Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Tom Harbold: Cultivating a love for the earth

As I write this, I am preparing for the start of a most mystical, magical, mythical time of year: the 22nd annual May Day Fairie Festival at Spoutwood Farm Center in Glen Rock, Pa., just across the border.

Some readers may recall that Spoutwood is the nonprofit educational and community-supported agriculture farm where I once worked as education coordinator.


The Fairie Festival, which began as a large garden party for friends of Rob and Lucy Wood, proprietors of Spoutwood, has evolved into an event spanning three days - Friday, Saturday, and Sunday - and drawing as many as 16,000 people, on a good year, from Maryland, Pennsylvania and as far away as the British Isles.

Given the weather report, I suspect that this will prove to have been an excellent year.


What is a Fairie Festival, of which there are now quite a number, scattered across the country, including one here in Maryland this coming weekend? Picture a Renaissance Festival, but with more of an emphasis on the mythic arts, and the mythic imagination.

Strains of music drift through the trees of the 26-acre farm, along with bubbles. Children, and many of the adult attendees, sport fairy costumes, complete with wings. In a woodland glade, "celebrifae" Posie hostesses a Fairy Tea Party for the wee ones, while in a tent atop the hill artists, authors and other experts share their knowledge and artistry in the Fairie Chautauqua. More than 70 vendors, artisans and crafters, offer their wares. The Beneficent Order of the Greenman marches through, offering blessings for peace and prosperity.

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But what is the point and purpose? According to founder and Spoutwood proprietor Rob Wood, the Fairie Festival exists to celebrate spring and the awakening earth, and to help awaken festival-goers to appreciate both nature and their own childlike sense of wonder.

Wonder is something that is often lacking in today's mundane and prosaic world, yet without it our lives can sometimes seem dry and empty.

The unexpected sights and scenes, the fantastic costumes, the bright decorations, the music and dancing at the Fairie Festival can help to evoke that sense of wonder in both children and adults.

It is possible to suspend one's disbelief and imagine, for a time, that one is really walking in a fairie realm.

Of course, there are other ways of awakening wonder, as well. Some may find this in the discoveries of scientific experiments, observations or exploratory missions to other planets. Others may find it as near at hand as a sunset, a butterfly on a flower or the laughter of a child. But if one's sense of wonder seems to be broken, a fairie festival is a good way to jump-start it.

Similarly, there are many ways to get in touch with nature: a walk in the woods, perhaps at one of our excellent Nature Centers, Bear Branch at Hashawha, or Piney Run; participating in a community-supported agriculture garden, and getting one's hands dirty helping to grow one's own food, an opportunity which Spoutwood also hosts, and the list could go on. But an event like the Fairie Festival helps us to remember the link between our hands, our heads and our hearts, and reminds us that before we can bring about earth healing, we first have to imagine what a healthy relations with each other and this good earth would look like.


For those of us who attend, Spoutwood is a reminder of what the world could be like - maybe a few less fairy wings and frilly costumes, but an equal amount of participatory energy and enthusiasm, wonder and joy, and sense of community. That is worth cultivating, in the mundane world no less than in realms of Fairie.