October 29, 1916 Still Up North

October 29, 1916

I’m still up North. Possibly for another week or two. I’m not sure when I’ll make it back down to the City but it will be sometime in mid-November.

I’m back at Mowat Lodge for a few days . I was in the eastern part of the Park, the new section, with Ned Godin. I did lots of good sketching along the Petawawa and by Achray. I also did some fire-ranging work but that took away from the sketching I really wanted to do.

Fall is finally turning into winter. Winter happens sooner and longer in the Highlands. The chill of the evening and nights is turning into a hard cold in the morning. I can still sleep in a tent outside – that’s not the issue – it’s just that much harder to get going in the day. It’s more difficult to paint too. But I like the urgency the cold makes when painting outside. It gives the paint a different texture and form, and I need to use a more forceful technique to apply and make the strokes. None of the delicacy or forethought used in the studio has any place here. You just start and finish the sketch before the scene disappears or before your inspiration expires or blood circulation stops.

I managed to get a free ride on the train from the eastern part of the Park to Canoe Lake. I had about sixty sketches and unused boards wrapped up in old canvas salvaged from an old tent. Near the end of our trip, I was wondering how I’d contain the sketches on the train when an abandoned camp site with a tent presented itself. Ned and I weren’t sure about the circumstance. An abandoned camp site meant some trouble about. We looked and found no trace of anyone and judging by the pit, no fire had been lit in the past week or maybe even two. The tent had a big tear in the side. The tear was straight so it was not from a bear but from a knife. Ned and I speculated that the camp site might have been escapees from the internment camp because e had been told to keep a lookout for such. But we never believed for a moment we’d see anyone or anything like that.

The night before I took the train I wrapped my sketches with the canvas and with twine made it into a small shipping bale. It reminded me of those bales in the canoes by the Voyagers. I had seen pictures of the Voyageurs it fascinated me that they would travel those long distances in canoe full of bales. Ned watched me and he said he was sorry to see me go. I’d be back before the snow was gone, I said. I promised him.

I got a free ride in the freight because I knew the conductor. Earlier in the summer I had given him a sketch (not expecting anything in return) and it ended up being my ticket for the season. Normally the freight cars are full, but since the war they are mostly empty going westbound. Eastbound trains are full siphoning off the country’s men and material to the war oversea. But not much would come back westbound so I had a whole freight car to myself, for me and my sketches.

I plan to stay a few days here at Mowat Lodge. I’ll help Shannon and Annie get ready for winter. The canoes still have to be brought up to the storage barn, the dock needs be taken out. The last of the potatoes and carrots have to dug out to be put in the root cellar (this should have been done a month ago).  As for root cellar, the doorway needs to be fixed to keep the rodents out and when the occasion warrants, the bears, too.

It’s the last of October,the colours are gone and the skeletons of the trees are out. It’s like the last sigh of the season before the winter sets in. The snow will falls and the scenes will become something new. I’ve seen this over and over but it’s new to me every time. Despite the solitary and peaceful feeling here, I can feel the draw back to the City. It’s not a yearning, it’s an insidious call. I’d rather be away, but the only place that I can stay with the money I have left is the shack behind the Studio. It’s fine. I’m grateful for it, but the thought of going back to endure another grim winter in the City is casting a heavy shadow on me.

On my way back, I might stop by in Huntsville and in Barrie too. The Trainors will put me up for a few days and Mark Robinson said I’m always welcome to visit him. Between them, that will put another week in before my eventual return.


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