Finding a Secret Spot
Your secret spot is somewhere you can sit alone in nature and just be.
At it's simplest, all you have to do is go into the garden (or somewhere outside that you like) and just sit there for 15 minutes (more is okay), every day. Or nearly every day.
It should be the same place that you visit regularly, not dozens of places that you rotate or just visit once or twice ever. The location you choose is a tradeoff between somewhere natural (with lots of nice natural features) and somewhere that's accessible and easy to get to. Basically, pick the place that's the most natural, and you like the most, out of places that are close enough that you'll actually go there every day (or almost every day).
It's one of those things which is much more useful than it seems like it would be. It's also suprisingly much harder to do than it seems like it would be.
Of course it can be made more complicated later on, and to some extent this is a good idea as you develop. However just the basic idea of being somewhere, in nature, without an agenda, is itself extremely educational — in fact more so than you would ever have imagined if you've lived all (or nearly all) your life within modern Western culture. So even after you add extra things to do at your secret spot it's still a really good idea to spend plenty of unscheduled time there.
IMPORTANT: Please read the legal section and disclaimer before
attempting any of the skills or practises shown in this website.
Image: A "secret" location with grass and other plants. High Resolution 4014 x 1812.
I got the name "secret spot" from a correspondence course called the Kamana Naturalist Training Program that's run by Wilderness Awareness School (WAS) in the United States.
One of the best gifts I have to offer is that I have seen certain successes over and over again in my mentoring of naturalists and trackers. There are certain common traits among people who become masterful in their abilities to read the language of the birds, develop good instincts, learn survival skills, excel in their understanding of the uses of plants, and learn the language of tracking. One essential practice all these people share in common is the practice of connecting with one place in nature deeply and regularly.
Jon Young, Kamana Two Nature Awareness Trail Manual, page 20.
Jon Young, founder of Wilderness Awareness School, based the name on the "secret place" that was featured in the book The Education of Little Tree. There's also a movie of the book, which used to be very hard to find (I once had a TAFE library order it from another TAFE library, which was the only way I could find it at the time). Right now it's on YouTube but may not stay there for long.
It can also be called a sit spot, and in The Education of Little Tree it's called a secret place:
Following the spring branch was how I found the secret place.
It was a little ways up the side of the mountain and hemmed in with laurel. It
was not very big, a grass knoll with an old sweet gum tree bending down. When I
saw it, I knew it was my secret place, and so I went there a whole lot.
Ol’ Maud [his dog] taken to going with me. She liked it too, and we would sit under the
sweet gum and listen—and watch. Ol’ Maud never made a sound in the secret place.
She knew it was secret.
Once in the late afternoon me and ol’ Maud was sitting with our backs against
the sweet gum, and watching when I saw a flicker of something move a ways off.
It was Granma. She had passed not far from us. But I figured she hadn’t seen my
secret place at all or she would of said something.
Granma could move quieter than a whisper through wood leaves. I followed her
and she was root gathering. I caught up to help and me and Granma set down on a
log to sort the roots out. I reckined I was too young to keep a secret, for I
had to tell Granma about my place. She wasn’t surprised—which surprised me.
Granma said all Cherokees had a secret place. She told me she had one and
Granpa had one. She said she had never asked, but she believed Granpa’s was on
top of the mountain, on the high trail. She said she reckined most everybody had
a secret place, but she couldn’t be certain, as she had never made inquiries of
it. Granma said it was necessary. Which made me feel right good about having
From the chapter 'The Secret Place' in The Education of Little Tree.
The Education of Little Tree has a controversial history.
Although Carter's themes are more representative of Appalachian culture than Cherokee culture, the "truth" in the story is that Carter is portraying his own beliefs and experiences.
....I also believe that the relationship between man and nature presented in The Education of Little Tree is an idea that Carter intended to pass to the reader. The reason for this is that, being from the rural South as Carter was, I understand the importance that land holds for the Southerner.
.....what I find in this book is a man looking back over his life, deciding what is important, and presenting this to his readers.
Clayton M. Darwin, "Now, This Is a True Story."
What to Actually Do
The idea is that you find a place to go and sit (or just hang out there) every day, by yourself. It doesn't have to be absolutely every day, but the more the better.
I've found that it's important to use some amount of self-discipline with it. Otherwise the distractions of modern life tend to take over and there's no time left for sitting at your secret spot.
It's a lot better if your secret spot is outside, rather than inside. If you live in a small unit, and there's really nowhere else to go in the local area that you could use, you could use an inside location where you can see out a window. Or a balcony. A balcony of a house, looking towards a garden, would also count as mostly outside.
The experience is meant to work better if you don't have anything electronic there with you. At least not most of the time. Or that if you do, you're not interacting with it very much. Which means that sitting there for 15 minutes playing with Facebook (or Snapchat, or anything on your phone) the entire time definitely doesn't count. I've heard that even something as innocent-seeming as an electronic wrist watch can detract from being connected to nature. For this reason, several years ago I started wearing mechanical spring powered watches with no electronics in them at all.
Go out to the wilderness, my friend, and find a place. I call it a sacred place. A secret place, just yours. Just a little place for you — go and sit there. And learn to meditate. Take off your shoes so you can feel the energy of Mother Earth coming up from the ground. Lay the back of your hands down on the earth..... And breathe in. Very slowly. Very deeply. Breathe out very slowly and very deeply. Listen. To every sound. The rustle of the leaves, the little bird there. The little mountain stream. Taste the air. Smell the air. Soak all these things in, bring them into yourself down to your very gut. Just like blotting paper soaks up ink, you soak that up and bring it into you. Just look into the wilderness. Say, "help me". And you'll get an answer.
Ingwe: Spirit of the Leopard, audio recording by M. Norman Powell.
Journaling / Storytelling
With this I'm aiming to go back into some kind of "beginner's mind", and imagining that I'm starting all over again, from the beginning.
You may wish to journal what you experience at your secret spot. I'll do this for a while and then continue on my own...
