February 2, 1917 Like a Sketch

February 2, 1917

I must write my journal entries like I paint my sketches, rough, fast and in the moment with no mediating filter. It’s been a few days since my last. I’ve been preoccupied with my canvases, they don’t want to let me go. When I’m at the easel, I feel like I’m in a boxing match. I try to last the ten rounds, but I can never deliver a knockout. The canvas is ready to fight me fresh again the next day.

I’m writing while lying in my bunk. The light is poor, the position is awkward, but when I think of all those letters coming home from boys with their writing blocks and pencils in the trenches, I don’t have it so bad.

There’s rumour of a coal shortage coming this month. The trains that bring it up from the States might stop running because of strikes. It doesn’t affect me, I get the wood from the bush, but it will hurt others hard. It’s been terribly cold these past few weeks and anything wooden that isn’t tied down is stolen for fuel.

I’m reminded that today is Candlemas Day. February 2 is the depth of winter. It’s on this day that you’d check your hay, and if you had half left, you wouldn’t have a shortage in the spring. I’m not sure what I have left, but it feels less than half. My cash is getting low. Shannon Fraser has $250 credit with me because of the loan I gave him. I can draw on that when I go North. I just need enough to get through the next two months and enough for the fare. I can do jobs for my board when I’m up there.

It’s cozy up here. The heat from stove comes up and it stays warm well into the night. I can see my canvases down below. At night, they stay on Earth while I am in Heaven. The electrical lights on the streets outside bring a light through the window and makes shadows of the panes of the floor. The frost on the panes, I can see their shadows on the floor too. It’s never quiet. I can hear the constant din of construction of the Bloor St Viaduct. It seems to get louder every night. I can hear the whistles of the trains from all directions. The rumble of the York and Radial is regular and close by. It usually lulls me to sleep.

Jim MacDonald is asking me again if I’m going to exhibit. this spring. I’ve got some good stuff down below. But to show any of it and put it for sale I can’t see the point. Nobody’s buying art.

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