It’s funny how sometimes you meet someone and there is an instant rapport, something about that person that just speaks to the heart. It was that way for me when I met Kate. We met at Goodwin Forest while I was fulfilling part of my outreach committment for the UConn Master Gardener program. Kate was volunteering her time as Goodwin is a personal favorite for her. And she loves to garden! She also has another incredible hobby, one that has inspired me to put to creative use any and all discarded items–whenever and wherever possible.
Kate recycles garbage into works of art. Not just her own garbage; Kate makes frequent field trips to the local landfill. She has a unique gift of being able to look at some discarded item and envisioning it as something else.
Our first day working together at Goodwin, president of Friends of Goodwin and fellow Master Gardener alumni, Lynn Warren, kept mentioning Kate’s special garden. We were working on the new fairy walk, constructing fairy houses using all natural materials: pine cones & needles, fallen logs, stones, etc. and it was evident both Lynn and Kate have a love for the fairies. I suddenly sensed some kindred spirits. Building fairy houses along this new woodland path was the whole reason I signed up to do my outreach at Goodwin. I have always had a love for the fairies and for years, I built antique dollhouse miniatures; building fairy houses was volunteer work that didn’t feel a bit like work at all. Little did I know the treat I would be given later that same day. After listening to my new friends’ banter back and forth, I became intrigued and finally asked about it. Kate offered to show it to me. When we were finished with our volunteer work for the day, the invitation was extended and I followed Kate home.
Lynn wasn’t kidding. Kate’s garden was like stepping into another world, a world full of peace, tranquility and, best of all, fun!
Unlike the outreach program, Kate’s fairy garden has some “unnatural” materials: colored glass bottles upended with multi-colored “globes” glued to their bottoms (the globes were a bargain find at The Christmas Tree Shop); rusted out pieces to an old tractor became a metal flamingo and an enormous tractor rim became the entrance to the fairy realm.
As Kate showed me her whimsical world, she explained that she built her fairy trail while teaching third grade. Later, she invited her students to a party where they had to complete a quest and navigate through fairyland. It was a child’s fantasy come to life–even for those children age 44 or so–with each display revealing something new and enchanting. I could just imagine the joy on the faces of those lucky students who got to participate in this quest. What I loved most about it was Kate’s warm and welcoming personality. She has such an incredible sense of fun and adventure, such a clever imagination, that you can’t help but rediscover the little kid in yourself. No doubt her students fell under her spell as well. I’m sure she made the whole experience something they will never forget.
This big kid won’t forget it either…even if I didn’t participate in the party. Kate has truly inspired me. Suddenly, the broken pitchfork becomes an arbor for the fairies; some logs stacked on end become the foundation for a fairy castle; an old mirror imbedded in some mulch, a fairy lake.
And as I type this essay, another idea comes to me. For so many years now my writing has stayed on the shelf, all but lost to writer’s block. Since being invited to play both at Goodwin and Kate’s magickal menagerie, I’m writing again. Could it be my own quest through fairyland has broken the spell? Or the blessing from a truly gifted teacher, one whose students were truly blessed to learn so much about the value of using one’s imagination. We need more Kates in the world.