The insistent River of Time flows downstream and eventually its contents disperse in the Sea of the Universe. My husband lost his beloved Grandmother yesterday. The world, for him, is somehow diminished without her presence. His focus is now on the gathering of images and memories of one of his favourite people in the world. Another house has an empty chair.
Before the news came, I returned to the Livingstone/Stephens House. I was seeking new photographs to use as reference for a painting that I want to do for the granddaughter of Richard and Belle Stephens. She had liked “Window Seat” (below) which had sold before we connected. There is another beautiful window I thought I should try (above). Apparently, her great grandfather would sit in this same room in a chair by the window and watch the comings and goings of the farm into his 90’s nearly 70 years ago.
I brought a different chair with me to the old house this time. As I was setting up to take the photo of the bay window, I began to notice how abused the house had become in the last year. Someone had come through on a recent, and futile, search for copper. The house had long ago been stripped of most of its valuables. All that resulted was further damage to the fragile walls, the disappearance of the last remaining window panes and a deepening loneliness that comes from a house with no one to care for it. Shocking really, when one considers the eminence of its previous residents; first, the builder of some of Bracebridge’s first public buildings and then a reeve. Even more significant, the first resident of the house found gold in Muskoka heralding in a brief gold rush in Gravenhurst. It was likely this gold that afforded this house so much more decorative carpentry than most any other farm house of its age I have found in the region. When the painting is complete later in August, I will finally share the whole story as I have it to date, here on the blog.
Our lives are summed up by a bunch of furniture and photographs and for those that knew us well – memories. But, past a certain point for many of us the story ends. On the surface, the chair remains empty, but, I believe that on a deeper, invisible level, all those chairs left behind carry much more than wood and cushions. From my own Grandfather that passed away in 2008, I inherited two chairs. One had been in the family for most of the last century, the other, I am not so sure. When I look at those chairs, I think of him and if he visits, I am sure he sits in one of those chairs.
I had believed last year would be my last visit to the Livingstone/Stephens house. This visit, the house felt somehow more empty. It didn’t speak but it did offer what may be its final gift to me. And so I took my pictures and said my goodbye.