Woman Behind the Whimsy
Before COVID-19 accelerated, before the closed beaches, trails and sudden emptiness, I was 40 feet above the ground on Esplanade. You can see the entire ocean from this California porch—it’s the porch of a light blue house, which, according to the locals, is said to emit a kind of holiness.
I lift my hand to knock. The door opened.
She was something like Christy Turlington, graced by the years. Her eyes, a bright green.
Judy Deierling is in her seventies and carries a presence that nullifies all tension. She wears a cream and grey striped sweater with a heart stitched on each elbow. She speaks softly and invites me inside.
There is an element of whimsy to her that people everywhere should take on as they spend more time confined at home. During these trying times, more tokens of positivity and creativity are becoming essential to get through the pangs of fear, boredom and anxiety.
A lot can be learned from Judy who understands the art of bringing things to (and back to) life; after all, she’s a botanist who’s grown and released swallowtail and monarch butterflies for over 18 years. She’s now using her green thumb to inspire others.
A Stretch of the Imagination
40 feet below Judy’s home, beneath the tea trees, is perhaps the largest fairy garden in the South Bay, a labor of love that Judy has amplified into a movement. It’s doused in figurines, hidden castles, tea lights, gemstones and uplifting messages that change with the seasons. Surrounding neighbors have all taken heed, building their own fairy gardens and opening the door to a small but meaningful expanse.
“Kids see the fairies, they see the fantasy, and adults see the goodness,” she said.
If you’re outside safely during the pandemic, these gardens become necessary breaks from the crisis. Little surprises. But their significance goes beyond their adorable features. Building these fairy gardens is a manifestation of the power to nurture the kindness, beauty and fantasy that exists in all of us.
“People need it…People are good if you give them permission,” she reminded me.
And truly, people need that dose of inspiration and good will now more than ever during the global health crisis, as the panic buying, empty shelves and inconsideration abound. But it’s surprising to realize how much we can learn about community through a miniature garden.
Profound Lessons from a Miniature Garden
Even for Judy’s garden, there were less than perfect moments. In its early years, people stole items of high sentimental value to Judy, including a Spanish church figurine. Judy learned quickly to look beyond the shortcomings; perseverance and imagination were key. Naturally, as she continued to develop the garden and foster a whimsical safe haven, contributions came pouring in. New fairy village houses appeared alongside a giant stone fairy which Judy has deemed “the guardian.” A painting of a cobalt ocean was left nestled in the tear grass. The intangible—the smiles, stares and thank you’s—made their mark as well.
As the years progressed, incredible stories emerged. One day, before spiraling into an ultimate low, a man whose wife had died suddenly passed by the garden and caught sight of a single, positive message. Judy, outside tending, shot him a smile.
“I’ve been looking three years to find you and tell you thank you,” he would say, sometime later.
Today, in the midst of crisis, everyday passerby and tourists from around the world, even rugged, leather-clad bikers, continue to stop and stare at Judy’s small stretch of garden, where they are transported for some fleeting and precious seconds—away from the despair. They all leave smiling.
And to anyone considering taking part in this whimsical movement, Judy advises that “if it speaks to you, just do it.”
Seeds of Inspiration
Mirroring the garden’s motivational force, remarkable stories have surfaced amid the current pandemic. The world is frantic and COVID-19 continues to spread, but people and communities worldwide have not let the virus contaminate their inherent will to create and inspire. Doors everywhere are opening to something more profound. Musicians are holding concerts from their balconies, giving a show to their neighborhood in quarantine. Swans are returning to the Venice canals. Neighbors are leaving kind notes to each other and some shoppers are covering costs for others. News outlets, marketing and PR firms are making a point to focus on creative and positive angles.
Like a garden, communities have a way of regenerating themselves, despite crisis. We are creating, a new, heightened ethos of neighbor helping neighbor.
Forests bloom after fire. So, while this may be an uncertain time, it could very well be our finest hour.
Of course, this fine hour deserves conversation–what fairy gardens or little surprises have you noticed in your neighborhood? What impact have they had on your community? Share your responses in the comments below!
Anabela Savulescu is an Account Coordinator at Bob Gold & Associates and a recent graduate from University of California, Santa Cruz, where she majored in literature. She has a passion for storytelling and bringing life to content across an ever-changing media landscape. To learn more about Anabela and BG&A, visit https://bobgoldpr.com/meet-our-team/.
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