About 6 years ago, I started working on a program called Kamana, which is a home study course for becoming a better naturalist. The program has many levels, and you can delve in as deep as you want, but the whole thing rests on a really simple concept: The key to becoming a good naturalist is to find one spot and sit there. A lot. Like, every day. In the same spot.
Sometimes this is really fascinating, like when I was living out in the woods and my sit spot was right next to a shed under which lived a family of skunks. But a lot of times it’s , well, kinda boring. Sometimes you sit there and it seems like nothing happens. Of course, things are always happening. Bugs crawl by, the grass bends back from where you walked on it to get to your spot, clouds move and change shape. But sometimes it’s hard to go sit in the same spot every day. Especially here in the Pacific Northwest in the wintertime, when it can seem like there’s nothing in the world but mud and rain. And it’s hard to sit there and tune into your senses when it feels like there are a lot more productive ways that you could be spending your time than by sitting around in the backyard in the mud. My brain would say, “You should be doing laundry, and isn’t that freelance project that you haven’t started yet due at the end of the week, and whose turn is it to make dinner tonight. ” And pretty soon my brain would be making such a clamor that I would give up and go inside, not having seen anything.
But then, I discovered knitting. At first I didn’t make the connection between my two main hobbies. Knitting was something I started doing one cold winter when the power was out for several days. I couldn’t think of any other way to entertain myself by headlamp while curled up under the covers. Pretty soon, I was obsessed with it. I found myself purposely arriving at scheduled appointments 20 or 30 minutes early so that I could sit and knit while I waited. I even started carrying with me a very simple project and looking forward to long stoplights! One day, I took my knitting with me out to my sit spot. It was like magic. My brain was quiet. I could sit there as long as I wanted. As long as I was knitting something very simple, I could still focus all my senses on the world around me, but that part of my brain that felt like I needed to be Doing Something was satisfied. Along the way, I started to notice that there are a lot of other things about knitting that are closely related to nature awareness. The process of learning to knit lace patterns is very much the same as the process of learning to track. The relaxed space that your mind is in when you mindlessly knit in stockinette is precisely the mindspace that you need to see wild animals.
About 4 years ago, I started my first job where I officially got paid to work as a wilderness educator. I got to spend that whole summer running around in the woods with kids, building primitive shelters, making fire by rubbing sticks together, making cordage out of primitive fibers, and eating all kinds of wild edible plants and berries. The more that I’ve worked at that sort of work in the last 4 years, the more that I’ve wished there were programs like that that focussed on being fun and silly and playing in the woods, but for grown-ups. And the more time I spent knitting at my sit spot, the more I wished that there was someone near where I live in Olympia, WA who was offering programs that would combine nature and knitting. Finally, at the end of this summer, after another great run of playing in the woods with kids (and getting paid for it!) I decided that if no one else was offering the class I wanted, I would have to do it myself. And the Knit-N-Nature program was born.
The Knit-N-Nature program is designed to appeal to all levels of knitters and naturalists. One of the really cool things about both disciplines is that there is no way you can know everything about either one of them. And the learning curve isn’t very linear. It’s possible that a brand new beginner will have an insight that the life-long knitter has never thought of. Knitting and nature awareness share an infinite capacity for learning, and an easy entry for beginners. After all, how hard is it to cast on and go sit in your back yard? And how much better can it get from there?
DeAnna is the founder of Knit-N-Nature and the lead instructor. She has worked as a technical writer, a cherry sorter, a receptionist, a cow milker, a horse trainer, a cattle wrangler, a web store manager, an auditor, a writing tutor, a freelance web designer, and a housekeeper, among many other things. For the last 4 years, she has worked as a wilderness educator at Wilderness Awareness School in Duvall, WA, teaching kids (and the occasional adult) about primitive skills including water purification, shelter building, stalking, tracking, plant identification, self-reliance, self-esteem, consensus-building, story-telling, conflict management, and lots more. She’s also an avid knitter and spinner. She loves her Ashford Traveller. She is especially excited about primitive fiber technologies, things having to do with fire, and building community.
Sarah is the frequent co-instructor for Knit-N-Nature. She has a Master’s degree in Psychology and works as a clinical therapist specializing in At-Risk Youth and their families. She sees connections to nature as a key component of health and healing for humans of all ages. She grew up running wild on horseback in the mountains of Idaho. She is a relatively new knitter, and finds few things more satisfying than knitting in the round with some softy chunky yarn while sitting by a clear mountain stream.