Radical Joy Revealed
February 17, 2016

Radical Joy Revealed is a weekly message of inspiration about finding and making beauty in wounded places. We hope you'll enjoy these doorways into places that are both familiar and surprising, and we welcome your suggestions, stories, and photos. Click here to subscribe. 

Child drawing with charcoal
A child draws with charcoal made by the burned trees in Middletown, California's Valley Fire. Photo by Sage Abella
Living just north of Middletown, California, in the oak- and manzanita-covered hills, Sage Abella was used to seeing wildfires. But she had never seen ones as big, aggressive, and superheated as the four that tore through the land in the summer and early fall of 2015.
The worst of all was the Valley Fire that exploded into Middletown on September 13, killing three people and destroying more than 500 houses. Before Sage even knew that her own home was safe, she had the idea of offering art classes to help people cope with the losses.
Eleven days later, she began teaching at the art center, two classes for children and one for adults. Her goal was to encourage people to express what they felt both about the burned land all around them and emotional landscape within. The ash is the medicine, she realized one day as she picked up a chunk of charred gray pine. She began offering the ash itself as a medium for the artworks.
The classes were loosely organized. People could come and go at any time, a schedule easy on those who were so traumatized they often found it hard to concentrate. One woman was so distraught that she sat sobbing while others painted. Finally she got a piece of paper and went into garden. She devoted all her attention to trying to recreate the color of a rare lotus that had bloomed in her own garden just before the fire. A war veteran from San Francisco filled his truck with supplies and brought them to town, then stayed to tell the community about post-traumatic stress. A woman who barely spoke made a painting eight feet high.
Sage's Beyond the Fire classes continue.
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Radical Joy for Hard Times is a global community of people dedicated to finding and making beauty in wounded places. Reconnecting with these places, sharing our stories of loss, and making acts of beauty there, we transform the land, reconnect people and the places that nourish them, and empower ourselves to make a difference in the way we live on Earth. 
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