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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Facets: Bright Pieces of a Glorious Week Spent Away

Rachel and I were away on vacation last week, visiting our dear friends Sarah and Jenn, and while I didn’t immediately write down the numerous bright moments we shared, I remember them vividly. Here are a select few ❤

Driving through Vermont in the morning sunshine, we passed through little villages garlanded with vibrant orange, yellow, and red leaves. The mountains were a patchwork quilt of fall colors.

On the winding roads of Vermont, we stopped at a bizarre roadside attraction — the outside was crowded with fiberglass statues of superheroes and rock legends, and the inside was a bewildering maze of floor-to-ceiling shelves and corridors only one person at a time could fit through.

Sarah and Jenn welcomed us with so many hugs and so much good food. We were nourished body and soul. Almost every night, we sat around their wooden dining room table with treasures of crystals scattered all around us and learned to make crystal grids. We had so many important, heart-filling talks. We wrote words with them, and nothing could make me happier.

A walk late at night led Sarah and I to Our Lady of Spiders. She’s breathtaking; I felt so much reverence.

The four of us spent a magical few hours at a glass domed palace-greenhouse, surrounded by the breath of growing things.

I adopted sparkling, glorious crystals: a Herkimer diamond glittering with rainbows and an amethyst tower with suspended purple flecks like a frozen explosion.

We walked together through faerie woodlands that made my heart soar. A Little Free Library nestled in the forest was followed by rocks and tree trunks with faces on them, fields of tall flowing grasses sprinkled with asters, and showers of yellow leaves that glinted in the sun like flakes of gold. Acorns fell around us, pattering out the heartbeat of the forest.

With Sarah, Jenn, and Rachel’s encouragement, I held in my hand and took home a piece of history: a Viking ring forged in the 11th or 12th century. It’s carved with tiny parallel lines on either side of a flat top where a jewel was once fixed. Someone with delicate fingers wore this a thousand years ago. My heart still leaps to think of it.

As Rachel and I drove together toward Rhinebeck and the New York Sheep and Wool Festival, the brightest rainbows I’ve ever seen filled the sky, mile after mile. We could see the hills behind each rainbow showing through the colors. We drove under the biggest, and we were so enveloped in it that we could see the arc extending down around us onto the road. We arrived at our hotel just as a sliver of moon was rising over the Catskills.

Waiting in line to get into the festival, we made friends with a woman wearing a magenta shawl that she spun and knitted herself. We met her again the last day we were there, and she’d just bought a new spinning wheel.

Hours were spent in the cool autumn sunshine, walking through barns full of excited fiber artists wrapped in their most beloved creations, touching and smelling the softest wool. We took home a rainbow spectrum of fleece waiting to be spun into yarn.

Rachel and I shared steaming hot pierogies while the wind blew around us. Tiny flakes of snow caused a swelling of dismay and disbelieving laughter in the crowds.

I waited in line for twenty minutes to taste a long selection of cheeses, smooth and creamy to snappy and earthy. Rachel stood beside me, eating the best pretzel we’ve ever had.

Searching for dinner one night when the restaurant we planned to visit was too full to take us, we found a vegan restaurant close by on Yelp. We drove there, marveling at the beautiful houses, the charming shops filled with crystals and faerie lights and peace signs in the windows. We wondered what earth-reverent place we’d stumbled upon… until we realized we were in Woodstock, NY. The candle shop with its melted-candle mountain, built with decades of wax drippings, was a paradise. We ate dinner in the tiny vegan restaurant on a table of white filagree iron, sharing corn chowder and the best seared tofu I’ve ever eaten. Sautéed kale served on the side won over both of us who have never liked kale before.

At the end of our weekend, we stood together on the hill at the crux of the festival as golden leaves from the monumental maples fell in flurries thicker than snow. A band of Andean flute and guitar players made soul-stirring, vein-thrumming music behind us.