By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
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By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
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Do you believe in fairies?Snowlake does. In fact, back on Elphinstone Mountain, along the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, where she lived for 15 years, the sparkly-eyed blond was fairy royalty.
“I was living in Roberts Creek, a small logging community in the forest,” she says in a voice that sounds like a small bird. “I am known as the fairy queen of that realm.”
Her subjects were 20 like-minded women who were known as fairies themselves.
Sipping from a cup of tea at a friend’s home in the Venice canals, where she has been crashing on and off for a year, Snowlake says of her fairy sisters, “We were all women who felt a need to embody the spirit of the forest. We did a lot of magic. We danced the Maypole dance, taught the healing powers of herbs, helped raise the community’s children, made crafts. The community loved us. They were like, ‘Ohhhfairies.’
“There are maybe 3,000 people in Roberts Creek, and we all kind of knew each other. That area is a temperate rainforest. It has one of the highest biodiversity of mushrooms on the planet. It is a beautiful place.”
Snowlake, who dances every Sunday with the ad-hoc Venice Beach Orchestra, paints rocks and aspires to be a standup comedian, wasn’t always an advocate for the forest. As a teenager in upstate New York, she and her sister were regular ol’America girls, even high-school track stars with the Syracuse Chargers. But when their parents split, it was like a nuclear bomb went off in the family. She became a “Reagan-era refugee” and took off for Canada. Ten years later, she changed her name to Snowlake, a rune-based translation of her Germanic family name. She got involved with government-subsidized tree planting and for six years lived outdoors with her first husband, a Mohawk/Québecois Indian.
“It is some of the hardest work on the planet,” says the petite, 40-something Snowlake of growing trees. “You carry 75 pounds of saplings through the brush and make 30 cents a tree.”
For extra cash she foraged exotic mushrooms, specifically the matsutake (or pine) mushroom, which can fetch as much as $60 a pound from the Japanese. She also planted “high-quality cannabis,” an occupation, she explains, that is “nearly legal there” in Canada.
Living outdoors, she witnessed radical visions of natural beauty: avalanches, waterfalls, orca whales, eagles and even a grizzly bear taking off with her bag lunch. But everything changed when a sylph fairy revealed itself to her one morning outside her cabin on a creek. She had experienced other “sightings,” usually while under the influence of hallucinogens, like the time she danced with a posse of elves. But this was different. This time she was sober, albeit “enchanted.” She followed the silver being down to the water and it showed her how it danced, which she perceived as a blessing.
When Snowlake was asked to contribute to a quilt that local artists were making to raise awareness for a women’s shelter, Snowlake sewed her fairy. The quilt toured local cafés and she was asked to come along and share an inspiring story. She decided to act out her experience from the fairy’s point of view, complete with wings and a raspy fairy voice.
“I didn’t mean it to be funny, but people were laughing. That was the beginning of my performance art career,” she says flatly, though not unaware of the humor.
Soon, other women approached her with similar stories. Together, they began performing fairy-inspired acts. They even slept and dreamed together in a large tepee.
By this point, she was living in Roberts Creek and becoming increasingly active as an environmentalist, after coming to the realization that the trees she’d been planting all those years for the government were just creating a massive tree farm.
Canada, she says, “would never allow a natural forest again. People don’t know that there’s a war in the woods going on. The clear cuts, visible from the moon, are hidden by neat rows of trees for the tourists. The salmon stock has been totally jeopardized by the diseased farmed salmon. The whole food chain is in jeopardy.”
But the antiestablishment consciousness of Roberts Creek gave her strength.
“An enlightened community was growing in that area: Vietnam-era draft dodgers, artists and pot growers. They called us the Roberts Creek Freaks. It was so much fun! It was the first time I really felt all right about being who I am.”
She opened an organic juice bar in the center of town and, with her fairy sisters, hosted talking-stick circles and started a peace camp in the forest as a logging protest, where they would have full-moon drum circles and magic-mushroom dance parties.
Her biggest legacy there seems to be the large mandala that she and her then-boyfriend painted in the parking lot of Roberts Creek Beach. For eight straight years, they outlined a new design and invited locals to help fill it in. This past August, 350 residents participated in the project that takes two weeks to complete.