Q&A with Signe Pike

I have never been a faery kind of gal and I wouldn’t have picked up this book if it weren’t for the “blurb” from Rita Gelman, author of one of my favorite books, Tales of a Female Nomad. Thank goodness – or thank the faeries! – that I did! Faery Tale is a magical romp that will make you look at the world, both that which we can see and that which we can’t always prove, with brand new eyes. I can’t wait for my daughter Maggie to read this beautiful travelogue one day….

Searching for faeries isn’t your run-of-the-mill adventure – how did you get started on this whimsical journey?

I was working full-time in New York City as a book editor when my father passed away; at the same time, there was a woman [Raven Keyes] living in my building who was a very spiritual lady. She loved coming to my apartment because she said it was filled with faeries. At first I thought she was one basket short of a picnic. Then I started thinking that isn’t it so amazing that there’s this woman in her mid 50s who still believes that faeries exist, while the rest of us have relegated the belief to the nursery.

At the time, I was an editor and started looking around to find a writer who may be interested in writing a memoir to prove the existence of faeries from a skeptical perspective. Then one of the literary agents I was talking to said she thought I should write the book.

One of the things I write about in Faery Tale is my father, who was a brilliant storyteller and also a professor at Cornell University. He used to teach creative writing but he himself could never write. It killed him that he could never produce, that it was never good enough to show to anyone. He’d always tried to encourage my writing. Like my dad, I thought I could be a supporter of other people who were writers, but it wasn’t something I was capable of doing. Until he passed away… and then I had all these emotions bubbling up about life, death and the sense of enchantment that we lose by grief and devastation and disaster. I wanted to reclaim the childlike possibility and magic and wonder. That’s ultimately what sent me out into the field looking for faeries.

While you’re searching for faeries, it also seems to be a symbolic quest for meaning in your life. How did the whole experience of researching the book and experiencing a search for faeries change you?

Because I was living so much in my head and such a skeptical and logical thinker, when my father passed away I didn’t have much to cling to in terms of my belief of life after death. When I left on my journey, researching faeries was an entry way to give the world beyond an opportunity. If I could find evidence of something as preposterous as faeries, then there was the possibility of everything else. As I was walking the hills and swimming in the Irish Sea and sitting in these ancient ruins, I was also searching to come to terms with the sudden and unexplained death of my father. I was looking for closure. Like so many of us, I was on this journey, seeking as a broken person to heal and become whole. I hoped that I could discover something of meaning. What I really didn’t know was that it was absolutely going to change my life utterly and completely.

I went from working 12- to 15-hour days in a cubicle in Manhattan to being able to sit at my desk in Charleston, South Carolina and apply a nice mud mask while I work on my next writing assignment.

I found closure, but healing is something that is a lifelong effort. Losing the important people to us, our parents, always makes you feel like you’re half an orphan. You still miss that person every day. In having encounters that I couldn’t necessarily explain and going through all the events I went through in Faery Tale, it did give me the seeds of trust that I needed to think that maybe there is something else out there. Maybe [my dad’s] not gone forever; he’s just in a different place.

One of the memoir’s themes is your hope that we treat the planet and all living beings with more respect. Can searching for faeries help us be more attuned to the natural world?

Yes. Absolutely. The ancients believed that the earth was imbued with a sense of enchantment – that it wasn’t just a tick tock of the sun that caused our seasons to change, but that there was a deeper magic to our existence. And that’s what a search for faeries is all about – looking at the world around us on a daily basis. No matter where we live, we are here now and we have a responsibility to take care of this creation every day. A lot of us get lost in our 9-5 and get disillusioned by the perceived darknesses around the world. One of the messages of the book is that we have got to start focusing on treating the planet well. When we compost, turn off the lights, start recycling, stop using so much water… when we start treating each other kindly, it makes a huge difference, and there’s a ripple effect. A lot of people get caught up in the idea that I’m some zany woman looking for faeries… How droll! Searching for faeries in the English countryside! But really, I want to inspire women to wake up to magic in their daily lives and stay connected to how we can live better on this planet. I’m trying to get people to open up to the fact that just because you believe in the rediscovery of enchantment, just because you want to chase a childhood belief, you’re not doing something foolish.

Do you have any other faery journalism trips planned?

Raven and I are hosting a retreat to Glastonbury, England in June. There are still some openings but we want it to be an intimate retreat. The process of deciding to do it was a personal one for us because of everything we experienced. We have special friendships with all of the people that the women will be meeting. We’re opening a very intimate world to them so wanted to keep it small.

There’s such a community springing up around the book… which is really lovely!

Read more in Women’s Adventure Magazine.

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