Like many people, artist, poet and videographer Paola Merrill dove deep into creative pursuits as a way of enduring the quarantines of early COVID. In late March 2020, Paola, a Winthrop resident, started making videos on her iPhone and launched a YouTube channel: The Cottage Fairy, which can be seen at www.youtube.com/c/TheCottageFairy.
Now, just two years later, Paola’s channel has nearly one million followers, her videos each receive millions of views and thousands of comments, and her first book is coming out at the end of August.
Sound like a fairy tale? It is, to some extent. But it’s mostly the result of Paola’s intuitive understanding that mindfulness and an appreciation of small moments of natural beauty provide people with the calm they need to balance the stress and uncertainty of difficult times, like COVID times.
The Cottage Fairy channel features videos highlighting “the beauty of an ordinary life” and “simple, mindful living.” In them you might see Paola cutting herbs and baking an artful focaccia, or wandering through a field of waving grasses with her black bunny Mr. Darcy in a basket, or reading a book in a meadow of lupine. Soothing music provides a background for Paola’s thoughtful dialogue, which was carefully scripted in her earlier videos but is now more spontaneous, she says.
Paola says that her videos “were never meant to encompass reality.” Instead, she says, “I just wanted to make the more mundane aspects of daily life more beautiful, to slow down and bring meditation into daily life, and to share these little beautiful moments with others.”
The Cottage Fairy’s version of nature is romanticized, but that is intentional, Paola says. “Nature calms anxieties. These videos are a bit of escapism. I want to tell a story and give everyone a glimpse into a fairy tale.”
Paola’s followers understand that The Cottage Fairy videos focus on a carefully crafted life — “I love getting lost in this enchanted world that you’ve created” is a common sentiment in the comments sectio n— but they willingly suspend their disbelief and surrender to the magical vignettes she creates.
Paola says she never intended for her videos to become a big business, but her rapid rise to popularity seems to be pointing her in that direction. Her videos resonated with followers in early COVID and continue to inspire viewers, so much so that many of her followers urged her to write a book.
Six months later a publisher reached out to Paola, she agreed, and on Aug. 23, 2022, Yellow Pear Press will release “The Cottage Fairy Companion: A Cottagecore Guide to Slow Living, Connecting to Nature, and Becoming Enchanted Again.”
“The Cottage Fairy Companion” is not a memoir, Paola says. “It’s a collection of recipes, artwork, poetry, photography, gardening notes and prose on mindfulness and meditative practices. It’s a guide to a lifestyle of mindfulness, [intended to] motivate people to get outside, connect with nature, and rekindle joy in their home life despite a hectic schedule.”
With a background in literature and a part-time job at Trail’s End Bookstore in Winthrop, Paola is well-poised to champion the power of books to change lives. Many of her followers report that Paola’s videos have improved the quality of their lives, by helping them process complicated feelings, heal from trauma, cope with stress, and derive greater satisfaction out of daily activities.
“The Cottage Fairy Companion” is now available for pre-order through Trails End Bookstore by stopping into the store or by calling (509)996-2345. Paola will be in the bookstore from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Aug. 27-28, 2022, to talk about the book and to sign copies.