When I was ten years old, I told my parents that I would like to join the Boy Scouts, and that I would like to take guitar lessons. Their response was “pick one.” Guitar it was.
I had the benefit of growing up on a farm, and thus, woods and streams were nearby. Time not spent working in the peach orchard often meant time in the woods, damming up the creek, building make-shift rafts to float around the reservoir, and often, mud up to our knees.
When I was a senior in high school, I applied and was accepted to the Ranger School at Wanakena, a nationally respected school of silviculture, surveying and more of the like connected with large tracts of land and forests. At the last moment I changed my mind and attended an agricultural college 5 hours north of home. Here I met my wife of 49 years, by far the best thing to come out of attending this school.
Early in our married life, the Alaskan pipeline was being built. A friend offered me an opportunity to move there and work at a lucrative though demanding job. Temptation was strong, but family bonds and roots at home held fast.
It was in my early 40’s when someone handed me a copy of Tom Brown, Jr.’s “The Quest”. I sat down a few days later and read cover to cover, mesmerized with the stories of nature awareness that Tom brought forth. It wasn’t long before I took several classes at Tom’s “Tracker School”. One thing led to another, and I immersed myself in a yearlong at-home class with the Wilderness Awareness School called “Kamana”. This class was a naturalist training that held as it’s cornerstone a daily visit to the participants “sit spot”. Some might call it sacred spot.
I wondered how I might commit to visiting a place every day for a year, how to carve out the time, would I be willing to go there in the rain, wind, snow. The creator of the course, Jon Young, told me how to go about finding this place, that if I opened myself to it in a very real way, it would call to me, that I would not need to “find it”.
Sure enough, about a 10 minute hike across the road from my house, across a field and slightly into the woods ran a creek. After wandering this area for a bit, a huge, split black willow tree revealed itself. The main part of the trunk stood on the far side of the creek. One large limb lay across the stream, affording a suitable bridge to move across without getting wet, and actually went up into a low crotch of the remaining limbs. This perch became my sit spot for the next 12 months where I would spend at least a half hour each day, observing, being, soaking in the life around me.
All of these events were a necessary part of my journey to bring me to where I am today. I did not get the experience of scouting, yet the hunger for the promise that scouting held was still strong. I neither went to ranger school, nor experienced the adventure of life in Alaska, but the pangs of deeper experiences in nature didn’t go away.
In future blogs, I will delve deeper into some of the experiences of my sit spot. The important point now is to give the reader some sense of how I came to a place where I love the Earth so deeply, to how I came to a place where “all my relatives”, the mallards and the willow and the moving water and the beavers, mean so much to me.
I have a want. That want is for my grandkids and those of their generation to have a world that holds the same kind of magic, the same beauty and diversity and expression of life that I have been blessed to experience.
Humankind is at a crossroads. Time will tell if I get what I want.