The lady’s name is Suzanne and her house is glorious.

With its rounded tower capped with a steep, pointed turret, the house rises out of an Auburn field dominated by wildflowers, tall grass and giant trees that crowd in as if to guard it from the annoyances of the world beyond.

It is a Queen Anne-style house, Suzanne’s home of nearly 20 years, and once you gaze upon it, it is not easy to look away. Incongruous with the modern world that buzzes around it, the house fills one’s head with visions of princes and knights and perhaps a fair maiden imprisoned within close walls at the top of the turret.

A framed painting of an Auburn house has left the homeowner burning with questions. Mark LaFlamme/Sun Journal

Or maybe that’s just me. The house is magnificent, I mean to say, and it’s no great surprise its very presence attracts mystery the way the goldenrod in its yard attracts eager bees.

It was a little more than a year ago that some stranger — a phantom from a time long ago, as far as we know — delivered a gift to her back stoop while Suzanne was toiling among the tall grass and blackberry bushes behind the house.

An oil painting, it was, and a fine one at that. With vivid colors and bold brush strokes, Suzanne’s home is revealed in paint the way Claude Monet himself might have done it. As much attention is paid to the green of the trees and the purple lupines out front as to the house itself.

It is a fantastic painting and a generous gift, yet Suzanne cannot enjoy it as others might, because the unknown nature of its creation nags at her relentlessly.

“Mysteries,” Suzanne says, “drive me crazy.”

She is not kidding. While most of us are perfectly happy co-existing with mysteries and riddles of all varieties, Suzanne is compelled to drag them all into the light and solve what can be solved.

Take the house itself. When Suzanne moved in around 2001, she got to work exploring its history and answering questions a hundred years old. She went to the municipal office, pulled some papers and eventually found a mortgage attached to the house in 1889.

She has studied the house’s architecture and gone hunting for histories of those who have lived within its walls.

“I even have photos of the original owners,” Suzanne says. “A photo of him reading in bed and her in a rocking chair in the front window. I found their grave in an Auburn cemetery. They buried a child.”

In her efforts to slay the mysteries that vexed her, Suzanne discovered newspaper clippings announcing the death of the house’s original owner and letters written by his wife. Suzanne’s quest to unburden herself of unanswered questions even took her halfway across the country, to Monmouth, Illinois, where further records resided.

Suzanne likes answers, period. She prefers her I’s dotted, her T’s crossed and her Q’s partnered with A’s. So it is little wonder the matter of that very fine painting irks her like a pebble in the shoe.

“People say: ‘This is great. It’s so cool.’ And it is,” Suzanne says, “but I just have a need to know.”

In particular, she would like to know the artist who painted it so she can acknowledge receipt and express her gratitude.

“I want to be able to say hello,” Suzanne says. “I want to be able to say: ‘Thank you. This is awesome.'”

There ARE some clues. A neighbor has a vague memory of a person standing before an easel in front of Suzanne’s home one day last June. In the heat of that early summer, the unknown artist must have stood there on the sidewalk, creating beauty with a brush while busy Minot Avenue traffic roared just a few feet away.

With all the annoyances of the modern world clamoring around the artist, he or she painted Suzanne’s house in such a way that a casual art fan might have guessed it was painted 100 years ago, in a time when Auburn was not so beleaguered by traffic and noise.

There’s also a signature in the lower left corner of the painting. “Lausier,” that black scribble says, and you’d think that THIS clue would be big enough to provide some solid answers.

But nope. Suzanne has tried prowling Google for a local artist by that name, and she has scoured social media. She went so far as to join an online neighborhood group in hopes of learning the identity of the painter, but no such identity has been forthcoming.

She has told her story and asked around, but no name has been offered and the mystery persists.

Next she plans to ask at the local galleries to see whether anyone is familiar with an enigmatic and talented artist by the name of Lausier.

Meanwhile, Suzanne keeps that framed painting close at hand, a thing of beauty that never fails to stir her restless mind to wondering. Visitors who gaze upon the painting gasp their sounds of delight and insist the inexplicable quality of its creation is downright charming.

At which point Suzanne looks at the painting one more time and sighs.

“It IS charming,” she says. “And maybe it’s important to the painter to be a mystery person. If I knew that for sure, I’d be OK with it.”

Suzanne looked me up, I think, because she suspects I love mysteries as much as she dreads them. Also, and less flattering, I represent something of a last resort in her strange quest to ferret out an artist who visited but once and more than a year ago.

If I cannot help her find this enigmatic artist with my Hardy Boys skill and Scooby Doo mentality, she may be resigned to offering up her thanks in a more unconventional way. Specifically, Suzanne has considered slapping together a simple sign and placing it in front of her house with the vague hope that the artist will once more pass by.

“It would be like a generic thank-you,” Suzanne says, “with maybe a drawing of the house or something. I don’t know.”

Here’s hoping it does not come to that. Here’s hoping Mr. or Ms. Lausier will step out from the shadows of the milkweed, lupines and daisies in which he or she created such beauty and wonder a summer ago.

Suzanne will be waiting, Mr. or Ms. Gifted and Generous Artist. And you for sure know where to find her.

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer with a gumshoe gusto. Email him at [email protected]


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