our ceremony of honor for the land and the waters of the Catskill Mountains, as well as for the many people whose lives were forever changed by the erasure of 11 towns in the Esopus Valley when the reservoir was constructed a century ago. The day was gorgeous, the waters and trees rippled by a cooling breeze, and we were infused with a mixture of sadness and joy.  

Alderley (Brisbane) Queensland, Australia

Susan Margaret

My friend Pippa Robinson invited me to join her in making a small symbol of healing and love for our Earth, which is constantly being wounded by human beings wanting to take something—sometimes for the good of all, but mostly for the benefit of a few.
In Queensland we are currently fighting to keep Adani out of the Carmichael Basin, for example. Though their action and the results with the Queensland government constantly creep forward towards their success, and the brutalisation of the Earth.

Early one warm winter morning, I made this little cross—pointing north, south, east, west—let the healing flow from here as a symbol of my request to all human beings to treat our Earth wisely. 

L & M Tribute
Hopkinton, New Hampshire, USA

Cathy Cushing

Went to Blaze Hill in Hopkinton, NH to the site where a young Abenaki woman named Lalula met a Mohawk warrior, Mognomis, and they both fell in love knowing that they had discovered their soulmate. After several meetings Mognomis promised to return from his homeland and take Lalula back to his village to be his wife. On the appointed day her father arrived with twenty-four warriors, all armed with bows and arrows. Both Lalula and her beloved Mognomis were pierced through their hearts with the arrows.

The site is located on the top of a hill with a beautiful view of the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont. A very short distance away is a very large and very tall cell tower, constantly humming and visible for miles around. To honor the love of Lalula and Mognomis along with the love of the mountains and beauty of this spot I conducted a solo tribute. I started with blessing the cell tower with water and prayer. I then went to a clearing and burned incense while meditating on how this area must have looked so long ago. I read a story out loud, wrote a poem, sang Walk In Beauty by Brooke Medicine Eagle with percussion, made a rad-bird and danced! Sat in the woods for a while and sang a song about Lalula and Mognomis.  

Carlisle Cemetery
Carlisle, England

Benet Waterman

My personal journey through life has gifted me a long and deeply rewarding career in education, the pull to become a spiritual healer and soul midwife and then latterly, for the past four or five years, to serve as an Independent Funeral Celebrant. I feel privileged indeed.

I have led a great many funeral services both here in Carlisle and elsewhere— times of immense sadness, confusion and pain for those most closely involved.

Here in Carlisle, we have a 96-acre cemetery dating from 1855 with a crematorium built in 1956 and an area set aside for woodland burials. Over ninety-seven thousand burials have taken place here since it was established.

The 2017 Global Earth Exchange in the cemetery grounds allowed a quiet contemplative opportunity to reflect on many things—the life journeys we each experience being, of course, the common thread.

It began at the spot where John Kent was buried in a pauper’s grave in July 1886— it was there that the Radjoy bird was laid with branches, twigs and leaves found scattered around under nearby bushes and trees. Sunflowers completed the tribute.

The first black police officer in England, John was the son of a former slave brought to Whitehaven here in Cumberland, as it was then called, and who was later given his freedom by his master.

John was carried through the same gateway by which I entered on June 17th as I made my way to the old yew tree by his grave, almost exactly one hundred and thirty one years later. A gateway through which so many have been taken on their final journey—in John’s day the wealthy would have been attended, no doubt, by pomp in horse-drawn hearses, the less-well off on carts, and the poorest borne simply on shoulders—who knows who carried and wept for John that day.

John could never have fully understood the trauma experienced by his father—there can be no words to express the pain of that. A stranger in a strange land —a story which belongs to all the dispossessed.

There was time too to pause by the military graves of those who served in the first and second world wars—and, in particular, to stand by the headstones of those who were buried in this place as enemies. I wondered if their families and loved ones ever knew where they fell and finally lay.

We commit so much suffering and pain to the ground—and water it with tears… and this was the story of Global Earth Exchange 2017—

a time to reflect on how such a place as a cemetery can also become a place of great beauty, a place of quiet peace where people can find comfort and inspiration. The earth takes—and the earth gives—and we are its privileged guardians.

Benet Waterman

For a slashed forest and slain wolves
Teanaway, Cascade Mountains, Washington, USA

Thea Levkovitz (for the Radical Joy Gypsies: Intrepid, Trail and White Alpha)

Last week, I spent 3 days camping and hiking with two of my closest women friends. We all needed some girl time and some time in the wild. We expected clear weather and got misty, overcast and gray. It was all great! We hiked, sang, talked, and sat around the campfire drinking hot wine brewed with Good Earth Spice tea—a spur of the moment invention after an 11-day wet and amazing hike. We hiked in the Teanaway are on the east side of the southern Cascades. We chose it because it is one of the areas that has not been “discovered” yet by the masses of Seattle. It also has a 6- 8-member wolf pack. When I told my friends about the Earth Exchange they immediately were on board. We had not planned, but we had ideas—singing, praying, creating your wonderful bird. The wildflowers were amazing, and there didn’t seem to be so much wounding where we were. We thought we might find a spot and simply acknowledge that all places are wounded now because of climate change.

