December 15, 1916 Loneliness

December 15, 1916

I don’t get bothered being alone. I prefer it. But sometimes I feel alone. Very alone. The weather turned and the clear night of last night turned into a heavy snow this morning. By the time it was done around noon, over a foot of snow fell and everything in the City had ground to a halt. The tracks and the main roads were mostly passable by late afternoon. Trains aren’t a problem, the wedges were usually in early November. The trains can get through most everything, only the biggest drifts would pose a problem. The biggest danger to trains was not the snow, but meeting other trains stranded or thrown off schedule.

The side streets are a mess. They’ll be that way for a few days. I stepped outside for a few moments this afternoon to assess the aftermath. Rosedale Valley Road is a sea of stranded motor cars and several have skidded off into the ravine off to the side. The horse-buggies and their masters are pulling out the motor car casualties. In winter, the buggies keep a chain or rope handy because more often than not in this weather, they’d be called upon for rescue. As for my contribution to restoring the general order, it was clearing the path to the privy, pulling snow of the roof and clearing out the icicles, some as long as six feet. I don’t like icicles. When I was in school in Leith, one of the village kids, got an icicle in his eye. About a month later, when he got back to school, his pupil was no longer the normal round, but a ragged black diamond and he became a curiosity and a freak to all of us other kids. Now whenever, I see icicles, I get this strange feeling in my eye and an urge to clear them out immediately.

As soon as I got back into the Shack, I felt alone. There’s a feeling of sad vacancy here. My former Studio and Shack-mates are gone: Lismer is in Halifax, Jackson still overseas and Harris just called up to training this summer in Barrie. I miss their camaraderie. We went on trips up North and were together in the winters. I learned a lot by listening, watching, and arguing. Not really arguing – if Jackson made a pointed comment about what I was doing, I’d make it look like I was sulking (in some cases I was) – he’d come over and put his hand on my shoulder and say, “Now there, Tom. You’ve got the raw talent, we just need to work on some of those rough edges you have.” In contrast, Lismer would make a silly drawing of the incident and get me to laugh at myself.

I’ve been back about a month now and you’d think by now, I’d have settled on a style of painting things. But with every canvas, I seem to be back to starting point of uncertainty. I prefer sketching out-of-doors than in a studio. With sketching, uncertainty takes a back seat to the immediacy of the moment. Painting in the Studio was fine when I first shared it with Jackson. It was novel and I was too busy learning from Jackson. But to have that space to myself, it would have felt too pretentious. I know that Bill Beatty is in his element in the Studio. Bill and I are different on that part. He thinks he’s an artist-rebel, but deep down I know he has worked too hard to become part of the establishment. I don’t want to be part of the establishment. I’m not an ‘artist-rebel’, I just don’t like going along with the pack and I don’t like making a lot of noise about it.  Maybe the cost of not being part of the establishment is to be lonely – but free. A fair price for now, I’d say.



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