As The Walking of Dawns moved on in our global pandemic and our lives plunged deeper into uncertainty, I found myself reflecting on my “Sit Spot” in a different way with my children.
For those who are not familiar with the term and practice of a “sit spot,” I will briefly describe (and strongly recommend) the practice. A sit spot is a place that you go very frequently, alone and quietly, and sit for a time, and tune in before you explore beyond. The essential idea is to get to know one place REALLY well: as well as you know your best friend for instance. Have you ever spent lots of quiet time in one small space? Maybe your office, your bedroom, the kitchen, etc? I bet you have. You know it through and through. You know when something has been moved, when something is out of place.
Ideally, your sit spot contains a diversity of habitats...
Well, a sit spot is pretty much that. Imagine how well you would get to know the denizens of your yard: the birds, insects, soils, plants, critters….and yourself and maybe even your neighbors, if we spent even 30 minutes everyday, at varying times, in all seasons, in varying weather, just getting to know one small place with all of our senses and innate human curiosity (not raiding Google or Youtube for immediate answers, but taking the slow, dedicated route that all deep relationships require.) It becomes your study site, your tracking ground, the base from which you explore outwards. Ideally, your sit spot contains a diversity of habitats: near a water source, some trees, shrubs, grassy areas, a slightly elevated spot so that you can observe 360 degrees, etc. This is not always possible, but it’s really less about the quality of the spot than the attention given within it.
Recently, my children came outside and caught me in my daily backyard sit spot while they were taking a break from their online class work. My kids and I watched as a hummingbird zoomed into view, and with its tweezer-like beak, nipped a beakfull of the fluffy down of a dandelion, and zoomed off to a valley oak tree across the street. This led my daughter, whom I have always affectionately called “ Hummingbird” to wonder what the hummingbird could possibly want with dandelion fluff. Shortly thereafter, the hummingbird returned to nip a beakful of seed fluff from some sow thistle. “ Look, now it's getting fluff from that dandelion!,” my daughter exclaimed. “ You sure that’s dandelion?,” I asked. This led to over an hour of my daughter and son investigating the differences between dandelion and sow thistle, sketching both plants in great detail, delighting in the ladybugs that gently used them as resting pads, observing other birds and asking what they were, running inside to grab binoculars and birding books from my library. They were suddenly much more interested in the medicinal and edible qualities of dandelion now than they had ever been when listening to me harp on about it…. I found it difficult to keep up with their newfound enthusiasm.
Later that evening, I found my daughter sitting outside in my sit spot as the sun began its western descent. She turned when she heard me approach, and with her sparkling emerald eyes told me that the hummingbird had come back and had hovered for a time next to her left ear, so close that she said that the sound of its wings almost hurt her ears. “ I want to learn everything you know, “ she said.