By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
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.
“Art is time, not time is money,” she says.
But all good things must come to an end. Two years ago, after her old man’s drinking got out of hand, Snowlake left the forest. She moved out to L.A. and reunited with her sister.
Snowlake was drawn to Venice Beach, and before she acclimated properly to the city’s media-saturated atmosphere, she suffered a pretty hardcore celebrity crush on the actor Viggo Mortensen, thanks to his performance in The Lord of the Rings.
Surrounded by images of Mortensen on billboards and magazine covers, Snowlake was like a deer in headlights. She became convinced that she and Mortensen’s fairy king were soul mates and began, as she calls it, “semi-stalking” the actor/poet/photographer — trying to find out where he lives, reading books published by his company Perceval Press, attending his art openings and poetry readings. It wasn’t long before she discovered she wasn’t the only one.
“As I unfolded this obsession, [thinking], ‘I want to meet him’ . . . ‘We have so much in common,’ the universe was like, ‘This woman thinks that too. Andthis woman, and this woman . . . I met, like, so many women obsessed with him,” she laughs, cringing at the memory. “It was so embarrassing. I heard girls reading poems at Beyond Baroque and saying, ‘This is for Viggo.’?”
Snowlake met a filmmaker who broke up with her boyfriend on the slim chance that should she ever meet Mortensen she would be available. She also met a trust-fund beauty who purchased a mustang just so she could hire Mortensen’s horse trainer.
Her rudest awakening came while she was wading through the Topanga Creek hoping to find Mortensen’s home. Out there in the creek, she managed to attract her own creepy Topanga admirer.
“When I was stalking Viggo, I got stalked by a guy. And then I realized the whole stalking thing isn’t happening,” she says, laughing and looking down at the colorful collection of necklaces she wears around her neck. “It was totally one-sided. It’s like a virus.”
Now she says she is focusing on loving herself. She works in a raw-food restaurant, feeds the homeless on the Boardwalk with the group Food Not Bombs, and sells her mandala-painted rocks and other crafts, while trying to figure out how she might be able to raise $50 million to help buy her beloved Canadian forest. What she is not doing is obsessing on Mortensen; she figures there are enough girls out there doing that.
“I mean, do I really want to meet the man of my dreams with one foot over his back fence?”