Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pagan In The City

If you read this blog even periodically (for which, thank you!) you know that one of my themes is the need to incorporate into Paganism and Witchcraft the reality that most Pagans and Witches now live in urban areas.

A chunk of my heart -- and there's not a day goes by that I don't dream of being there, building a cabin, watching the sunlight make dappled shade among the trees -- lives in the mountains of West Virginia, but an even bigger part of my heart dances daily upon the shores of the Potomac just before it reaches the Lincoln Memorial, upon tree-covered Spout Run, upon the weeds that grow along the ramp from the GW Parkway up to the Roosevelt Bridge. I work in the city and live just outside it and I can't be a Witch only once or twice a year when I get up into the mountains. I'm a Witch every day and I'm the Witch of "this" place and that means that I need to be in relation with the natural world here. Here, among the tall buildings, metro stops, museums, cafes, fountains, statues. I'm the Nonna of a G/Son who's spent his whole life in a urban area and for whom, I truly believe, being in relationship with the natural world will be even more important than it's been for me.

So, I'm always delighted to find resources for connecting with nature within my shining city upon a swamp and a hill. Here are a few:

The Natural Capital, (a word play on The Nation's Capital) is a celebration of the wealth of nature right here under our noses in the Nation's Capital. We aim to open your eyes to the amazing plants, animals, and scenery in our region – much of it accessible by public transportation.

Natural Capital is also a concept in environmental economics: the concept that the ecosystem that sustains and surrounds us has inherent, but tragically overlooked, value. We need trees, for example, because they provide clean air and clean water. They are also beautiful, and the beauty of nature has value as well. Which brings us back to the purpose of this blog: getting outside to enjoy it all.

A DC Birding Blog is written by a birder who lived for years in DC. He currently blogs from NJ, but there's a significant bit of overlap.

Mountain Beltway got its name because [i]t turns out that a mountain belt runs right under the Beltway! The Appalachian mountain belt includes the modern-day Appalachian mountains, but also includes the hilly terrain immediately east of the mountains: the Piedmont physiographic province. Beneath these gentle hills are metamorphic rocks, granites, and a wealth of deformational structures that speak of a time when the Appalachians were young. These mountains were formed in the Paleozoic era of geologic time in a series of tectonic pulses called “orogenies.” The mountain-building culminated about 300 million years ago, when eastern North America collided with northwestern Africa. The story of how the Appalachian mountain belt got put together is a primary interest of the author of this blog. Lots of photos to help those of who who only took Geology 101.

Not specific to DC, but worth checking out if you are an urban Pagan: The Vigorous North, a field guide to inner city wilderness areas, is well-written, thorough, and explains "scientific stuff" in ways that even an amateur will find interesting.

It's not a blog, but the website of the United States Botanical Garden, smack dab in the middle of Capitol Hill, is chock full of information and events, including: Please join us for Yoga in the National Garden 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. starting June 9th and information on how to Green Your World: Big changes start with small steps – individuals, families, businesses, and governments can all make a difference in improving our planet’s potential to provide for generations to come.

One of my favorite places in DC, just a bus ride and a jaunt from the Capital Dome, is the National Arboretum. They do monthly Full Moon hikes that will warm the cockles of any Witch's heart: Four-mile-long, mildly strenuous hike through moonlit gardens, meadows and woods. Your guide will share several points of special interest and seasonal highlights. The two-hour walk over hilly and uneven terrain is more of a brisk hike than a tour so wear good walking shoes and dress for the weather. Please, no pets or children under 16. Fee: $22 ($18 FONA) Registration required. They do a lot of programs on bonsai, which can be a great way to bring a tree into your apartment, duplex, or office.

You may need either a car or bike to get there, but the DC Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens are truly spectacular, especially this time of year, and are great for making you feel as if you're a million miles away from the pavement and concrete. I've been there when DC cops were just chilling during their lunch hour, trying to get away from it all for a few minutes. I've seen beaver dams and dragon flies and lotus pods as big around as five dinner plates. The website explains that: Like a time capsule from the past, one finds remnants of Washington's natural past here. There are plants that fed the local civilization for thousands of years, mink skitter on the islands in winter, and colorful summer butterflies feed on wetland plants preserved here. By preserving a part of the flood plain of the Anacostia River, Congress authorized a park that serves the public by filtering water, reducing flood damage, and preserving the biological and cultural resources that let us see from the past into the future. A haven for artists and photographers.

TR Island, within a stone's throw of the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Memorial, and Red Cross Headquarters, is one of the best places I know to disappear into nature in the middle of the city. It has several walking trails. I've seen beaver, deer, eagles, and hawks.

Rock Creek Park has a number of programs designed for kids.

