Everyone Needs a Special 'Sit Spot' in Nature

Treehugger's editorial team describes the spots that influenced them as children.

sitting on a tree stump
A perfect place to sit and contemplate nature.

Maskot / Getty Images

Ever since I read Richard Louv's influential book, "Last Child in the Woods," the idea of having a special "sit spot" has stuck with me. This advice, which Louv attributes to nature educator Jon Young, is for both adults and children to find a spot in nature – it could be anywhere, from an urban backyard to a nearby forest – and to spend time in it, sitting quietly. In Young's words:

"Know it by day; know it by night; know it in the rain and in the snow, in the depth of winter and in the heat of summer. Know the birds that live there, know the trees they live in. Get to know these things as if they were your relatives."

Having a sit spot gives one a sense of belonging, of companionship, of security. It can reduce feelings of isolation, which many people might be feeling right now during the pandemic, and it can start to chip away at deeper feelings of loneliness and disconnection from the natural world that afflict much of modern society. It can also be a place that fuels imaginative play in children. 

With all this in mind, I asked my coworkers at Treehugger to weigh in on whether or not they had special sit spots as children (or even now, as adults) and what the effect may have been. 

I shared the memory of my treehouse, which my father built 25 feet up in the air on runners that swayed with the four trees it was attached to. I spent countless hours up there, reading books, eating meals, taking naps and having sleepovers, plotting adventures with friends. It made me feel like a bird in a cozy nest, and like a queen in a tower, surveying my realm. The fact that I fell out of it headfirst at age 8 and broke my arm didn't make me love it any less.

K's treehouse
Katherine's childhood treehouse.

K Martinko

Christian Cotroneo, Social Media Editor, described himself as a chronic builder of forts, both indoor and outdoor. He grew up in the countryside and spent a lot of time walking with his dogs, often to visit a favorite dead tree called "the Statue the Liberty. He developed a private little ritual with the tree, where he'd touch it and feel energized. "When you're a kid, you build your own mythology," he said.

Melissa Breyer, Treehugger's Editorial Director, grew up in Los Angeles. Her favorite book was "The Secret Garden" and she tried to make her own secret garden in the crawl space under the back deck. Needless to say, nothing grew well down there. Her special sit spot, however, was on the back of her horse, riding the many bridle trails in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains. "I went every day after school. It was my moving sit spot," she said.

Lloyd Alter, Design Editor, spent a lot of time on his parents' sailboat on Lake Ontario. It had a long bowsprit that jutted out the front, where his parents constructed a little podium. He spent hours nestled at the front of the boat, reveling in the sensation of the waves and the wind, wearing no life jacket, separate from his parents who were socializing and drinking in the back ("Those were different times!"). He was sad when they bought a new boat without a bowsprit escape.

Lloyd's childhood sailboat
Lloyd said, "That is the boat and you can see the sail on the bowsprit to the left, but it doesn’t go all the way to the end".

Lloyd Alter

Lindsay Reynolds, Visual and Content Quality Editor, has an attachment to big old oak trees. She had one in her yard with branches that went down to the ground and she liked to play underneath it, riding the branches like a horse. "I think that's part of why I like the South," she observed.

Russell McLendon, Senior Writer, spent a lot of time climbing in his neighbor's magnolia tree, which (perhaps not coincidentally) happens to be his favorite type of tree. Now he's starting to get back into it with his own son, teaching him the differences between the dogwood and persimmon trees in their own backyard.

Mary Jo DiLonardo, Senior Writer, enjoys sitting in the one sunny spot in her shady Atlanta backyard – a raised garden bed that her dad once prepared for tomatoes. She said, "My husband has offered to replace it with a bench, but I like that it's my dad's handiwork, even if it's only 2x4s and the remnants of an old tomato garden that never really had tomatoes."

Mary Jo's tomato garden
It looks like someone else is enjoyed Mary Jo's sit spot!.

Mary Jo DiLonardo

Olivia Valdes, Senior Editor, grew up in Florida where she had an orange tree in the backyard. She loved to collect the fruit when it ripened and said she's always felt a closeness to citrus since then. 

As you can see, these memories stay with us forever and shape our relationships to the natural world. Do not underestimate the lasting benefits of time spent in nature. If you don't yet have a special sit spot or a routine in which to enjoy one, make that a priority in your life. You'll feel happier, calmer, more grounded and grateful. Read "Why and How You Should Start a Sit-Spot Routine" for guidance.

Thanks to the Treehugger team for sharing these anecdotes, and feel free to share your own in the comments below.