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A little “magic” can go a long way


Who does not dream of a little magic to break up the muted landscape of another pandemic winter? Finding the motivation to get out for walks on bitterly cold days is challenging.
Even the Delaware and Raritan Canal towpath in Lambertville, N.J., feels quiet and devoid of the beauty of spring and fall. But, those willing to brave the weather will discover a welcome surprise along Lambertville’s canal path.
On a recent stroll, an out-of-place color caught my eye: a patch of royal blue on a low tree stump. It drew me in, and I knelt to inspect a 6-inch-high doll-sized painted door nestled against the stump. The door was decorated with shiny pearl-like stones, shimmering stars, an elaborate miniature key, and a tiny swan. Gentle green moss framed it. I could not have described a fairy door before I noticed this one. Yet, somehow, I immediately recognized what I was seeing.
My mind and senses came alive. Who put the door there, and why? I scanned for others, like a child on a treasure hunt. My heart leaped when I spotted a second partially hidden door. And as I approached, I realized that not only had I discovered another door, but I had stumbled upon the fairy magicians themselves.
They were quietly conferring – one adjusting a fairy door on a tree, while the other proffered tools from a shoebox. Lambertville residents Moe and Ian Phillips are the magicians. In real life she is a poet, writer and producer and he is an advertising content producer. But, on the towpath, they are the masterminds behind the 15 fairy doors on a six-block stretch of the path as well as in the woods behind Lambertville Public School.
Moe Phillips dreamed up the project during walks along the canal with her dog. The surrounding art and flora of the towpath create a natural backdrop for her imagination. She experiences the strong presence and pull of stories there, reminding her of the enchantment she feels in Ireland, where her ancestors were. The canal path is the perfect setting for a dreamlike fairy door project. It is Moe’s way of offering Lambertville residents levity and joy after the devastating flood left by remnants of Hurricane Ida. After all, it is hard to see a fairy door and not feel a sense of joy and wonder.

Moe is a writer, or, one might say, a dreamer. The fairy doors are her poems brought to life; a vision conjured up in an office space dedicated exclusively to mythical beings. In it, Moe surrounds herself with handcrafted fairy houses and dolls, and bookshelves crammed with fairy tomes from around the world. The room is an ode to the imagination: a place where dreams can come true, and do.
It is not, however, the only place fairy doors are created. Moe Phillips invites local artists, both professional and amateur, to create their own magical doors in their own magical rooms. Fairy door artists include painters, photographers, jewelry designers, chocolatiers, and therapists. They are not the only contributors. As in many public space artworks, strangers add to the project. Moe notes, “Someone is leaving pumpkin seeds. Someone else leaves jewels and stones. We’ve seen candles and pinecone gnomes. We’re all contributing.”
The mystical doors provide a temporary escape from daily stress, a momentary forgetting of the heavy thoughts that weigh so many down these days. The vivid door colors are a reminder that spring is approaching, that the towpath will once again burst with light, with hope, with possibility.
“In children’s stories like ‘The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,’ there’s an idea that you go through doors and come out in another world,” Moe remarks. “And it still feels very possible to me. I haven’t found that armoire yet but I’m sure it exists.”
Young and old, who observe the fairy doors will find it hard not to smile and imagine, “What if…?”

Beth Zarret lives in Lambertville and walks often on the canal towpath.

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