A friend first told me about the fairy houses of Monhegan Island in Maine. His kids, my godchildren, had replicated the little structures made of twigs and moss, stones and dreams, on the lands surrounding the rentals in which they all lived. A movie about the fairy houses told about a group of kids, some wise older people, and an actual world that would occasionally let its presence be known to those young enough to still have valid dreams of better worlds.
Later, my own kid and I made fairy houses whenever we found ourselves in magical settings: running waterways, byzantine root systems, moss and twigs, a bit of fir plus a variety of leaves, different-sized pebbles and stones, and enough snacks to sustain us for an hour or so while we built.
I lived in imaginary worlds I was when young. The eldest of three, I found the world of little figures and make-believe places and challenges ennobling. I’d create entire towns out of blocks and Matchbox vehicles. I’d construct massive battlefields for my miniature armies of plastic or paper soldiers (I bent the tin dudes’ arms off early on). One time I lost Ken after sending him through a muddy terrain looking for supplies to aid my sister’s Barbie colony.
My own enjoyment of imaginary landscapes was bolstered by European miniature villages popular in the 1960s, and military miniature displays popular at sites such as Gettysburg. Drawing my son’s cousins and friends into the play, we moved from streamside settings to our dining-room table. A major wooden train set with houses created a near-perfect world.
Most of the pieces we worked with on our indoor landscapes have disappeared, but we’re stilll looking forward to finding new spots for fairy houses. Our son’s saying he’d too old for such things now, But like me, he knows that building magical check-in spots may be a perfect activity for this end-of-pandemic-time.
Who knows, we might end up summoning some fairy help this time around. It’s surely needed.
Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.