Nature, femininity and everyday magic: Floating fairies
By: Elouise Paabo
In the depths of the Canadian forest, hidden by the shelter of trees, the clothing slipped from my skin as I entered the soothing waters of a natural hot spring.
A cocoon of comfort formed between a group of old and new friends as we explored the wilderness of the mountains together, learning about one another, and in turn, learning about ourselves.
All images by: Elouise Paabo
If you’ve ever spent springtime in the Canadian mountains after the harsh winter, you’ll know that the sunshine and the allure of melting snow is a captivating reason to dig out your tent and go camping in the wild.
This seasonal opportunity sent a buzz of excitement through my friend group as we could finally explore the wild hot springs we’d fantasised about all winter.
While the camping trip initially seemed similar to my other recent adventures, it turned out to be an opportunity for deeper self-reflection.
Up until then, I had spent two years living in small mountain towns far from queer people and queer communities. At times, this felt quite isolating. It was easy to forget that the queer world still existed out there, beyond the snow-capped peaks.
So on this trip, when I met Cami, who openly identified as queer, it felt like the rainbow that I had dearly missed was peeking through the clouds once again. She spoke so confidently about being gay, and it was refreshing just listening to her speak.
We were all captivated by Cami’s stories and her aura, and a part of me felt inspired, felt at home.
Coming from Sydney, Australia and working in musical theatre, it was common for me to have queer friends and go out to gay clubs. Even the high school I attended was very queer-friendly and encouraged people to shine their brightest colours.
In the world where I’d grown up, queerness was the norm. For this, I’m eternally grateful.
After living in rural Canadian towns, I didn’t even notice that the flamboyant part of my life had slipped right through my fingers. Replaced by white snow, grey clouds and wild adventures, I forgot how much I craved the bright rainbow community I was so accustomed to.
My rural communities were still lovely and accepting, but there’s something about having a local drag show every Saturday night and a street full of rainbow flags and Mardi Gras events that brings comfort on a whole other level.
It’s not that I missed the excitement of city life, but I sometimes felt like queer people were non-existent in these small towns. Of course, they existed; I just hadn’t found them yet.
Unlike my Sydney days, these queers had swapped the theatrical tiaras and heels for beanies and snowboard boots. Wearing flannel shirts and drinking local beer, they fit seamlessly into these mountain towns, and I didn’t immediately recognise them as queer. It took me a long time to realise they were just flagging their queerness in a different way.
So, like a chameleon, I changed my scales and grew into this new life of mine.
But on that warm afternoon, nestled between mountains and rivers, Cami’s stories of her queer relationships brought me back to my old life. My two lives were melting into each other like the sunshine softening the winter snow.
Something about the glitter and glam of the queer community has always enticed me.
As a little girl I read fairytales and wore sparkly dresses, slipping my arms through shimmering wings that made me feel magical. I believed fairies were real, and only the most special people were allowed to see them.
Yet, as I grew up, society slowly told me – and all the other children enchanted by femininity – to stop believing in these delicate creatures. We were told to act a certain way, dress a certain way, love a certain way.
I always knew one day I would see a real-life fairy. On that glorious afternoon at the hot springs, it dawned on me that I was seeing not only one, but many magical creatures.
As these women let their bodies glide along the water like they were the fibres of nature itself, it dawned on me that the fairies I so deeply believed in were real all along.
This magic exists in the groups of women who support one another without question, in the queer communities that encourage people to be their true selves, and in the friendship circles that uplift each other’s dreams.
As I let myself float, it didn’t matter if I had cellulite on my thighs or hair on my body, what kind of person I was attracted to or who I wanted to be with.
This circle of women and the nature surrounding us made me feel the most beautiful I’d ever felt in my entire life.
As I looked around, I realised we had in fact grown up to become the fairies we always dreamed of. I just needed to look at the people around me, in the mirror or perhaps in a wild hot spring on a gorgeous afternoon.
From Sydney, Elouise has spent the last few years exploring the Canadian wilderness finding inspiration in the beauty of nature and people. She loves to intertwine the two as she finds creative ways to shoot portraits and landscapes together. Her passion lies in Analog film as it captures a memory and creates a beautiful sense of surprise in every photo. Currently living in Europe, Elouise is working as an event photographer, content manager and videographer. You can find Elouise on Instagram at @elouisecreative.
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