We live in bushland, on the east face of Black Mountain in the Noosa Hinterland. We can walk out of our door and we are in the bush, specifically, the Yurol State Forest. There are acres and acres of dense forest and kilometres of tracks of various grades; the seasonal Six Mile Creek meanders throughout; koalas sleep in tall trees and wallaby’s graze on long grass. There are homes around the borders of parts of this forest – indeed, ours is one of them – but for the most part, it looks the green of the leaves and lomandra, the brown of the bark and lizards and the blue of the water and lotus.

That forest has help us raise our children – they’ve crossed her flooded creeks and walked her dry creek bed from one end to the other; They’ve climbed her tallest trees and balanced along the fallen ones; They’ve plucked wild raspberries from her trails in summer and chickweed from her paths in winter; They’ve hidden flags to be captured, made rope swings supported by her limbs and walked quietly through her in the full moon light. They have done this accompanied by me when they were young, and now that they are teenagers, they are heading into the forest on their own, with one another, and mostly with our dogs.

When they are angry and need to walk that shit off – get the dogs and go to the forest.

When they are sad and need to be held – get the dogs and go to the forest.

When they have a problem that needs consideration – get the dogs and go to the forest.

When they have their mates over and want some alone time – get the dogs and go to the forest.

James and Alice probably know that forest more than anyone in the whole wide world – they spend a lot of time amongst it. It is – quite consciously on my behalf – becoming their Green Heart Space – the green/wild space that will hold them in sorrow and joy, pain and bliss, awe and despair throughout their lives. Their absolutely constant, non-judgemental, always kind, gently guiding, unconditionally-loving friend for life.

Mine is the Mountain Ash of the Dandenong Ranges. I grew up amongst them, and my parents still live there now. It is the place where I feel most at home, most supported, most loved, most known. It’s the place where I plug straight in to the peace and the power of earth, where I feel the feels of the most loving, most enduring friendship of my life thus far. This is what I want for my children – for all children – and this is why I keep sending them in to the Yurol Forest, again and again and again. As they grow older and their need for challenge and risk, their desire need to be alone, their ability to walk further and for longer changes, so, too, does the forest offer that up to them. It is a constantly evolving relationship that I prioritise, and am truly grateful for in my life and in that of my  children.

In the ‘wilderness awareness ‘ space, we talk about the Sit Spot – a place in nature that you come back to time and time again and settle into, cultivate awareness, and simply observe the dance of life all around. For me, a Green Heart Space is like a Sit Spot – they are an anchor in both the wild seas and the calm lakes of our lives – but with the opportunity for dynamism (walking, climbing, swinging) that teenagers (and all of us!) sometimes need.

Do you have a Green Heart Space? A Sit Spot? Do your children? Tell us about them! Definitely a ‘Have-To’ in the teenage nature connection realm.

Don’t have one? Step outside, with or without your teenagers, and find one!