John Corea is the Firesoul of a Sacred Place tucked inside Crispus Attucks, a DC neighborhood park that stretches the length of a city block and the width of a half-dozen rowhouses. It is, as all Sacred Places, open to all yet somewhat hidden. But not to those who call the surrounding neighborhood home.
We asked John to share with us his perspective on the past year — and on what his Sacred Place has meant to his community during one of the most challenging years the country has faced in decades.
Here are John’s Notes from a Firesoul:
It broke my heart in March when I had to remove the bench journal for fear of creating a vector for spreading the virus. It was cruelly ironic that we had to do that at a time we needed that journal more than ever — that something that normally had the power to comfort and heal now had the power to harm.
And it was tough to have to cancel so many of our annual events: our spring Community Day (our biggest annual park fundraiser, now in its 17th year), summer movie nights, yoga in the park.
Nonetheless, the park and the sacred place provided by the Memory Garden have been a godsend in the time of COVID. Use of the park soared in March, in the early days of the shutdown, as people from all over the neighborhood (and beyond) came just to get out of the house, or to spend socially distanced time with friends and loved ones in an outdoor space where they felt they could gather in relative safety. It got so busy in those early weeks we had to send out messages on social media imploring people to observe the six-foot distance rule and other public health guidelines.
People have generally been great about it though. On weekdays you’ll almost always find people strolling through the park or playing with their toddler. And on dry weekends since the spring, small groups of people have dotted the park all day long – having picnics, lying in hammocks, throwing frisbees.
One day in July we were treated to a surprise free “mental health” concert by a fantastic brass band. Magical little things like that seem to happen pretty often in the park. A few months ago someone strung paper lanterns around the bench clearing in the Memory Garden, probably for a little party, and those lanterns have graced the space ever since. I love seeing people adopting the space in that way.
We’re not sure when we’ll be able to start holding large events in the park again, but I’m looking forward to the holidays when neighbors come out and help string lights on trees throughout the park. I’m pretty sure that’s a tradition we can keep alive this year.