Column: Through the Corn Maze

  • The Phillips family from Lawrenceville, N.J., retrace their steps after losing their way in the Amazing Barn-Raising Maze at the Howell Living History Farm in Hopewell Twp., N.J., Saturday, August 23, 1997. The three-acre corn field maze is to be open on weekends through October 12 to help raise funds for the restoration of a 200-year-old barn on the farm. (AP Photo/Jeff Zelevansky)

For the Valley News
Published: 10/7/2017 8:00:59 PM
Modified: 10/7/2017 8:01:05 PM

The best part of the corn maze for my niece was getting lost. “Wrong turn!” she’d yell with a smile. We’d turn around and trace back our steps. But while I was looking for the correct path, I couldn’t help but think my niece was looking for another dead end.

I’d never been to a corn maze until a few weeks ago. My mother and I found ourselves with a free afternoon on a beautiful September day. We were with both my niece and my son and we needed a family-friendly adventure. I had heard that an Upper Valley farm had a maze, so we hopped in the car and drove the short distance to Riverview Farm in Plainfield.

Visiting farms seems to be a requisite for fall in our community. We pick pumpkins, celebrating the perfect imperfection of the gourds. We take tractor rides as we bump along back roads with camera-happy tourists. We even go apple-picking, despite the fact that many of us have apples falling from trees in our own backyards. We come home with gallons of cider, hay in our hair and smiles on our faces.

I’ve always loved a September visit to a local farm. I also knew I would love trudging my way through a maze of corn. Yet, my 1-year-old son and my 3-year-old niece weren’t the ideal candidates for a maze. We were slow and were passed by other families and couples as we pushed a stroller through the stalks. The corn maze had terrific artwork and a meticulously kept labyrinth. However, with an infant and a toddler, it was going to take us all day.

I was determined to complete the maze quickly, to give me plenty of time to browse the farmstand store. My mother, who was pushing the stroller, also tired of the maze as she was getting quite a workout as we traced and retraced our steps. But my niece took her time. She’d stop every so often and simply look up, relishing the act of standing still in the tall stalks. For her, there was no rush. There was wonder and meaning in simply just being there.

There’s a famous poem by A.A. Milne (the author of Winnie the Pooh) which reminds me of our day in the corn maze. Halfway Down describes a child who chooses a particular hallway stair where he stops and takes a moment for himself. I’ve always enjoyed this poem as a reminder of a child’s joy in a moment overlooked by others. For my niece, the dead ends were her happiness. They gave her liberty to stop, to ponder, to be impressed.

Autumn in the Upper Valley seems to be the shortest of our seasons. The leaves fall far faster than they sprout in the spring. The Christmas merchandise lines our retail stores before we’ve finished our Halloween candy. And with a blink of an eye, the apples have rotted, the trees are bare and the football fields are sprinkled with snowflakes.

My dawdling niece was a reminder to slow down and enjoy the splendor. I now linger a little more in the coffee shop when it smells like pumpkin spice. I bother to pick up a chestnut and feel its shiny coat in between my fingers. I take a second to look, really look, at the fall foliage and marvel in our magenta-and-amber landscape.

And when I get back to the corn maze, perhaps I’ll spend a little more time seeking out the dead ends.

Becky Munsterer Sabky lives in Norwich.

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