The steep angle of the sun was deep gold in the late November afternoon. It was unseasonably warm. Wilted phlox frost bitten, but still green grew in the garden next to the front door. They were from Elva’s mother Belle’s, garden. They once grew near the vegetables, next to the ruined farmhouse now hidden from view.
Seven and a half years ago, I sat in the kitchen of the plucky 89 year old Elva Stephens Bowes. I was amazed at how easily I was able to make an appointment to see her. When I arrived at the tiny house on the edge of the old Stephens fam, she invited me in right away and offered me coffee. The feeling was more of visiting an old friend. I suppose I began to understand how much Elva loved people when she told me that she invited the fed ex man over for coffee at the end of his route.
Only one of the paintings (“Yellow Door” – see the first post extra) from the Livingstone/Stephens house was completed at the time of our meeting and I showed her the photo since the painting had sold one month before at the McMichael Gallery Exhibition. She smiled and shared that it was the door to the room she shared with her sister.
Our conversation inspired the painting that is the cover of the book, “Waiting”. He grandfather, once a community reeve, moved in to the house with Elva and her parents. He had set up his chair in the bay window with a mirror rigged to reflect the driveway so he would never miss a visitor. I think I understand where Elva got her knack for entertaining.
Elva shared many stories, beyond the scope of the book. I made a point of visiting her again before she passed 18 months later. Her granddaughter told me shortly before she died about the clever ways she tried to escape the hospital. I’m guessing the society was less than adequate!
On an interesting note, I met a gentleman on FaceBook in July whose distant relative owned the property where Livingstone, the man who built this house, found the gold in Gravenhurst. Mr. Smalley wasn’t in any of the documents I found and I didn’t know about him until Mike shared some old newspaper clippings. I plan to release a small booklet collecting the new info and extras I’ve collected since the manuscript went to press for those who purchase the book between the launch and Christmas and sign up for the newsletter.
This is the third in a series of extras on the making of the upcoming book, Once Imagined released in September.
The launch will be on September 30th along with the opening of the exhibition of the last paintings from this series at the Auburn Gallery in Gravenhurst. A book signing and meet and greet is set for 1pm! And the exhibition will run until Thanksgiving.