Faerie Life

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who believed in faeries. (Spoilers: she’s now a grownup who believes in faeries.)

From my earliest memories, faeries have been at the center of my mythological world. I’m an only child, and my main entertainment growing up was playing pretend. The first thing I can recall pretending to be was a faerie named Theresa.

There was a broken tree in the woods behind my house, just after you crossed over the edge of our yard, a short, safe-but-still-thrilling distance into the forest. Around the back of the tree was an empty space in the crook of where a now-broken branch once met the trunk. It was a shadowy, spider-webby hole, and one day, I wrote a note and placed it carefully in this hole. It was an invitation to a tea party, addressed to “a fairy.” I know I was in elementary school, because I included my hours of availability (weekends and after 3 p.m.). Some days later, I found a reply written on the back—in my father’s handwriting—from one Theresa the Fairy.

More than anything else, I wanted to really see faeries. I have fleeting, uncertain recollections: Did I really see a faerie, tinged a glowing blue the way Tinkerbell glows yellow, behind my television set? Or is that clear image just what I imagined I might see if I saw one? Did I see a faerie down by the post office near my grandparents’ house, or was it, again, a memory of a daydream? My grandmother told me, one day when we were walking in the woodlot—a piece of land my grandparents owned out on a little island on the Maine coast—that she’d seen leaves standing upright on the forest floor, dancing in a circle, and she knew it was faeries.

Early in the summer after my sixth grade year, my mother and I went into an independent toy shop in Portsmouth, NH called Treetop Toys. It’s a charming place on a street that overlooks the Piscataqua River. You have to step up quite a ways through the door, and inside, there are wooden floors, mobiles hanging from the ceiling, and toys everywhere. I remember the day perfectly: I was wandering out from the back of the shop when, on a shelf and propped against the wall…there it was.

Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee.

$40 was a lot for a book back then, but my mother agreed to buy it for me as my “graduation present.” I took it home and I poured over it, treasuring every handwritten word, every wild, scribbly pencil drawing, every exquisite watercolor.

It changed how I looked at the world of faeries. It changed my understanding of folklore. It changed how I drew and how I wrote. It changed my life.

I hungered for more. Countless hours were spent at the Portsmouth Public Library, an old, dim brick building that the city has since abandoned for a newly built, modern facility. Up on the third floor were the nonfiction stacks, and I’d climb up the shelves to sit in a window where the sill was not really wide enough and read from Katharine Briggs’ Encyclopedia of Fairies. Everything I wrote and drew, from my own stories to the text RPGs I took part in on the nascent internet, was infused with and informed by faerie folklore.

But the years passed, and other interests took over. My later high school years and my college years were consumed by anime. After college, there was the void of post-grad school exhaustion, then Victorian England and paganism. It was paganism that finally led me back to Faerie.

I met some of the most amazing people in my life through paganism. Our dear friends Bridget and Jenn had raved, ever since we knew them, about a magical, perfect place in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania called the Spoutwood Farm May Day Fairie Festival. They told us over and over how safe, how happy, how utterly soul-filling this weekend of faerie revelry was. There, children and adults dressed in faerie costumes and danced to heart-stirring music. Delicious food and handmade treasures were everywhere. And everyone was filled with joy and love and kindness, for each other and for the earth. You will LOVE IT THERE, they told us. Finally, Rachel and I planned and saved up, and we attended our first Fairie Festival with Bridget and Jenn in 2013.

It was everything they said it would be.

The years since 2013 have been pretty hard—and at the same time, they’ve been full of such love and wonder. The promise of the Fairie Festival every year has gotten me through some really rotten times, and the natural high of being in a place so suffused with love, acceptance, and whimsy stays with me long after I’ve gone home.

Last night, when we were in bed, Rachel turned to me and said, in an excited whisper: “Nine more sleeps until we sleep at Spoutwood!” Of course, we’re not literally staying at Spoutwood Farm, but the entire area—the rolling fields, verdant tangled woods, and winding rock-edged roads of southern Pennsylvania—is synonymous, in our minds, with the spiritual fulfillment that is the Fairie Festival.

Only eight more sleeps, now.

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Rachel and I at the Fairie Festival last year – photo by Jenn ❤

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The Magic of Spinning

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I have been trying to get Katie into some kind of fiber craft for ages and ages, and so when she recently said that she might like to try drop spindle spinning with me, I was over the moon!  I think I may have actually jumped up and down with excitement.  She has always been game to try out any craft I’m into, she’s made some beautiful granny squares, and even contributed one to the blanket several friends got together to make for our dear friend, Bethany, when she went away to a university in far away Michigan.  But none of the fiber arts that I am completely crazy about seemed to check the boxes for her.  Although she does have a beautiful loom and has woven some truly gorgeous projects on that.

But spinning!!!  I practically SHOVED fiber and my simple Ashford drop spindle into her hands.  And then I went online and ordered her a whole bundle more so she would have variety :3

And we’ve been spinning together.  And it gives me such JOY.  When we went to the Common Ground Fair last year we both brought our spindles along and while we sat waiting to watch Sheep Dog demonstrations, we spun together.  Sitting side by side on a little red wooden bench spinning wool on a beautiful sunny afternoon.

Seeing her discover that she likes spinning rekindled my love of drop spinning too.  So portable, so magical, so… perfect!

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I’ve said before that knitting is magic.  And I’m going to do that thing again.  Spinning is MAGIC.  Seriously.  And it’s science.  It’s this blow your mind cool fusion of old magic and modern science.  When you spin, you’re literally expending physical energy when you put twist into your yarn.  This is kinetic energy.  If you’ve studied physics then you know that energy can never be destroyed.  It only changes shape.  The energy from your body, your movements, goes out from yourself and into the yarn.  You are both physically and metaphysically sending your energy into that craft!

