Saturday, 23 April 2016

Onward and UPward

As I write this, Project UP (Unclog the Pipes) has been in operation for a week. I wrote last week that sometimes our spiritual growth stalls because we have blockages preventing the Spirit from flowing through us.

I’d like to say Project UP is an amazing success, and I am bursting with new ideas and insights, a fresh vision, etc. yadda yadda. That wouldn’t be true. Project UP is operating in fits and starts. I believe that may be true for most of life – our intentions are great, but putting the plans into action is another story. Still, the intention is important, and if we are kind to ourselves, we do find, eventually that we progress. So I stumble on.

I am working on another unfinished project –  a self-portrait of me at 67, which is a continuation of the self-portraits I did at 65 and 66.

#65: The Crow Talks

#66: Old Crow, Still Dancing

My birthday is in June so this unfinished project is 9 months behind schedule. However, in the spirit of “be kind to yourself”, I proceed, and WOW! I like what is happening. So maybe, sometimes, ideas need to ripen to their fullness before you can express them well. Here's a snippet of #67 Carrying the Thread – perhaps soon I can show you the whole thing – just before I have to get started on #68!

#67: Carrying the Thread
As well, I’ve started a new practice that I hope will also help unclog the pipes. I’ve always enjoyed walking in nature – I count it as a spiritual practice. But earlier this year, at an Elder College class I attended called “Dwelling in Nature”, I was introduced to the concept of Sit Spot. “A sit spot,” I was told, “is a place you go to often and regularly to sit so you can look, listen, feel, smell, and even taste the surrounding landscape. Sit spots improve mental and physical health as well as improve the participant's spiritual state.”

The idea in practice means that you find a place in nature close to home, which you will visit 3-4 times a week for a year, to sit quietly for at least 20 minutes, preferably longer. You will be still, and you will open your senses to what is going on. You will come to know this little piece of God’s green earth intimately, in all weathers and all seasons, and your connection to the earth and to the Creator of it will be stronger.  (For more information on Sit Spots, google the term. There are many websites offering advice on the best kinds of sit spots, and how to benefit from the practice.)

It’s possible to have a Sit Spot on your high-rise balcony or in a corner of your backyard; you might even choose a bus bench, observing clouds and sky, sparrows and bugs, weeds that grow in the sidewalk cracks. But for me, nature has always been first and foremost the woods across the street. In about 300 steps, I leave behind concrete and cars to enter the cathedral of trees with their soaring branches arching overhead.

I have many choices of Sit Spots here – sitting on a log beside the rushing Puntledge River, or on a bench right beside the pathway. Or, there’s spot in the middle of the woods where the trilliums and fawn lilies grow thick. I settle on a bench facing a quiet  side channel of the river, off the main path. This will be my Sit Spot home for the next year.

The view from the bench: can't beat it!
Experts say when you, the outsider, come to your Sit Spot, the little animals and birds run and hide. It takes at least 15 minutes for them to decide you are okay, hence the 20+ minute time slot. I don’t last more than 10 minutes the first day ... but even then, I’ve noticed things I didn’t see before, like a spider’s fine silk line strung from one tree to another, and interesting shadows shifting on the water. The second time I lasted 12 minutes. That's progress!

Will this discipline be worth it? Will I be able to maintain it? Will it help Project UP?  We shall see.After all, it's all about feeding the waiting heart.

A few days ago, we celebrated Earth Day. As well, all of April has been declared Poetry Month. So I'm celebrating both by sharing another poem, this time by ecologist, author, and farmer Wendell Berry.

Look it Over

I leave behind even
my walking stick. My knife
is in my pocket, but that
I have forgot. I bring
no car, no cell phone,
no computer, no camera,
no CD player, no fax, no
TV, not even a book. I go
into the woods. I sit on
a log provided at no cost.
It is the earth I’ve come to,
the earth itself, sadly
abused by the stupidity
only humans are capable of
but, as ever, itself. Free.
A bargain! Get it while it lasts.

(Taken from “Leavings” by Wendell Berry, 2010, Counterpoint Berkely.)


  1. Fridstool is what Dianna Gabbaldon calls the sit spot.

    1. I didn't know that, Claudette, but I like it. From now on, that bench will be my Fridstool.

  2. I have a Sit Spot, although I have never called it that. I go there when I need to be in nature. Going there does for me all the things you describe. I am going to try the 20 minutes - 3 times a week practice and see where it takes me. I love the poem. Thanks, Jessie

    1. We'll have to compare notes, Tamsen. I am notorious for beginning things and then not carrying through. It will not be an easy assignment, but I have decided to do most of my walking in that little part of the woods across the street, really getting to know it closely, and then it will be hard to by-pass the bench. I hope to change my attitude from "I must walk -- it's good for me," to "I will be kind to myself by taking a walk in the woods."

  3. I have a Sit Spot, although I have never called it that. I go there when I need to be in nature. Going there does for me all the things you describe. I am going to try the 20 minutes - 3 times a week practice and see where it takes me. I love the poem. Thanks, Jessie

  4. Love these last two posts. I have a sit spot in my back yard but I don't think I am using it properly. I will work on that. Thanks for always bringing this stuff to our attention.