By Meg Walburn Viviano
It was mid-April 2020 when we first noticed it. The only tree planted at the end of our townhouse block had morphed into a fairy house overnight.
Like a toadstool on a damp spring morning, a tiny home sprung up all at once at the base of the tree. A red wooden door about four inches tall, with a knob the size of a pea, was affixed directly to the trunk. Windows, with wooden shutters shaped like sticks of gum, appeared another six inches up the tree. A dainty walkway through landscaped pebbles led from the red front door through the “garden,” where a café table sat with chairs made from matchsticks. There was no question that whoever lived in this tree cared about curb appeal.
My preschool-aged sons and I made the surprising discovery on a walk one morning. “Look, a fairy house!” was quickly followed by many questions from my four-and-a-half-year-old about the fairy in question and her whereabouts. When my boys tried to pull on the tiny doorknob affixed to the tree and peek inside, I quickly stopped them. “Careful! Fairies are nocturnal, so she’s sleeping in there. Ssshhh.”
The homeowner of the closest townhouse, who must have heard us outside, popped out on her balcony. “That’s where Sparkle the fairy lives,” she said matter-of-factly. I never did hear the inspiration behind Sparkle’s fairy home, but I was grateful for its presence. We were just a few weeks into Maryland’s stay-at-home order at the time and walks down the street to “go visit Sparkle Fairy” were a welcome diversion.
Like the elaborate Christmas lights displays of this pandemic year, fairy houses are a welcome whimsical escape. They stir the imagination and prompt us to see magic where we might otherwise not find it. This winter, you can make your own to be put on public display come spring (https://bayweekly.com/fairy-homes-wanted/).
And speaking of escape, a new exhibit hosted (online) by Mitchell Gallery at St. John’s College offers another point of inspiration. A collection of photos by A. Aubrey Bodine, the Baltimore Sun photographer known for his iconic black and white images from the mid-20th century, depicts Annapolis and Anne Arundel County in ways we’ve never seen (https://bayweekly.com/through-the-lens/).
Sure, you’ve probably seen a Bodine photo print before, perhaps hanging in a local restaurant or shop. But these photos come from deep in the archives—some 25,000 photos deep. They resonate because Bodine manages to make magic out of everyday scenes, not entirely unlike a fairy house builder.
After you turn the pages of this week’s issue of Bay Weekly, get out and find the everyday magic of Chesapeake Country.