I think i saw a hare today! It was jumping about under some trees, bigger than a rabbit, with big ears, and much more of a hopping gait. I got to watch it hop from one tree to the next. It did a few circles around the place i had recently walked through – i guess i had made it smell human and funny with my bare feet – and then it buzzed off. I don’t think it spotted me – I had been sitting very still, wearing earthy colours under a nearby oak tree for 45 minutes by that point… I had been sitting (and at one point snoozing) listening to the daytime birds sing their evening songs and occasional alarm calls, in a world of falling acorns, rustling leaves, eternal branches and dappled shadows. At one particularly magical point I heard a night time bird start its weird hooting.
I’m having a rare few week where i have some unscheduled time – I’m not teaching, consulting, learning or moving between countries. So finally all the things i need to give some time to, have some time. I have a very full to do list, several actually, and despite that, for these 2 weeks I have committed to go out into the woods and sit still, observing the life around me for at least 30 minutes every day. Its one of the core nature connection routines that i use to keep me open, connected, and aware. Its called a sit spot, and I came across it in the 8 Shields/Nature Culture Network movement a few years ago.
If I sit down in a life-filled place, and stay quiet for about 20 minutes (less if i have walked in slowly and quietly), the birds stop fussing about me being there, and then the other animals stop worrying that the birds are fussing, and life in all its shapes and sizes and colours and patterns and gaits, goes back to baseline. It helps if I’m wearing broken pattern earthy coloured clothing too, but the time, silence and stillness are far more important. Then a fox may stroll in, sit for a while, licking itself in a sunbeam, and stroll away again. Or a hare (?) might lopingly bounce through the woods, with huge ears. Or an arrow like bird fly straight in front of me. More likely, i will simply hear the sounds of life all around me – the falling leaves and nuts and branches, the birds seeking insects in the leaf mulch, the alarm calls and joyous songs of the treetop birds, all the rich and deep aural tapestry of ancient English woodland. It doesn’t have to be about charismatic animals and birds – time spent looking at a half disintegrated holly leaf, or watching an ant on the ground can bring me so much.
I value and prioritise this ‘do nothing’ nature connection time because it does a lot for me (and even knowing that, i still need to set daily commitments to make me do it…) It is a rich, connecting, heart opening, relaxing, learning experience that brings me closer to the more than human world, closer to the complex, interdependent, diverse, beautiful systems dynamics that my work in regenerative design is based on. ‘Nature’ observation is the foundation of Permaculture design – using the patterns and principles and techniques of the inherently regenerative ecosystems around us to design systems for ourselves (hoses, gardens, communities, farms). And even if it wasn’t so fundamental to my conscious design work, spending time each day listening to bird song, leaves rustle, acorns fall, creeping out barefoot among the oak and holly trees, seeing the sky through the tree branches, sensing how it all changes slightly everyday, nourishes me in deep ways i deeply appreciate, do not fully understand, and love.