This mouse lives in a magical place,
Where the morning sun slowly sweeps away ice from frozen maple leaves,
Where Housefinches skip from branch to branch,
Hummingbirds call each other for companionship,
Trumpeter swans cheer each other on with honks.
Where the Great Blue Heron flies low,
the Bald Eagle watches over the Snohomish River,
And the Flicker spreads their colorful wings.
Where mallards swim together in circles,
And a Cinnamon teal might be seen.
Where endless bird poop can be found.
Where Caddisfly larvae uses silk to make a protective case out of gravel,
sand and tiny pieces of plants, so strong they are hard to pull apart.
Where Cedars make great hides
But less mindful visitors leave their tools and lunches
Decorating logs with sprayed art.
Where Beavers snack on young Cottonwood branches
Leaving behind their tracks to observe
Where Coyotes go swimming in the icy cold river
Taking a long time to build a fire afterwards
Where Bob saved the place from development
His death marking the end of the Golden Age of Steelheading.
This mouse lives in a magical place.
What are a few things that are especially helpful for you to feel more connected?
Came across a tree with unusual leaves and this spike cone at Lincoln Park. Looked in my Trees of Seattle book and over all the Lincoln Park tree walk maps and couldn't find it.
Googled for 'rare leaves' and after scrolling through images for a while, finally found it:
Liriodendron tulipifera (tuliptree)
My Sit Spot is next to my house in Seattle. I moved here in 2015 and the woods/green belt next to my house seemed very scary and dangerous. It took me almost 2 years to master the courage to slowly explore the area. There was a patch of ferns, a row of Holly trees of different ages and a few Maples. It was very overgrown by Himalayan blackberries and trashed with the remains of a homeless encampment. In 2017 I heard about the Green Seattle Partnership and reached out about the Park next to my house and how I could volunteer taking care of the woods. I got some Forest Steward training and over the last years I took out a big area of blackberries and planted over 600 native plants with the help of roughly 200 volunteers. I feel very connected to this land and not scared anymore as I check in with a lot of the new plants and spend a good amount of dirt time there.
When Covid started in March, I started going to a regular sit spot under the big maples in the Northeast corner of the park adjacent to my backyard and took my 14 year old son along. He was introduced to sit spot at WAS overnight camps and kind of likes it, but wouldn’t go without me asking. We usually sat for 15 minutes and asked each other some questions afterwards.
When I had to find a spot, I immediately went to my established sit spot facing the big Beaked Hazel and thinking about how I sometimes have to leave my sit spot in a rush when kids from the playground on the West of the park come explore the woods and I don’t want to scare them and hide quickly. I want to avoid that they go back to their parents and tell them a weird lady is sitting there and the parents wouldn’t let them go in the wood by themselves anymore out of fear that person, me, could be dangerous. Some of the kids know me from Nature Club and introduced me to their friends and parents when I work along the edge of the green belt, but I understand how I might seem scary if they haven't met me yet.
So, after a week of sit spot I decided to move my spot about 25 feet to the North into my backyard. It’s still under the big Maples but a bit more open, but also private, so I can see the big Douglas firs in the East and the tree tops of the Maples and the single leaning Madrona along the Park edge and won’t have to hide any longer. I instantly got rewarded by a Flicker pair hanging out in the tree top and was able to watch them for a while. I haven’t seen these for the last 7 months going to my old sit spot tucked away under the tree, but might have been right below these Flickers without ever noticing.
When I printed the maps I noticed how much tree cover the entire North edge of the Park still has with these huge towering Big Leaf Maples of different ages next to each other. I think the two closest to me on the top of the slope are the oldest, probably around 80 years old. Then 2 going down the slope, one entangled with the Madrona, past my previous sit spot seem to be about 70 years and then 3 more closer to the opening that seem 5-10 years younger. But they could all be the same age just growing differently in different conditions.
On the other site to the North of my sit spot is a giant Laurel that is very dense. I hear some noises in there, but can rarely spot anything. It’s just so wild.
On the slope east of me is Ivy covering the ground. I started planting dewberry there 2 years ago and harvested a bunch of yummy berries this summer. I have to be careful to walk through as the dewberries try to catch my feet and make me stumble. I had all the ivy removed but it grew back strong. Every time I sit, I think about how I should take out the Ivy again. It’s just such a nice ground cover for the birds and little critters. My hope is that I can take out the Ivy and the dewberry will be thick enough to take over the job of providing cover.
