April 10, 1917
A cool sunny day, and the wind was fierce. In the morning the wind was but it got worse in the afternoon. Shingles started to pull off the roof of the storehouse and Shannon was fretting as more and more of the boards underneath were being exposed..
“It’s those cedar shingles,” Shannon remarked, “They don’t stay on worth a damn when the wind kicks up.”
I had nothing to add. We watched a future chore unfold before our eyes.
“The storehouse is the worst, we’ll have to replace them in the summer.” Shannon’s eyes took on a new light, ” We’ll have to replace them with those new asbestos shingles. They don’t catch on fire and they insulate good in the winter.”
Shannon had a good point. Every year, dwelling fires are a common. In the winter, it usually starts inside, the stove or chimney is too hot, an errant ember from the fireplace, or a forgotten pipe. In the summer, fires start on the roof, lighted by an airborne cinder from a nearby bonfire, kept alive in the fresh air. Alive and landing on a rooftop, meeting with ample combustible material can set the entire structure on fire within minutes. I said I’d help him with the roofing, knowing full well that this chore would not be done on a sunny day (too nice) nor on a rainy day (too slippery).
This wind is a sure sign that the real spring is coming. Changes are becoming more pronounced by the day. There’s still a lot of snow around but pockets of brown and green are starting to grow. The first green of spring I’ve seen are willow shoots. The other green, of course, is the moss and lichen on the rocks. The warmth of the spring sun is putting life into everything.
Daphne approached me again and asked when the wildflowers would be out. I was going to tell her to look it in the field book she had and add two weeks. I knew the first flowers were starting to come out in the city; it’s two weeks ahead of us here. I said that it would be at least a couple weeks. I promised her that I would keep a lookout and let her know if if I saw anything. Crocuses will be the first. They get an early start when they are in a sheltered sunny spot. Daphne’s chumming a lot with Annie. and helping out in the kitchen. I know that Annie appreciates the help. Robin is not much good company. He’s still stuck out on the porch, still having a hard time of it, improving, not as bad as the first few days.
Everyone is thinking about the War. The news today was about the big battle in France, 30,000 Canadians. I can’t imagine 30,000 Canadian soldiers all in one spot, but we all feel the emptiness they’ve left behind here. Most everyone knows someone who’s there or a family who has sent one of their sons. There is a family in Kearney that sent all four of their sons over in 1915. They all died the same day. The Station master, when he received the telegrams, put them all in one envelope for delivery. The mother almost had a stroke when she opened the telegram. It’s terrible enough to get one, but when the deaths of all your sons are announced in one envelope that’s too much to bear.
In the afternoon, I went deep into the woods to paint another snow scene. Snow banks thawing on the north side of a hill. It was one of those drifts that blew over the hill’s edge. It wasn’t an inspiring composition, but I enjoyed being outside watching the birds beginning to arrive. I could hear a woodpecker and saw a few sparrows, a warbler and a robin. The gulls were circling high, high in the sky as the rain clouds were moving in. They must have been looking for open water. The air is starting to feel heavy and warmer. Certainly, it will rain tonight. I’m hoping the roof doesn’t leak on the side where the guests are.
When it’s warmer in a couple of weeks I’ll take Daphne out to find some wildflowers.