This idea isn’t really mine though, I got this Mind Blown moment from reading the book Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont.  She talks about the physics and the moving energy.  My brain exploded into the witchy magical side of it all

And right now I’m getting ready to add a new spinning wheel to our house.  I’m saving my pennies (and you need a whole heck of a lot of pennies to get one of these beauties!) for an Ashford Joy.  It’s this beautiful folding wheel and I should have enough saved in about two weeks!  I can’t wait to tell you all about her when she arrives.

If I’ve piqued your interest in spinning, and I hope that I have, I absolutely recommend that book I mentioned, Respect the Spindle, and I recommend that you hop over to YouTube.  Short of having someone teach you in person, Youtube is the second best way to learn to drop spindle spin.  It’s this ancient and simple process that connects you with generations of people who went before you.  Taking your energy, a spindle, and a little wool, you can create something from practically nothing.  And that is just SO COOL.

-R

Our Story – The Beginning

Once upon a time, there was a girl who never spoke.

Okay, so maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But picture this: it’s my first semester of college at the University of New Hampshire, and I’m a commuter student. All day, I’m working on completing my Gen Ed requirements: sitting in massive lecture halls, taking notes, moving quickly from building to building, lugging all of my books and materials because I don’t have a dorm room to go back to. I sit by myself in the dining hall, plowing through my assigned readings. Every day, as soon as my last class is over, I drive home.

It was a couple of weeks before I realized that I would normally go entire days on campus without saying a word to anyone.

When I told my mom this, she mentioned that she’d been looking at the UNH website and she saw that they had an Anime Club. Anime was my major hobby at the time: this was back in the day of anime scarcity, of using money orders to buy fansubs, of browsing the video tape shelves at Suncoast and debating between the probably-awful dub and the more-expensive sub. I watched all the anime I could get my hands on, and I drew fanart and created those internet character shrines that were so popular back then. Very few of my high school friends were into anime, and I was excited at the prospect of meeting other people who appreciated it, but I was also apprehensive. This might mean I actually had to, you know, converse with others. My mom offered to e-mail the club president for me. I told her I’d just try stopping by a club meeting.

It was Monday night. I’d finished my last class, and I hung around at the library until it was time for the meeting. Anime Club was held in the MUB, short for Memorial Union Building, where students hung out, various student union offices were located, and the food court offered all sorts of delicious and not-very-nutritious options.

I walked into the room where it was supposed to meet. A friendly, quiet guy in the back waved at me. The only other person there, an overbearing girl, practically leapt on me and talked and talked and talked—about what, I can’t remember, but it was intensely awkward. I felt like a rabbit, frozen.

Then the door opened, and two more girls came in. One introduced herself as the club president: Amanda, cheerful and devious, an artist like me. The other was tall, cool, a history major, with curly hair dyed green in the front: her name was Rachel.

They whisked me out of the room to the food court, where they assured me that that other girl was a total weirdo and the rest of the club wasn’t anything like her. They ordered this delicious-looking lo mein, and I wanted some, but I was apprehensive about using chopsticks. They offered to teach me.

I had a great time that night, and Rachel and Amanda told me, before I left, that I should come to Gaming on Friday. They were playing Dungeons and Dragons. The only experience I’d ever had with D&D was a brief game run several years ago by my cousin, who killed my character minutes after we started. I showed up early on Friday, and I can still see the scene: I was sitting on the floor in the MUB, trying to work up the courage for the night’s impending conversations, and then they appeared—Rachel and Amanda, striding down the hall, wearing capes. Rachel’s was black with a red silk lining. With that cape and her green hair, I had never seen anyone cooler in my entire life.

Fast forward a few weeks. I’d been coming to Anime Club every Monday. Amanda and Rachel protected me when a creepy member kept trying to throw candy down the front of my shirt. We always sat together at a table near the back, and that day, I pulled out my drawing folder (full of blank computer paper). Amanda and Rachel both had a habit of drawing at Anime Club, and I wanted to be just like them.

As I opened the folder, Rachel leaned over to look at my sketches. “Hey,” she said. “You draw just like this girl on Elfwood.”

Elfwood was an online fantasy art archive that was popular at the time. I had an account, in fact. “What girl on Elfwood?” I asked.

“She drew this picture of Louis and Lestat in a coffin together,” Rachel explained excitedly. “It’s totally cute. Lestat is all annoyed because Louis doesn’t want to sleep by himself, and Louis is blushing. She has a bunch of Vampire Chronicles pictures. I saved them all to my computer and the coffin one is my desktop background right now.”

I stared at her. This couldn’t be possible, could it? I could remember inking those lines myself, using my Prismacolor pencils to pinken Louis’s cheeks. “I… think she might be me.”

I was right. Somehow, across the vastness of the internet (which was, admittedly, not quite as vast back then), Rachel had found my art, loved it, and had it as her desktop background at that exact moment.

I have so many stories about the two of us when we were falling in love. It took years before we even realized how we felt about each other—neither of us had dated women before, and each of us had had a weird and awkward experience dating a guy. Even though we (and our friends) laugh about how clueless we were for such a long time, when how much we were in love was obvious to everyone but us, this moment—when Rachel saw my artwork and we realized we’d already had a connection before we even met—was proof, to me, that fate had brought us together.

The earliest picture I can find of us on Rachel’s Flickr is below, from a hike up Mount Major. It was in 2006, five years after we met and two years after we figured out how we felt about each other. (We have matching glasses — we are such nerds XD)

Almost 10 years ago!