Day 1 - Wednesday
I took my Kamana book with me, and read some of the first book. I was supposed to stay there for at least 15 minutes. I didn't look at the time much so I don't know how long I was there but it would have been nearly an hour, perhaps an hour.
In the kamana book I read what needed to be done for the first field pack assigment. I tried out some wide angle vision exercises for a while. Which means trying to watch as much as possible of my whole field of view, using my peripheral vision.
I'm using a red coloured picnic mat which has a rubbery waterproof bottom.
I took some photos with an old digital SLR and then with my phone. Fortunately, for some reason my phone camera was set to panorama mode, which I'd never used before. It was quite easy to use and allowed me to take a wider angle photograph of my secret spot than I could have otherwise.
I noticed my eyesight had improved afterwards.
Day 2 - Thursday
I had to push myself to go there today, as I had a number of things to get done, and the number kept increasing as the day went on. So I didn't feel like there was time to be sitting around in the garden. However once I got there, it was nice being there. I did notice that my mind started to slow down. Now that I'm back inside (at the computer) it's like I've gone into computer-using mode and forgotten a lot, but not all, of what I was thinking and feeling then.
I was noticing a lot of negative feelings about modern society. Which I have all the time, but they were more obvious and more emotional rather than just something I'm aware of logically. I've read of many others with the same experience so I guess it's pretty normal. It was definitely reminding me a lot of when I was a kid (like 7-11 years old) and spent a lot of time in the garden and in the bush. There were a lot of times then when I wondered why everyone didn't want to be here, where so many happy feelings were. When it was time to go home (which usually meant when night was approaching) I'd walk back along the track towards home and look up at all the houses. (In the Blue Mountains nearly all the settlement is along ridges, and most of the bush tracks go down into valleys, so I was looking up at them). They were looming, foreboding even, and I wondered why "everyone" would stay up there basically all the time, as if they were in a prison with no visible bars but with some other kind of force that kept them there. I also remembered fantasising about making "primitive" (though I wouldn't have used that word) houses in the bush, like tree houses or some other kind of basic accommodation, and living there with everyone else I knew.
It also made me think about my childhood awareness, which I think of as baseline behaviour for humans (or at least much more like it than I usually am). And wonder if the current generation of children will ever experience that at all, ever, due to the huge increase in the use of addictive electronic devices which speed up the logical thinking parts of the brain.
Day 3 - Friday
This is interesting because I've been out all day and it's now 9pm. Which means my day 3 of secret spot is going to be in the dark. If the idea of sitting outside in the dark is a big deal for you, that's no problem. It's not like you absolutely need to do it every day. I'm trying to approach this with a beginners mind, as if I've never done anything like this before, but even with that I think I'm up to the task. If the garden seemed like too much, I could sit on the paving stones which border the back lawn, with the lights on. That would still count as outside although there's a roof overhead, it's not enclosed at all.
The main hazard that I'm aware of on the lawn is that there's brown trapdoor spider holes all over the place, and they come out at night. I've got the thick picnic blanket with the rubbery backing so hopefully that will save me from spiderly death. The trapdoors aren't deadly anyway, although I really don't want to be bitten by one.
Perhaps I'll photograph something while I'm out there. The moon is up, and there's also something else I have in mind, if it's there.
The moon was too cloudy. I did photograph something which I need to photoshop for here.
It was okay sitting outside. The worst thing was the strong smell of Aerogard which gave me a sore throat. After a while I started to feel more relaxed, though it was definitely less relaxed overall than in the daytime.
Day 4 - Saturday
This was a busy day and I sat for just the minimum of 15 minutes. It was around the middle of the day and there wasn't any mosquitoes which was great. I really enjoyed it and wished I had time to stay there longer.
Day 5 - Sunday
Again a busy day and I sat for just 15 minutes, in the early afternoon. I didn't notice mosquitoes today either. Again I wanted to stay longer but there were many things still to do.
Day 6 - Monday
I was getting bitten by mosquitoes today, only a few thankfully. I could have gotten up to get some spray from the house, but there wasn't that many and I was trying to imagine what it would be like if there was no such thing as insect repellent.
Day 7 - Tuesday
Today is raining. I waited until the rain had eased off and was only quite light. I could have sat under the balcony, or in the actual garden with a large umbrella — however I wanted to do it more "properly" than that. I'm thinking of the idea as to gradually extend my comfort zone, by doing things that are somewhat uncomfortable. But not so much that the whole thing seems like a drudgery.
I had a beanie on and a hoodie, and gloves, which I thought would help against mosquitoes. No Aerogard or any kind of insect spray today at all. Happily, I didn't see one mozzie the whole time I was outside. I guess because they don't like the rain.
After five minutes, it started raining again, hard. But by this time I was determined to stay sitting for the whole 15 minutes. I folded up the parts of the picnic blanket I wasn't sitting on, and moved so I could wrap most of my shoes in them. My shoes were the thing I least wanted to get wet (becuase they're the hardest to dry). My watch is waterproof so that was no problem and I didn't have anything electronic with me.
It wasn't that cold (19 degrees celsuis outside). The rain seemed like it would feel colder than it did. Suprisingly, I would have liked to stay there longer, even in the rain, but as usual there were other things to do (like dry my clothes and get ready for work). It felt different in the rain (obviously), but not just from the wetness — it felt much more private, like no-one else would be out here in this weather, and I was more like one of the animals than one of the people.
When I went inside, my iothes were wet enough to wring out by hand, and wet enough to put them through the spin cycle of the washing machine before going in the dryer.
Day 8 - Wednesday
Another rainy day. It stopped raining for a while, so I sat outside then. There were a few mozzies, about one a minute. I managed to not need repellent spray by covering myself up well, with thick gloves, a hoodie, long track pants, and then I wrapped the rest of myself (feet, undersides of legs, and lower part of my back) in the parts of the rubber picnic blanket which I wasn't sitting on. That worked well enough.
I didn't feel very into it at all when I started, as I had so many other things to get done. After a while I relaxed much more, and after the 15 minutes were up I would have liked to stay there longer. Again. This seems to be happening a lot.
