Steven Salido Fisher is doing sacred work simply by listening to people as they share the stories in their hearts.
The Harvard Divinity School (HDS) student is building on a mission to give people in the local Hispanic community an elevated voice about the natural environment. His project, “Gathering Historias” is documenting, in their native language, their experiences with nature including the historic green space of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University.
“Many people I have talked to really see their time outdoors, in the natural environment, as a time of restoration, in a place of sanctuary, and even talk about people they love through times shared outdoors” Fisher, a former student chaplain at Massachusetts General Hospital, said. “‘Gathering Historias’ shares those narratives about the changing social and cultural meaning of an outdoor experience within an increasingly-diverse Boston area.”
Fisher has bicultural roots helping him understand social resilience and belonging. Born in Lake Forest, Ill., he grew up in both Chicago and Mexico City, where his parents originate. The integrated experiences from his childhood helped actualize “Gathering Historias.” These virtual stories share, in podcast format, the personal interactions and recreational activities community members have in the environment, utilizing nature as a way to create a spiritual connection to the outdoors, and to others. Telling their stories in Spanish invites people to recognize their own voices being heard and enter into the story in a way that most other content doesn’t allow, Fisher said.
“There’s a level of personality that’s accessed when someone speaks in their native language, you can capture the emotions and there is a real impact on listeners,” he said. “If you don’t speak Spanish, you may not be able to understand what they are saying, but the laughing, the gasping, the tone, or even the slowing down during the narrative — you’re really drawn in.”
Wendy Estrada, a contributor to “Gathering Historias,” said speaking with Fisher revived many memories of her roots, her family, her travels, and she hopes the project will inspire her children to do things outdoors.
“I could have spent so many hours talking to Steven about my experiences. When I was younger, without access to technology, we explored more of the woods and lakes, I wanted to pull out all my [photo] albums and look through them,” the Brookline resident said. “With our busy lives, we don’t realize that nature gives us so much peace.”
Fisher is also a children’s book illustrator and focuses his drawings on the relationship between children and nature. He chose the Arboretum to do the work through the HDS Field Education Program. This opportunity, allowing students to utilize a setting matching their educational goals, connected his own work illustrating social and botanical life to the Arboretum’s mission of fostering “greater understanding, appreciation, and stewardship of the Earth’s botanical diversity and its essential value to humankind.” His drawings, which accompany the narratives, will help illustrate the importance of intimacy, growth, nature, and stewardship.