On one of our early visits to the Buffalo before we lived here, I bought a can of mellow-yellow paint and one of warm white. I mixed them in various versions to cheer up some of the existing hospital-white walls.
Near the dining table in the Buffalo’s one room, on the yellowest wall, I hung oil sketches on paper by my painter friend, paintings exchanged in our “letter drawings.” The sketches are colorful and about house (fragments of corners of rooms and belongings) – on the yellow wall they are jolly.
On different visits I thinned the paint with more white and stretched it up one wall of the stairway – and then, pale yellow by now, on a single wall of the bedroom. And, this week, after the Buffalo repair I used the same delicate yellow (leftovers) to paint inside the closet.
The shade of the yellow reminded me Emily Carr’s house on Government Street in Victoria, her birthplace. The graceful house from the 1890s is a museum now about Carr and her work. It has a resident black cat, flower gardens, musty belongings, and tea and cookies for visitors.
Painting that yellow reminded me to dip back into Carr’s journals, “Hundreds and Thousands: The Journals of an Artist.” Finding my old copy with crackly spine but classic painting by Carr of “Red Cedar” on the cover, I remembered why I loved it. Like Anne Truitt in her journals, Carr acknowledges the importance of writing down the “bits” – small things that often seem unimportant but describe our lives. “It was these tiny things that, collectively, taught me how to live…the little scraps and nothingnesses of my life have made a definite pattern.”
Part of what I enjoy about Emily Carr’s life, is her fondness for houses – and the way she writes about them. In 1946 she moved to a little cottage and describes setting things to rights after moving in: “Things are getting straightened out. Each corner suggests objects. Sometimes the objects object, but mostly, if the corner calls, the object responds. Furniture is so very alive. It knows who it wants to hobnob with. Sunshine has poured into the cottage all day and has gladdened everything. I am beginning to love the cottage. It’s homey.”
Carr admits to caring for “creature comforts” (asking herself if perhaps too much), and she will keep me company while I put the Buffalo back together. Wash the bedding (in a plastic bag since August), air out blankets, and polish it up for coming visitors.