I put this web page about finding a secret spot online today.
Day 9 - Thursday
It's currently 11:00pm and I haven't had time to go out yet. About to do it.
(Now afterwards)... It was okay, I was quite sleepy which distracted from the experience. Being out in the dark felt like much less of a big deal than the first time. I noticed more sounds than usual, even without trying to. I practiced some wide angle vision / peripheral vision for a couple of minutes. I'm thinking that the next comfort zone to break through will be in the dark and in the rain. Although I haven't taken off my shoes yet (like in the quote above by Ingwe) so that would also count. Without covering my feet in Aerogard I'm not sure how that will work. Hopefully there will be some mozzie free autumn and winter sunny daytimes when this can happen.
So far with Kamana I've been pretty lucky and there hasn't been that many. When they're really bad here I can swat my leg and get three in the one stroke of my hand. I feel like mosquitoes are going to be, by far, my biggest stumbling block with this. Perhaps, by practicing my secret spot I'll learn to get over my fear of them. They're meant to be, by far, the world's most deadly animal in terms of the number of people killed by them every year, even ahead of humans. There's no malaria here but there is Ross River Virus. Which is spread by mosquitoes which have bitten kangaroos or wallabies which carry the disease, and there's the occasional wallaby at my secret spot. If not for that I'd be much less concerned about copping some bites and just putting up with the itching.
After looking up those statistics about deaths caused by animals, I read that 1.3 million people a year die in car crashes worldwide. Which is nearly double the 725,000 killed by mosquitoes. That makes the mosquito seem somewhat less of a threat. While I'm on this subject, apparently in just the USA and Europe (combined), 328,000 people a year die from taking prescription drugs as prescribed to them (not including overdoses etc.)
The study estimating that 100,000 Americans die each year from their prescriptions looked only at deaths from known side effects. That is, those deaths didn’t happen because the doctor made a mistake and prescribed the wrong drug, or the pharmacist made a mistake in filling the prescription, or the patient accidentally took too much.
Which also makes mosquitoes seem less of a big deal.
Day 10 - Friday
Today I went to my secret spot in the morning. It didn't feel like very long since last night, but I wanted to get it done early since it looked like it would start raining more later on in the day. Plus I didn't want it to get left till almost midnight again. After 5 minutes I noticed there were no mosquitoes at all so I thought I'll try and take off my shoes and socks, and place my bare feet on the wet long grass (like Ingwe says to). It really did feel great, and it made me notice how alien the rest of my body felt in comparison. I mean physically alien, or perhaps energetically or something deep like that. But just a feeling of wrongness and discomfort, that I noticed agains the nice feeling of my feet being connected to the earth. I've measured electrical resistance between the human body and the earth before (which will eventually become a page on this website). Using a multimeter. And definitely the rubbery picnic blanket would be massively insulating, and having bare feet touching wet grass would be highly conductive. So apart from anything else that may or may not exist (or be proveable), it felt better to me and there's a definite measurable electrical difference between the two.
Amazingly there were no mosquitoes the whole 20 minutes I was sitting there. I didn't even see one. It was making me wonder if that was somehow meant to be, after writing everything that I did last night about them. Perhaps after a while the "vibes" of the place get used to you being there, and (at least some of) the natural hazards leave you alone. I've read stories, which I presumed to be true, about native people walking right past fierce predators like tigers all the time — but then the tigers attacking and mauling or killing people who weren't from the area (like white tourists and/or other urban people). I'm sure sometimes native people were also attacked, but it really did seem like there was something to these stories more than pure chance. As if doing something like the secret spot, often, regularly, isn't just about you getting used to a place, but also (and perhaps even more importantly) about the place getting used to you.
Day 11 - Saturday
I had to wait for it to stop raining. Earlier I was considering sitting in the rain again but I didn't have time to dry my clothes. Again I felt rushed, but then after the 15 minutes I wished I could stay there longer.
Day 12 - Sunday
Another rainy day and I'll see how much time I get before it rains again. For the first time, I'll bring an umbrella in case the rain comes back (which looks quite likely).
(After)... The umbrella worked well. I wrapped the edges of the picnic blanket around me so I was covered up to my waist, with the rubber underside of the mat facing upwards into the rain. At 14 minutes the rain got really heavy so I waited another five minutes and then it nearly stopped and I went back inside.
Day 13 - Monday
Today it hasn't rained yet and there was even some sun. I took off my shoes and socks and put my feet and the lower half of my legs on the (still damp) grass. Happily there were no mosquitoes at all (at 2:00 pm). There were, however, lots of small black ants. Of three different sizes, all pretty small but different enough that they were presumably three different species. I moved my "anchor point" i.e. the exact spot where I sat around a bit, but I couldn't find anywhere that didn't have them. Perhaps they were out much more since it's the first semi-dry day for a couple of weeks. I tried ignoring them and killing them, a combination of both seemed to be the best. Usually ones that bit me got killed and sometimes the others. That was after a few minutes of trying to ignore them, which became increasingly difficult as the bites and the crawly feelings mounted up. I wasn't counting but probably got bit about 30 times (so twice a minute approximately). Ant bites are (for me) far less annoying than mosquito bites but still somewhat annoying (my legs are still itchy now). If this continues I'll have to move my anchor point even more. If I'd stayed completely on the mat like I did for most of the previous days, it would have been much better or entirely better. However I'm trying to become more "natural" and more used to being outside without man-made accessories, so I want to gradually push the boundaries, a bit at a time.
When I read about ancient or "primitive" people, I don't get the impression they were being bitten by thousands of tiny creatures, nonstop, essentially all of the time. However that's what it sometimes seems like when me as a modern person contemplates going into the bush without any of the products and aids from modern society. Presumably after a long time of doing things like practicing my secret spot, it will become really obvious where the ants, mosquitoes, and other biting creatures will be, and when. And what to do to avoid them without having to cover up with and/or shelter inside of and/or spray with products made from petrochemicals (i.e. from crude oil).
