March 23, 1917 Return to Mowat Lodge

March 23, 1917

Mowat Lodge

Annie kept the same room for me. Shannon makes the promises, but Annie keeps the promises.

1917 Early Spring

I’ll be here for the next few months at least. I won’t do any camping until the ice is out and I won’t leave for long trips until the flies are gone. That’ll put me to June or July at least.

The trip went well. I left from Union Station at 8:10 in the morning and got to Canoe Lake by 3:15pm. I was going to stop for a few hours in Huntsville to visit Winnie but I decided to go through because I’d miss the connection at Scotia Junction. The trip went well, but it is nerve-wracking on the line into the Park. I knew the train crew. I’ve hitched rides with them in the Park last summer so I wasn’t worried. They knew this line. The hills into the Park they had to put sand on the rails for traction. I was nervous on the crossing of the Cashman Creek trestle – it’s 500 feet long and 80 feet high. The section men keep a close eye on this one so there’s little chance of a German saboteur.

The train wasn’t too full, but there there were a number of people. There were some consumptives going to the Highland Inn. They didn’t talk. There were others that didn’t look too happy. At first I thought they were miners or prospectors, but they’d be going up further North, not through the Park. I think these men were part of a work gang going to the east end of the Park. There’s rumours that there’s still labour camps out there.I didn’t ask questions.

Shannon was there at the station to pick me up. He received my letter but said he didn’t have a chance to write back. Annie’s the one to write the letters, so she was the one who didn’t have the chance to write back. Shannon had the sled. It’ll be another month and half before the road to lodge will be passable by wagon. The snow is deep this year and it’s looking like the spring will be a cold one this year.

When we got to the lodge, I didn’t unpack right away. I wanted to sketch. The sky was a clear blue and the clouds were like white puffs of cotton. I wanted to capture this so I set out just in front the lodge to paint. I was done quickly about 5:00pm.

Right now, I’m the only guest at Mowat Lodge that’s not on ‘Doctor’s orders’. Shannon and Annie got two guests from Ottawa last week. Tuberculosis patients who were ordered to get fresh air in the North. Each morning they are bundled and put out on the porch. Each evening they are brought back in. They were still out there when I returned from my sketching.

For reading I brought a few books with me but Shannon gets the daily papers from the Highland Inn. They’re a day behind and free. I reckon that getting the news a day behind isn’t a big deal. It’s something to read while I’m down by the fireplace in the lodge.

After supper I went up to my room. I’ve had the same room for the past couple of years now. It’s on the second floor on the northeast side. My window is the 2nd last from the end. The bed is one of those old metal hospital beds from when this building was a hospital. Shannon replaced the mattresses, but no matter what, you feel like you’re sleeping on a hospital bed. I don’t mind. I often sleep on the ground with just a blanket so I’m used to the lumps and bumps. I would joke with Shannon that when at Mowat Lodge I feel like a patient of a former hospital.

As I settle into my room I can’t help but be reminded of the painting of Vincent’s Bedroom in Arles. The dimensions of the room in Van Gogh’s painting painting is about the same as mine. The furnishings are similar too. A modest bed, dresser and two chairs. Indeed, the window is in the same place. His window look onto a village street while my window has a grand view eastward looking onto Canoe Lake. I liked what Van Gogh did with the colours and the changes in perspective. Nothing hung straight on the wall and it seems gravity had left for another town. That’s why I liked it so much. He took something so mundane, his room and transformed it into something beautiful. Inspiring.

That’s it for tonight. Tomorrow is another day.

1 thought on “March 23, 1917 Return to Mowat Lodge”

  1. One of my favourite paintings of yours Tom. A lot of “hidden” weather clues.
    Here is what I wrote about it…
    There are no shadows as hints in this painting. That it itself is a hint that Tom must be painting near midday as otherwise the shadows would be more likely to be longer and thus more likely to appear in Tom’s art. Another fact to back this up is that there are no yellow or orange hues to the painting so that he is not working either in the early morning or late afternoon. The sun is not in the painting and there is no evidence of sun glint. Both of these would require Tom to be looking southward and since they are not present, the only other opens are a view ranging from northeast to north to northwest. In most cases, one can start with the premise that the plein air artist is NOT looking southward and progress from there.

    Now here is where the clouds enter the creative scene investigation. The clouds on the lower horizon are discrete cumulus indicating that daytime heating over the snow pack has been sufficient to create some surface based lift. This isolates the painting to the early to mid afternoon hours. The shape of the cumulus also reveals the wind direction and it has at least a component from left to right. The wind at cloud level is easterly and rather strong. An east wind can either be generated by a ridge of high pressure retreating to the east or a low pressure area approaching from the west. The strength of the pressure pattern creating the wind is significant. In either case, gentle large scale ascent of the air mass can be expected. This type of gradual ascent can generate altocumulus cloud in the mid levels of the atmosphere. It can also generate cirrus at higher elevations but if this cirrostratus cloud exists, it is above the view of the painting. Note that the elements of altocumulus cloud are packed together as economically as possible in an “egg cartoon” fashion. Large areas of gentle ascent can be balanced and separated by small areas of descent.

    Note the colours of the clouds as well. Young growing cumulus clouds are comprised of more and smaller droplets. The large number and small size of the cloud droplets in the young cumulus are very efficient at scattering white light through Mie scattering. Older clouds tend to be more grey as the cloud droplets grow with time through riming, coalescence and accretion. I might be forgetting a physical process here. The fixed amount of moisture in a cloud is fixed so there are fewer but larger particles in an older cloud. The fewer particles scatter less light and the larger particles scatter this light more in a forward direction. The net result is that the older clouds appear darker.

    Also note there is no gravity wave pattern in the altocumulus clouds. This tells us that although there is a fairly stable layer at the level of the altocumulus, the wind shear and wind are not strong enough to create gravity waves in the cloud deck. Thus the strong advection field associated with the southerly mid level winds ahead of the low pressure area, are not yet developed. The low pressure area is still some distance away… possibly over lower Michigan.

    The final piece of the puzzle is how these clouds are placed geographically. There is a definite leading edge to the altocumulus which is (you guessed it) the deformation zone certainly associated with an approaching low pressure area. Cumulus cloud in the easterly wind is going to be displaced just to the north of this deformation zone as the daytime heating from the sun is blocked by the altocumulus. Note that there are no cumulus clouds over top of Tom.

    The forest types also support the above diagnosis. The evergreens tend to be in the lower and more moist areas while the deciduous trees take over at higher elevations. If these were the northern slopes of the hills then the evergreens could survive much higher up the slope. The sun cannot shine directly on the northern slopes of hills and thus the soils stay more moist and are more supportive of evergreen vegetation.

    The forecast for the next day is for overcast, windier conditions with a possible variety of precipitation types starting with snow and possibly changing through rain and back to flurries depending on the strength of the low pressure area.

    Remember that I am making this up.

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