We reached a point on the hike when we needed to decide if we wanted to go back the way we came or do the entire 11+ loop. We opted to go on. Not long after we came upon the wound—a clear-cut with slash piles alongside the lupine encrusted trail.

As I was looking down, I saw your bird. It was perfect. I know I will never look at dead branches the same way again. Together we crafted Radical Joy. We sang. We held back tears. I think we each made an internal vow—it could not be helped. I know I did.

We now call ourselves the Radical Joy Gypsies. Yala, Trail and White Alpha (in honor of the White Alpha Female Wolf of the Tower pack in Yellowstone. She was shot outside of the park this year.)

Shoreham, New York, USA
Sacred Shoreham

Pete Maniscalco
On this sacred day—June 20, 2017—the NY State Legislature (Assembly & Senate) approved a bill that makes the 1,000 acres of woodland surrounding the defunct Shoreham Nuclear plant a part of the LI Pine Barrens Preserve. It has taken 40 years to accomplish this transformation from a nuke that threatened all life to a parkland-preserve that affirms all life. During that time I was arrested 5 times to bring a laser-like focus to critical moment in the battle to keep the nuke from opening.  Long Islanders are the only people in the world to keep a completed nuclear plant from opening.
I equate what we accomplished with modern mythology and is the finest teaching story in Long Island’s recorded history.  In mythology, wherever the monster is slain – that place becomes an “axis-mundi” or “world-center”—where the community is renewed and refreshed. It took 40 years of patience and perseverance but we did it! 

The model that we created may be used throughout the world by progressive people dealing with today’s political chaos. It is an inspirational, powerful model of citizen-driven democracy. As Nelson Mandela said: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Amen!


Willows Global Earth Exchange
Leicester, North Carolina, USA

Lynn Wadsworth, colleagues, and clients

“On June 15, 2017 the young adult women at The Willows Recovery Program came together to share and honor their connections to the earth for the Global Earth Exchange.

“We began the activity by exploring our personal connections to the natural world, and each woman shared around their “special place” in nature. Then, after a discussion about the woundedness (yet resilience) of nature, each participant set off for a sit spot to which she felt drawn, and remained there for half an hour, simply experiencing the place. Upon return to group, we shared our experiences. Finally, the women created radical joy birds out of found materials, and offered these birds back to their spots as an act of gratitude. “

Healing for River Wye
Derbyshire, England

Pippa Robinson

Walking the Monsal trail by the Wye river in the Derbyshire Peak country. This river has had many uses including feeding the cotton mills in the nineteenth century. Many many people and their dogs now walk the trail enjoying the beautiful river and wild flower meadows. On 17 June 2017 sitting beside it I felt a need to honour and protect its waters.

Honoring Our Beautiful Earth
Palisade, Colorado, USA

Marla Ferguson

This was a personal event in Palisade to honor the earth. I didn’t have the energy to invite a lot of friends to participate this year so did my own personal honoring of the earth. On our property is the stump of a very large tree that had to be cut down a number of years ago. I sat and talked to the tree stump and it represented all of the trees that are being cut down and we talked about how important trees are in providing oxygen for humans. I thanked the tree for all it did and told it how much I love trees. Before I talked to the tree I helped a toad out of our pool and noticed that it only had one eye. I thought that was significant somehow (although I still haven’t figured out exactly how) and decided to take a picture of me and the toad and the tree stump as we honored each other and our broken lives on this planet. Instead of making something at the actual site, I went inside and made a small quilt to continue to honor the earth. It isn’t quilted yet but I didn’t want to wait until it is finished to submit this. I did enjoy this process!

Fracking Heaven
Kirby Misperton Protection Camp, Yorkshire, England

Harriet Sams

Hard times indeed, when the Earth is threatened with drills and big machinery, spewing her blood from veins deep within her body. Blood that will fuel industries and homes in a last-gasp attempt to eek out the last dregs of profit for those who laid claim to those blood riches.  That is not your blood to spill, I hear, yet this cry has reverberated around the arenas of human-made slaughter for aeons and nobody has ever listened until the reckoning of peacetime. 

Except that this anthropocene has bore witness to the spilling of all the blood in the world. Every single drop that wasn’t white, rich or comfortable to spill. This time it’s Earth Herself who is to keep sacrificing Her innards of shale gas to be offered upon the alter of money, of energy, of fuel, because dear girl, all this makes us happy in the long run. You like your life, don’t you? Surely you gave your silent consent long ago, when you were born into this world and you didn’t complain of the riches, the privilege, of the comfort? 

Hard times indeed. I squirm in my skin of the lost chances to respond. Because I have blood on my hands too. 

Yet, the rallying call went up and I’m listening now. I am rallied now. The comfort given to me for my silence can no longer numb me from the means used to stupify me.  

As individuals it is easy at first to be overwhelmed by the enormity of what is needed to be done. But this is a LIE!  have learned that this thought is directly caused by the habit of thinking that we are alone and separate from one another and from the Earth. Find others who agree and who will not collude with the all-too-easy return to sleep! Find those who too have heard the rallying call and who are turning towards the lines. 

