A is for Attention (Pagan Blog Project 2013)

Most of you know I moved to Portland from the back of beyond last September. It’s different being a pagan in the city than it was being a pagan in the country. I won’t lie, the adjustment has been difficult–but it’s teaching me a helluva lot about the power of attention.




  1. Notice taken of someone or something; the regarding of someone or something as interesting or important.
  2. The mental faculty of considering or taking notice of someone or something: “he turned his attention to the educational system”.

care – heed – regard – notice – consideration 

The bit that leaps out of that definition for me is “the regarding of someone or something as interesting or important”. Attention is not just notice–it’s also regarding the thing we notice as important.

That right there is the beginning of how I’m learning to be a city pagan.

Business Park Walkies
Business Park Walkies

This is one of the walks available to me when I’m at work. I have options on this walk: do I give my attention to the headlights, street and buildings, or to that line of trees raising its arms against the sky? Do I give my attention to the warehouse, or to the wetlands behind the warehouse? And while I definitely want to notice the wild goose poop on the sidewalk so as not to step in it, do I find it important? Or do I give my attention to the hilarity of a gaggle of wild geese stopping traffic with its belligerent refusal to move out of the way of cars?

What I find important–holy, even–is present in the city just like it is in the country. Connecting with it requires my attention–just like it does in the country.

I’ve heard discussions of how one might connect with nature by focusing on the sounds of the city and imagining them as something more wild–cars on the highway as ocean waves or wind in the trees, for example. This is an interesting mental exercise, but for me it isn’t helpful as a way to tune into the sacred. I don’t see my spiritual practice as an escape route from reality–I see it as a way to engage with reality more deeply and fully. The beauty of a spirituality that says rock, tree, flesh are all holy things is that it allows us to be truly present with rock, tree, and flesh. I would rather have a real weed growing from the shoulder of the highway than an imaginary forest. Being a pagan in the city doesn’t work for me if I pretend I’m not in the city.

Instead I pay attention to little details. Pinecones on the sidewalk, the contrast of an evergreen against a gray building, crows on the power lines and squirrels on the dumpster. I notice that no matter how carefully we plan and build, the chaos and dirt and wildness find their way to creep in–maybe because we are animals too, and we’re all a little chaotic, dirty and wild whether we like to admit it or not.

A little bit at a time I get a sense of the spirits here, learning how they differ from the ones in the country. Little by little I feel the way energy works here–even doing reiki is different here. I am different, and I don’t think it’s only the affects of relocation and employment. It’s living in the energy of the city and the suburbs, connecting with different vibrations, communing with other entities.

I’m noticing how the interplay of the human-made and the untamed is littered with incongruous juxtapositions, but at the energetic level these incongruities seem to enhance rather than detract from the intensity of natural magic. Example: I met a Hawthorn tree at the side of the road, and three berries seemed more than enough for my witchy needs. In the country I might have taken more–but that roadside tree was fierce, and those berries were potent little gems. More than three would have been woo-woo overkill. In the city I’m learning about accepting gifts, and about knowing how much is just enough.

And I’m learning about thriving where you find yourself. The positive spin on “wherever you go, there you are”, is knowing wherever I go, I’m still myself. I’m still going to be that girl who trips because she’s watching a bird peck at something on the sidewalk, or who takes an hour to walk a half mile because she can’t stop taking pictures of plants (though I might be a lot more careful about talking out loud to plants now there are people everywhere to catch me at it). I’m still going to be a tree hugging dirt worshipper because the trees and dirt are what capture my attention every time.


6 thoughts on “A is for Attention (Pagan Blog Project 2013)

  1. Good for you! im liking your thinking and mind workings, how appreciative we beome when there is precious little about.
    A long long time ago, i had to spend about 6 weks in NY, i was staying right by Central park, and just down the street, was place where the horse and carriages waited, in the end they got use to me taking in great long lungfuls of horsey/leather gulps, stroking them so i could smell my hand later, it worked until i could get home to my own horse!
    Those three berries, are jewels!

  2. and listen! you can hear those city crows and starlings and squirrels and possums and raccoons (yes, they are there!), if you pay attention. you can hear AND smell the trees, and bushes, and flowers and grasses. FEEL the air, heat or cold or neutral or moving, on your skin, and the water if it is sharing itself with upon you. It’s all there all the time when you pay attention. and it pays you back.

  3. I was walking through an industrial area in Milwaukie and had a gaggle of Canadian geese start following me around. As it turned out, i had some snackies (mixed nuts and granola) and i offered it up to them. They were quite greedy and ate my whole bag! But it was fun to feed them, so I didn’t mind.

    I really love watching and interacting with the wildlife (and domesticated type beasties, too) on my walks. It’s fun! It’s also fun to watch the flora change with the seasons. It makes me feel more rooted or something. It’s hard to explain.

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