Every Pathway of a Maze
Riverside Space, Bern
October 17 – November 11, 2015
I only met my mother’s great aunt Donna once; in the mid nineties, holding a quiet court, with a walking cane made of solid blue glass, at my eighth birthday party. I remember the brooch on her chest, blue like the cane with smaller white stones forming the legs of a recluse, and sterling silver bracelets that stacked up the forearm on both sides. But mostly I remember the memories told of her. She was an oddball, a character, an eccentric. To this day, she remains a paradox to us. Named Frances because her father had wanted a boy, she changed her name at ten as she wished. She was a charismatic who reminded me, even in her appearance, of the type of people we’re promised we’ll meet, but hardly do. Before we lost it she too would spend the summers at one of the cottages next to our family home on the St. Lawrence river, where land scatters across the dozing water in droplets and in the winter the ice freezes deep enough that the channels become country highways. That place. With its large cigar store Indian, Hiawatha, greeting the visitors to our island somewhere between the pier and the porch and a second downstairs powder room whose existence later on was a source of many arguments between my parents, my aunts, my uncles and my oldest cousins. Three generations would spend the summer up there, languidly swimming, escaping the suburban heat, thickening familial blood. But not mine. Aunt Donna had the large Victorian overlooking the deep midwest plains, farmland and wells as far as the eye could see, the only color from the blossoming dogwoods near the garden. Her garden… how to talk about it without having seen it? Five acres with sparse oaks, a low pond, the makings of an orchard and, closest to the house, the hedge maze. It was a field when they bought it in 1908. The land was still wild around it when my mother was young, the hedges grown then even as their planters had passed. Wandering through the maze, never trying to learn it, passing the afternoon with the others running all available routes. When it would be close to dinner those children already out of the maze would climb the old staircases of that mansion to the widow's walk and then direct the others out. Free, each would clean up for dinner, relishing Aunt Donna’s civilized curiosities, her demanding nature mixed with an unbridled passion for doting. But now she’s dead.
Mitchell Anderson, October 15, 2015
Every Pathway of a Maze