I try to go to my sit spot whenever I come home from running errands or a walk. Instead of walking up the stairs I’ll walk up to my spot first, sit a bit. When we moved in there was a giant tree - probably a walnut, maybe also home of a tree house - covering half of our backyard. After a couple of months, we finally saw it apart into big stumps to sit on. I call it the Elder Circle. We sometimes have a fire pit in the middle of it in summer, singing songs and roasting Marshmallows.
I can also see my empty bee boxes to the North and a young pine tree that is fighting for some light under a big long Maple branch. It feels a bit like a sick child. I thought about transplanting it but it’s about 14 feet high by now and I fear it might not survive a move.
On my way back I pass my little tracking sandpit I set up a while ago, while doing Tracking Intensive. It is covering one of the steps leading down the slope to the back patio. I am always amazed how many critters come through. I thought they might avoid stepping in the sand, but it’s lovely what nice prints they leave for me to inspect. I’ll scare the bunnies, when I approach the back entrance too quickly where they roam in our sunroom. Scaredy buns.
I try to practice fox walk coming in and leaving the spot, do deer ears when I want to tune in to sounds, and remember owl eyes to pick up on movements. Often I get tricked by leaves sailing down when I was excited about a bird or the squirrels showing up. I have to turn around to take in all sites and that seems a bit challenging. I don’t want to miss out on any action and try to use body radar for where my attention should be. Sometimes that changes quickly. I am curious how the activity will change with the time of day and can’t believe I have not seen or heard any critters (rats) hiding in the ivy yet. I was also confused I haven’t seen any squirrel activity there, but then saw one right when I foxwalked back to the house and it didn’t notice me, hauling an acorn past our backyard barbeque.
I am excited about all the things I might discover the next couple of months.
Wander at Schmitz
Slugs, mud, log
Looked at crusty lichen on big trees
Got to Linne Doran late
Emailed til 2
Heard alarm at 6
Not a happy camper
Learned about Linne Doran History
Went on a bird wander
Saw a grey jay maybe
Learnt more about bird language
Presented spotted towhee pipilo
Cool stories about poly robins
Walked to Mosswood w Genevieve
Chatted with Rowan + Maggie
Went to Tolt with Allegra
Camas is Self-Heal
Bird long white brown
My Stellar's Jay feather might be a wing feather.
I visited my sit spot. I would think I come here since May. It definitely feels longer, but I think I switched around from my front porch to the opening to different spots in my little forest. After Kai, my mentee left, I started taking Tim to do sit spot - and started climbing up the little hill - and then left. It's close to the Junction in 4-5 directions.
Today I stepped into the forest with the intention of taking out some of the trash left behind as it distracts me from focusing. It was a lot and I could not understand where all the new trash came from. Did the wind expose it as there is a whole layer still there from a former camp. I was very happy to clean up the bits and pieces. One was a plastic Easter egg (apparently left behind from our last egg hunt - and then rolled in the open - who does that?) where someone clearly enjoyed the chocolate inside. The wrapper was torn in lots of little pieces. Squirrel?
I went and took note of the scat on the little hillside next to the beautifully rotting log, which could be cat or raccoon or anything that size. Will need to investigate. Looked up all the scat in this size and didn't find anything that fit it. It was too small for house cat or raccoon and the form too long for anything else in that shape. Close by are lots of empty hazel nuts and feeding debris. Probably from the Squirrels or rats? Will need to investigate.
On my way back I found 3 feathers about 3 feet apart. Two bright blue and one fluffy. I was looking around for more, expecting a kill site, but couldn't find any more.
Later, I looked up 'Fairmount Park' and my sit spot on Google Earth and the parcel finder and another page and did the same for my sit spot at Linne Doran.
My name is Christine (she/her) or Biene. I'm very excited to join
Anake this year as my longing for more connections with the natural
world and other people has steadily increased during the pandemic.
Growing up I roamed the woods in the Bavarian alps, climbing my
favorite spruces, observing the little creek, falling in and breaking
my collarbone (ask me about the fish), playing house under the hazel,
snacking on dock and purple dead-nettle with my best friend, chasing
dandelion seeds, picking grapes, apples and berries, in awe with
Nature. In 4th grade I finished my school's scavenger hunt first. It
was held in my woods, a home game for me.
After college I worked in Marketing and Internet StartUps, produced an
Astrology show and sold wine and delicacy online. I moved to West
Seattle in 2004, where I raised my Climate Action Family, built the
West Seattle Bee Garden, started the West Seattle Coworking space, and
work as a bookkeeper for the Community School of West Seattle,
currently closed during Covid, which allows me to join the Anake
In 2016 I got my mind blown attending Art of Mentoring at WAS, rolling
in mud, chasing the Golden Elixir (GE) with a bunch of fun Canadians
that I made say 'about' a lot. It was the highlight of my summer,
being playful, rekindling with my childhood passions and the following
year I wanted to do Anake, but there was just too much going on in my
life, so I joined the Tracking Intensive and the Wild Plant Intensive
the following year, became a Native Plant Steward and Master Forest
Steward. I volunteer for the Green Seattle Partnership, the Bee
Garden, South Sound Nature School and Seattle Tracking Club. I love
learning, becoming more humble with each day and hanging out with
other Nature nerds.