Day 14 - Tuesday
Today I sat on the mat, I didn't take off my shoes or socks. I didn't want any ants on me. I had Aerogard but didn't need it. The mosquitoes have really been much better lately.
Day 15 - Wednesday
There was a lot of sun today, no mosquitoes, and only a few ants. A lot of sun meaning about half the sky was blue, which is by far the most since I started doing the secret spot. I took off my shoes and socks and the ants didn't bother me at all. I wonder why today was so different to last time with the ants behaviour.
Day 16 - Thursday
This morning the hard drive that I had Windows on died. The Windows installation which I've been using to work on survival.org.au. So I've spent considerable time recovering my website from backups, and copying them to my laptop, on which I'm typing this. I haven't done my secret spot yet, I have to go out soon and also I have a lot of new things to do, some of which I'll try and do before that (like get a new hard drive).
(After)... Well, I bought my new hard drive. I'll install it tonight and tomorrow. Sitting at my secret spot I was more distracted than usual. It was more like I was just waiting for the time to be up, almost like a feeling of sitting on a train or bus — just waiting to get to the end like it was part of the routine. Especially since I was already late for this afternoon's appointment and had notified that I'd be an hour later than I was meant to be there. I could have waited until tonight but then it would be dark, there would be more mozzies, and it would probably be raining. It feels like the point of today's journal post is mainly to demonstrate the process of being disciplined to keep doing the secret spot even when there are obstacles.
I got one mosquito bite on my back, then I sprayed the top of my hat (an old Akubra) and the mat behind me. I only saw one more after that.
After 10 minutes it started raining lightly but I was determined to stay there for the rest of the 15 minutes, even if it meant being wet for a while afterwards. Since the whole point of this is to get used to living with the reality of being out in the natural world. I'm only slightly damp. I'm writing it up immediately afterwards since I missed a couple of days earlier in the week, and then it's hard to remember what I was thinking about when I write up the journal entries 2-3 days late.
Day 17 - Friday
Today I was still distracted as I'd spent a lot of time installing Windows and updates and other programs, and there was still a lot more to do. It was in the evening when I sat at my secret spot. There were a few mozzies, I used Aerogard on my hat, around the mat, on my shoes and even my back (i.e. the back of my shirt). Several bower birds were eating berries on the trees below me, not far away. It was cool to watch them. Usually they are very shy and don't come very close. They were a bit closer than usual, but then I was sitting still for 10 minutes before they landed there.
Day 18 - Saturday
Still on the laptop. My new version of Windows has over 250 individual updates to install and it's taking a long time. Plus all the other things to install. Currently it's stuck on "Failure configuring Windows updates..... Reverting changes..... Preparing to retry..... Do not turn off your computer." Which looks like it's going to take a while longer.
I sat in my secret spot at 11am. No mosquitoes at all today. It's definitely improved on when I started. I took off my shoes and socks and no ants on me either. After a 2-3 minutes of being there, a neighbors cat which is usually extremely shy (and runs away from me) came and sat 2-3 metres from me. He stayed there for a while, slowly walking past me and then sitting 2-3 metres away on the other side of me. A noisy miner bird flew onto a tree above me and skwawked loudly at the cat for about a minute, and then flew off. Eventually the cat slowly approached me, and I stroked his head a few times. Then he checked out the mat I was on, and slowly walked off.
Day 19 - Sunday
I was out all day and didn't get home until dark. I went to my secret spot just after 10pm. This time I didn't turn on any of the exterior house lights, there was just one window with a light on, and that seemed quite far away. There was no moon and it was really dark. The dark wasn't bothering me at all, it seemed fun actually. Apart from not being able to see mosquitoes. Despite spraying Aerogard Tropical Strength on my hat, shoes, the back of my shirt, and in a circle on the mat around me I got a few bites on my hands and wrists that were driving me nuts with itchyness. Eventually I sprayed my wrists and hands, though I had been trying not to spray it on myself up till now.
With some people mozzie bites last a day or more, but with they usually only last an hour, maybe two, and itch just insanely for that time. After I went inside, I washed my hands under hot water, and then ran the water over the bites, as hot as I could bear, for a couple of minutes. I've heard that heat destroys or inhibits the toxins in the bites. It did seem to help.
Other than that, it was lovely sitting outside. I was really enjoying it until the itching started to dominate my experience of it. It would be better in winter, since I could cover up more, and there should be less mozzies then. I was thinking how nice it would be to smell the air, to smell anything other than the Aerogard.
Day 20 - Monday
Today is nice and sunny. After a few minutes of sitting, a blue tongue lizard came out of its home in a rock wall 1-2 metres away from my anchor point. There have been large lizards living in these rock walls for many years and I see one occasionally, like perhaps every few months. This is the first time I've seen one since I've been sitting here every day. It seemed pretty comfortable with me being there. It slowly crawled out of its rock crevice in my direction, and stopped about as far away as I could just reach with my arm stretched out if I'd wanted to. It sat there for the rest of the time I was there.
Interestingly, last Friday my next door neighbour brought over a blue-tongue lizard to show me. There must be a lot of them out and about at the moment, perhaps because it's the first run of sunny days since all the rain we had here.
After my 15 minutes was completed, I went back up to the house and got a camera.
Image: Eastern Blue Tongue Lizard, Lower Blue Mountains. High Resolution 2759 x 1839.
Incidentally, I used no Aerogard and got one mosquito bite, through my long pants. It didn't bother me that much, perhaps because it wasn't a strong bite due to being through my clothing. I didn't see any other mozzies (in the middle of the day), though I was distracted by the blue tongue and not thinking much about them.
Day 21 - Tuesday
Today was fairly uneventful. There was a honeyeater in a tree right above me for a while. I couldn't see it that well from underneath but it looked like maybe a white-eared honeyeater. Some green/yellow bower birds (i.e. not breeding males) were eating berries in a tree in front of me further down the garden.
