Observing Nature from a Sit Spot

Oct 10, 2020
Learn from volunteer naturalist and retired teacher, Susan Prince, how the young and young at heart can connect more deeply with nature by finding and returning to a ‘Sit Spot.’

By Susan Prince

Most times when we go out for a walk in nature we bring our business with us. And as we go along, talking or making loud noises, the animals either flee or hide. When we settle in and sit down, our experience in nature changes. We get quiet, slow our breath, and just notice what is all around us! 

Mindfully entering the outdoors can help us observe even more than before. Photo: Caitlin Eddolls.
Mindfully entering the outdoors can help us observe even more than before. Photo: Caitlin Eddolls.
First, you might observe an industrious ant dragging a hugely outsized morsel of food back to its hidden nest. Or, maybe you become aware of an orb spider’s web just above your head, catching the early morning dew, reflecting multi-faceted rainbows of light and allowing you to marvel at the ingenuity of its symmetrical design. Or, you might just begin to feel the soft breeze on your face and notice that it carries the sweet whiff of spring ceanothus in bloom. As you become more familiar with your Sit Spot, you’ll discover that a guard quail often perches on the same manzanita bush alerting his family to danger. You could see an osprey who likes to roost at the top of the tall ponderosa pine above the river flowing noisily next to you. From your Sit Spot, you can notice so many patterns and better understand that the whole world is in motion around us. Having a Sit Spot can be the beginning of a whole new relationship with the natural world. 

The beauty of finding your sit spot is that it can be anywhere. Some people want to choose a place that’s way out in the woods but you can also sit in your own backyard or local park. The key is to look for a spot that you can return to often where you can be without the many interruptions of daily life. 

As you make your way to your sit spot, it’s important to be aware that your presence may disturb wildlife. Here are a couple of practices that may help you more mindfully appreciate nature:

Fox Walk
This is a special way of walking, used by trackers, to create the least amount of noise. When walking quietly, you are less likely to scare away the animals.

Put your feet together imagining a straight line between them. Walking along that line, put each foot down blade side first, then let the rest of the foot follow naturally. Watch this video to see someone ‘Fox Walk.’

Owl Eyes
This is a way to use your wide angle or soft vision. It allows you to take in everything at once. Walking through the environment in this way, you will be able to see more and be less disturbing to the wildlife. 

Put your hands out in front of your face, fingers pointed together. Without moving your head or your gaze, slowly separate your fingers and move them out towards the sides of your body until you can barely see them. Watch this video for an example of using ‘Owl Eyes.’

Whether on the ground, in a chair, or on a bench--be sure to sit in a comfortable spot. Photo: Byron Dudley.
Whether on the ground, in a chair, or on a bench--be sure to sit in a comfortable spot. Photo: Byron Dudley.
Once you have arrived at your Sit Spot, get comfortable. Take a few deep breaths and then begin to notice. This is a sensory experience so pay attention to what you are seeing, feeling, smelling, and hearing all around you. What is the wind doing? Closely examine the ground beneath you. Check out the variety of trees, the birds that live there, and then look farther up to the sky above. There is so much to experience!! The cool thing about sitting is that the longer you are in that spot and the quieter you can become, the more nature will reveal itself to you. And, as you return over and over to the same place, you will begin to notice even more, getting to observe the many changes over time.

In spring, you may discover the ant colony location and notice the tracks of a hungry skunk that has come overnight to dine upon it. As the season changes to summer you could have a chance to see the young quail, in a covey now, happily kicking up dust, or the hawk giving its young their first fishing lessons. And, by fall, you find the light, tan colored orb sack of that same spider attached to a nearby willow branch. In winter, those same ceanothus bushes, now bereft of blooms and bare branched, may have become precious habitat to beautiful migrating finches. 

Finally, be sure to share with others what you’ve observed. One of my most dramatic discoveries was to find that the cacophonous sound coming from below my Sit Spot along a local creek was actually river otters in full mating mode. Sharing our experiences through creative mapping, telling stories, or fun tidbits is a great way to remember information and lock in learning! Happy sitting! I can’t wait to hear about what you saw!

 

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