Today I started the 15-day sit spot challenge posted by the Wilderness Awareness School. Sit spots are a core routine in the Coyote Mentoring curriculum (the other two core routines are gratitude and the “wander”). Last year when we did homeschool at Hillstomp, I had really lofty ideas about doing sit spots together in the forest on a semi-regular basis. This was not successful. Even though Max and Ella found a really cool sit spot (at which we eventually discovered Reishi mushrooms), the actual sitting part was met with much resistance. There was also the time that Max cut his hand with his knife while he was “sitting” (not really such a big deal - just another Big Growth Opportunity). But really, the reason I stopped was that there was so much whining and misery about it that I felt it was creating the opposite effect it was intended for - connect with nature.
Ella shows me how to play
This year, enter a new Hillstomp Homeschool paradigm. I connect with nature with my kids. It is usually led by them and involves a lot of fun. Sometimes it also involves some quiet (like the time we practiced making the OM sound and noticed how the song birds came to us and the kids saw their first spotted Towhee). But again - although there may be some nudging by me - it is mostly child led. The general idea is that I’ve deleted pressure and inserted playfulness. Apparently I needed a year of homeschool to learn that lesson (okay, it actually took me a few years).
What our nature connection looks like
And now, I’m doing the sit spot. Why? First of all, I’m the one what wants to do the sit spot, and there’s a few other reasons why that I’ve outlined below.
I’ve started my sit spot at a Hawthorn tree because I want to have a relationship with that tree. This year, we harvested from that tree to make medicine with Lara Pacheco. As we scribbled out our ingredients, ratios and cooking times, plant mentor Lara Pacheco reminded us of another way to harvest health - by developing a relationship with the plants. So often we get caught up in “what can this plant do for me” approach that we’ve inherited from our culture. But really, that is a new approach.
Consider Thomas the Rhymer, the 13th century Scottish poet and mystic. According to folklore, a cuckoo beckoned him to a Hawthorn tree and from there she led him to the Fairy Underworld. Although Thomas thought his visit was brief, when he reemerged, he had been gone 7-years. And since then, the Hawthorn tree has been associated with its connection to the fairy realm. Legend has it, where you see a Hawthorn, there must be magic afoot nearby.
Could I write such a story about a tree? I’ve gone through almost four decades without the kind of tree-intimacy that might inspire such a story. Do I know what it looks like each season? When it blooms and when it fruits? Whose home is it? How do I feel when I’m near it? I want to know…. how well can a I know a tree? What might I want to give it?
When we think about what the Hawthorn gives us, there is a lot of evidence that it supports our hearts. A quick google search will tell you that. But a lot of the work I’ve been doing recently is around self-love. And I wonder what the Hawthorn tree can tell me about that.
When I look at the tree, I notice that there are thorns. They aren’t as obvious as blackberry thorns. Energetically, the Hawthorn tree feels more welcoming and open, but still with clear boundaries - a lesson I could do well to absorb.
I’m excited to dig deeper here. And the funny thing was, I never noticed how obvious this connection was - that I’m working on the contents of my own heart and that the Hawthorn tree was made for this magic. I was taking things so literally - thinking about blood pressure and antioxidants - that I didn’t think about how a relationship with a tree might strengthen a heart’s other potential. It’s potential to love.
In a world where it’s easy to download a recipe for a tincture, it can feel challenging to find your own medicine. Your medicine might be a song that never gets downloaded by anyone. Who’s the audience? Does anyone care? Well, the Hawthorn tree might, if you made a song for it.
BEING A ROLE MODEL
I model a lot of things for my children - making healthy choices about food and exercise, caring about certain issues, understanding emotions and being okay with expressing them. Now I want to model that I care enough about my nature connection to make a routine out of it. I don’t expect they are going to run out and start sit spotting next week, but they are going to know I care about it. That’s enough.
Ella being my role model
How to have the best leaf-hair
TAKING CARE OF MYSELF
As I mentioned, I tend towards the healthy. I also tend towards the ungrounded. Today - on my first sit spot - there were no big reveals. I didn’t see the most amazing sun rise or have a thrush sing me a song. But as I dipped in, the to-do lists dropped away and I felt the sun on my cheeks (a pretty big deal in the PNW). I tasted the woody air. The sounds of the field filtered in - the caw of crows, the shrieks of scrub jays and the cry of the red tail. Not earth-shattering. Instead, person-settling. It was good for me. I hope that someday, I’ll do some good for the sit spot.