I found such a place at Kirby Misperton Protection Camp last week. I took the baby and we went for an hour to meet the residents and to learn a little about their days. Amid the practicalities of putting a kitchen together, rat-proofing their food stores by using filing cabinets, fixing clattering cabins and moving useful humans across the country, I heard of a deep and real connection to the Earth, I felt the power of place, the genius loci embracing all who come tumbling lost and grief-stricken through the gate. I watched as tears of protectiveness in the eyes of one, my own eyes welled up as I felt it too. Fixing me, I heard. This place is fixing us all. Bowled over, surely it is us who are fixing the Earth? Yet even in her cry for help, Mother still heals. Goddess eyes, woven with wool into birch twigs dot about the camp, homemade signs and placards, welcome home. 

A week later and I return to offer a Global Earth Exchange: an offering of meditation, connection to place, of finding the wound of a place and then making beauty that was created by the inspiring Trebbe Johnson at Radical Joy for Hard Times charity in the USA. The sun beat down on us as we sat next to young willows in the camp. Nine participants plus me, my singing bowls and my drum, making a circle of stillness in the heart of the camp as others around us buzzed about, busy with the tasks of the day: kids making a tarp hide, kitchen goodies being prepared, cups of tea made and imbibed as actions were discussed. Our circle turned inward, to each other, to the group, to the Earth beneath our hearts. 

We began with a quick introduction of each of us, why are we here? What brought us here? And this is the depth of the wound: grief, rage, how dare they? How dare they? Love, self-healing on a long journey, love, love, love, and a calling responded to. Time and again, the call. 

Then a meditation, to feel the Earth, to open up to her as if she were a lover, to stand as equals with her and to find what she says to us as silent, still individuals. RadJoy has the term the Ground beneath our hearts and this was utterly perfect for this work. We envisaged the shale gas and we felt our own connection to that. We felt the Earth as our lover. 

When we then went off to spend some time alone to connect more deeply to what we’d experienced. The drum and a bowl were taken, occasionally I could hear the drum as its player walked around the camp. The bowl turned up on Facebook: chill mofos.

To the couple of people who remained I played the other bowl, swaying into the bowl’s rhythm and vibrations, it took us deep into its sound and feel. To give vibrations of music back to the Earth. 

When we returned we made the RadJoy bird; wings outstretched, made from twigs and straw, long grass, cast-off cricket bat ash, half a tennis ball for a beady eye, goose feathers given only the day before for some as-yet-unknown reason (until now) splayed along the tail. The bird took shape under our foraging eyes and the will to create grew and grew in us all as the joy of the making took over. Satisfied at last we stepped back to admire our creation. Beauty made with joy, she lies now in the meadow as a symbol of the kestrel who has frequently visited the camp. 

Holding hands around the head, we close with a final grounding meditation and a reminder to give thanks to the Earth and to ourselves. 

Suddenly, Kestrel swoops overhead. Absent for a couple of days this is a portentous moment, just as we finish the GEx. Has she come to check out the new bird? Or because she has been attracted by the love of the group? She glides above us and beyond. Transfixed, we are blessed. 

Global Earth Exchange or GEx is a powerful thing. It’s a moment of reflection on every emotion that rises up when we notice that we are in the presence of a wounded place. Grief hangs over us like a weighted cloth that smothers our every move and the breath we so desperately need to live. The GEx offers us up to the grief, opens us up and makes us aware of it so that we can look beyond it and notice the radical joy that bubbles and sparkles with creative energy. Right at the edge of despair we find the strength to create joy. But we have to get to that edge, through the pain and the fear, through the grief and rage that hangs so ominously. It doesn’t engulf us because the joy is always felt, somewhere near, somewhere close, and GEx offers a gateway and an invitation to step into it. 

We make the bird that was lying waiting within us all, waiting to be made by willing hands and open hearts.

For the Elm Trees
Brighton, England

Persephone Pearl
Close to where I live in Brighton there is a park called the Level. It’s surrounded by trees, some of which are elms. Elms are very rare because of Dutch elm disease, but Brighton has the largest elm population in Europe. Last week several of the Level elms were found to have the disease. This happens from time to time but it is always a shock. It’s a fungus spread by a beetle. The trees are all interconnected by their roots. The council’s tree team have been working to save the rest of the elms —six of them have been felled. 
I went to the trees on Global Earth Exchange day and sat with them. Here is a photo of flowers and a letter on top of one of the elm tree stumps. 

Crested Butte, Colorado, USA

Ivy Walker

We found our way to a site of 100s of disposed of metal cans from the mining era in an Aspen forest above Crested Butte, CO.  We created a threshold and interacted with the site through noticing, sharing, and making temporary art. My friend moved fallen branches to create a circle of intention on the cans.  I cut out paper hearts and placed them gently within the site. They were removed before we left.  We sang a simple note of A, bowed to the lessons from the site and stepped back across the threshold.

For the town of Osceola and the river that was
Osceola, Missouri, USA

Lawrence (Larry) Lewis

On Global Earth Exchange Day June 17, 2017, a group of eleven gathered at a table in the Osceola, Missouri, park shelter house nearest the water of Truman Reservoir, Osage Arm. A few weeks earlier, water backed up from Truman Dam had risen high into the park. The benches where people were now sitting for their talking circle were under water then. Those present spoke about what the place had meant to them. Some remembered when the free-flowing Osage was the people’s river, where many town-folk moored their rowboats before the U.S. Congress, through the Army Corps of Engineers, made it a restricted area, before the Corps removed the 20% of the town below the “take line” for flood control.