Day 22 - Wednseday
I was looking right into the sun today so I adjusted the brim of my hat to block it out. I didn't need any Aerogard and only saw one mozzie. I had bare feet and got a couple of ant bites, for the last few minutes I moved my feet onto the mat.
My secret spot time is starting to feel noticeably more routine as of the last couple of days. I think this means it's time to look at the next thing to do in the Kamana course instructions...
Day 23 - Thursday
Today I didn't get time to visit my secret spot until 11pm. At least that meant I didn't have to sit in the rain, since it rained the whole day and had only stopped an hour before I got home. I even saw some stars, including Sirius, which I was right in front of me. It seemed more normal again being out there at night. I thought it might be cool to bring a lantern sometime, just for a change. The torch I've been using is one of those small super bright ones which is really bad for my dark vision. Another thing I thought about getting was a red LED torch, like the ones used by Astronomers. Since apparenly red light does not affect night vision anywhere near as much as the other colours.
Day 24 - Friday
Today was lovely and sunny. I didn't see any mosquitoes at all though I did see some larvae in a bucket that got left outside and has completely filled with rainwater. I took off my shoes and socks and there weren't that many ants. I felt one maybe two bites which weren't that annoying.
Day 25 - Friday
Another sunny day. While I sat I noticed a cat not far away, intently looking at something with a wide-eyed stare. Occasionally it looked at me and then back towards the other thing which was evidently much more interesting than me. After a while the cat started slowly stalking towards it. I was thinking how its a cat's instinct to stalk and hunt, even when it's domesticated and fed well, and doesn't need to put any effort in to hunting anything. And also how it's hunting abilities would be far behind a wild cat who had to depend on catching its own food. And how it's domestic life has made it soft and weak compared to a wild cat. Then I thought, that's what I'm also like, since I live a similiar life to the cat, with most of my food from supermarkets and most of my posessions made in factories. The cat's life is probably better than that of most humans since it doesn't even have to do anything for money. Watching the cat made me more interested in giving up some of the luxuries of modern life, more than I have done so far. The first thing I thought of eliminating was junk food, since this was the first thing I thought of that's easy, fast, cheap, requires almost no effort, and makes people soft and weak. There are times when I've eaten almost no junk food but recently has not been one of those times. Now that I've written this in my secret spot journal I had better stick to it!
After I got up to go back to the house, I walked past the cat and saw what it was looking at. It was the blue tongue lizard from Day 20. (Unless there are two almost identical ones living a few metres from each other.) I walked slowly between the cat and the lizard, to usher the cat away from the lizard but without scaring the cat too much (because I kind of like cats too, despite the massive damage they cause to our wildlife). The cat was happy for human company, and now seemed more interested in me than the lizard. I wasn't too worried though since the lizard is a good sized one and must have been around for a long time to grow to that size. And there are neighbour's cats in the garden all the time. So the lizard must be able to cope with cats stalking it.
I went back to the house and got a camera and took some photos. I didn't notice until I had the camera, but there was a hole in the rock wall about 30 centimetres from the head of the lizard. Which was looking towards the hole. So it could run into the hole in a flash if it needed to. So that's how it manages to not get attacked by cats.
Image: Eastern Blue Tongue Lizard, Lower Blue Mountains. High Resolution 2657 x 1771.
In the image below you can see the lizard's hole in the rock wall on the right. It's quite well hidden and hard to get a good photo of. I didn't want to scare the lizard so much it ran inside.
Image: Eastern Blue Tongue Lizard, Lower Blue Mountains. High Resolution 2598 x 1732.
This is the cat. I'm sure it's more comfortable with me since I've been doing the secret spot. It used to be quite shy and often ran away from me.
Day 26 - Sunday
I went to my secret spot early today, around 7am. There were lots of bird sounds and I saw several small birds way high up in the trees. Probably thornbills and a fantail which was probably a grey fantail. No cat or blue tongue. I didn't see any mosquitoes but felt one bite on my leg. It was starting to rain very lightly.
Day 27 - Monday
It rained most of the day but by the time I had time to go outside it was 10:30 pm and the sky was perfectly clear. There were heaps of stars, the most I've seen sitting here at night since I started doing this every day. Not that many mozzies even. I sprayed a small amount of Aerogard on my beanie and on the mat around me, and on my shoes. And I was rugged up quite well with a thick jacket and gloves. And that was fine.
I could see Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, in front of me. The southern cross was behind to the left if I turned my head. Jupiter was behind and to the right and looked really bright.
Day 28 - Tuesday
Today was relatively uneventful. I'm writing this on Wednesday so I'm trying to remember, but there wasn't much happening yesterday apart from a lot of bird calls high in the trees. Mostly from really small birds.
Day 29 - Wednesday
Today I went out around 6:15pm. There were more mosquitoes than I've seen for a while. No doubt because of the time of day. It was just getting dark, which is the favourite time of many (probably most) species of mosquitoes. They also like dawn, but the dawn feeding period is shorter, apparently. It wasn't that enjoyable since I spent most of the time warding off mosquitoes. I heard a few buzzing around my ears, which doesn't usually happen. I could have used more Aeroguard as I only sprayed it on my beanie and on the mat around me. I wrapped up my legs in the mat which helped a lot.
I just read online that according to research, mosquitoes prefer people with Type O blood twice as much as those with Type A blood, and Type B people are in between. Guess what type I am? (Here's a clue: it's not A or B.)
In future I'll try to avoid going to my secret spot at dusk.
Day 30 - Thursday
Today I went to my secret spot at midday. I didn't see or hear any mosquitoes, though I did feel a bit itchy on the back of my arm. It was fine, it didn't really bother me at all. It was sunny with patches of cloud. As I walked towards my anchor point (the exact spot where I sit), I heard a sound like the blue tongue lizard scuttling back into its hole. When I sat down, a dragonfly flew towards me, stopped and had a look, and then flew away. Then I heard a noise near the rock wall where the blue tongue comes from, so I turned my head to look. While my head was turned, something large flew onto my hand. Instinctively I flicked my hand to brush it away, and while doing so I turned around again and saw a large, beautiful orange butterfly flying away. I was a bit sad that I scared it away when it must have been trying to make friends with me. Oh well.
