article and photos by Renée Layberry
A lush, verdant spring was poised to burst forth in picturesque Victoria just as the COVID-19 pandemic settled over North America like a fog, dimming the luminescence of a new season. Around the globe, and in our city, we retreated into our shelters (if we were privileged enough to have them) out of an abundance of caution and sense of uncertainty. After several weeks, I drifted into inertia and an unsettling case of cabin fever, despite ongoing though tentative excursions in my neighbourhood.
On a particularly listless day in May, while compulsively scrolling through social media feeds, a whimsical story caught my diminished attention. Oak Bay resident Ianna Breese had created a Google map that showed the general locations of the fairy gardens and houses found in Victoria and Oak Bay. Curious—and seeking motivation to ride my bike and try out my new camera lens—I consulted Breese’s map and made my way to Battery Street, where I quickly found a sweet little fairy home neighbourhood.
For the better part of an hour, I stumbled around awkwardly, bending over to peer into tiny windows and doors like a great lumbering giant. The child within this middle-aged woman recalled the enchantment of miniature things. As I rode my bike home, I asked myself: How can we loom large outside the confining structures of our lives, peering into small windows to scrutinize the details, the everyday magic, with awe and wonder? In uncertain and stressful times, when the walls seem to be closing in, how can we breathe freely and take up space, literally and figuratively?
In the midst of a pandemic, at the edges of isolation and claustrophobia, that which is tiny can become expansive. On that heavy, quiet Sunday in May, when I felt cut off from the world around me, the pure magic of the fairy homes and gardens revealed this: If I am open to delight, even for a moment, little things can lead me back to a sense of connection in this big, fragmented world.