I am fascinated by all things Nature and a few of my favorites are
chickadees, mason bees, huckleberries, nettles, deer mice, madrones,
hoverflies, crows, maidenhair fern, lupines, ghost pipes, spittlebugs,
racoons (we Germans call them 'wash bears'), sphagnum moss, oaks,
horsetail, yarrow and thimbleberries. My all time favorite pastime is
going on wanders and foraging with friends.
Today I found a message in my inbox. The Tracking Intensive got cancelled. Oh no!
This was my best bet to make sure I would get out in nature with some other people at least once a month and nerd out on tracks. It was my plan to stay sane and happy during Covid.
One of the parks I frequent had a station set up with a sign.
One link led to another and I came across this website about Coyote Research
"Sit Spot is the core of the Core Routines and the heart of this mentoring model. It's the magic pill if ever there was one. Because we've seen it, time and time again, to be so vital and enchanting to the life of both young and old children [...] In this place, the lessons of nature will seep in.
"Sit Spot will become personal because it feels private and intimate; the place where they meet their curiosity; the place where they feel wonder; the place where they get eye-to-eye with diversity of life-forms and weather patterns; the place where they face their fears - of bugs, of being alone, of the dark - and grow past them; and the place where they meet nature as their home." Excerpt from Coyote's Guide
I really enjoyed the connection to this special place. I also enjoyed all the reporting from other sit spots around the world. The Wilderness Awareness School guided this challenge globally this month.
Day 1: Spend 10 minutes or more at your spot. Introduce yourself and let yourself get familiar with who and what you share the spot with. Daily directions can be done or leave any suggestions.
Nothing going on. Complete silence in the forest. Just the road and lots of pretty leaves. Sun light coming through the trees.
Day 2: Find the 4 directions (North, South, East and West) from your spot. Which direction are you facing?
Very quiet. Maybe one little bird some place away. Keep focusing on the trees for movements. Thinking it could be a bird or squirrel I saw many leaves drop instead.
The Mountain Ash and the Holly wearing their plenty red berries. Then, a squirrel on a thin hazel branch reaching to the very tip of the branch almost breaking it or falling off. It would have fallen on the blue tarp on the trampoline underneath and I imagined how it would have enjoyed bouncing.
I love watching the squirrel jumping off a branch into a dense bush totally trusting it will land safely. It's such an inspiration for me to take a leap and trust things will work out by landing on something that will support me.
The squirrel went up the BLM totally blending into the bark but easy to spot when moving. It went out of sight. I watched the sun light play with the leaves and felt the colder temperature chill my body. I listened to the kids playing in the Park and cars on the nearby road before heading inside.
Day 3: What is drawing your attention and curiosity the most so far? Of all the living beings around you, which do you feel the most connection with?
Went to my sit spot right after waking up. It was raining and I tried to make sense of all the sounds I was hearing. I was looking for my squirrel friends, and was excited to see them up, but it was just the rain bending down the branches. Took me forever to locate the last 2 sounds. One was rain going down the pipe and hitting fabric.
I didn't hear any birds, which I find so unusual as I always hear them there. Wonder if the barred owl chased them off and hope for there return. I did see a bird fly high but couldn't tell if it was a crow or something else.
Taking inventory of the plants today. Starting in the North with Bamboo, Hazel, Camellia and the majestic Magnolia tree, the still blooming orange rose. In the west the twin Doug firs towering over the neighborhood with sap going down only on their North side. No squirrels up in their favorite spot today.
South of the firs is the Cedar with beautiful, dense, swoopy branches coexisting with an Elder at the corner, next to a mid-sized BLM that grew out of an old 5 feet high stump. Oregon Ash and English Holly showing off their red berries, the only color standing out in the yellow-green ocean of shades.
Below them is one of my babies, a small fir I planted last Spring. Planted with high hopes to take over the canopy without leaving a big gap once the Holly is removed. The little fir looks healthy and makes me happy. I can't see the little Cascara from my spot. The sorrel covers the ground mixed in with sparse grass and brown.