National Capital Astronomers can help you to focus on what's going on in the heavens (as above, so below), including Exploring the Sky . . . an informal program that for over sixty years has offered monthly opportunities for anyone in the Washington area to see the stars and planets through telescopes from a location within the District of Columbia, which sounds great for kids. Astronomy in DC has a calendar of local events, as does DC Astronomy. Our area suffers from a lot of light pollution, but these sites can help you see the planets and stars in spite of that.

You might also check out DC Nature, Trail Voice, and Potomac River Keepers.

What resources help you connect with nature in the city?

Picture found here.


Marcellina said...

This is great stuff, and someone, perhaps new to the area, is going to very very grateful to find all this info here in one place. Good work!

Teacats said...

It is a bad day here to ask that I connect to anything outside -- a thick, hot, soupy day here in Dallas! LOL! Frankly I'm afraid that I would melt a la "Wicked Witch of the West" in Oz. I spend lots of time tending my poor gasping herb gardens -- both in the ground and in pots! Making sure that there is a bowl or two of water for birds -- and tending to a wandering cat outside too.

Although many parts of Texas got flooding rains yesterday -- our part of the DFW area is gasping for rain!

Jan at Rosemary Cottage

Teacats said...

Just another thought or two along these lines .... actually as a Pagan who lives in the basic suburbs (in a very basic suburban ranch!) -- it is SO hard to find any Pagan resources! I have checked out lists on Witchvox -- and read the recent posting on The Wild Hunt about a movie scout who was unable to find a "real" Pagan shop in the city. Are there many "Pagan" shops in your city? (asking about Washington and of course other readers' cities too!) It was interesting to read comments about Pagan shops (looks, costs etc.) from other folks on The Wild Hunt.

Just a thought about how/why the Pagan community supports Pagan shops (online or brick-and-mortar)and activities .... always wondered about our economic expectations, strengths and weaknesses (the finger-pointing and name calling "ooooo .... too fluffy!!!" yeah - like that helps a local shop .....)

Jan at Rosemary Cottage

Anonymous said...

It's a little outside of DC, but Green Springs Gardens in Alexandria is one of my favs.

I also find going to the Farmers Markets are great. I just went to one today right next to Ronald Reagan Building.


chicago dyke said...

i'm glad there are urban gardeners and pagans and suchlike. but i'm done with that life, i think. if i get lucky, i'll buy a condo in some city, chicago, DC whatever, and use it as a vacation pad. but i have completely converted to my much maligned suburban lifestyle. i have a Massive garden, and after 20 years of urban living, i am not sorry. i do my best to be a model non-consumer, organic producer, and self sufficient with this space.

if i had to live in an urban area again, i'd choose Detroit. no, really! nature is taking over there. property is cheap. much of it is poisoned with the slopped over by products of industrial production over the last 100 years, but plants can suck the toxins out of the ground, etc. "feral detroit" has been a popular theme in the alt media recently, but one has to be from the state to really understand it. there is an enormous, thriving subculture in detroit that only locals know about and appreciate. the farmer's market, for example, is To Die For.

Medusa said...

I can't resist-- in response to your comments, here is a poem I wrote about my Beltway commute. The line breaks are not exactly as I wrote them due to the limitations of this comment format. The poem was published in 1993 in a local poetry journal called Metropolitan (666 is NOT a typo, lol):

Beltway Epiphany

Halogen headlights piercing the still dark autumn morning,
I race up Route 666 trying to make up for the five minutes
I overslept

Bach's Fifth Brandenburg borne by
radio waves accompanies my
lurch onto the Dulles Access
dark as death, no cars ahead
I use my brights until
by the thousand and one lights of the

Night's black grays as, blinker on,
carefully, I cross three lanes,
steadily accelerating to earn my place on the far left
at the bridge approach,
I ride bumper to bumper in the fast lane
doing 65
and being passed by the impatient on the right

One, indignant, cuts in front of me and brakes.
Heart pounding I
slow in time
and curse
harpsichord plays with flute and fiddle

Smoke? No, fog
drifts in from the river
and traffic slows in anticipation

Midway between states, above the water,
the mist is burnt away
by the trees' fall flaming

As enchanted cars glide eastward
to the other side,
rose-ridged clouds soaring above
the Bridge
burst into bright angel wings
against night's navy velvet
Together we round the curve to the harpsichord cadenza when
behind the trees, rising
above the mountains of clouds,
the sun
a benediction
on the early morning pilgrims

who cannot stop to contemplate
the rose-gold star's rise to a shaft
piercing the clouds,
a white spotlight
on the fiery trees rimming the road

Cadenza complete, I
merge onto I-270, signaling right.
Suddenly pursued by a tractor trailer I
let it pass
until its growl blends
with the highway hum
and its taillights are two red dots that can hardly be seen
in the daylight

Then crossing
three lanes,
I exit at Montrose.

--Judith Laura
copyright 1993