Richard Whittaker: What were your first memorable experiences of nature?
Trebbe Johnson: My first experiences were in backyards. My backyards were these magical realms. I had several of them and each one made a different kind of magic. There was one in Springfield, Illinois, in a new housing development, and there was a field behind our house. I was six seven. I remember lying in that late field one afternoon in the fall, and it came to me that if I could stare at the sky until daytime turned into night-time that I would know something about God. I would understand something about the mystery of the universe. I couldn’t do it, but there was that magic, just that connection, that there was something beyond the world of the everyday. And the way to get there was through nature. The birds knew how to do it. The ice on the puddles knew how to do it. The trees knew how to do it. And I thought that if I could just sort of soften myself then I, too, would be able to enter that world, speak that language, yet be able to come back to this world with wisdom and a story.
–an excerpt from RADICAL JOY FOR HARD TIMES: A Conversation with Trebbe Johnson, PARABOLA, Fall 2012, “The Unknown.” You can read the entire interview by clicking here and visiting the Radical Joy website and downloading the PDF.
Painting: Hannah Cohoon (1781–1864)