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Alex Douglas-Kane shares her experiences and understanding of Discover Nature Awareness

Friday, 25 November 2011

Jody's Sit-spot

As a small child, with four brothers and living in the countryside in Devon we were always running around in the fields and woods playing games such as Fox and Hounds. This consisted of one of us being the fox and hunted by all the others. As a fox if I couldn’t out run my brothers and other kids from the village or other young friends, it was important to know how to hide. Using the foliage in the woods to hide was not enough to conceal me – being very still, quiet and calm enabled me to be very close to the hunters without being seen, even though they were sometimes close enough to touch me.

At times like this I was aware that having to slow down and control my breathing and slow my heart rate down after running some distance would help me ‘disappear’. It was quite exhilarating to out fox the hunters and I would laugh inwardly at my stealth! I used the same methods subconsciously as an adult when I wanted to avoid contact with a man on horseback one day whilst out walking in the woods with my dog Zuma (a large and protective Rhodesian Ridgeback). This man was inclined to be flirtatious and forward when I met him on previous occasions in the woods. Although I did not feel threatened by him – especially with a seven and half stone African lion dog at my side – I was not in the mood on that day for his words or the way he would look at me.

I heard his horse first and glancing back up the track I realised he would see me soon, so I decided to climb up a slope with Zuma into the trees where, although to the side of the track, I was still in full view if he had looked up in my direction. I selected a spot quickly, sat down and Zuma automatically sat glued to my side in his especially loyal way. It was important to get him to feel calm and not have the need to growl, stand or show his hackles – which, as a very loyal hound, in tune with his owner, he would have sensed that I was not comfortable with the presence of the approaching person. So, I decided to make myself very small, calm quiet and still as the man on his horse approached. I put just the tip of my finger on the top of Zuma’s head with the lightest pressure – without giving it any analysis of what was required to convey the message of – “be still and do not move” without speaking to him he understood perfectly.

We were in full view had the man or horse looked our way, I now know that our quiet energy enabled us to watch horse and rider pass closely by without being seen, and without attracting attention. We were somehow, very close and visible but yet invisible. We sat for a while watching them continued up the track away from us and then moved from the position which had helped conceal us.

I went back to the same spot with Geoffrey after five years and after a bit of searching we found the same spot again. Geoffrey took on the position of a man on a horse on the track, and was able to see how the moment had occurred and that me and Zuma would have been clearly visible from our spot had we given out the right signals. What I refer to as being small, calm and quiet and transferring this to my dog Zuma is described in different words by other people, such as the absence of concentric rings during a sit spot. Whatever you call it, the impact is very significant and is something from which to learn and may be a useful skill when we become aware of how to use it.

I think back on this moment and the game of fox and hounds and realise that these moments in nature and in childhood could be something from which people can learn given increasing awareness of nature and an awareness of themselves.

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