April 2, 1917 April in Algonquin Park

April 2, 1917

1917 April in Algonquin Park

A miserable day for sketching today. The rain makes it unpleasant, but it’s the wind that makes it difficult, if not impossible. When it rains or snows you can always take or fashion a shelter. But you can’t do that with wind. It blows everything around. I bring clothes pins to hold the sketch down, but sketching on a windy day, is like picnicking on a windy day – one moment of lapsed vigilance, your meal is strewn around on the ground and your picnic is ruined.

The scene I chose today wasn’t particularly inspiring. If I don’t motivate myself to go further afield, I’ll be destined to painting birches by the shore. I might begin to despise these trees. But then again, part of my plan was to paint the same scenes over as the season changes.

The seasons are changing at Canoe Lake but what is constant is Shannon and Annie. Shannon still has his peculiar habits and misplaced enthusiasm. He likes milking the cows (when he feels like it, it’s usually Annie) while wearing his tie and fedora. Annie, bless her soul, is so caught up in her chores and keeping the place running that she has little presence to talk about anything that isn’t a pressing household issue: laundry, ironing, making sure that a bear doesn’t get into the root cellar, or keeping the consumptives comfortable. I am probably a household issue too, but I’m sure Shannon and Annie don’t talk about me as an issue in my presence. That’s done behind closed doors or out of earshot. I’ve been in a poor mood the past few evenings. They must have discussed some issue, because the other guests are politely steering clear of me.

After breakfast I wrote a letter to Winnie. To ensure my letter was properly posted I went to Canoe Lake Station with Shannon in his sled. I put my letter in the mail bag as it went on the train. That was the only way I could be assured that my letter would not raise unnecessary curiosities or be intercepted by the censors at Mowat P.O. Posted today and Winnie should get the letter by Thursday. That’s before Good Friday. That would make her happy.

I brought my sketch box. I bid Shannon adieu and I walked back to find a place to sketch. I saw some gulls flying about, and ducks sitting on the ice’s edge by open water. The birds are coming back, and I can hear them singing too. I set up (in the wind) andfinished my sketch in less than an hour and got back to Mowat Lodge at noon. After lunch, I read in my room. On my night table, I laid out  to dry some feathers I found this morning. I plan to use them to make fishing flies.

I’ve been thinking about things. That I should write some other letters to my father and my brother in law, Tom Harkness. It’s Easter next weekend. I also thought I should go visit Winnie, but that would interrupt my painting. Her parents are always happy to see me. But the last time I could see in their eyes some awkwardness and anxiety. They like me, but I’m sure they don’t appreciate my affections toward Winnie if it doesn’t result in marriage. They’ve never said anything, but I don’t think they see me as the marrying type. I don’t disagree but it’s not a topic to be brought up over a Thanksgiving dinner. I could see it written it all over their faces, that they’ve concluded I’m not a marrying man. That’s probably the real reason I don’t want to visit Winnie at her parents’

I saw the headline in the paper today: President Wilson has asked US Congress to declare war on Germany.

I’ve got to start on those flies.

April 2, 1917 Letter to Winnie

Mowat Letterhead-640

April 2, 1917
Mowat P.O., Canoe Lake

Dear Winnie,

I had meant to stop in Huntsville when I came up but the train connections weren’t good so I had to go straight through.  I haven’t written any letters yet, this is my very first letter from here. I hope this makes it up for you.

I’ve been up here for over a week now and I’m still getting settled in with Shannon and Annie. There’s four other guests at the lodge now. There was only two when I arrived but two more came in a couple of days ago. They came from Ottawa on doctor’s orders. The Highland Inn’s not taking consumptives so Shannon’s making good business by taking them in. I told Shannon that Mowat Lodge is only for the sickly and the poor artists and add that line to his letterhead.

As for my plans, I’ll be staying at Mowat until the ice goes out. I’ll be camping afterwards, if the weather holds. Judging by the ice, that won’t be until May. I’m going to apply for a Guide’s license. That means I’ll need to staying close to the lodge when there’s an occasion to guide. Shannon’s got a good fleet of boats now, and he’ll be ready to hire them out with me as a guide.

A few days ago I did a good sketch just in front of your cottage. You’ve got a good view from there. I’d say it’s a better view than what you have in the summertime. I checked around the place and it doesn’t look like any animals got in, so you shouldn’t have any  surprises when you open it up.

I am hoping you’ll be able to make it up to cottage in early May. You should try to make it as early as possible in the month to get some good time in before the bugs get really bad.

Please give my regards to your parents and to your sister. Tell them I enjoyed your family’s hospitality last Thanksgiving. I won’t be making it for Easter, but you’ll be here soon enough.  You’ll be pleased at the amount of painting I’ve done. It’s hard work each day, but when I see the sketches altogether it’s rewarding.

I’ll post this letter myself at the train station this morning. Mowat P.O. has a curious postmaster. Her name is Annie.

Yours truly,