Surprised by Jack

fairy luI live in a fairy forest. It’s a minuscule woodland, and I am its caretaker, while my five-year-old Luthien fancies herself its fairy princess.

As the keeper of the itsy-bitsy forest (comprised of three towering evergreens and the woodsy floor beneath them in my front yard), I have been busy planting shrubs and perennials purported to enjoy such a shady, piny spot. I’ve also, of course, been occupied with pulling up weeds to make space for those plants and manage the appearance of my garden-forest.

My gardening style is a bit wilder than the wood-chip-mulched norm. I rarely rake the pine needles or remove pinecones, and to remove weeds, I use my hands rather than a spray bottle. My definition of weeds is rather loose. The clover and the violets and the purple-blooming creeping Charlie, even the dandelions and the plantain are all possible keepers in my gardens, depending on their placement. It’s like sculpting – in one place, that dandelion needs to go, but somewhere else, it fits just right.

This morning while the kids perched on the neighbors’ steps to watch some city employees trim trees on the boulevard, I sculpted (i.e. weeded) my forest gardens. And to my delight, I discovered a new Jack-in-the-pulpit volunteer! It’s the third one I’ve found in the gardens, none of which I planted. I’ve also discovered catnip and milkweed volunteering in ideal spots in my gardens, and this spring a shrub I had left alone the last couple years, not sure what it was or where it had come from, opened for the first time into delicate white blossoms, revealing itself to be a honeysuckle.

Had I been overly ambitious to eradicate weeds and mulch thoroughly, I wouldn’t enjoy such surprises. While I am happily the keeper of the fairy forest, I recognize it lives and breathes and produces beauty with or without me; and it’s a joy to work with it rather than reign over it.

So bring on the Jacks. May their tribe increase. And I’ll be happy to kneel in my gardens, take my time pulling weeds here and there, and enjoy those moments revelling in the wild beauty of my fairy forest.


  1. Sawboy commented earlier but i deleted his comment because i thought it was spam or some random weirdo. Then it dawned on me that i know who Sawboy is, and he’s not a random weirdo, he’s a dear friend weirdo. Although i deleted his comment from my blog, i still have a copy of it in my e-mail, so i will paste it here for your reading pleasure. Maybe you will recognize Sawboy too, but i wouldn’t count on it. Here it is:

    My name is SawBoy. Just the other day, my wife bought me a nice house.

    On the first weekend, I removed 2 thirty year old white cedars and 1 forty year old red cedar. (The red one, like a freshly picked rose, is very aromatic to say the least.)

    Unfortunately, there are not many trees left for me to saw. I guess she bought be too small of a lot. I think I’d prefer 40 acres. I kept the old maple, although one of his branches LOOMS omniously. Those branches were very aromatic. I also pulled lots of weeds, but dandelions always go.

    Saw on…

  2. Oh JulieBells! I thought I was tip-toeing with you through your fairy forest (so we wouldn’t disturb any treasures) as I read your essay! I love it! You made me smile!

  3. “While I am happily the keeper of the fairy forest, I recognize it lives and breathes and produces beauty with or without me; and it’s a joy to work with it rather than reign over it.”

    This is a powerful statement, Julia, and so beautifully written! Thanks 🙂

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