Then after maybe five more minutes, the blue tongue came out and stayed about a metre away from me, looking at me and bathing in the sun. It was really nice to have a companion. I was looking at it's head and face and thinking how ancient and reptilian it looked. Even though it's only small, it seemed like a mini-dinosaur. I thought that I'll try brining a camera with me every day so I can photograph things I see at my secret spot. I've been trying to avoid too much modern technology while I'm there, but it might be worth it to get some photos. When I got up and started dragging my picnic mat away, the lizard quickly turned around so that it was looking back towards the wall. So that it could quickly dart back into its hole if I did something too disturbing. It stayed like that as I walked away.
Day 31 - Friday
Well it's been a whole month now of doing my secret spot. I went there at 4:20 pm today. I didn't see any mosquitoes for the first 10 minutes, but after that there were several. I killed four and saw several more and got a really itchy bite on my finger. It seems strange that half of what I write about in this journal is mosquitoes. I also heard a rustling in in the area of the rock wall near me, but something smaller and higher up than the blue tongue lizard. It was a skink, about 15 centimetres long. On the way back to the house I startled the blue tongue who was out on the grass a few metres from my sit spot, in the same place as when the cat was there last Friday. Either there are two blue tongues that look pretty much identical and live right next to one another, or the two holes in the rock wall meet up on the inside, or the one blue tongue lives in two separate holes. The sun had gone for the day so I wasn't expecting it to be out, or I would have been more careful as I walked back from my secret spot.
Day 31 - Saturday
I went to my secret spot around 1:30 pm . No mosquitoes. It was mostly sunny. There were a few birds including a bower bird. I didn't see the blue tongue as I walked in, but walking out it was there, in the more distant spot (where it was when the cat was watching it). I was walking more carefully than yesterday and it didn't run back into the rock wall.
Day 32 - Sunday
I went to my secret spot at 11:15 pm, which was not long after I got home. It was nearly a full moon so it was easy to see. It was pretty quiet with some insect sounds. Not too many mosquitoes but a few. I took no Aerogard as I'm trying to learn to feel more independant of it. I took off my shoes, left my socks on and wrapped up my feet in the rubber picnic blanket. I had a beanie that pulls down fairly low, and a jacket that zips up to my chin, and gloves. I heard one near my ears and then looked at the time and I'd been there for 18 minutes. So it was going quite fast. I stayed until I'd been there 20 minutes.
Day 33 - Monday
Another late one, 10:30 pm. I didn't notice any mosquitoes. With no Aerogard, my shoes off, and my feet, legs and hands wrapped up in the picnic blanket. I forgot the gloves so my hands went in there too. The sky was completely clear, and the moon was full. I could see the brighter stars including Sirius setting behind the trees, Canopus, Procyon, the Southern Cross and Jupiter near the moon. And I think Spica behind that. Next time it's clear and I go there at night I'll bring binoculars and a star map. It was really peaceful tonight.
Day 34 - Tuesday
I went to my secret spot about 4 pm today. It was fully cloudy, but the blue tongue lizard was out, in the spot closer to where I sit. I didn't want to scare it too much by laying down my picnic blanket so I sat on the grass. It hasn't been raining as much so the ground was only slightly damp, not completely saturated like it has been for most of March. The lizard stayed in the same spot as I sat down. After a few minutes it turned around as if it was thinking about going back into its hole in the rock wall. Then, it very slowly creeped along the base of the wall, which has some vegetation around it so it's very hard to see it in there. A cat (a different one to before) was in the same spot as the cat I photographed above, it stayed there the whole time staring at the lizard's other hole in the wall. It occurred to me that perhaps the holes don't join up inside the wall, and it is the same lizard, and it sneaks between the two locations under the vegetation growing at the base of the wall.
There were a few mozzies, I killed 4-5. I didn't get bitten or at least not enough to bother me, perhaps one or two very weak bites that I barely noticed. I had no Aerogard, or gloves, or jacket that zips up to my neck, or blanket to wrap around me. I tucked my track pants into my socks and sometimes tucked my hands into the sleeve of the opposite arm (so the ends of my two sleeves were touching each other, with my hands invisible and inside them.
Day 35 - Wednesday
I went to my secret spot about 4 pm. I'm writing this in the middle of Thursday night / Friday morning, and I don't remember much about mosquitoes, so there can't have been too many. I took some photos of the blue tongue lizard and the cat. I'll put them up over Easter.
NEW: Here are the photos.
I also got these photos of a grey fantail. I'll make a web page for it soon. And one for the blue tongue lizard.
Day 36 - Thursday
Today I went to my secret spot quite late, any later and it would have been Friday morning. I've been trying to avoid that since technically it counts as the next day, meaning I missed a day of the "doing the secret spot" exercise. It was (and still is, though it's Friday morning now) a mostly clear night with a not quite full waning (i.e. getting smaller each day) moon. I used to find it hard to remember which was "waxing" and which was "waning" until I realised that waning sounds like whining, which obviously means it's getting smaller and fading away.
Next time it's a new moon (which should be in about a week and a half based on what the moon looks like tonight), I'll journal through the phases of the moon each day, which is the best way to learn the phases of the moon if you don't already know.
When I got to my secret spot, I was thinking I should have brought a star chart and a notepad. Then I realised I forgot to bring a watch, so I'd have no idea when my 15 minutes was up. I went back to the house and got a star wheel (which will be featured in a future journal entry for those who don't know what one is), and notepad, and walking back to the garden I was thinking maybe I should have brought a camera too. Then I realised I still had forgot the watch. Which was obviously a sign I was meant to take a camera. I took my Nikon D700, which is the best camera for low light that I have, and my Sigma 150-500mm lens, which is the longest zoom lens that I have. I took some photos of the moon which I'll put here over Easter.
NEW: Here's the clearest of the moon photographs I took.
Image: The Moon. Nikon D700, Sigma 150-500 mm lens at 500mm, handheld.
