How Now, Spirit?

“I am that merry wanderer of the night…” -Puck from A Midsummer’s Night Dream

    I remember sitting around a few years ago with a few close friends from college who were bonding over their fairy obsession – as kids, and as adults. They were both captivated by the idea of fairies – where they live, where they hide, what we need to do to pull them out from their secret houses. They bonded over Elsa Beskow, Astrid Lindgren, and the other Scandinavian authors who seem to so poetically cover this topic. I can’t say I had the same obsession as a child – I wish I had. Maybe I was playing with too many Barbies. Instead, my own interest in fairies began in my mid-twenties when I became immersed in all things-Shakespeare. Back then, I spent an inordinate amount of time reading, studying, and attending Shakespeare’s plays. This experience culminated with a wonderful three weeks of Shakespeare Summer School at Cambridge University – complete with visits to The Globe Theater and Stratford-Upon-Avon. My favorite play at the time was A Midsummer’s Night Dream; a year or so later I even had my own “Midsummer Night’s Wedding.” I loved the snarkiness of the King and Queen of the Fairies, Oberon and Titania – the way their seemingly mythical life so poetically reflected the “real world” of lovers running around in their woods. The idea of the play – that love can be so arbitrary and absurd, with young lovers falling in and out of love with each based on special fairy dust and potions sprinkled on them while they rest. Even Titania falls victim to this spell when she proclaims her undying love for Bottom (whose head has been turned into an ass). The point is, the fairies in this play are playful and naughty, but they also ultimately control the fate of the mortals.
   Now, nearly ten years later, I find myself confronted with fairies again. This time it’s through the mind of a four-year-old who believes — who wants to put on her wings and float around the house like a fairy. Since I think she’s a bit young for Shakespeare and unrequited love stories, instead we have been enjoying reading Fairy House Handbook (pictured above) together – a wonderful book by Liza Gardner Walsh, a writing friend of mine from Vermont College of Fine Arts. This is the perfect book for little (and big) fairy worshipers. In child-friendly language, Liza explains how to scout for locations for fairy houses, which materials and accessories to use, and how to attract fairies! It would be a delightful read for older girls, to read and relish, and execute on their own, but it’s also well-suited for younger girls to read along with an adult. Like I said, I can’t wait to start building houses with our daughter. She is just starting to show an interest in gathering materials in nature, and to assign identities to these random objects. Though she expressed some apprehension in actually seeing a fairy, I think she would delight in creating a home for one. Liza explains in her book that fairies love summer – more particularly, she writes: “They do say the best times of day to see a fairy are just before sunset, twilight, and midnight.” The book is loaded with such specific instruction, and pleasantly evened out with delightful quotes from children she has worked with. The kids’ voices show how personal and diverse the act of fairy house-building and fairy-hunting actually is. But now it is Midsummer and the perfect time to start gathering and building!

What we’re reading now: The Five Senses

Why: Now that we’re outside a lot, she seems more attuned to sounds, smells, and how things feel.

What I’m looking for: – I’m interested in more nonfiction – books that instruct. Any ideas?

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