One of the group members recalled practicing yoga poses on concrete slabs from a lower-elevation now-vanished shelter house. Another told of arrowhead collecting and fishing along the shore. One man remembered collecting Osage River water for the baptism of a son born before the lake filled behind the dam. One woman recounted a gathering at the lake shore to launch lights over the water to honor the memory of a younger brother recently deceased.

People recalled the “wounded place” left when the lake destroyed the breeding grounds of both vertebrate and invertebrate native species. One couple, in residence in Osceola less than a year, looked forward to accumulation of memories as time goes on.

After time for individual reflection, nine group members reconvened to work together to make the outline on the ground of a Radical Joy bird out of driftwood left behind by the recent high water, and also a nest from smaller wood debris. The participants’ ages ranged from 13 to 85. The 13-year-old group member, looking at the completed sculpture with its sharply angled head, said the work was more pterodactyl than bird.

Honor the Earth: Ceremony for the El Guique Gravel Mine
Española, New Mexico, USA

Liz Gold

For decades, gravel mines have decimated traditional Hispanic villages and sites sacred to native peoples in northern New Mexico, causing habitat destruction, air and water pollution, and unsightly scarring in the foothills of the Jemez Mountains, along the Rio Grande. Moreover, ancient petroglyphs have been ground up and lost forever. In our Earth Exchange we visited one of those sites, the El Guique gravel mine, and created an act of beauty.

We planned to do the Earth Exchange near but not on mine property. However, some local people wanted to meet us just outside the gates to the mine. We were waiting there at 9 am when the enormos, noisy gravel trucks started rolling in, every couple of minutes, and then rolling back out full of dirt. We were parked out of their way, but we felt were experiencing the full woundedness of this place where the Earth is being scooped out by the truckful every few minutes.

As we were turning around our car to leave, one truck intentionally cut in extremely close, so we had to back up fast to avoid being hit. It was frightening. Perhaps the driver felt we were threatening his job, though we were just sitting in the car. We thought of the people at Standing Rock who faced aggression by truck drivers, and we thought of other people fighting for the Earth who have faced far worse. We tried to pray for the driver.

We drove down to a spot opposite the mine in the shade of two enormous cottonwood trees. Below us on one side stretched houses, farms, and green fields as far as we could see, in the ancient floodplain of the Rio Grande. They were fed by a lovely, wide, centuries-old acequia (irrigation canal) dug by hand by Hispanic villagers. It was difficult to square this beauty with the ugliness of the 300-acre mine we could not see, but knew was just below the small hills on the other side of the road.

As we sat, we noticed birds in the trees above us and wildflowers and medicinal plants all around us. We talked about the beautiful place and our feelings about what had happened to it. Then we crossed the road and made a RadJoy bird out of stones and twisted wood we found there, and flowers we’d brought. We scattered cornmeal, sacred dirt from the Santuario de Chimayó, and water from a sacred spring in Chimayó. We told the place we still loved it, no matter what other humans were doing to it. We thanked it for giving us jobs, roads, cement for building, and probably the gravel in our own driveway.

We also took water and poured it into the acequia, which had been damaged by the mine in the past, and prayed for healing for all the people and animals of El Guique. We then drove a little further and saw magnificent petroglyphs. We thanked the ancient ones with cornmeal.

We left with sadness but also joy in our hearts and gratitude for this way of connecting with each other and with this place.

Camp Disappointment, Washington, USA
Sisters of the Waters

Judy Todd, Deborah Milton, Tricia McGarrity, Christine Castigliano

Beautiful day celebrating the confluence of river and ocean! Making a water wheel mandala and Radical Joy Bird, symbol of playfully lifting spirits in hard times. with joy (noticing and appreciating what we love most, showing up with hearts minds and bodies) and grief (for the degradation and rising of the waters, the suffering of people, plants and animals, the unintended consequences of human progress) Making art from the heart to honor the world we love (water!!!) to be the change that we want to see. How do you enJOY this life, this planet?

Several of us also visited a small permanent art installment of ancient Cedar tree trunks in a small circle surrounded by newer, younger Fir and Pine. The pathway of carved stone prayers to the nature beings was to ‘teach us and show us the way’, a fitting prayer for our day and for our devotion of taking care of these wounded places and transforming grief and loss to gratitude. This is one of 5 sites in the Columbia River Basin dedicated to deeper understanding and a re-discovery of what was ‘already there’ when the Lewis & Clark’s Discovery Corp traveled through. From the website: These are “teachable places,” transformed and reimagined to explore the confluence of history, culture and ecology in our region. Each work references a passage from the Lewis and Clark journals as a snapshot in time, while comparing it with the deeper story. Visit http://journeybook.confluenceproject.org/ 

It was, once again, a joy and a privilege to share this day with others all over the world! It adds such reality to our knowledge of the ‘rising tide’. IT was profound for me to read all the stories so far posted, and have the realization of how visibly and real the wounds are…so much to hold and to love. 

