Paying attention, diary form

I began to wonder why the verb that goes with “attention” is “to pay”. Is it a debt? A duty? A tax? An outlay of energy? Work seems to be involved in the phrase, or perhaps sacrifice. And what do we get back, if we pay it?

I couldn’t believe, as I worked through my notebooks, the smallness of some of the things I had noticed 30 years ago. My god, I was the queen of attention! How I paid $1.19 for two chops. The fact that I ironed a tablecloth. A grown man who had never heard of Dolly Parton. A nun who said she had blushed “as red as these carrots”. My friend’s golden shoes. Some garden dirt that smelled like mushrooms. A hard-boiled egg. A handful of 3B pencils. A shred of Christmas tinsel caught in a doctor’s hair. How precious these things seem when I come upon them again, what treasures, what tiny bombs of meaning, though when I wrote them down I thought they were nothing but chips and fragments between bouts of narrative – the raw material that I used for daily practice.

Original source: Is a woman of my age allowed to be happy when the world is going to hell in a handbasket?, Helen Garner