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Posts from the ‘The Fairy Kingdom’ Category

The Day the Sun Stood Still

A wee bit late of June 21, the formal date of the summer solstice — celebrated throughout human history as an astronomical turning point, when daylight reigns supreme. The word solstice is derived from the Latin solstitium, from sol (sun) and stitium (to stand still), because it appears as though the sun actually stops during the solstice. For a few days after the solstice, the sun rises and sets at its northernmost point on the horizon, before slowly migrating southward again for the next six months.

From the midsummer festivals with bonfires and feasts, to the festival of St. John the Baptist, to Kupala Night and more, may your days of worshiping the sun be filled with blessings!

PAn with Dragonfly

The harbinger of good times: Pan with a companion dragonfly

Tree Tuesday: Fairy’s Staircase

Walking the Malachite Trail in the SWA portion of the most wonderfully pristine Everglades watershed of the Grassy Waters Preserve, an old tree displayed new life with a whimsical fungi arrangement — a fairy staircase!

fairy tree

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Sing a Song of Sixpence

Sing a song of sixpence,
pocket full of rye,
four and twenty blackbirds
baked in a pie.

 When the pie was opened,
the
birds began to sing:
isn’t that a dainty dish
to set before the King?

The King is in his counting-house
counting out his money;
the Queen is in the parlor
eating bread and honey;
the Maid is in the garden
hanging up the clothes,

 when down swoops a Blackbird
and snaps off her nose!

Cover illustration for Randolph Caldecott’s Sing a Song for Sixpence (1880)

There are many interpretations to this curious nursery rhyme, dating to the 18th century. It’s been traced to the 16th-century practice of placing live songbirds in a pie (who wouldn’t want live animals flying out of their prepared food?), to various historical events and folklorish symbols, and even to a coded message used to recruit crew members for pirate ships. Lord Byron, James Joyce, Virgina Woolf, Agatha Christie, George Orwell, and Roald Dahl all referenced the ditty, and it’s appeared in songs by The Beatles, The Monkees, Radiohead, Tom Waits, and others. Obviously this mysterious little rhyme continues to captivate our popular consciousness.

As we approach the equinox, I’m anxious to spy our returning colonies of Red-winged blackbirds — the males, glossy black with their brilliant scarlet-and-yellow shoulder patches, puffing up or hiding (depending on their level of confidence), and belting out their conk-la-ree songs. And the more subdued females, with their brown colorations and clever camouflaging — so much shyer than their male counterparts.

Ever regal: Male Red-winged blackbird in the Florida wetlands

Watching over his brood… But I see YOU!

Puffin’ and hollerin’ away

And the GIRLS…

Always the shy ones: Female Red-winged blackbird in the Florida wetlands

Flittering among the reeds

Lovely girl against the shallow waters

A Luminescent Florida Leopard Frog (And a Few Fairy Frogs)

Hand in hand, with fairy grace, Will we sing, and bless this place. —William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

As we hiked the Apoxee Trail in the Grassy Waters Preserve, it was often flooded — pictures forthcoming, because wading through 4-6 inches of swamp / marsh waters in the Florida Everglades is always an adventure! My most worried comment, 2 hours into the trail: “Errr, it appears as though these waters are now even with the swamp.”

But everywhere I looked, itsy-bitsy cricket frogs were jumping about the trail, and these lovelies were hiding in the vegetation and waters. He’s a Southern Leopard Frog (Rana sphenocephala), common to the marshes, swamps, and cypress swamps of our area. The frogs range from dark brown to bright green. Apparently, the existence of a subspecies — the Florida Leopard Frog (Rana utricularia sphenocephala) — is debated among the experts.

Their colors are pure brilliance, with luminescent greens flashing here and there. There were so many frogs I wanted to photograph, but it was tricky nabbing them as they leapt into the waters or darted into the undergrowth. Just magical. So naturally I had to include one of my favorite children’s illustrators — Ida Rentoul Outhwaite — and her more famous images of frogs and fairies.

Nature’s colors, intensity, and variations continue to amaze — may your weekend be equally as spectacular and magical as this brilliant but diminutive frog!

