We like to take a moment each December to share highlights of the previous 12 months — glimpses of the work you’ve made possible. Here we go; join us for a quick look back.
Just what have we been up to in 2022?
New Sacred Places opened across the country: In D.C., Columbia Heights Green, Wangari Garden and Marvin Gaye Greening Center; in Baltimore: Bon Secours Urban Farm and Roberta’s House (ground floor garden); in Kansas, Bethany House; in Alabama, Lineville Pocket Park; and in Tennessee, three Sacred Places affiliated with The Hospitality Hub.
On multiple occasions throughout the year, in community charrettes, young and old came together to articulate in words and sketches what is healing to them — what they dream of for their Sacred Place. One recent example saw a community in Maryland gathering to enjoy a soup lunch, ground blessing and tree planting as part of the day.
The Nature Sacred Design Team cultivated feedback from attendees through design activities such as image voting, fill in the blank exercises, coloring pages where folks could add their vision to the existing site, and a Tree
of Hope. The Tree of Hope gave community members an opportunity to write down their wishes for the Sacred Place on scraps of fabric attached to a tree that will remain on site.
All kinds of events were hosted by communities inside their Sacred Places. One recent gathering, a Winter Night Concert, happened in Stringfellow Garden in Alabama where Kim Cain serves as Firesoul. “Our town, young and old came together and had hot cocoa, sweet treats and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus. Children were laughing and playing and old timers were deep in discussion. As I looked around, listening to music, I was brought to tears that our little park was the catalyst for this experience. All we needed was a little snow! (We do not get snow often at all!)”
Through Affinity Groups that connect Firesouls with shared regions or unique site features, in person and virtual wellness sessions, storytelling workshops, and capacity building events — we hosted 18 gatherings and events for our Firesouls to connect, share resources and learnings, and strengthen the stewardship of their Sacred Places. Two examples: a gathering of Interfaith Firesouls, which serves those whose Sacred Places include a Spiritual element; and a summertime meeting of Firesouls of Sacred Places with community gardens.
We advanced research
Continuing to bolster science and financial-based arguments for green spaces, we published the first ever calculator for estimating the potential cost savings to hospitals that invest in Sacred Places. The calculator was described and presented in a white paper supported via a grant awarded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust with funding from the EPA.
We had the opportunity to share the Nature Sacred story and model far and wide. We were selected to present at multiple conferences and events including the City Parks Alliance’s Greater and Greener conference, The Association of Landscape Architects national meeting, the National Recreation and Park Association annual conference, and Greenbuild International Conference and Expo. Additionally, we were invited to speak at the University of Western Michigan about our work in health care institutions and the Environmental Protection Agency about our recently-published white paper, From Red to Green.
At Stringfellow Garden in Alabama, first responders were honored at an appreciation dinner served under newly-strung lights.
We grew the Nature Sacred team with the addition of Hannah Spirt-Jones as programs manager and Remy Shaffer Gomes as our healthcare project lead. And Eva Vega-Olds joined our team as a consultant as we thoughtfully improve diversity, equity and inclusion in our work. Read more about Hannah, Remy and Eva.
This year saw the Nature Sacred team venturing to locales across the country.
- To Memphis for the grand opening of three Sacred Places affiliated with the Hospitality Hub.
- To Alabama, site of 18 Sacred Places, to meet with Firesouls and visit as many Sacred Places as the laws of physics allowed in 48 hours.
- To Philadelphia to visit existing Sacred Places at UPenn and potential new sites in connection with a research program led by Dr. Eugenia South.
- To Nebraska to visit new sites and to host a charrette for a new Sacred Place in the works..
- To Kansas and Missouri for the grand opening of a new Sacred Place and to visit new Firesouls.
For 25 years, stirred by nature, people from all walks of life, young and old, have been jotting down their wishes and worries, their grief and gratitude in our little yellow journals. Drawing from the thousands of entries in our archive, we curated some of the most memorable to publish as a book: BenchTalk: Wisdoms Inspired in Nature.
It being our 25th year, we took moments to celebrate alongside many of those who have helped support and been a part of Nature Sacred over the past two-and-a-half decades — and to look forward to the next 25. To create a tangible marker of this milestone, we initiated a time capsule project that we invited Sacred Places to participate in. Six Sacred Places buried time capsules on their sites – including Village Learning Place, which also celebrated its 25th anniversary this year.