Monday, December 12, 2011


My last post was about the wonderful Beauty Amid Destruction project in Tuscaloosa, which put works of art all along the swath of devastation left by the tornado that devastated the city last April. The post before that was about Juliana Santacruz Herrara's playful "patches" of colorful yarn, which she fitted into the cracks of Paris's sidewalks.

But acts of beauty for wounded places don't have to be big. They don't have to take a lot of time. They don't even have to involve more than one person. And sometimes you get a surprise burst of beauty and delight in the process.

Last month a family in our small village of Thompson, Pennsylvania cut down the three beautiful old catalpa trees that lined their front yard. One of the trees clearly had heartrot, but the others were perfectly healthy, and I was very sad to see them go. Their big heart-shaped leaves and
dangling mahogany-colored pods looked very elegant, almost whimsical, on this block of small homes.

After the tree surgeons and their shredding machine had left, I went over to the house with a bag of birdseed and started sprinkling offerings on the stumps for the birds that had lost their home. This was my simple act of "making beauty," which Radical Joy for Hard Times suggests as part of every encounter with a wounded place.

A sudden movement startled me. I looked up and saw nothing. Then the movement flashed again. This time a chipmunk popped up from the tree with the hole in its core. The chipmunk had immediately adjusted to the new situation. Now it had a place to hide, both itself and its store of food. Its appearance was a delight, proof that nature invariably and persistently will find a way to prevail.

The chipmunk would have moved into that hole in the stump anyway, but because I happened to be there attending to the broken trees, I got to witness it... a little joy for hard times.