The Red Door


In Sweden, there is a distinct red that is used in farmhouse buildings. It took a taxi driver, coming in from the country, driving me to Stockholm, to figure it out.

What is that red?

In fact, most of the farms use the same color, a nearly mythological mineral red, legendarily being derived from the copper mine at Falun, in Dalarna, Sweden.

This color is six hundred years old — originally designed as a palette that would match the reddish hue of bricks. It fell out of popularity in the 1800s, then returned to the countryside, a strong brick-like palette, in use by poorer farmers and crofters — and there, largely, it has remained. A country color.

The Red Door
Falu rödfärg

The color is mould resistant; and Falu is based on an ingredient mix of water, rye flour, linseed oil and residue from the copper mines of Falun, containing the silicates of iron oxides, copper compounds and zinc. The current composite recipe was finalized in the 1920s.

Looking out, to the long horizon, I see the farms — even here, in the states, the Palouse Plains of eastern Washington, the high country — Arizona and New Mexico — and I see the brick tone. Or the blazing white. Or the deep green.

What I sense is the character of the building, the clustering of huddled structures, that form an enclosure in the encampment — is a kind of protection from the raging winds and heat, burgeoning with the washes of trees, close-in deciduous plantings and rows of lombardy poplars, wind brakes for the fields beyond. In winter, you can see their meaning plainly.

But the barn is especially sacred, a storing place for everything that nourishes and sustains. Grains, hays and grasses, vegetables that are in respite for the next journey. But the doors are everything. The doors to a barn — they wheel open, and the waft of scent comes out, beautiful fragrances of leather and steel — of earth, grain, the dust of hay, cattle and their offings — all, the mix of recollection.

Seeing any barn, I go there. Back to the beginnings, farm, the cult of cultivation. And the scent of that paint, heating in the cricket-chirping rhythm, a mirage of the hot days of summer.

T I M | the high country, Arizona