After taking the moon photos I realised I had forgot to set the time ring on my watch, so I didn't know how long I'd been there. Which seemed like a sign I was meant to start the 15 minutes from then, since I had spent all the time until then with the camera.
There were a few mozzies, perhaps a lot (it was dark). I had no Aerogard, I took off my shoes and wrapped my feet in the picnic blanket. And wore a beanie and the hood of a hoodie on my head. After finishing with the camera I put on gloves, but I'd already been bitten on my hands by then. I also got a bite on my ankle, which is quite itchy right now. It wasn't too bad. I didn't spend the entire time thinking about mozzies. I had the idea that another blanket to go on top of my legs would make me almost impenetrable, apart from my face.
I was thinking it would be a good idea to try brining a camera every time (I think I already said that a few days ago?). And also perhaps a sound recorder. I also had the idea to write more about camera gear and nature photography in general on the website. Which is one of the many things I've been meaning to do for ages. Perhaps this will be the inspiration to begin that.
(Writing this paragraph on Friday night). While I was thinking about what happened at my secret spot on Friday night (not much), I realised that last night (i.e. Thursday) I completely forgot to write that I saw a completely silent bird fly past me. Presumably an owl or a tawny frogmouth, but it was moving much too fast for me to see anything but a dark shape against the sky. It came from my left and flew across my field of vison towards the right and flying downwards. I didn't hear anything at all, it made absolutely no sound.
Day 37 - Friday
Another nighttime visit, at 10:30 pm. The sky was perfectly clear. I was looking right at the star Procyon which was low in the West. I wrapped up and used no Aerogard. A few insect noises, otherwise pretty quiet. I was pretty tired and didn't make much effort to do anything special. It reminded me a bit of some of my first times at my secret spot, when I didn't feel like going there at all but after 15 minutes I was thinking how great it was being there.
Day 38 - Saturday
I went to my secret spot in the daytime for a change. I was running late to go out and I'm writing this on Saunday night (actually 2 am Monday morning). I'm trying to remember what happened yesterday. It was around 10:30 am. The blue tongue was there, but no cats. I walked back to the house a different way to usual so as not to walk past the lizard again and maybe scare it.
Day 39 - Sunday
Technically I missed Sunday as I didn't get to my secret spot until 1:30 am. Which is Monday morning. The sky was almost fully clear. When I got home there was a ring around the moon, but it didn't stay for long. It was gone by the time I got to my secret spot. The night was quiet and still. I heard a mozzie after 10 minutes. I was rugged up but no Aerogard (like usual lately). I noticed that it's seeming more and more normal to be sitting outside in the nighttime.
Day 40 - Monday
Today I went to my sit spot around 3 pm. As I walked in, I didn't see the blue tongue lizard, which is unusual for the daytime. I forgot my watch (it's a public holiday here) and since I'm supposed to be having a quiet day I figured I'd go with it and sit for at least 15 minutes. I got one mosquito bite on my hand which was insanely itchy for 5-10 minutes, and an ant bite on my ankle which is still itchy but not as much as before. It seems to take about 10 minutes for mosquitoes to find me. Often it's exactly 10 minutes, as if they have a timer.
After 10 or 15 minutes, the blue tongue lizard came walking out from under a large tree surrounded by several smaller plants that offered a lot of cover for it. It had to cross 3 metres of open lawn to get back to the rock wall where it usually is. Also the path it took passed exactly the spot where the two neighbours cats has been sitting, staring at it. When I got up to go back to the house, the lizard was in its usual place, close to the hole in the wall. It seemed edgy as I walked past but it didn't run into the wall. I think I was at my secret spot for slightly under half an hour.
I uploaded the photos from days 35 and 36.
Day 41 - Tuesday
Tonight I got to my secret spot not long before midnight, so I was there as Tuesday pm changed to Wednesday am. It was mostly clouded over. I was pretty sleepy. I took a photo of my red lantern, which I'll put up later as usual. It was pretty quiet there. I spent 10 minutes fooling around with the camera and then another 10-15 minutes just sitting quietly. Mozzie defence was similar to the previous recent nights.
I spent the day at the Australian Museum which was awesome. There was a spider exhibition which is really impressive, and the usual displays.
Day 42 - Wednesday
I went to my secret spot around the middle of the day. I'm writing this on Thursday night (actually early Friday morning) and I've forgotten a lot of what I saw there. I didn't see the blue tongue lizard. There was a male bower bird high up in a tree.
Day 43 - Thursday
I got to my secret spot at 11:50 pm, just before midnight. I was there about 20 minutes. It was a perfectly clear sky. Right before I sat down (on the picnic blanket) I looked up towards the east and I could see the constellation of Scorpio perfectly positioned between trees which surrounded it on all sides. It would have made a great photo and I briefly considered going back for a camera, though I would have had to get a tripod also and fool around with it to get a decent shot, and that would have taken at least as long as the time I was meant to be sitting. Though I'll probably do that another time.
If you want to learn the constellations, start with the Southern Cross (if you're in the Southern Hemisphere). Then, if it's summer learn Orion and if it's winter learn Scorpio. If it's right in between (like now) you can learn them both. They're both easily recognisable and almost exactly 180 degrees opposite each other in the sky. If you have a smart phone get an app like "Sky Map" and you just point your phone at the sky (or even the ground) and it will show on the screen a map of what stars and planets it's pointing at.
Day 44 - Friday
Another night visit at 11:30 pm. I was quite tired. Everything was pretty ordinary until I turned on my lantern after 15 minutes were up. I had the usual recent mozzie protection. Which is: No Aerogard or any other type of repellant or insecticide. Thick beanie and gloves (which are called "Thinsulate" but are quite thick, enough for mosquitoes to usually not be able to bite through). Jacket which zips up to the top of my neck under my chin. Socks and no shoes and the rubber picnic blanket wrapped around my feet, and legs. I felt a few mozzie bites on my wrists in the gap between the gloves and the jacket sleeves, but not really bad/itchy ones. Sometimes I have another long sleeved garment on under the jacket, and I pull the sleeves down long over my wrists, so there are no gaps, but I didn't have anything on under the jacket tonight except a short-sleeved t-shirt.