A dense patch of Sword Fern and the triangle shaped Fern (can't remember, maybe Bracken or Lady or Deer) grows along the edge. Another sturdy Holly next to the Hazel, the squirrels favorite playground, the skinny Madrona leaning on its tree friend, to the big happy Big Leave Maple. A Hazel and Privet hedge creating a boundary between the green belt and the hilly lawn between South and East.
Finally coming to the 2 giant Maples in the East housing lots of critters in their trunk sitting up on the slope.
Day 4: Notice how the change of routine affects your spot, and your experience at your spot. Bonus: Draw map around sit spot
Original Sitspot at WAS
The spot I first discovered blindfolded. Probably my 20th time coming to my first sitspot. Today counted 10 stumps all around. Also notice mushrooms all around. On my way to my spot I took a different route and startled a squirrel. I was excited to see or at least hear some amazing things. Squirrel alarmed. Silence. Grumbling from the distance. Like someone banging on metal violently. Weird and unexpected. Then motor cycle or ATV engine sounds reving. Getting closer and closer. I stand up expecting to see one coming up the hill but sounds leave again. I get a bit upset about this being my sitspot experience for the day. Not at all what I expected. Also noticing my inner Lorax not being cool with them doing races in this pristine wilderness. And feeling guilty about my ignorance. I head downhill to look for their tracks but are stopped by the pond, not too far where I saw beaver scat for the first time not too long ago. On my way back to the lodge I come across the spot where the squirrel was hanging out - and notice a flock of Wrens zipping through the air almost like hummingbirds, very busy and playful, one resting on a branch not too far over my head so I can inspect it closely. While my sitspot feel a bit short, I still got to experience what I was looking for. Nature provides.
That evening I joined the Elder Fire for the first time. I shared about my day where everything seems to fall in place (drop off Tim, gas, shades, muffins,... and then being around for the fire). I really enjoyed our conversations and the presence of so many WAS friends (Brian, Josh, Bob, Pat). One young woman came up to me to compliment me on all the cool things I shared about the Deep Listening, my crew with Jerry Seinfeld, Christmas Carols for Starbucks and having fun doing the right thing. My ride home was cheerful and accompanied by John OBrien on the radio.
Besides elder roles, mentoring, culture, religion and living green we also talked about 'olders' being resentful about not having done the right thing with their life and then being hostile to the young. And all the miscommunication this causes. A great reminder for my upcoming trip.
Day 5: What patterns are you beginning to notice at your spot. Some things to consider are weather, celestial bodies, animal, plant, people, etc. Bonus: Draw map 100 meter around sit spot
Original Sit spot at WAS
This time prepared with charged phone for pictures. Looking for pattern. Visually, this place is total and utterly chaos. Leaves, all colors spread, thin to large trees next to each other, not even 2 of the same kind of anything anywhere. The cedar bark missing pieces. No real pattern there. Old stumps all crooked. Hillside all uneven. Hard to process for my well trained brain to find pattern.
But then I focused on sounds. Chanting from the nearby inipi sweat lodge ceremony. Very consistent. Very easy pattern. Also, squirrel alarm. Bird call. And 2 planes going over with a very consistent engine noise.
Day 6: Notice 3 or more things at your spot that you've never really noticed before
I was out there at 10:40 and it was mayhem. Juncos, sparrows, maybe nuthatches all out there darting through the air being very busy. Saw some movement in the Holly tree and in the Hazel and bamboo and up in the Doug Fir. They were on the deck, on the planter, drinking from the edge of the bird bath. And anywhere in between.
It made be very happy to watch all the commotion. As I felt satisfied and wanted to go back inside, I say some movement in the big hazel next to the trampoline. One of the squirrels jumped out and ran to the big Maple chased by another. They chased each other in spirals up and down the trunk and it made me so happy to be able to witness their playfulness. As they stopped and sat, I ended my session for today.
Worked hard on the unusual. Maybe the Maples spelling a 'V' and 'Y'. Maybe that I think I can see some part of the playground behind the corner cedar gleaming through. Maybe that I'm not sure where the trunk of the corner cedar really is - or if there is more than one.
Day 7: Focus as much attention on your sense of touch
Went early to make sure I would get a chance on this busy day. Touch. Felt a cold-ish wind hit my face from East to west. Felt the morning sun touch my skin with a cold glimmer attached.
Looked out for my friends, the Birds and Squirrels. It took me a while to hear a few bird calls. Starred a bit, you could say 'owl eyed' around, but besides some leaves dropping, I didn't see anything. I still enjoyed my time but went inside after a few minutes to build a cage for the bunnies.
Later I noticed that all the Hollies are now injected. And Squirrel doing it's stunts high up in the trees. Also found a tiny flower.