Jamestown, Colorado, USA
Dying aspen trees

Clare Dubois

Standing by these Aspen trees in staggering beauty – I am saying goodbye to this place ever looking like it has before, because even in the three months since I was last here, it’s almost unrecognisable the tree die off is so fast. Broken boughs, snapped trunks, dead trees everywhere – I stood in this gorgeous Grove almost not able to let myself look at the signs that they too were on their way – dying from the bottom up in the same way that Aspen forests all over the mountains have already died. Would I come back to see them again to bare witness to their leaving? I don’t know that I would and yet I’m going back up there again today to complete some filming and I don’t even know if my heart can take it.

I didn’t know what to say to the trees, except ‘I’m sorry’. I don’t know how to be amongst this die off and not feel crazy, split and broken right along side the trees themselves. No one wants to look. No one wants to feel. Did we even deserve such majesty if we just turn away whilst our own lifestyles and ways of being cause their departure from this world?

Chicago, Illinois, USA
Lake Michigan

Andrea Friedmann

On Lake Michigan, where there was a chemical spill in April. Another opportunity to offer beauty and healing. And receive so much!

Wyman Park
Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Lisa McCall and Autumn VanOrd

Autumn and I did our exchange at Wyman Park on Saturday. We saw the shape of the woven material on the ground and it seemed to suggest a bird with wings, so we decorated from there to create our RadJoy Bird.

We had two mallards just leisurely swimming around and eating while we were there. What came to us was how different the sense of time is for us (humans) vs. for the earth. This place has only been wounded for such a short time in earth time, while in our brief time it feels like such a long time. And should humans somehow not exist, nature would just recover and go forth healing and adjusting. It felt humbling.

A Ceremony for Traumas Close to Home
Ewing, New Jersey, USA

Joy Kreves

I decided to do my 2017 GEE at home on the soothing moss that covers much of the yard. I have been sharing physical, emotional, and environmental traumas of people close to me in such rapid succession that it has felt like fireworks, and we need some soothing of our wounds.

I gathered up some twigs, broken ceramic garden ornaments, (my creations), our long departed old dog’s toy, bamboo husks, ferns, Kalmia blossoms, and a strip of plastic from the yard. I thought about how the earth provides solace as I laid the materials out on the soft moss.

This year I wanted to make my bird more like a phoenix, to rise above all the problems. I gave it a Kalmia flower crest and a long, cilantro-decorated fern tail. Lastly, I found some violet leaves, and they are heart-shaped, so I placed those on the wing tips and at the end of my bird’s tail, to symbolize that this project of living is all about loving, and expressing love.

I left my bird, thinking that a quilt made up of GEE bird images would be a wonderful thing to create sometime.

Ceremony for the Wounded Waters of Our World
Sebastopol, California, USA

Dianne Monroe

About 15 of us gathered at the Laguna de Santa Rosa, (a wetland once damaged, degraded and now partially restored). This is the 6th year there has been a Ceremony for the Wounded Waters of Our World at the Laguna, as part of the annual Radical Joy Earth Exchange. This year, one of us offered a water blessing to each participant, pouring water over the hands of each person who passed over the threshold we created with bay leaves and Calendula flowers. Within the circle thus created, we gathered around an altar, decorated with ocean shells, and a large bowl of water at its center. This year, for the first time, we used hand-made rattles made from kelp bulbs, driftwood sticks and fine sea-rounded pebbles—the rattling creating a container in which each person could speak their sorrow and joy. When the words were complete, each person took some water from the bowl, using shells or handmade ceramic cups, and offered it to a tree, bush, flower or some part of nature nearby.

High Hope Ranch Sisterhood
Glen Rose, Texas, USA


Sandy Skrei and Krystyna Jurzykowski
The High Hope Ranch Sisterhood embarked on a three-year global Earth Exchange Project. We know that a power line running through the ranch and onto our beloved neighbor Fossil Rim is going to be replaced. This will involve heavy machinery, a lot of mowing, and a lot of tree pruning. We are in an area with endangered species that rely on this brush and the trees, and we have Oak Wilt which spreads through pruning and damage to oak trees. We went to the entry point of the power line onto High Hope and blessed the old wooden pole and the land down the line. We built two birds, one which we think pieces  will survive the power line clearing. The second bird is the ephemeral bird in keeping with the Rad Joybird tradition. We will return next year which may be during the clearing, and we will return a third time after the clearing is finished.

Wounded Homeland
Darlington, Pennsylvania, USA

Joanne Martin

Never in my life have I rejected nature, particularly the little ecosystems that I’ve lived within. When I moved to my now home 6 years ago the gas fracking boom was taking off. Now there is a petrochemical plant being built in our community to process the gas by-products with 4 more plants planned for the wider region. “Cancer alley” is our new name.
Even while joining with other activists to protest these events, somehow I also withdrew and closed myself off from the wild life happenings at my homestead. I hardened and closed my heart. This year, I chose to do a solo Earth Exchange feeling that I HAVE wounded my own eco-home here with my rejection.

I wandered allowing the wild happenings to call to me – the snake skin, the dark cool under the pines, the gnat at my ear, shadows, dew drops, the wind!  There was nothing for me to do other than allow my heart to be touched. I wasn’t struck by a lightning bolt of wisdom, or hit on the head with a snapping branch of insight. I was gently reminded of the resilience and unjudging stance of nature – She does what She does with or without my attention. But Oh! Maybe my reverence, gratitude and love will be felt by Her and my heart wants to offer Her those gifts.