I also got a bite on my neck under my ear, in the gap there, which is itchy now. I may have got one on the top of my head (it's itchy) also. Sometimes I have a hood over my head as well as the beanie but I didn't tonight. It's possible to pull down the beanie more over the top of my neck and sides of my face, and even to tuck the top of the jacket collar into it, which reduces the gaps considerably. However then I can barely move my head or the shirt collar pulls out. I didn't bother trying to do that tonight.
All in all it felt pretty normal, with a few extra bites which I imagined was because I'd been more careless with covering the gaps in my mozzie protection.
That was until I turned on the lantern when I was ready to get up — and saw a huge cloud of far to many mozzies to count right in front of me hovering over my legs and in front of my face. There must have been about 20-30 caught in the light beam, and presumably many others which were not. When I turned off the broad all-directions lantern light switch and turned on the spotlight, in whichever direction I pointed it the beam would catch one or more in its path, and sweeping the beam around revealed I was completely surrounded by them.
I was really amazed that they weren't bothering me (and biting me) more than they were, considering how many there were.
This has made me want to look more into other ways of mosquito protection, like using netting perhaps. I was suprised I didn't get bit on the face, or even hear one buzzing in my ears. The beanie covered my ears so they must have to be quite close to my ears before hearing that horrible buzzing sound.
Day 45 - Saturday
Today I went to my secret spot as it was getting dark. I figured if there would be lots of mosquitoes at least I could see some of them. I wore a hoodie and a baseball cap under the hood, and a jacket draped across my back so they couldn't bite through the hoodie. and my legs wrapped as usual. And the long sleeves of the hoodie were a tight enough fit over the gloves, but I had to keep pulling them down over the gaps at my wrists which was annoying. I'm writing this immediately after and I haven't got that many bites, less than last night. The middle of the top of one thigh is crazy itchy, so one must have got me through my long pants. The picnic blanket isn't big enough to completely wrap my feet and all of my legs on all sides. I killed too many to count since every time I looked down there was one or two buzzing around my hands and my lap. It didn't feel that relaxing and I was wondering how ancient people coped. They didn't have modern clothes, mosquito nets, or repellant. I've heard they used to cover themselves in mud sometimes, but can't have done that all the time.
I'll really have to do some serious research into this.
Day 46 - Sunday
I didn't get to my secret spot until around 1:30 am Monday morning. It was a beautiful completely clear sky. I was very sleepy but determined not to miss a day. I used Aerogard which was the first time for a while. I wore a different jacket which I hadn't used at my secret spot before, which is bigger and warmer and the sleeves have a velcro tie to remove any gap around my wrists. I saw a few mozzies but not a cloud and it was fine like that.
The planet Jupiter, the star Spica, and the constellation of Corvus were above and in front of me. The large prominent constellation of Scorpio was directly overhead.
Day 47 - Monday
I was at my secret spot at 11:00 pm. It's starting to seem quite unusual to be there in the daytime. Perhaps tomorrow I'll go there in the daylight for a change. It was raining lightly on and off, which was nice. It was warm, 19 degrees C outside. I was wearing the same jacket as last night, a green M65 jacket. It has a hood, which I used, and is lightly waterproof. I didn't use Aerogard. It was fine for mosquitoes, I saw a few but they weren't bothering me much other than the fear of getting bitten when taking off my gloves to do something with my hands. Bites on the hands always seem extra itchy but I didn't get any tonight. I saw a few stars and Jupiter through the clouds.
Day 48 - Tuesday
Today I went to my secret spot around 11 am. I forgot my watch and stayed there until it seemed like I'd been there safely more than 15 minutes, so it was probably about 20. It was cloudy. I didn't see the blue tongue lizard. I killed one mozzie and didn't notice any others. I practiced some wide angle vision exercises, but not very formally. Which means looking straight ahead and trying to see everything within my circle of vision, without moving my eyes or my head.
Day 49 - Wednesday
Today must be bug attack day. I went to my secret spot in the early afternoon, I forget the exact time. The first thing I noticed was a brown trapdoor spider hole right under where I've been putting my picnic blanket. (Although called trapdoor spiders, this species does not have a trap door over their holes, the holes are open at the top.) So I moved my anchor point slightly to be further away from the spider hole. As I was sitting, a group of about 10 ants approached me, all together, as if they were planning to gang up on me. They were 1 to 1.5 centimetres long and quite heavily built. I poked a stick into the middle of them and they charged at the stick as if they were trying to attack it. One ran right up the stick. After I flicked a few of them around they started to retreat. Despite their impressive battle charge they were much less annoying than mosquitoes, which I don't remember seeing today at all.
Day 50 - Thursday
I went to my secret spot around 2:30 pm. I'm trying to remember what happened there (it's Friday night as I'm writing this). I noticed that I haven't seen the blue tongue lizard for a while, even when going there in the daytime when it used to be out almost every time I was there. Perhaps it's started to hibernate as the weather has got noticeably colder this week, thought I would have thought it wasn't that cold yet (it's late April and not really winter weather).
Day 51 and Beyond
I've started a new page for day 51+ of my secret spot journal, called Learning the Phases of the Moon.
I'll update this properly soon...
The Other Way to Listen - Byrd Baylor and others.
Ingwe: Spirit of the Leopard (which is both a book and an audio recording that was available on cassette and CD. All of these maybe out of print now but available secondhand or as "new old stock"). Possibly still available from Wilderness Awareness School in the USA. I think you need to phone them for international orders.
Seeing Through Native Eyes, audio series (there's an old and a new version, they're both very good).
The Tracker by Tom Brown, Jr.
The Education of Little Tree (which was originally a book and then a movie was made).
Starting Your Own Box Garden
Starting a Vegetable Garden
Get Started with Learning Plant Foods
Basics and General Skills
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