Sunday, January 18, 2009

Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden

“It's okay Mum, I'll only shoot him in the chest.” (This compensation was for my benefit. The alternative in this post-apocalyptic-themed game is head decapitation and excess blood and gore)

As I sit to write, my 15 yr old son, let's call him Son #2, is playing a 'shoot-em up' game on his PS 3. My 17 year old (Son #1) is playing an RPG (role playing game online) and listening to hip hop on his ipod, while my 12 year old (Son #3) is downloading tracks to his mp3.

It's school holidays and this is pretty much the scene each day, unless I step into the role of social co-ordinator/entertainment officer and orchestrate some activity. All three boys seem to have lost the ability to imagine or create their own entertainment. In the influx of multi media and the development of technology at break-neck speed, there seems to be no need for my boys to engage or create or imagine.

How times have changed.

I remember … lying on my back, cushioned by the soft grass which is allowed to grow long down the back of the garden.

Our backyard, as was the case in many Australian suburbs in the seventies, was long and wide and full of promise. At any one time, it could hold a cricket game, parties galore, a marathon game of hide and seek, meandering choko vines, goodness knows how many blue tongue lizards, snakes and spiders, a practice high jump for young pre-Olympians, a colony of fairies, fragrant wild freesias and wonderful hidden copses and corners to scuttle into when you wanted to escape your sisters (or parents!).

I remember … hours flitting past like minutes as I watched the clouds form, shift and re-form into all sorts of images before my eyes. I became quite the cloud connoisseur. Occasionally, a sister or friend would lie on the grass with me, but it could become quite tiresome when the intruder claimed there was a rabbit when clearly it was a Chinese umbrella. (“Can't you see the handle? It's right THERE.”)

There was something about the cushiony-coolness of thick green grass with the tickly feel of a garden spider or ant investigating your toes, combined with the wide, blue, Summer sky that transformed you from a regular suburban girl into … I don't know what … something else. Something transcendent. Can I say, spiritual?

I especially loved it when, if I positioned myself a certain way, I couldn't see any human creation. If I lay at a certain angle and let the tall poplars block the telegraph poles and lines, then I could imagine that people don't exist. It was just me and the clouds.

And the fairies.

In those sun-soaked afternoons, fairies were very active. Now, let me preface this with a couple of crucial facts. Firstly, I am not a frilly girly-girl. I rarely wear make-up, don't shave my legs and prefer Vin Diesel movies to Meg Ryan. (No, not just to look at Vin Diesel!) As a 10 year old, I played with dolls, but was not overly prissy, dressing them over and over or trying to match outfits. I was not obsessed with fairies and other frilly things. I just took it as a given that they lived in my backyard. It was like a David Attenborough nature fact. Our backyard was the ideal fairy habitat. The overgrown bushes for hiding from curious human girls, the freesias - suitable for both hats or skirts, as well as drinking nectar, poplars overhead protecting from birds and sandstone slabs for fairy dust (more on that in a later post).

Secondly, I have always been convinced that there is a world beyond the natural. As an adult I know it to be true, but even as a child, I was open … no … expectant of the supernatural.

As I made daisy chains (oops, that does sound rather girly, actually!) or dug highways for ants to traverse the grasslands, I was certain that fairies were just out of my eye-shot. Flitting around my peripheral, I fancied that they were observing my activities like anthropologists, giggling at my enormous size and clumsy footsteps. I did expect though, that they would enjoy my singing – and possibly even join in – although at pitches that couldn't be heard by the human ear of course.

This seemingly insignificant childhood pastime helped to forge in me a strong imagination and a desire to embrace the unknown. While not always safe or wise, I certainly had many adventures in life when I put into practise the heart felt desire to seek … something more. I'm hesitant to say, 'the supernatural' because it has come to mean so many different things in different contexts. Really, it just means beyond what is natural – more than natural. That's what I longed for then. That's what I embrace now.

I wonder what my boys will seek? Will their hearts break through the images and sounds of a techno-era to embrace connections beyond themselves? Can I help? Or does it have to come from within them?


  1. Que sera, sera...whatever will be,will be.

    Be blessed always,

  2. Oh my, now you've mentioned it, all those memories of sand, hill, treetops and all the bruises came floting back. I agree with you Juliette, those were definately better era.

  3. Oh my gosh... did you grow up in my neighborhood?? And, are you by any chance raising a clone of my son??

    I loved (and hated) reading this, I'm sure you know why!


  4. I have three sons - 9,7 and 5 - so far they have grown up without a tv in the house and the 9 yr old is yet to get a Nintendo. As a result he has a reading age of 14 and all three boys spend hours inventing games. it wasn't a conscious choice to not have the TV we just couldn't get any reception in one house, ditched the thing and never got one back! that was 12 years ago!
    I don't know how they will be when in their teens but hopefully they will remember when they had no choice but to make their own amusement. The 9 year old sometimes borrows a friends nintendo but he stops playing after a while and wanders off to do something else. I keep my fingers crossed!