“I started to borrow novels from the circulating library, and read one after the other. But in the long run they didn’t help. They presented intense lives, profound conversations, a phantom reality more appealing than my real life.” -Elena Ferrante, The Story of a New Name
I grew up building fairy houses. Some of them were simple, a big leaf propped over the little gap between two stones. Some of them were more elaborate: pebbles and flower petals and twigs arranged so a patch of roots looked like a little city with walkways, rooftops, gardens bursting with life. When my little brother was young I loved making these houses with him. I loved walking through the woods together, watching and listening for a patch of moss or a little pebbly beach that promised, here.
One of my favorite things art can do is gesture toward the world, enchanting experience with the magic that’s always there. A thought of dragons leaves me staring at the campfire, watching how the flames dance. A witch who speaks bird-language sets me listening to the finches outside. And of course, the tree roots really are walkways to beetles, rooftops to weasels, gardens bursting with life. It’s strange that art can go the other way, too. Turn on too many lights inside, and the windows act like mirrors, giving me back my own searching eyes instead of the night. To put it another way, art can be a hand, but sometimes I get so interested in its tricks and games that I stop noticing what it’s playing with. What it’s touching. I like the tricks and games. But my favorite part is how the hand can point, inviting me in. Inviting me back. Look. Here.