|A Sense of Wonder
When my husband Ward was little, Santa would visit the kids on his block. One year "I must have been about six," he guesses Santa was wearing a rubber mask, and Ward realized that Santa was a lot like neighbor Mr. Dunn. When he commented on this to his parents, they were noncommittal. A short time later, his grandmother arrived saying "I just saw Santa's sleigh take off." Since Grandma would never lie, this affirmed the reality of Santa Claus for that year and a few more.
In 1897 in the New York Sun, Francis P. Church explained to Virginia OHanlon that Santa Claus and fairies, too are more real than the whole world of what can be measured and proven. They are the windows we have on a greater world, beyond our understanding but not beyond the perception of our hearts, or imagination.
When I was little, I treasured the Flower Fairy Books, written and illustrated by Cicely Mary Barker. Still in print, each contains portraits of a group of fairies; for example there's one book for each of the four seasons. The fairies wear clothes made of parts of the plant: a flower might be a hat or a skirt, the ruffled collar of the narcissus fairy is a jonquil corona and Barker's work is botanically accurate. She used real children for models; their personalities express the nature of the plants. Her delicate style; her caring, detailed attention ... nourished my sense of wonder.
A little older, I would cut one side off a waxed-cardboard quart milk carton, add soil, and arrange tiny woodland plants, moss, and fungi: fairy habitat. For the short time these little terrariums lasted, they brought home some of the wonder of the woods.
As an adult, I feel pressured to keep a rational point of view. I certainly couldn't say I "believe" in fairies or elves. But I know they stand for something I don't want to lose touch of, something I hardly know how to talk about without talking about fairies, elves, magic....
And flowers. All three of my winter-blooming cactus are exploding in their glory right now, hanging in the three sides of my bay window. I go stand right up next to them: they are inches from my head, and surround me with a rainforest, with life so abundant it hushes me, ... with magic.
© Copyright 2002 Catherine Holmes Clark