When I was ten years old, I told my parents that I would like to join the Boy Scouts, and that I would like to take guitar lessons. Their response was “pick one.” Guitar it was.
I had the benefit of growing up on a farm, and thus, woods and streams were nearby. Time not spent working in the peach orchard often meant time in the woods, damming up the creek, building make-shift rafts to float around the reservoir, and often, mud up to our knees.
When I was a senior in high school, I applied and was accepted to the Ranger School at Wanakena, a nationally respected school of silviculture, surveying and more of the like connected with large tracts of land and forests. At the last moment I changed my mind and attended an agricultural college 5 hours north of home. Here I met my wife of 52 years, by far the best thing to come out of attending this school.
Early in our married life, the Alaskan pipeline was being built. A friend offered me an opportunity to move there and work at a lucrative though demanding job. Temptation was strong, but family bonds and roots at home held fast.
It was in my early 40’s when someone handed me a copy of Tom Brown, Jr.’s book, The Quest. I sat down a few days later and read cover to cover, mesmerized with the stories of nature awareness that Tom brought forth. It wasn’t long before I took several classes at Tom’s “Tracker School”. One thing led to another, and I immersed myself in a yearlong at-home class with the Wilderness Awareness School called “Kamana”. This class was a naturalist training that held as its cornerstone a daily visit to the participants “sit spot”. Some might call it sacred spot.
I wondered how I might commit to visiting a place every day for a year, how to carve out the time, would I be willing to go there in the rain, wind, snow. The creator of the course, Jon Young, told me how to go about finding this place, that if I opened myself to it in a very real way, it would call to me, that I would not need to “find it”.
Sure enough, about a 10 minute hike across the road from my house, across a field and slightly into the woods ran a creek. After wandering this area for a bit, a huge, split black willow tree revealed itself. The main part of the trunk stood on the far side of the creek. One large limb lay across the stream, affording a suitable bridge to move across without getting wet, and actually went up into a low crotch of the remaining limbs. This perch became my sit spot for the next 12 months where I would spend at least a half hour each day, observing, being, soaking in the life around me.
All of these events were a necessary part of my journey to bring me to where I am today. I did not get the experience of scouting, yet the hunger for the promise that scouting held was still strong. I neither went to ranger school, nor experienced the adventure of life in Alaska, but the pangs of deeper experiences in nature didn’t go away.
The point of this personal history is to give the reader some sense of how I came to a place where I love the Earth so deeply, to how I came to a place where “all my relatives”, the mallards and the willow and the moving water and the beavers, mean so much to me.
I have a want. That want is for my grandkids and those of their generation to have a world that holds the same kind of magic, the same beauty and diversity and expression of life that I have been blessed to experience.
Humankind is at a crossroads. Time will tell if I get what I want.
~ Steve Aman, The Wandering Bobcat, August 2022