Jack of Many Trades

P is for Portlandia and Spirits of Place

Originally posted: 2013-08-09

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="280"] Portlandia[/caption]

No, not the TV show.

Portlandia is the goddess of the city of Portland. She's been here since at least 1851, which is a pretty good run for the west coast.

The poem at the statue's base says that "our breath/ becomes her city."

The most famous depiction of her, the large statue downtown, shows her reaching out to the people below. This is not just quality sculpture, though - I've found this to be very much the spirit of the city. She will make sure you can get by, more than any other city I've ever lived in.

I've found that Portlandia and the other city spirits are great for metaphysical networking. Making offerings to her, Columbia and the Skidmore Fates for help or asking advice tends to result in "coincidental" results - suddenly turning up job listings or apartments, taking a shortcut that happens to take me past something else I never knew I needed, and so on. The spirits of the place where you live know the city, and they can direct you to the places you need to go.

As you might imagine, the best ways to honor her are to take care of her city and its inhabitants. Get involved in planning events in Portland. Work to help those who need it, or preserve the city's infrastructure. It doesn't have to be major - volunteer or pick up litter or whatever works for you.

I think most cities have their own spirits, though I rarely see them personified like Portlandia. It's worth reaching out to the place where you live. Most cities have a personality and an interest in their inhabitants. The land itself has its own personalities - in our case, there's the Columbia and the Willamette, there's Mt. Hood watching over us, there's dozens of smaller spirits of place attached to the buildings and the parks. Just as your neighbors are a part of your neighborhood whether you hang out with them or not, and it's not a bad idea to get to know them, it's also a good idea to get to know the spirits of the place you're living. Whether you're putting down roots or just taking a break, knowing where you are is the first step in knowing where you're going.