May 24, 1917
By the late evening I was drunk. Dead drunk. I didn’t make it back to my room tonight. I was sprawled out on the verandah in front of Mowat Lodge.
I knew that today was going to be the perfect storm, and it was. When you sketch the weather and landscape, day-by-day, you get the feelings into your bones and you know that’s something going to happen next. It’s not really prediction; you just know when something in the present will be no longer and never again.
So it was tonight.
Let me back up and describe the day. It started off well enough. The weather was good, but soon the clouds rolled in and it began to rain. The temperature dropped like a rock and it was in the low forties. To add to the disbelief, a few snowflakes were sighted early in the morning. Spring should not give away to Summer this way.
Despite the weather, I was excited about my exhibition. It was going to be the biggest event that Mowat Lodge had seen for a while. Shannon cancelled his canoe regatta/race because of the rain and wind. It would be too treacherous for the women in their dresses and he didn’t want to be responsible for fishing people out of the lake. People could still die from hypothermia in a matter of minutes. It’s happened almost every other year in the Park. This year was no exception.
I spent the afternoon preparing the dining room for the show. Before Annie went off to start cooking, she dusted and swept to the place to the level it would pass the white-glove treatment. Mowat Lodge might be considered rustic, but because of Annie, it was clean as a whistle.
Mark Robinson dropped by too. He had to have a word with the Blechers. Martin Jr., specifically He was flying the US flag on his flagpole. Regulations stipulate that the US Flag cannot be on its own but must be flown with the Dominion or Provincial flag, and the be lower flag. Martin was a repeat offender on flag-flying and Mark said in passing that he thinks that Martin is a German sympathiser or worse yet, a spy or an espionage agent.
Shannon and I hung the boards on the wall. There were over fifty and it was a sight to behold. I made sure that they were arranged in chronological order so I could should the transition of the season. Occasionally, a guest would try to wander into the dining room and we would shoo them out. The dinner and art exhibit was to begin at 6pm and I wanted to unveil the exhibit all at once. Dr. MacCallum came in despite the shooing and looked over the sketches. He said he wanted to have the two sketches of the Northern Lights and he picked out a couple that he would put on consignment.
To mark our successful efforts for the afternoon, Shannon brought out the whisky and shortly after we were both in the soup. I shouldn’t have drank so much so soon.
Around 5 pm, I went up to my room and cleaned myself. I went down to the Trainor cottage to get Winnie. I wasn’t sure how to deal with last night, but I would try to face the situation with an air of normalcy. When I arrived, Winnie open the door and let me in. She gave a smile that betrayed the knot I knew she had in her stomach. Her parents were in the kitchen. Their greeting to me was cold. I said that Winnie and I should be getting up to the lodge as the dinner started at six. “Fine,” they said, “Have her back by 10.”
As soon as we were out the door, Winnie grabbed my hand and said we had to get married. And it had to be soon. Then it dawned on me, and the knot appeared in my stomach too. If I were to state the situation obliquely, married men with young children or an expecting wife would be excused from the draft. The realization hit me like a brick and if it weren’t for the whisky, I’m not sure how I would have reacted.
I looked back at Winnie. I didn’t say anything, but my look communicated the exact understanding of the situation. What I said next, I’ve come to regret, ‘You don’t know for sure. It takes a month.” She could barely contain herself, but she knew I was right. And she knew I wouldn’t commit unless there was a duty-bound obligation and neither of us knew that yet.
The dinner started at six and there was quite the crowd. The Ed and Molly Colson came over and so did Annie. I sat with Dr. MacCallum and his son (and with Winnie, of course) and Daphne Crombie and her husband Robin. There were other guests from Hotel Algonquin. I ended up giving a good portion of my sketches away. The remainder Shannon stuffed into a potato sack. I have it beside me. All my spring’s efforts hardly fill a potato sack. Pathetic.
I’d write more, but I’m still recovering from what happened. I haven’t the wherewithal to finish this journal entry. Maybe, tomorrow. I’ll make it up to my room. It’s cold here on the verandah. It’s cold everywhere, except where George Rowe had his big bonfire. It’s burned out now.