Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Road to Fairy

I'm sitting here at the computer, alone. More alone than I've been in weeks. Avram is off at work, although he'll be home in forty minutes and then we'll eat lunch together; Lydia is asleep, after having fallen dead asleep in my lap around forty minutes ago, and my Mom and Don are in London, enjoying (I hope) their second day there; tomorrow morning they'll then leave directly from London to the airport and fly back to Utah.

For the past week and a half Avram has been on holiday from classes and partially from work as well, my parents have been visiting and staying in the living room of our one bedroom apartment, not to mention our six days in France, where I was never separate (after all, I had the least French in the group, including Lydia, I believe). Being alone feels almost un-natural, or a mistake, like there should be some people around me. On the other hand, it's nice to have nowhere to go, no promises to keep (and I'm certainly dappled and drowsy and ready for sleep). I could write the second part of our French trip, I guess, but that would involve thinking, and even more drastic, uploading pictures.

I finished Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell today, by Susanna Clarke. I highly recommend this book; it's well written, and all sorts of other positive superlatives that I can't quite dredge up out of the depths of my non-thinking brain right now. It's about English magic, and reading it while in England I feel that at any moment, if I were to venture outside, I could perhaps be enveloped by this same magic. This may seem a silly thing to say by someone who doesn't believe in magic, but having lived here for six months, I really feel that England is a much more magical place than America. I don't know if it's because the type of magical history that has always interested me (fairies, other worlds, animate flowers/trees) is centered in English folk history, but America feels positively prosaic next to the wild poetry outside my window. Not that America isn't beautiful; it's not that at all. More that there doesn't seem to be a dual world hidden within it. I forget who; Avram would know, but someone (perhaps Tolkien? Perhaps C.S. Lewis? Wait, it could have been Steven Lawhead, who wrote a great novel about the return of a modern-day Kind Arthur to England) said that something to the effect about England being both a nation of shopkeepers and Logres at the same time.

Often, all too often, the first holds true; Avram and I only come into contact with the Sainsbury's, with the bureaucracy, with the reams of paper and letters from Oxford University, with paying our rent, riding the public buses, making my midwife appointments, and for Avram going to work and classes. But at times, odd times, we'll suddenly be recalled to the kingdom of Logres in all of this, the Kingdom of Summer, Ye Merry Olde England, where fairy paths intertwine with solid English ones, where the bells tolling not on the hour may just be the church next door being off again, like it often is, or it may be bells from another world entirely, tolling out a message I can't quite make out. Where the wind that howled throughout winter around our windows and walls has a message to deliver, and the snow that fell on Easter morning, the first real snowfall of the whole year, a deference to Christianity by the Seelie Fairies, or perhaps an obstacle to church worship by the Un-Seelie.

We've felt this contrast since we first came to England, and have always been on the lookout for Logres in our movements; the more treasured because of their fleeting quality and occurrence. Reading Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell, besides making me ready to become a magician for my vocation, although patently once again I don't quite believe magic exists at all, brings the world of Logres all around me into sharp focus; the second England feels near and almost accessible even.

Sometimes I think if I didn't have Lydia, I could go wander the countryside, and commune better with the sprites and spirits, see better another world reflected in the puddles, like a mirror into a second sky. But although I cannot describe my love for my daughter in anything except for almost poetical methods, the reality of motherhood is filled with the shopkeeper side, the prosaic side of poopy diapers, putting her down for naps, and realities like Yellow Raincoats and strollers that however small and portable still need a cleared path to go down, limiting me to the roads of town. After all, who can see fairies while being a very concrete mother at the same time?

All this reminds me of Anne of Green Gables, and her youth when she believed in fairies. Or of when I was single and used to go out Tree Worshipping (or Tree Singing) with other young women of my acquaintance. Then I felt some of the wild power (although that was in America), the dual possibilities to the world. Now I'm sure even if Avram and I left Lydia with a sitter, and roamed the wilds in search of Logres I would be sure to bring up our finances, and the potential budget I had drawn up for the next three months, or discuss when we should go to London, and finally see the British Museum, and the pluses or minuses of spending just the day there, or finding a cheap hotel to stay in, for a two day trip.

Maybe my growing up has firmly tied my soul to this world. Maybe I'm a 'grown-up'.

I hope not. Although I love my duties as a wife and mother, and I love my child, and I even love my budgets and plans, I do so want to be able to see another world, to see fairy woods and converse with flowers and feel when it rains or snows or the bells toll that sometimes there is a message in there for me. That sometimes when I look out the window at night I may see the great hunt in the sky above me. That when I next wend my way through a foggy night I won't come out at Londis, the local convenience store so that I may buy milk or donuts, but instead I'll come out into a fairy court, into another world with dangers and possibilities I mayen't dream of.

For nothing else, I appreciate living in England for this, for re-opening the doors of fantasy, of never before had memory, of the Other that lies all around and within. Even if I will never wend those paths, or cross through the doors, if I'll never roam the wilds and speak to immortals, having lived where these existed as possibilities, having seen from the corner of my eyes the magic that my mind will still not accept I'm the freer and deeper for that.


  1. you are so poetic in your writings. I love it. I also was like that as a child... always going off on my own to talk to the trees, always hoping i would stuble into another world, or something amazing would happen. I think that is one reason i really liked the book the golden compass.. well the whole series really. becasue of the subject matter and all the magic and topics of more than one world and different sphers. I dont know i fyou knew it but they madea movie fromt he book, you will have to see it when you come home. its just the first movie, i suppose they will make three?? I must say I have not had many peaceful in nature moments with my kids either. but in a way kids are their own magic. just think of the baby inside you and the fact that you are growing them!! That every part of here was made just right, knew what to do, all nourished from your body. Children really are magical in their own right.. strait from heaven. Who knows what they know. Lydia may be able to see other worlds still.. I always wonder about things like that.

    anyways look at me wandering in my thoughts.
    Miss you!!


  2. oh just had to comment that i enjoyed the pregnant picture from your french travles.. glad to know that you grew a belly!! I have not posted any pics of me recently becuase I am so big in the belly and was embarressed you werent. And how is the pregnancy?? baby still turned wrong way?

  3. I think there are American Fairies we just don't live as close to them as you do in England. The old country there gives birth to such imaginations and creatures regularly. In Moab I have been in places that make your thumbs prick and heard the laughter of little men. Perhaps it is our puritan roots that sought to drive the fae away but you can find them if you look.

  4. I also really enjoyed the book Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I've always had a special liking for those sort of more realistic faerie stories (I know, an oxymoron). I mean the stories that present Faeries as they were historically believed to be--not happy helpfull little sprites, but cunning, decietful, selfish, gaudy, magical, posessive, non-humans, and any human magic is simply a tapping into their power or agreement with them. I liked it.
    And I do so miss you.
    I thought of a name for your blog, entirely too late to enter it into contention when you were debating a new one, but here it is now, so you can enjoy the thought along with me: "Thoraly English"
    Ta-Da! I was very pleased with myself.
    I love you!