Florida Leopard Frog: Hello, lovely… Please don’t jump

Florida Leopard Frog: Ready to dart. Those colors, pure amazement…

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite, “Frog and Fairy Talking”

Ida Rentoul Outhwaite, “They stood full in front of her….”

On the Wings…

It’s easy to see why the wings of birds were appropriated for heavenly messengers in early religious art. Their combination of delicacy and strength — of grace and sinewy power — is mesmerizing. There were no wings donned by angels in the earliest Christian art, however. Beginning in the 4th Century, halos were replaced with wings to represent heavenly figures, and any creature of the divine. But it was during the Renaissance and Baroque periods when the winged angelic messenger really took root in the artistic and cultural mindset.

Here, two separate cormorants stretch their wings to dry after fishing in the South Florida wetlands bordering the Everglades. Similar to the cormorant-like anhingas, their feathers don’t possess the waterproofing oil of other seabirds, and they must dry their feathers after each fishing trip.

Cormorant Wings, Florida Wetlands

Cormorant Wings, Florida Wetlands

Tintoretto’s Annunciation Angel

A Marsh Rabbit Baby, and a Few Fae

As promised in a recent post, I was lucky to sneak up on a baby marsh rabbit during a recent walk in our wetlands — not always the easiest thing to do with wild adult rabbits, let alone the babies. (Learn more about Marsh Rabbits here.) And as promised…. Cuteness factor through the roof! In honor of their adorableness, I included vintage illustrations of rabbit romps with fairies, and fairytale rabbits — because when I see these delicate marsh rabbits (or as I call them, swamp bunnies, much to the chagrin of the more uptight naturalists), especially the babies — it’s hard not to picture them in such a setting. I like to envision fae around all critters, helping us occasionally close-minded humans love and appreciate their, and Nature’s beauty all that more.

Marsh Rabbit Baby in the South Florida Wetlands

“Fairy and Rabbits,” by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite

“A Rabbit Among the Fairies,” by John Anster Fitzgerald

The Brothers Grimm, “The Rabbit’s Bride,” by Walter Crane (court. Project Gutenberg)

“The White Rabbit,” by John Tenniel

“The Tale of Benjamin Bunny,” by Beatrix Potter

“Once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.” So, with the help of the fairy who cares for all playthings, and makes them Real…

“The Velveteen Rabbit,” by Margery Williams (Ill. by William Nicholson)

Fae Mouse; or a Visit with an Eastern Harvest Mouse

Despite the commonality of some critters, I love to watch them just as much as any other — they’re all captivating. I recently watched and photographed an Eastern Harvest Mouse for a solid 20 minutes….

This little guy is common in Florida’s wetland ecosystems, but other natural habitats include subtropical and tropical grasslands, scrub, swamps, prairies, meadows, and pastureland. Their range includes the Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Florida, and Texas. While the Eastern Harvest Mouse eats seeds, fresh plant matter, and small insects, they’re prey for our snakes, bobcats, large wading birds, and birds of prey. Their nests are constructed of shredded grasses and plant fibers, and are used by the mice year-round. Offspring are usually born in the late spring, summer, or early fall, with litter sizes ranging from 2 – 7.

I realize many people are spooked by rodents, mice in particular. Perhaps it’s my love of fairy tales, or plain fondness for all critters — every one — but I always see fairies accompanying them. Honestly, he’s adorable; as I’m always saying: THAT FACE!

Eastern Harvest Mouse, Florida Wetlands

Courtesy Project Gutenberg:

“Grasshopper Green and the Meadow-Mice,” Written and illustrated by John Rae. P.F. Volland Company, 1922

Courtesy Project Gutenberg:

“Grasshopper Green and the Meadow-Mice,” Written and illustrated by John Rae. P.F. Volland Company, 1922

“Fairies And a Field Mouse,” by Etheline E. Dell (1885-1923)

“The Chase of the White Mouse,” by John Anster Fitzgerald (1819-1906)

The Queen of the Field Mice, from “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” by L. Frank Baum

Courtesy Project Gutenberg:

Thumbelina, by Hans Christian Andersen, from “Childhood’s Favorites and Fairy Stories: The Young Folks Treasury, Volume 1”

“The Fairy Bower” by John Anster Fitzgerald

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