Perception. It is muted. It is flawed. It is singularly independent while holistically communal. For example, we perceive the tree, its branches, its outline in the sky. How it is separate from the mountains behind it and yet connected to the earth below it. We distinctly isolate the tree from ourselves. But that is merely our perception. The truth of the matter is that we are part of the tree and the tree is part of us. And I would argue further that person and place are one and the same. A symbiotic relationship exists between ourselves and our surroundings. And sometimes that relationship forms a very special bond: one that echoes across time.
My grandmother formed such a relationship with a rural mountain village named Helvetia, located in West Virginia. Settled by hearty Swiss emigrants, Helvetia celebrates its heritage and unique character to this day. While many have upheld and encouraged the younger generation to practice its Swiss-American traditions, my Mütter (German for mother), Eleanor Fahrner Mailloux made it her mission to add a little poetry to the experience through the finer things like food, dancing, art, and culture. French essayist and moralist Joseph Joubert wrote, “You will find poetry nowhere unless you bring some with you.”
Mütter painted this sentiment on a rustic wooden sign near The Hütte, a Swiss restaurant she founded and managed. All who pass and who take a moment to slow down will experience something: a picture chockfull of meaning. With a simple locust post, some white paint, a crooked bench, daffodils, and the wonders of natural framing from the one-hundred-year-old spruce trees, Mütter beckoned travelers to this place. And in doing so, she reminds us to connect and to find meaning in each other and in our space.
Ten years ago, I promised Mütter that we would write her story together. She died before we finished. And rather than pen to paper, I’ve chosen the medium of film to share her story. Born in a ballroom, a fiery blaze, Eleanor Fahrner Mailloux danced through life to a waltz’s beat. And thankfully, she always returns as we glide our feet. This documentary celebrates the woman and the place in an effort to remind us to stop, listen, and perceive.