April 2,1917 Letter to Winnie Trainor

April 2, 1917
Mowat P.O.

Dear Winnie,

I had meant to write you when I was back in Toronto but my time was taken up finishing my paintings and getting ready to go North. This is my very first letter from up North and I hope this makes it up for you.

I’ve been up here for over a week now and I’m still getting settled in with the Frasers. As of a few days ago, we’re six guests at the lodge. There was only two when I arrived but three more came in a couple of days ago. They came from Ottawa on doctor’s orders. The Highland Inn’s not taking consumptives so Shannon’s making good business by saying his lodge was a former hospital and ready for the ill. Mowat Lodge is for the sickly and the poor artists. I told Shannon that he should add that line to his Mowat P.O. letterhead.

As for my plans, I’ll be staying at the P.O. until the ice goes out and camping afterwards. Judging by the ice, that will be until early May. I’m also thinking about applying for a Guide’s license, so that means I’ll be staying close to the lodge when business comes up. Shannon’s got a good fleet of boats now, and he’ll be ready to hire them out. I’ll be the guide for the parties.

A few days ago I did a good sketch just in front of your cottage. You’ve got a good view from there. I’d say it’s a better view than what you have in the summertime. I checked around the place and it doesn’t look like any animals got in, so you shouldn’t have any nasty surprises when you open up the cottage.

I doubt I’ll make it to Huntsville this spring. But I am hoping you’ll be able to make it up in early May. You should try to make it as early as possible in the month to get some good time in before the bugs get really bad.

Please give my regards to your parents and to your sister. Tell them I enjoyed my visit last Thanksgiving and your family’s hospitality was appreciated. My regrets I can’t make it for Easter, but you’ll be here soon enough and I think you’ll be pleased at the amount of painting I’ve done. It’s hard work each day, but when I see the sketches altogether it’s pretty rewarding.

I’ll post this letter myself at the train station tomorrow. Mowat P.O. has curious and sometime unreliable postmasters.

Yours truly,


April 2, 1917 April in Algonquin Park


April 2, 1917 April in Algonquin Park

A complete and miserable day today. The weather prevented me from going too far from the lodge. It was overcast and the spring winds were strong. It was unpleasant being out there for longer than a few moments. I bundled up as best I could, but when I was sketching my fingers got numb in the few minutes they were exposed and I had to warm them up about a dozen times before the sketch was finished.

The scene I chose wasn’t particularly inspiring. If I don’t motivate myself to go further afield, I’ll be destined to painting birches by the shore. If this goes on, I’ll begin to despise these trees. But then again, part of my plan was to paint the same scene over and over again as the season changes.

Truth be told, I’ve been here just over a week, and the novelty of change has begun to wear off. In fact, I thought I’d see changes, but everything and everyone is about the same as they were before. Shannon with his peculiar habits is beginning to wear on me, and Annie, bless her soul, is so caught up in her chores and keeping the place running the she has little presence to talk or keep company. The other guests are all consumptives, and I am little inclined to hear the repetitive detail of their condition. I am probably part of the problem too. I’ve been rather in a sulky mood the past couple of evenings. The other guests stay clear of me, and I think Annie takes it to heart that something is amiss.

I went out later in the morning and I finished my sketch in about forty minutes around noon.. Despite the clouds, it did clear up for a few moments. I saw the blue sky, and then the clouds moved back in. The sky darkened and my mood darkened too. I went back to the lodge and spent the better part of afternoon in my room reading and laying out some feathers I found yesterday to make some fishing flies.

I was thinking about some other things too. That I should write some letters to Winnie, my father and my brother in law, Tom Harkness. It’s Easter next weekend. I should go visit Winnie, but that would put too much of an interruption into my painting. Her parents are always happy to see me. But despite their welcoming gestures, I can see in their eyes some awkwardness and anxiety. They like me, but I don’t think they appreciate that my affections toward Winnie because it has dampened her enthusiasm for other men to marry. They’ve never said, but I don’t think they see me as the marrying type. I’m not sure if I disagree with their assessment. We never spoke about it when I was up there last Thanksgiving, but you could have written it all over the walls and it still wouldn’t be more obvious.

I’ll work on the flies this afternoon. I’ll try to write Winnie later today or tomorrow. If I write by Wednesday and post before noon, she gets the mail of Thursday. That would be before Good Friday. It would make her happy.