Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Seeking my successful sit spot

I really enjoy identifying, perusing, obtaining, talking about, and even writing about good information resources. I've amassed a very nice collection of permaculture-related books, and a good start of a collection of naturalist skills books covering plant identification and use, foraging guides, bird identification by sight, bird identification by song, detailed life histories of birds, tracking guides, insect guides, mammal guides, reptilian and amphibian guides, mushroom guides, etc. But I haven't even cracked open many of the books, and I've put even fewer of them to any real use! I've reminded myself lately that at some point I need to say "enough already" with the resource accumulation, and actually get my ass outside to learn in the only way that ultimately matters, through direct experience. Not that books can't help point the way and help answer certain kinds of questions...but they don't substitute for experiencing the real world.

I also notice that I spend way more time on the internet than I want to, feeding my internal information junky its information fix. Every day I make the rounds of the news sites, discovering that yep, peak oil has still peaked, the housing bubble is still popping, the US dollar is still declining, the broad economy is still breaking apart on the rocks, we're still so very doomed, the Tribe of Anthropik is still on vacation, and Ran Prieur still posts about five minutes worth of reading every other day or so. Then, unless I feel especially motivated by some other project or Theressa kicks me off the computer, I start the cycle again, reloading the same damn sites in case anything has updated while I was checking the others. I want to start feeding my information junky good clean data about the birds and the bees instead of all this internet porn! (See the October 29 entry for the porn bits.)

So between yesterday and today, I spent many hours poking around for a sit spot at Whitaker Ponds. Tonight I'll just write up a quick description of how a sit spot works (or at least, how I intend to use it). I'll write more in a future post about my search and/or details about the spot I find. And I'll probably post a lot after that with specific stories from my sit spot!

I plan to use my sit spot to jump-start nature awareness. I'll find a comfortable and safe place outside where I can sit, stretch out, and simply observe. I'll go there every day (or damn near) to gain an intimate feel for one particular spot, becoming acquainted with the birds and plants and the bolder land-based animals like squirrels who call it home. Eventually I'll also learn about the reclusive or nocturnal mammals and other land animals who live there, mostly from tracks and signs. I'll cart along field guides as needed, to begin to match visual sightings with names in books. I'll compare the bird calls I hear at my spot to tapes and CDs at home to increase my bird song recognition skills.

I'll visit my sit spot for at least the next year, giving me insight not only into day to day changes, but into the big-picture seasonal life patterns of everyone who lives around the spot. I'll see plants come into leaf, flower, fruit, disperse their seed, and go dormant or die. I'll see some birds migrate away to rejoin us again next year. I might see young birds of year-round residence taking their first flights, and watch them grow older to find a mate, make a nest, and teach another generation of young. Maybe I'll even read tracks well enough to see some of the same patterns in the land-based residents of the place.

I've never had much trouble sitting still, but only because I usually live in my head (moreso in the past than now, but I still spend most of my time there.) Whether I read a book or set my brain to work puzzling over some problem, I go inside almost wherever I am and whatever I'm doing. That instinct has helped me through my life to hide from scary or threatening situations outside, but it also left me with minimal observational skills or awareness of my surroundings. Unless I specifically focus on what's around me, turning my sensory input into data to be processed by my brain, I tend to miss all the details around me. The past two years of urban foraging have given me the ability to recognize many food plants without trying, while simply walking or biking along as usual. So I feel pretty confident that I can switch from an internal existence to living in the real world, and sitting at my sit spot and deliberately opening up to the world around me should help a lot. To that end, I'll practice specific sensory enhancement excercises, to better use my senses of vision and taste and feel and sound and smell.

Although at this point I really dislike the idea, I'll at least try journaling. In his various books and tapes, Jon Young speaks and writes about the major benefits of writing down experiences, drawing maps, doing write-ups of track analyses or specific sequences of observations, etc. I never enjoyed taking notes in school (and usually didn't bother) and hate writing in general (hence the infrequency of my emails to friends and family, and the not-really-daily daily updates to this blog). But I'll give some of Young's recommended journaling excercises a fair try. If they do help with my learning process as much as he suggests, I'll try to figure out how to do them in such a way that I can enjoy it.

Although I expect to move out of the city within the next couple of years, and will leave behind the particular spot I'll have learned so well, the lessons of plant and animal life, the practice in opening myself up, and the ability to use all my senses with greater awareness should translate well to wherever we go to pursue our permaculture/hunter-gatherer life.

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