Enjoying the little things in life and other fairytales

The entrance to a fairy home remains closed at the base of a maple tree in a downtown Durango yard./Photo by Todd Newcomer

by Jules Masterjohn

Last week I shared my belief that art can change us, and our world. One of the mechanisms that shepherds this change is the simple act of paying attention to the less obvious, the minute and perhaps understated aspects of the world around us. Looking at art can train our eyes and minds to see things that don’t jump forward but rather the subtle textures of our visual experience. The sexy, the violent, the dramatic and bold aspects of expression dominate our media and visual culture. Yet even these overshadowing aspects must have a background in which to operate. Paying close attention means really looking, not just at the red, yellow and blue of life, but also recognizing the redness of the purple and the yellowness of the green. This practice of looking deeply and thoroughly can enhance our daily experience in all sorts of ways.

Summer is an encouraging time to engage in the practice of careful looking because many of us are moving slower, perhaps on bike and foot, putting ourselves in closer contact to things we normally whiz by, ensconced in our automotive bubbles. Summer allows us to get up close and personal with our environments. Coupled with our slower pace is the ability to observe the rapidly growing plants and flowers that produce ever-changing scenes on the ground; taking a walk can become a scavenger hunt for the many shades of greens and subtle textures that are present.

On a recent walk encompassing several blocks east of downtown Durango, my eye caught glimpses of wonderful bits of human expressions in the form of yard embellishment. From the classic pink flamingos and colored-glass gazing balls to the delightful presence of fairy houses, walking allows us the pace and proximity to enjoy the visual world. A welded, metal dragon on a Sixth Avenue porch, a broken glass-embellished fence post in a Fourth Avenue alley, and a chalk drawing on the sidewalk in front of Hood Mortuary, depicting a close-eyed man lying on a bed frame with a final asterisk levitating over his head, all provided great pleasure for my appreciating eye.

One of the things that held my gaze on last week’s stroll was a dollhouse-sized door nestled into the roots of a silver maple tree. The kid in me immediately got excited when I saw the accompanying 2-inch-square, glass window equipped with curtains and a teeny potted plant on the sill. In the 1-foot-square lawn surrounding the entrance, I spotted a tiny croquette set and a half-ounce keg of Heineken chilling down in a thimble-sized barrel. How am I going to break the news to my 10-year-old niece that fairies like to drink beer and party down just like adults during the July 4th festivities? She believes that fairies live entirely on sweet plant nectars, gentle summer breezes and kind thoughts.

A miniature bicycle keeps a croquet set company as they lie against a fence surrounding a fairy house at the downtown residence of the Moller family. /Photo by Todd Newcomer

This fairy house resides in front of the Mollers’ home, where Martin, Kathryn and their 11-year old daughter, Sienna, have been neighbors with a family of pixies since they moved into the tree about a year ago. I asked Sienna what it was like to live next to fairies. “It’s very special because when people look at the fairy house, they enjoy it, and they think happy thoughts. It’s not just like a doll house … its magical.” Sienna’s mother, Kathryn, knows of other fairy places in the neighborhood. “The fairy house on Third Avenue near 11th is so fabulous. I am envious of its perfect moss-covered front lawn.”

This fairy house that she speaks of is amazingly charming. The yard is landscaped to scale and includes itsy bitsy walkway pavers leading to the front door of the fairy house and another pathway leading to a secluded area where there sits a set of Lilliputian garden furniture. The fairy yard is immaculate, in keeping with the aesthetic of a historic district. “I sort of feel like we live on the other side of the tracks,” Kathryn confessed, comparing her fairies’ modest yard to the upscale one on the boulevard.

Kathryn likes to watch people when they stop to look at the fairy house in her yard. “A little plastic deer appeared the other day in the fairies’ yard … it’s heartening to see people bring little offerings. People do respect the fairy house and contribute. The keg of Heineken showed up on the fairies’ doorstep at our summer solstice party. Part of our fairy mythology is that if a lot of people come to the party, the fairies will come, too.” A guest wanted to entice the fairies to the party by bringing the keg, which apparently had a previous life as a refrigerator magnet. Other diminutive items that adorn the Moller’s fairies’ yard are a meandering picket fence, a birdbath and mailbox. I asked the USPS letter carrier, as he was passing by the Moller’s, if the fairies ever get mail, since they do have a mailbox. He informed me that the fairy letters are so small that they get lost in the mail and it’s even “hard to tell if they are stamped because the stamps are nearly microscopic!” This certainly offers a new perspective o • referring to something small in scale as postage stamp-sized!

Other than the obvious magical qualities that fairies bring, Kathryn appreciates them for another reason. “When you live with fairies, you get sensitized to the small things in life and that is really delightful.” • 


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