(Another one from the archives. I wrote this before I started working on the Gaian Tarot, and it was published in SageWoman in the Summer of 1999.)
"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 lot.
Granma 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 one."
- Forrest Carter, The Education of Little Tree 1
This passage from the award-winning children's book The Education of Little Tree strikes a chord in just about everyone who reads it. Who among us does not remember a secret place we stole away to as a child, that was magical, special, and sacred? Mine was a apricot tree in the backyard of my suburban Los Angeles home. I spent countless hours in her branches. When we went camping in the mountains, I always found some rock by a bend in a stream where I could settle in with my books and sketching pad, and dream the time away.
Maybe our childhood souls knew something we've forgotten as adults.
I was introduced to the concept of a "Secret Spot" as an adult through the Kamana Naturalist Training Program. As a naturalist-mentor, Jon Young teaches his students that the key to learning any nature skill is getting to know one place really, really well. We are so engrained by the dominant culture to be consumers that we are often consumers of natural places too. How many mountains have we climbed, how many valleys or seasides explored? Jon Young's assertion is that, as enticing as it is to visit many beautiful and wild places, we will never learn as much about nature (and about ourselves) as we will by being deeply intimate with one place.2