Moscow, Pennsylvania, USA

Frank Goryl

The woodlot behind our home it being developed. I have been to too many planning commission meetings and Borough council meetings to explain at this point. For the Earth exchange day I simply hung the t-shirt. We are planning a large scale environmental art work for the site once [Haitian ceramic artist] Lissa [Jeannot] arrives.

SCAN Global Earth Exchange
Hallstead, Pennsylvania, USA


Wayne Chumleigh, Paul Kelly, Shirley Kelly, Sara Chumleigh, Trebbe Johnson, Jake Rosen, Sue Pipetone, Victoria Roberge, Barbara Clifford, and Frank Finan (taking photo)

In the summer of 2016, a group of about 16-20 people in Susquehanna County formed SCAN, Susquehanna Clean Air Network, to support stringent clean air regulations in the face of a hazardous waste incinerator that was being planned for our poor, rural, beautiful county. The incinerator application was withdrawn in November, but we continue to face other possibly dangerous challenges from the industrialization resulting from the natural gas boom that began here in 2008.

SCAN is a wonderful, diverse group of people. We range in age from 18 to 80 and represent several religions, political ideologies, and backgrounds. We meet weekly, and we listen intently and respectfully to each person’s input and ideas. We all feel uplifted after our meetings.

For the Global Earth Exchange, Radical Joy for Hard Times founder Trebbe Johnson invited SCAN members to come to the Susquehanna River to celebrate what we love about our home place. Eleven of us sat in a circle on the grass on a sweltering hot day and talked for a while about what we appreciate about Susquehanna County. The reflections tended to focus on the natural beauty and the friendliness of the people. We had each brought flowers from home and we wove them into a wreath. Before giving our wreath to the river as a gift to the whole land here, we each shared our hopes, prayers, or wishes for this place. For example:

•I hope I will always be able to look up from my porch and see a fox walking across the lawn.
•I hope I will see my grandchildren rolling down the green hills without having to worry about ticks.
•I hope the hemlock and ash trees will recover from all the invasive insect pests.
•I pray that the quiet will return.
•I wish that there will always be people who love this place enough to fight for it.
•I hope neighbors will always wave to each other when they walk or drive past.

We placed our wreath in the pewter-colored water and watched the river take it away.

showing up in the midst of uncertainty
sagaponack, new york, usa

christine morro

bird 2017 sagaponack, ny is in a state of flux, change.  there is an edge to uncertainty that can put one in the way of fear or great love –  Im choosing LOVE

showing up cultivating faith opening to wisdom, grace, wildness in deep-time of mother earth.

Weltenwandler Ausbildung
Wiesbaden, Germany

Helen Cat Beckers
Together with the students of our year long program we gathered between a field of monoculture and a raised blind. The two days before we had spent a lot of time on the land, in group as well as alone, during the day as well as at night. Voices of sorrow and pain arose, of feeling disconnected, of longing for belonging, of fear for inner and outer darkness, of old wounds reappearing. It felt right that on day 3 of our meeting we expressed our feelings of grief, shared them with each other, gave them room to be, and then created beauty and brought joy to the land.
We chose the place between the field of monoculture and the raised blind because to us it represents how we no longer live in reciprocity with the earth and her beings, how we keep taking, as if we are “above” all else, not a part of. We sat down in a circle and shared our feelings of how monoculture and “modern” hunting (and the way we treat animals in general) affects the world. We shared our grief and then began expressing our gratitude too. We decided to dance between the field and the blind raise, like children, full of fire and life and joy. We sang and the earth sang with us. A yellowhammer joined us.
This little patch of earth had never been danced and sang upon. It was vibrating and full of life. We could feel laughter underneath our feet. In silence we started to create an image with the gifts the plants, and trees and stones gave us. We could see care takers in it, new villages, transformation, fires around which people and beings gather, water flowing, connection, nests for future generations, ancestors, circles with no end, a tree rooting deep and growing high. We felt hope, humility and joy. We left the gift for that little patch of land between the field and the raised blind, knowing that even though soon a tractor would come and drive over it, we can continue to be a gift for the land, for the human and the more-than-human world by living more consciously, by listening, by taking care, by expressing both grief and joy and by sharing the new story with our communities at home.  Wildnisschule Weltenwandler, Students of the year long program “Wildnispädagogik”, Wiesbaden-Germany

Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

Jennifer Wilhoit

Each year we do the Global Earth Exchange to honor trees – all trees, around the world, that have been cut down, harmed, or maimed by human activity; we do so by focusing on one small, local area where we know trees used to stand. This year we honored the land where a grove of native trees had been cut and removed to make room for a horse barn. On this same property are ornamental trees, planted by the owner; one such tree is a well-established paulownia. I had collected the purple blossoms from the paulownia after they fell from the tree last month and laid them out to dry. Our RJ bird this year is constructed solely of these dried paulownia flowers. We constructed him atop the gravel that had been laid down as a pathway for the horses residing here. The most tragic thing is that the trees’ removal was for naught: a series of calamities in the past month has led to the decision to move the horses elsewhere and abandon the horse property project that began with the removal of alders and firs.

