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Rewild Yourself with Simon Barnes and a 'bottomless sit'

Adventurous Ink is our way of helping subscribers reconnect with the nature we're losing sight of.

Our April issue is the spellbinding 'Rewild Yourself' by Simon Barnes. Reading it is like spending time with a favourite Uncle as they impart a lifetime's worth of natural history knowledge. We selected this excerpt as a tiny demonstration of the insights and experiences the book provides.

We humans are busy creatures, always getting on with something, always moving or talking or checking our phones. We have a terrible fear that if we stop for a moment we will miss something. The exact opposite is true.

I remember sitting for a good two hours with a great lady called Margaret Grimwade, who was from the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, and my son Joseph. Sitting still for two hours is a hard thing to ask of a twelve-year-old, but he was up for the challenge. And eventually – eventually – our reward came along. It did so with striped noses and that glorious waddling gait: badgers, of course – what else? We sat still, moving only our eyes – and neither Joseph nor I will ever forget it. No hide, no cover of any kind: our only disguise was our own stillness, and it worked triumphantly.


Introduce yourself to the bottomless sit by easy stages. At the start of every sit – especially when you’re new to it – you will get fed up and restless pretty quickly: how long have I been sitting here . . . Seems like hours. Whose idea was this? I thought there were supposed to be birds here? You may find your hand creeping towards your phone; you’ve just remembered something frightfully important and incredibly urgent.

But there’s a moment when you go through a door. The urge to move decreases. Your eyes follow the birds, which are usually the most obvious bits of wildlife. The common birds hold your attention as they seldom do when you’re walking: after all, there’s not much else to look at.

And – suddenly but subtly – you realise that time has changed gear on you. You’re no longer waiting; you’re just sitting, and you’re not sure whether that’s ten minutes you’ve been sitting or twenty, or maybe even more. You still hope that something fabulous will turn up, but you’re far less bothered by this than you were when you first sat down.

Of course you care about seeing the next otter, the next kingfisher, the next badger, but on the other hand, you don’t really care if you don’t see one at all. Being there is what counts.

'Teach us to care and not care,' wrote TS Elliot in Ash Wednesday,
'Teach us to sit still.'

Perhaps a quiet mind is easier to find when you’re not seeking it for its own sake. If you seek the wild world, if you seek to rewild yourself by means of the bottomless sit, then you’re probably seeking a kingfisher or some other special treat. The quiet mind is a by-product. Or is it?

Not every sit ends in a rarity. Many a sit will bring only the ordinary everyday wild things – but you find that you have moved a little closer to all wild things than you were before. You are becoming less an observer of the wild world than a living part of it.

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If you're looking to reconnect with your wild side, a subscription to Adventurous Ink is a simple way to start.

Rewild Yourself: 23 Spellbinding Ways to Make Nature More Visible by Simon Barnes is out now (£14.99, Simon & Schuster).

Illustration Cindy Lee Wright

Badger Cloudtail the Snow Leopard (used under CC licence)

April 10, 2019 — tim frenneaux