Notes from a Firesoul | How nature can uplift and unite us

We often hear stories from our Firesouls about nature’s powers to heal, inspire and influence positive change. Here, we hear from Firesoul Steve Coleman about the role nature is playing in his community — at this seminal time in our country. 


The Meridian Hilltop has been a place of sanctuary during the pandemics of COVID and racial injustice. In dark and difficult times, this ancient Native American sacred ground has drawn people of all colors, ages, and walks of life here to add to this oasis of hope and possibility with journal writings, chalk art, play, music, reflection, vigils, and rallies.

Nature and wildlife enjoyed a new dominance while cars remained parked. The empty parking lot became a safe expansive playground. Out of the hilltop drum circle, Meridian Hill / Malcolm X Park became a rallying point for Black Lives Matter, with booming cries for equity and justice greater than any in a generation. Socially-distant forums brought diverse people together to explore new ways of achieving fairness for all.

Josephine Butler, our Center’s late namesake, often spoke of big things needed to make the world a better place. People would try to dismiss her by saying, “That’s going to take a long time.” But she would always respond, “Exactly. That’s why we’ve got to get started.”

“That’s going to take a long time.” 

“Exactly. That’s why we’ve got to get started.”

— Josephine Butler

For someone with soaring vision, she never lost sight of the simple lessons of watching and tending the Earth that she learned as a daughter of sharecroppers and a granddaughter of enslaved people. From the life-giving power of earthworms to the connections of every drop of water to the time of the dinosaurs, Jo saw how much there was to learn about holding to our dreams from the stories of nature all around us.

This past Friday, one of Jo’s dreams came true — perhaps a 100th birthday present — as the United States House of Representatives passed a historic vote for the DC voting rights campaign that she co-founded over a half-century ago. Now the aspirational 51-star American flag that has long flown outside her Center has become yet another reminder of the power of believing that we can find new ways of treating each other and treating the Earth.

Daughter of sharecroppers and granddaughter of people who were enslaved, Josephine Butler (1920-1997) was one of inner city Washington’s most respected community leaders, who helped shape nearly every major social change initiative in Washington since the 1930s.(source: washingtonparks.net)


In this hub of the community greening movement that is now becoming an “Embassy of the Earth,” this time has been a moment to rediscover the deep power of community — especially when the natural and human communities come together. Perhaps this piece, written the other day in a little yellow journal from the hilltop bench, captures some of this spirit:

I open to birds soaring beneath thunderhead-laden skies —
Light wings greater than the darkest moment.
When even the unfolding leaves form a defiant act
Of brave heart and fierce life against the carnage,
My heart feels a power that lifts all.
Fakery holds no sway with the universe.
Truth and justice are as natural
As the moon and the stars and the sun.
The eternal and infinite breathe
Into every moment that we let them.
When we open the way,
We are the soul of all that has ever been
And will ever be.
When I ground in the Earth,
I am the community of all life,
Joining the song of the ages.
It carries me aloft
On wings I never knew I had.

– Notes & Images from Firesoul Steve Coleman 

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