News and conversations about the growing evidence of the healing power of nature and green development in cities
When we first envisioned the Nature Sacred model, we knew each Sacred Place needed a community catalyst, a kind of ringleader, to steward the creation and maintenance of each space. This needed to be a person enmeshed in the community—intimate with its story, history, culture and unique challenges—who possesses the spark and drive to make the community a better place, through nature. A Firesoul.
Beyond that, we left the job description open. We weren’t sure who might heed the call—but we were hopeful.
An educator stepped up. A doctor. A pastor. A business executive—over the years, people from all walks of life have volunteered to serve as Firesouls—bonded together by a firm belief that nature can help people cope, feel safe and connected, and grow stronger in meaningful ways. And they are right.
Recently, we asked our Firesouls how they would articulate their roles—as they’ve been the ones interpreting our Nature Sacred model to best serve their communities. Some Firesouls build a Sacred Place from scratch, while others may inherit the role in an existing space and take on its maintenance and programming.
While each space is as unique as its Firesoul, they share basic commonalities in their roles—outlined below. At a high level, Firesouls strive to:
Spark positive change.
Some perform their work quietly—describing themselves as “quiet custodians”. Others are more visible or vocal in the community. Whatever the case, Firesouls believe change is possible—that challenges can be overcome, that solutions exist, that people and communities can strengthen, heal and coalesce when brought together in nature.
“It might be seen as breathing fire or light where there was none before.”
Infuse beauty and hope—in surprising places.
Where some people see a vacant lot, for example, a Firesoul sees a beautiful garden. A rooftop could be an urban mountain oasis. A neglected city corner? A pocket park for children. A Firesoul sees beauty where others may not—and can recognize creative ways to bring nature to communities in ways that nourish its people, providing an outdoor “escape hatch” from the daily hustle. It provides a means to think, reflect, and be reconnected with a bigger picture.
“[We] preserve the use of our green space as a sacred place where people can connect with nature and through it to each other, or to something larger than themselves.”
Sacred Places serve to uplift communities—to help rekindle hope and sense of pride. It is the work of a Firesoul to have the space reflect the culture of the community in an authentic, positive way—through thoughtful design features or art, for examples. The idea is to celebrate its history, place and story in ways that instill pride and ownership.
“We champion for the use of the space, and for it to feel welcoming to everyone in the community…to create a sense of shared ownership, not just among those whose properties abut the park, but among everyone who uses the park. That’s the only way this whole enterprise works.”
Serve as community conduit.
A Firesoul serves as a kind of community steward, an interpreter of needs. By observing, collaborating, and listening to its people, a Firesoul keeps a finger on the pulse of the community. This part is essential—ensuring that the space continues to feel useful and welcoming to all, regardless of background or situation.
“You have a bit of a dream — informed by others’ dreams. You get great people to have conversations with you. You formulate a shared dream. You advocate with all the powers that be. You find friends to support you. You dream and plan some more…and then you use the skills and talents of many and many drafts of a plan to arrive at a “dream come true.”
– Firesoul on creating a new Sacred Place
Are you a Firesoul?
These small, thoughtful spaces show communities that they matter. That they deserve access to meaningfully designed, nearby nature. And what happens from here is a story to be written by the community itself. You simply need to provide the pen, paper and some blue sky—and you will be hit between the eyes by the joys, sorrows and deep sentiments that pour forth. We know of no greater reward.
In the coming weeks, we’re excited to share with you a new website that will work to better arm communities—new (and existing) Firesouls—with helpful tools and insights to build and maintain thriving Sacred Places. Watch this space!