If you want to see fairies, you have to think about fairies. But to think about fairies is to forget what you’ve learned about fairies. They don’t like it if you bring presumptions, or an insensitive amount of education and book reading about them. They don’t come here to affirm your previous beliefs about them. Each group is different, they will tell you. Each culture is different, and by culture I mean the Fairies of the Last Rosebush on the Front Library Lawn are very different from the Edge of the Glade fairies, the Old Tired Oak fairies, and the Dirt Road to the Cemetery fairies. You can’t think they are the same. “We look for an open mind, not a self-assured, have-all-the-answers mind,” they tell me. I have met sixteen different fairy groups who are vastly different from each other like families are different from each other, like twins who are separated at birth and grow up in the country and the city are different from each other. I can’t really generalize about fairies at all except to say I don’t know fairies—I know these specific sixteen groups, but I couldn’t tell you about something definitive about ‘fairy culture’ because to them there is no accepted definition. The good and beautiful Fairy Guidebooks I know are there to show us the diversity of fairies, stories told by one group, but I can’t use them when I go visit a completely different group. “Oh he thought we wore spiderweb dresses!” Heavy is the shade one group would give me for trying to show my knowledge of their group. “There are thousands of ways to be Fairies,” I heard one say. Another chimed in, “A thousand thousand.” But sometimes I also heard kindness for the investigation. “Asking questions is okay. We can tell you what WE do.” But they had little tolerance for anyone who was rude, or who wanted to tell them how they Should Be Acting. “If you can’t take the time to learn about us, we don’t want to meet you,” is something I did hear, though, and this common refrain, of learning about them—without assumptions, without preconceptions—to get closer to knowing them— seemed to be the only thing I’d found in common. And yet, I was open to the possibility of meeting fairies one day who didn’t mind what you thought about them, or a group that might even act like you expect them to act just to make you feel at home. To seek out fairies is to expect anything to happen and nothing to be what you thought it would be. Blank notebook. Bring it. A pencil, bring it. Then—and only then—think about fairies.
The Garden Fairies (their name), chubby, hairy and bearded—all male—gay and polyamorous, live in a place that may not be connected to the outside world. I have slipped through the veil to their garden before, accidentally, and have slipped back out again with no idea about the context of the garden, the place on a map, the relation with any known geographical markers, and none of the fairies have been outside the garden very far, so they too have no idea how they connect to anything else. I visit them because they are fun—they have hundreds of games they invented and play constantly. They are joyous and they make me laugh. They are white, black, and brown fairies with bright butterfly wings and they live in a well-tended garden with no apparent gardener. They make me think that this is what I would look like if I were a fairy, and seeing yourself in others has a way of bonding and reassuring you that you “fit in.”
It’s a strange tension between wanting to be alike and wanting to be unique. When I first met them, I let it slip that I had not seen fairies like them. That rippled through the group in two streams: there are other fairies? And that they were strange or different. I assured them all the groups of fairies—even individual fairies–were strange and different. “I think that’s what it means to be a fairy—to be happy being strange and different.” They wanted to hear about other fairies, and I told them I would share what I knew if they also shared with me their practices, customs, traditions, and thoughts about their own group.
When I told them about the shimmering clothing of other fairies, they said would never wear clothes. “Hot, hot, hot.” They all agreed. I told them that a third of the fairies I had met felt the same way. The other two thirds, I said, had various fashion, either from fabrics they created, or from found objects, or sometimes from fashion they stole and copied from the outside world. I mentioned the Hazelnut Fairies and their dances—and they were fascinated–and they showed me some of their dances. They were astonished at the Galaxy Gazing Fairies at Machu Pichu and their knowledge of planets and stars and the maps they drew. They loved hearing about the marriage ceremonies and dating customs of several groups of fairies. I saw some of them taking notes. I told them I’d met two groups of fairies before that were single gendered—both female presenting, and two other groups that were non-binary. The rest were mixed-gender groups. The more I told them, the more they were delighted and soon became interested in meeting other fairies—exchanging stories and ideas.
But no one knew how to get out of the Garden. They didn’t even know how I got in. I thought about taking one of them with me out of the garden, but they were afraid. They didn’t know if they would be able to get back in. They had oral histories and stories about fairies who left and who never came back. I could tell they were curious about the outside world, but they were nervous too about what they might lose by leaving the garden. I completely understood. “Home,” I said to them, “is a hard place to leave, and you don’t have to leave home to be happy.”
So today, on my seventh visit, I slip into the garden with a gift. I’m met by Everyone. They’ve created a friendship bracelet for me. I know Bumble will want one of his own. I tell them I also brought them something. I open my backpack. “Or I should say, someones…,” I say. Sixteen fairies flew out of my backpack. Representatives from four other groups of fairies agreed to come meet the fairies who were “disconnected” as they put it. When I had told the other groups about the Garden Fairies they were concerned and wanted to make sure that they had contact with others like them. “No group should be completely alone– unless they want to be.” I knew the garden fairies were curious of others, so I figured this might be a good temporary solution.
Four from the Enchanted Peony Bushes, with their beautiful, bejeweled headdresses and silk sheer robes, four (an entire Heavy Metal band) from the Under the Roof of Oddbodies Bar group, four from the Hazelnut fairies, and four far-flung fairies from the Galaxy Gazing Fairies of Machu Pichu. One of the elder women of the Enchanted Peony addressed the Garden Fairies, “We are very happy to meet you, members of the Garden Fairies. We heard you wanted to meet other fairies like yourself. We also heard of the great obstacles that prevented you from meeting us, and the mysterious conditions involved in entering or leaving your garden. We decided that if you couldn’t come to us, we would try to come to you.” They all applauded my backpack.
I stayed there for five nights with them so that I could take the visiting fairies back through the veil that connected worlds. While I was there, the Garden Fairies taught everyone new games, the Hazelnut fairies taught us many dances, the Oddbodies played heavy metal cover songs acoustically without speakers or electricity (which turned out to be a lot of deep growls, roars and shouting accompanied by two melodic guitars and drums) and finally, late at night, the Galaxy Gazers unrolled their maps across the grasses of the garden, and as the others gathered, they pointed out constellations and planets and told stories about the stars above them that “connected all four groups together” for they had discovered that they indeed were the same stars on both sides, and so, even after the other fairies left, the Garden Fairies could be sure that they wouldn’t be too far away, and need only look up, at the constellations that connected stars and fairies together.