Ceremony for a Friend, Message from Spider
Corrales, New Mexico, USA

David Powless, Oneida

I was very depressed this morning. My best friend of 50 years died May 17, 2017.  I got to see him for the last time 2 hours before he passed on to the spirit world.  His name is A. Paul Ortega. He was 80 years old and was the lead Medicine man for the Mescalero Apache of New Mexico. He was a very special person and a real brother. He is the one who taught me how to pray to the Creator and to have some smoke from sage, tobacco,  a fire or even a match during the prayer. The reason was that the smoke would take the prayers up to the Creator. This is the way I prayed to the creator in the story I told to Trebbe Johnson that inspired her to create “Radical Joy for Hard Times—finding and making beauty in wounded places”. 

This was the day I was to do something for the Radical Joy annual Ceremony. I felt no motivation to do anything.  I had been depressed about Paul’s death.  Nothing seemed of value or important.  Your born, live, and die. You talk and walk in between.  It really isn’t worth anything. In my depressed state, I just sat down doing nothing.Then I remembered something Paul told me. It was a story.

Paul’s Mescalero Reservation is in southeastern New Mexico in an area of mountains.  He told me that at one time the local governments and the federal government had developed legal cases to take water away from the Reservation and the Mescalero Tribe. These waters ran through the Reservation and provided life to trees, wild animals, tribal members and all the life of the Reservation. Paul said a recent court ruling against the tribe made it look like they would lose the battle for the water. He had been very involved in this battle. He told me that he went into a special place in the tribal forest. He was very sad and depressed and he felt that he and his small Tribal committee had lost this battle. As he sat there he heard a small voice. He looked around and saw no one. He heard the voice again.He was quiet and  listened very closely. The voice said—“Hey big man what is wrong”. It came from a place near him on the ground. He looked at that place and he saw a spider. The spider said to him “Hey big man, I asked you what is wrong”. Paul said back to the spider “Oh you would not understand”. The spider said to Paul “Try me”. Paul said “Well, myself and a few tribal members are fighting the local governments to keep our water on the Reservation. We are a small group and looks like we will lose. There are too many of them against us.” The spider said” Isn’t this the same water that we in the forest drink to sustain our lives?”. Paul answered “Yes”. The spider said, “Wait a minute Big Man, I am a spider and I need water. We also have ants, butterflies, beetles, birds, raccoons, deer, eagles, bears,  elk and many more. When you add us all up we number in the millions and we all need water.  We will stand up with you. Don’t believe you are alone.  We are with you”. The Tribe won the case and kept the water.

Well I feel much better. It is almost if Paul came to me to tell you this story to encourage you on your path honoring this earth and to remind you that you have millions of allies to help you..  I will now do my ceremony for the Radical Joy that we all share together this day. I will pray for all of you with encouraging words and a thanksgiving.        

I did this in the Hogan that I have on my property. It is the place where I do all of my ceremonies.  The bird is made of tobacco that was given to me by people in the last year who asked me to burn tobacco for them for their needs. There is some crushed corn that dot the inside of the bird’s body.  This is the corn I feed to the crows that visit me each winter  Both wings are made up from the two eagle fans that I have with a few single eagle feathers spiced in and one Canadian goose wing  on one wing and one crow wing mixed into the other wing. The bird’s tail is made up of feathers from eagles, an owl, and a hawk.

Mural of Hope
Doniphan, Missouri, USA

Sasha Daucus

We gathered at the Concession Stand of the Doniphan Ball Park which had been submerged during the flood. Due to the consequences of the flood, for awhile it wasn’t sure if the concession stand would need to be torn down or for how long the ball park would be unusable. It is an important place for community gatherings. It turns out that the damage is less permanent than originally feared. For the Earth Exchange, we  created a Mural to signify the Hope that our community will grow like a tree with deep roots, and recover to a level higher than before the flood. At the event ,people of all ages enjoyed adding to the mural– the tree foliage was filled in, various animals and a swing were added to the mural. Glass gems and stone-washed pebbles were glued on to make it three-dimensional. Everyone seemed to get  into the creation. The event was well attended by people who have access to information about the impact of the flood right now and good information was shared. The Doniphan Sheriff, Mike Barton, reported that the damage count is around 400 residences and 40 businesses flooded. Information was pooled on where FEMA meetings are taking place, and plans made for all meetings to be covered by people at the Earth Exchange.  On hearing that there is no central location for information sharing, the city librarian, Rebecca Wilcox, offered the library as a place for the disbursement of information in hard copy form. Many participants shared their experiences during the flood. Rickie Maples, of Doniphan Vitality nonprofit, told about her eery walk around the courthouse when the flood waters were the highest. The power was off in the city and the silence was total, until a car alarm suddenly was activated perhaps jostled by rising waters. We all expressed gratitude that no lives had been lost, and very few medical issues had arisen. Gene Fox, local veterinarian read aloud an exercise to increase compassion in the world. The event ended as people disbursed to their community activities– some to a wedding, some home, some to the river to cool off. Life continues even as the long term recovery work goes on.

