Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Our Backyard Fairy Village

The snow is falling, falling today.  Our world is swathed in white, yet my mind keeps thinking of what lies beneath the snow--the fairy world we built last Fall with our niece.  Right now, the corner of our yard beneath the great Eastern White Pine looks like this:

But in the Fall, the village thrived.  

It all began with a pile of pinecones left by the squirrels for our niece.  We took the hint and went out gathering more building materials in the forest.  It was a rainy weekend, but we knew, just as the squirrels did, that the time was ripe for fairies, and the village needed to be built.

Once we had our supplies and had drawn up our plans--there was nothing left to do but build!

And I do mean build: ladders and swing sets and arbors and roads.  We fashioned street signs and wagons and tables and chairs.  Nothing was left unmade.  

So, as the snow falls and I sit inside finishing up piles of work, I thought I'd share some photos of our handiwork.  I'm not sure who loved building the village more, but I will say that Mr. Magpie is quite a carpenter when it comes to crafting fairy furniture!

"No child but must remember laying his head in the grass, staring into the infinitesimal forest and seeing it grow populace with fairy armies."

~Robert Louis Stevenson, Essays in the Art of Writing

The farmer's wagon above was made from half a gourd.  Mr. Magpie sliced a corncob to make wheels, which he attached to a bamboo skewer.  The wheels actually turned, and we filled the wagon with crops from the fairy farm, including sage and nasturtiums, of course!

The farm is pictured above.  Miss J and I planted cabbage and cauliflower crops (tiny flowers) and Mr. Magpie built a miniature wattle fence.  Dried hydrangea blossoms make wonderful rooftops for birchbark buildings.

Above is the restaurant--totally organic, supplied with veggies from the farm, of course--complete with birch bark table and benches. 

If you climb the ladder, you can go to the fab condos in the pine tree.

Miss J thought of everything for the village, including a hospital, a Senior Center,

pine needle roads edged with pinecone guardrails,

 a school (complete with a swing set by Mr. Magpie),

and even sculptures for the town square.

Among our favorite houses were the ones we made from pumpkins.  I think the fairies loved them, too. I know the squirrels found them delicious.  This one is topped by a little crocheted roof.

This wasn't the first time we'd built fairy houses with our niece, and I've posted about them before, but this is the first time we'd built them in our own yard, and I can say that it is about as fine a way to spend a day as I can imagine.

And the best part of building the village came later that night, when we peeked out our windows.  The fairies had come!

And they'd lit the candles we'd left them with their fairy wands.

"The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve; lovers to bed; 'tis almost fairy time."

~William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Finding Home

On the wall, an oil painting by my friend, painter Nancy Nichols-Pethick.

What I know of home is a shelf bowing beneath the weight of books, rose hips left to dry in a vase, postcards leaned above the fireplace.  Home is jam jars keeping treasures safe: nutmeg, buttons, paper fortunes.

I thumb through catalogs before I toss them into the blue bin.  "Home," the say again and again, sporting flea market knockoffs for ten times the price of the beauty to be found on a country Sunday.

What I know of home is as warm and slow as sunlight arcing through the afternoon across worn wooden floors.  

It is gatherings of the found and the made, 

worn reminders of someone else's story, someone else's time and place.  

Talismans and touchstones guide us through our days.  The doorknob we've turned a thousand times, the old brass latch, the window sash, the stack of mismatched plates.  

Home is in the wind's rush high above when I open the damper to light a fire; it's in the rumble, hiss, and clank of radiators coming to life as if the house were about to launch into space; and it's there in a shared laugh in the kitchen over a terrible joke we'd never tell another soul. 

Where we live, home is five months of glances out windows, waiting for the first crocus, the first sign of any little bit of green--even as we treasure the cold, if it means another fire on the hearth, another cup of tea.

What I know of home are choices.  Small things, like where to keep the linens or which drawer will hold the batteries, paper clips, and rubber bands.  Quarrels over what's for dinner--who's in the mood for fish or risotto or tacos or greens.  And big questions, too, about how we will use each room to share sunlight, food, moonlight, and friendship.

Mostly I find home when I forget all about catalogs and design and what we do or do not own.  Or more accurately, home finds me in those moments when all that matters in the world is a good sentence in a favorite book or when my arms and legs are sore from digging in the garden (during those seven snow-free months) or shoveling snow (during the other five).  I can arrange and rearrange the furniture--which I have done and will always do--but I know that no matter where the sofa goes, home is in the living. 

Where do you find home--or where does it find you?