By Josh Pulito
I have sat quietly in the same place in my yard for about 10 minutes a day every day that I could for the last 2 years. I do this from a rock which has become my “sit spot”. When I first heard about people using sit spots I thought the idea sounded absurd and rather boring. Who would actually want to sit quietly in the same spot every day doing nothing but looking and listening? What could possibly be gained from this? Much to my surprise spending time in my sit spot has been an activity that I look forward to and continue to learn from daily. It is peaceful, it is educational and it is rewarding.
A sit spot is an outdoor place that you choose to visit and sit at as much as possible while observing everything around you. When you choose a sit spot you want it to be easy to visit, free of distractions, comfortable and close to things that you want to observe. My sit spot is on the edge of my yard about a 30 second walk from my door. There is a rock there that I can sit on while watching both a field and the woods. There is lots to look at there, very little noise, I am comfortable sitting in the shade on my rock and there a few excuses to avoid the 30 second walk needed to get there.
Once you have chosen a sit spot, get comfortable and open your senses. Spend as much time there as is comfortable and work your way up to longer times. I usually start by looking for movement. Are there any animals around? What are they doing? Are they looking for food? Are they making homes? Where are they going? Are the same animals that leave the same ones that return? If so, how long were they gone? Are animals more or less active before it rains, when it rains or after? Many of these questions can be answered just by watching. Taking some quick notes in a journal about your daily observations will help you make sense out of what you are seeing change over time. We don’t notice ourselves getting older but when we see pictures of ourselves from a year ago we realize how much has changed in that time. I like to record when I see things for the first time of the year. I record the arrival of migrating birds, flowers blooming, trees budding and leafing out, the arrival of butterflies, the first snow… These are all observations that are fun and beneficial to compare year to year and season to season.
What did you hear in your sit spot? You may notice that birds get quiet and hide when you first arrive and then get noisier and come back as they get more comfortable with your presence. How long did this take on day 1? Where the birds more trustful of you after a month of sharing the same place? Visiting at the same time of day will help you to build this trust and also makes your observations more scientific. What do the animals that you can see or hear do when there is a disturbance like a car driving by? How do they react when the disturbance is gone? How long does it take for things to get back to normal (baseline)?
What can your sense of touch tell you? Are certain plants softer when they are young? Do the mosses, rocks, trees and plants feel different when they are wet or dry? Does the sun feel good on your neck today? Is the breeze keeping you cool and cozy or making you want to run inside for a hot chocolate? These are all important observations.
Can you smell anything? If so, can you find it? Last year I learned that the beautiful smell that I couldn’t place all season was coming from a very tiny flower called Partridgeberry. I had never before “stopped to smell the roses” and my time in a sit spot allowed me to do so for the first time.
Human nature tends to cause us to seek out the most engaging thing in our surroundings and to focus on that. Using a sit spot gently encourages us to be mindful of our surrounds and to appreciate ALL of the things that are happening around us. They help us to pause in our daily routine and to make sense of our natural surroundings while relying only on our own senses. Sit spots encourage critical thinking, independence and self-reliance while also getting us outside for some fresh air. Spring is the perfect time to set up a new sit spot with so many plants and animals “springing” back into action. While I was initially skeptical of sit spots they have become one of my favorite practices. Consider setting up a sit spot today and take the time to “stop and smell the roses”. You just might find yourself returning to the same spot to sit for needed refreshment day after day and year after year like this former skeptic. Sometimes when we try new things outside of our comfort zones we make discoveries about ourselves and the world around us ultimately growing as a result. Spring is the perfect time for growing.