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. The real casualties are the young boys on bicycles. Riding on the streets with the streetcar tracks that become deadly when they’re wet or frozen over. Hardly a day goes by without a headline in the paper of some boy falling under a streetcar or waggon. Today, it was a boy under a waggon on Bloor Street, he was dead before they could bring him to the hospital.

As for my contribution to restoring the general order, I cleared the path to the privy behind the Studio Building  I pulled snow off the roof and cleared away  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 knocking them off the eaves of the schoolhouse. A month later, when he returned, his pupil was no longer the normal round, but a ragged black diamond. He became a curiosity and a freak to all of us other kids. Someone told him to join the circus. The next fall he got his thumb cut off in a threshing accident and his ostracism was complete.  Whenever, I see icicles, I get this strange feeling in my eye and get an urge to clear them out before fate deals me an uncertain future.

When I got back into the Shack, I felt lonely. A feeling of sad vacancy.  My former Studio and Shack-mates are gone: Lismer is in Halifax, Jackson overseas and Harris called up to training in Barrie. I miss their camaraderie. The past two years, we ventured up North and were in close quarters over the winter. I learned a lot by listening, watching, and arguing. Not arguing, but 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.” In contrast, Lismer would make a silly drawing of my indolence and set us both to laughter.

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 what’s required the moment. Outside, when the scene is about to change, you don’t think – you paint. In the studio painting’s a different matter. Painting canvases in the Studio was fine thing when I first shared with Jackson. It was novel;  I was too busy learning. But when he left, to have that space to myself, it felt too pretentious. I also couldn’t afford it. I’m not like the other Studio tenants. Bill Beatty is in his element here. 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.