Day 8: Focus as much attention on your sense of hearing, What are you hearing? Quietest sound? Sound furthest away? Find a sound coming from each directions.
Very brief visit after work, I believe. Lots of Juncos busy in the Magnolia. Just doing there thing. Not noticing me. Squirrel on the maple munching. Not sure what
Day 9: Using Owl eyes, focus as much attention on your sense of sight. What colors, textures and shapes?
Slow morning. Forgot to do sit spot. Went to Seahurst. Found some tracks. Walked. Talked. Ran errands. Forgot about sit spot. Went out for sunset and didn't hear any sounds other then traffic. Saw a dad with his toddler kicking leaves in the Park. Shelly came up but didn't notice me in the corner. Didn't want to startle her. Looked for movement. Listened to sound. Really enjoyed the string light in the tree.
Owl Eyes: focus your vision on a central point. Now soften your vision and attempt to see what is in your peripheral vision, without moving your eyeballs. Try to see as much as possible. Notice motion helps you spotting wild visitors.
Day 10: Awake sense of smell and taste. Taste the air? Taste last meal? Smell weather?
Didn't catch my story of the day :-(
Day 11: Owl Eyes, Deer Ears" (hearing 360 degrees around you, near and far), touch, feel ground, temperature on your skin, take a deep breath, smell scents surrounding you BONUS: Practice Sense Meditation throughout your day.
Went out and waited. Noticed a bunch of little insects but besides car noise and some people in the park I didn't see any movement in any of the trees. Waited.
Day 12: Find a new wild being from our spot. Seek out a new plant, animal, fungi (mushroom) or algae (lichen) that you aren't familiar with. Use all of your senses to learn about this new friend.
Went after planting a bunch of trees at Westcrest and heard a light commotion in the maple next to the ash, then close to the trampoline and in the fern. Used Owl eyes and spotted a tiny bird zipping through the air like a hummingbird. Saw it under the trampoline play with the fabric straps. When it came closer I could spot the white stripe on the head, Bewick's Wren. And another one that seemed to miss the stripe, so maybe a Winter Wren? I watched them hop around together. They made me so happy and excited. I then spotted one of my squirrel friends sit on the stump up in the fire circle. It was just sitting there being busy. Didn't move thou. I went back and forth watching the Wrens and the Squirrel and then noticed the tuk-tuk-tuk from my Juncos moving in the Cedar. A bunch. Busy. Noisy. Happy. I checked if I could spot any movement in the big Doug Firs. If they are in the Magnolia they hop between the Doug Fir and the Magnolia, but not on the other corner. I was wondering if anyone lives in the Dough Fir. They seem to hard to put holes in. Where do they squirrels live? Does the owl hang out in the fir? I never saw it there. So many questions.
Day 13: Where are the animals going? Look for animal trails, tracks, pattern of flattened grass.
Short sit spot at 2 pm heading out back to work. Owl eyes practice. Funny how leaves trick me. Saw a woodpecker on the V Maple hole. Wonder if it just looked for food or if it considers it as housing. Also where is it's mate? Missed the tuk-tuks. Saw a couple of friendly chickadees in the Magnolia. Showed them to Layla. Sunny, but cold. First night of frost.
Day 14: Move as silently as possible, take your time, move slowly, pause often to drop into your senses and take in your surroundings
Spent some time outside stringing up Christmas lights. Did hear some commotion in the trees nearby but couldn't spot them. It got really cold fast as soon as the sun set. It's really interesting how it's either busy or completely calm in the trees. Missed my Stellar Jays the entire 2 weeks. Where do they hang out? Not around here apparently. Really enjoyed the challenge and how it made me see so many different things, connect with the 'neighbors', dive a bit deeper in Bird Language.
Day 15: Take some time to think back through this challenge and look for any patterns in your energy levels, mood, creativity, motivation, well-being
Went out at 10. Silence, except for the street noise on Fauntleroy. Almost left my spot in resentment, but my owl eyes caught some movement. The tiny wrens darting out of the Hollies North. As I watched, I saw more movement in the tree, expecting leaves fall or more birds, but it was my squirrel friends chasing each other from the South Maple past the ivy patch up the hill to the V and Y-shaped maples doing their spirals, jumping. One reddish, the other grey. I was happy experiencing their playfulness again - representing the final day. I watched them for a while. Foraging. Then a third squirrel joined them coming out of one of the big Doug Firs. Chasing the one that came close for a bit, then more parallel foraging without friction. Maybe quickly staking out territory. A crow flew in landing on its usual landing strip, the walking path in the Park.
Curious Bee. Forest Steward. Nature Nerd. Climate Activist Mom.