January 2, 1917
I took the train back to Toronto today. Father and Mother wanted me to stay a few days longer but I said I need to get back to my work. I have a lot to do. I enjoyed my stay up in Owen Sound but after a time I begin to feel trapped into my past and I need to move on.
As she promised, Louise Julyan was on the train too. I saw her in Annan Soiree. She sat beside me and we talked about many things. I was surprised on her keenness on art. I let her do most of the talking, I don’t like talking about my paintings, and she said she wanted to visit me in the shack.
We arrived at Union Station in the early evening. Recruiters were everywhere. A marching band with signs ‘Free trip to Europe’. There were other signs indicating that it was ‘National Service Week’ and that every man should be filling out the questionnaire delivered by the Post Office.
I walked with Louise up University Avenue and over to Elm where the YWCA was. It was nice, she held my arm, and since we looked like a married couple, we weren’t bothered by the recruiters. On the way we saw signs posted for the Ontario Government Public Employment Bureau for Women. The office had opened last November, and women now had to apply at the bureau instead of going to the factories. Louise mused that if her art didn’t work out, she decided to work in a munitions factory instead. At the front door of the YWCA, I bid her goodbye. I could tell she wanted me to linger for a few moments longer.
“Tom, thanks for the wonderful time. Can we see each other again?”
“Sure,” I said, “but the next few weeks will be busy.”
“I’ll send you a letter next week, Tom.” I could tell from the tone of her voice, there was something more.
From the YWCA I made my way back to the Shack. I could have taken the street car since I walked this far already, there was no point. I like walking at night to look at the stars, but in the city mostly lit by electrical lighting that’s harder and harder to do. Plus, the smoke and soot from the coal fires make it hard to see the night sky.
When I finally arrived, the door to the Shack and the wood shed were frozen shut. The snow had drifted against the wall, melted, then frozen again. I managed to get the wood shed door open and used a old miner’s pick to chip away the ice. Inside, all was as I had left it, except everything was frozen solid. I set the stove alight and it will be well into the night before the the chill is gone. I don’t mind the chill so long as I have a good cover on me when I sleep.
I’m looking at my canvas on the easel. It’s been there for almost two weeks in the cold and the paint is set as hard as rock. I won’t be able to do any scraping and if I add anything, it would look no better than a poor afterthought. Tomorrow, I plan to start another canvas. I’m not sure which one, but I plan to sort through my boards to find something.
2 thoughts on “January 2, 1917 Return to Toronto”
This was the second most difficult period of his life. He left behind this winter what today are regarded as his best paintings. Why?
Happy New Year Neil… I think artists sometimes do their best work when they are in a state of angst. If all is well and serene in the kingdom, the art gets to be too “blue birds and daisies” – although I like my daisy paintings :>)).