Duns Creek Rubbish Dump
Duns Creek, NSW, Australia

Glenn Albrecht
I found this year’s Earth Exchange very difficult. 
My wounded place was an area of my local bushland that has been used (abused) as a rubbish dump. The objects within the dump were dirty, wet and broken. It was hard to see anything of potential beauty in all the mess. Also, I did not want to ‘tidy up’ the area since the whole point was to highlight the contrast between the beautiful bushland and the human dump. I found some objects that could, with a stretch of the imagination, have the appearance of a phoenix-like peacock rad-bird trying to leave the scene. Its head is the leg from an old metal table, there is a glimpse of iridescent blue from a plant pot, its body and wings come from the cover of a shade-stand and there are wing feathers that are formed from discarded objects such as a can of engine degreaser, beer cans, McDonald’s detritus and soft-drink plastic. There is a broken children’s swing hanging over the scene that could be the outline of a tail (minus its glory).

Native American Ceremony for the Ohio River
Huntington, West Virginia

Geri Lashley, Kashara Spaulding, Natasha Thomas, Autumn Genenahgehneh Lee, Alison Smith, Robin Blakeman, Matt Smith, and Janet Keating

On June 9, 2017, members of the Marshall University Native American Organization (MU-NASO) and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) gathered on the banks of the Ohio River in Huntington, West Virginia, as part of the Global Earth Exchange, a project of Radical Joy For Hard Times. The Ohio River, which is a water source for more than 3 million people, is the most polluted river in the United States. Throughout the many years of our country’s industrialization, the river, with headwaters in Pittsburgh, PA, unfortunately has served as a pollution spillway for countless tons industrial waste as well as residential sewage and solid waste.  Local, state and federal officials monitor for only a minute fraction of the chemicals, heavy metals and other pollutants that are dumped there.  When flooding occurs, tons of solid waste and debris from tributaries also pollute this major waterway. 

For centuries, residents of the Ohio Valley, including Native Americans, fished these waters.  To this day, some people supplement their diets (often by necessity), through fishing in the Ohio River.  This is a risky proposition, health-wise.  Many portions of the Ohio River are under a state fish advisory, in other words “Do Not Eat”.  Before the Clean Water Act was passed by Congress, the Ohio River, like many rivers and streams throughout the nation, was already in trouble.  Chemicals, such as DDT (its dangers highlighted in Rachel Carson’s seminal environmental book, “Silent Spring”) which ended up in the Ohio River via agricultural run-off, harmed aquatic and other wildlife which inhabited or depended on the river for sustenance, all a part of the web of life.  Birds, such as the Osprey, which only eats fish, disappeared entirely for several decades.  When the Osprey consumed fish from the Ohio River, chemicals which compromised their reproductive systems, caused thinning of eggs shells.  Their eggs, no longer viable, would break when the female would sit on them.

In the late 80s and early 90s, the Osprey made a comeback, after DDT was banned in our nation.  This was good news for the Osprey and especially our nation’s waterways.

In addition to current pollution, new threats are looming as states along the Ohio River, including West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, are under assault from the oil and gas industry.   Water quality and aquatic life are now endangered by deep-shale gas hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) adjacent to the Ohio, natural gas storage, new petro-chemical plants, solid fracking waste disposal, liquid fracking waste injection, all with potential to pollute the river. Our local, state and national elected officials’ approval of “fracking” comes at great a risk to our water sources, at our own peril.

These threats to the Ohio River, and all its wounds, are why we chose to create beauty on the banks of this river, as an act of gratitude for all the river has given us.

Our event, on behalf the Global Earth Exchange had two very distinct parts, though 9 participants took part in both actions. Prior to sunset we lay many different flowers in the shape of a spiral on the ground beside the river. We know that without life-giving water, we would not enjoy the beauty of flowers. We chose the spiral to represent our growth and evolution as humans—a symbol of an evolutionary journey that begins with each of us. Children were invited to help us place the flowers since they will be impacted by our future efforts on behalf of the Ohio River.

Once our spiral was completed (a spiral is never really finished!), we sat in a circle around it. Each of us told a story of connection to the river, either from childhood, or the present. We talked about why we loved the river and our current concerns. We spoke of how the Ohio River played an important role in our family—whether it was gaining spiritual or actual sustenance from the river. After everyone had shared, we moved closer to the river for the second event—a Native American Water Ceremony.

Before the Water Ceremony began, elders told each of us what was expected during the ceremony. No negative words or thoughts were to be expressed. Once the ceremony for the Ohio River began, no one was to leave the circle. We would follow the lead of the elders.

To begin, we were purified as Vikki Lee, an elder, smudged each of us with sage. Each of us was given a small amount of ceremonial tobacco in our left hand, to hold throughout the ceremony until we were directed to offer it to the river. Native American drums or rattles were used to accompany each of the 4 water songs that were offered up to the river; our voices appropriately, were joined by the murmurs, honks and quacks of Canada Geese and Mallards.

Other people enjoying the river came closer, watching and listening with curiosity. The sky turned beautiful hues of pink, orchid and blue as sun-down approached. When the singing ended, one-by-one, each of us lifted our hand toward the 4 directions and then walked toward the river to offer a prayer where we sprinkled the sacred tobacco. To conclude this ceremony, we sang another Native American water song, and then a jar of pure water from a mountain stream was added to the Ohio River, as a hope for its future status.

We lingered and pledged to return, growing our numbers for a monthly Water Ceremony for the Ohio River. Before we left, we hugged and thanked each other feeling grateful for one another and the river.

You can learn more about MU NASO here.