He arrives at twilight, when there’s just enough light left in the sky. With tools in hand and helper by his side, Tony Powell is at it again: Installing tiny “fairy doors” in San Francisco’s fallen trees — and delighting passersby young and old.
It’s been more than two years since his first installation in Golden Gate Park appeared, captivating locals, travelers and international media alike (even the Keebler elves proposed an endorsement deal).
However, just when we thought the fairies moved to Somerset, England, the hiatus officially ended with the creation of a third fairy door completed Aug. 11.
This time, the fairies have found residency in a fallen eucalyptus tree in Glen Canyon Park. Powell, a Bay Area author and shipwright, decorated the home with a swinging door and covered front porch. Near the entrance, dragonfly and filigree adornments greet the fairies as they come home from an exhausting day of doing…whatever it is fairies do.
Though this is the first fairy haven that humans know of in Glen Canyon Park, Powell said the area is brimming with magic:
“Walk through at dusk, and the coyotes and the stone cliff faces watch you while the owls sing of their starlit dreams as they awaken, and the trees chorus in a thousand whispers.”
Captured by the environment, Powell said the idea for the third fairy door — called “Faery Lair” — was inspired about a year ago:
“It is about the wildest place in our City, perhaps second only to the surf pounded shore.”
Powell, the son of a carpenter who’s been familiar with folklore “for ages,” is often accompanied by his eight-year-old son Rio. Powell said he prefers to work in the early evening to give the impression these fixtures appear overnight.
In the past few months, the duo have introduced various upgrades to the original fairy doors, including a covered front porch, additional embellishments and other structural improvements.
Like the previous fairy doors — both located in and around Golden Gate Park’s Music Concourse — the Faery Lair features a hollow compartment accessed through a circular swivel door. Within this space, visitors are welcome to leave notes and small tokens for the tree’s inhabitants.
These notes, which Powell and Rio collect about twice a month, are answered on their website. Serving as English interpreters for the fairies, the father and son respond to requests that vary from granting peace on Earth to ending the California drought, and — of course — wishes for the latest video game.
At times funny (Q: “I wish for a pogo stick, please.” A: “Isn’t there like, a pogo stick store or something?”), and at times serious, the fairies sound like Mister Rogers through a mist of patchouli oil.
Ever wonder how to get pixie dust? According to the fairies:
“We gather the pixie dust from the burnished leaves on golden afternoons. But there is more than enough for everyone. Just breathe in the Summer sunshine, and let the light permeate throughout your heart and your whole body. When there are no shadows, your soul may fly, even while your body rests in the grass.”
A writer and poet, the 49-year-old Powell said he never imagined the kind of response he’s gotten from the public. Even though the initial media sensation has worn off, Powell said the fairy doors still receive a steady stream of visitors:
“(The first “Faery Door”) was just for fun, and we had no idea how meaningful it would become to anyone else, or how inspiring it would be to folks’ imaginations. So we’re still doing it, and although it’s a deeper kind of fun now, it’s still for fun.”
For Rio, who was six years old when the project began, the best part of the expeditions are just hanging out where the fairies are, and climbing nearby rocks while his dad does most of the work.
As an experienced fairy hunter, Rio’s got advice for those of you who have trouble spotting the flitting fairies:
“Be quiet — don’t disturb the wildlife. And if that still doesn’t work, just write them a note.”
If you’re on the prowl for fairies, you can try finding them at the “Faery Lair,” off Banana Slug Way. For those who can’t find it, Powell suggests SFBay use GPS coordinates N 37* 44.428 / W 122* 26.541.