April 6, 1917 Good Friday, Bad Friday


April 6, 1917 Snow and Earth

The papers came by train this morning with the news. The United States is going to War against Germany. The headlines showed that the Senate voted 82 versus 6 in favour of War. It’s expected that President Wilson will make the declaration today.

I decided to go out to sketch early in the morning. I took one of my smallest boards cut from the orange crates. Good Friday is supposed to be a day of sacrifice and humility so my contribution to the observation is getting out early and painting on a small board. I am hoping that Shannon’s contribution will be staying away from the whisky.

Annie’s decided to have the Good Friday meal at noon. She made a meatless stew. There’s a meat shortage so she’s thinking about making every Friday a meatless Friday. They’re doing that in England and there’s talk of doing it in Toronto, because there is indeed a meat shortage. Annie’s stew was quite delicious so I’m sure there was some beef stock used so it wasn’t technically meatless. But I decided the let the fine point of doctrine slide and complimented on its savoury taste. The other guest enjoyed it too, except for one who broke into an uncontrollable coughing fit, spitting blood on the table. Shannon hauled him up to his room and opened the bedroom window to the let cold air in.

Once that episode was complete (and the tablecloth changed) we started to talk about the War. When Shannon recalled that when he talking to George Bartlett and learned that Mark Robinson was returning to the Park, there was another point George made that Shannon had forgotten to mention. Mark was returning early (sometime next week we believe) to keep an eye on suspicious activities. Bartlett was told that he needed to man the Park to make sure the railway keeps running. Someone called from Ottawa (George had his own telephone and liked to show it to everyone) that German saboteurs might take out the some of the rail lines.

Shannon was incredulous at this possibility, but he liked the excitement it garnered. I started to put two and two together, recalling the visit I had from that that fellow from the Corps of Guides, saying I might be needed in the Park. I kept that fact to myself, and decided that I would talk to Mark when appropriate.

Well, it’s early afternoon. My day’s deeds are done. My sketch was small and quick and I was quite pleased with the effects and the shadows.

Tonight’s going to be a humble meal. Annie’s going to bake some bread, which we’ll break after a bible reading. Instead of wine, we’ll dip it into re-heated stew.

Communion, Mowat Lodge style. I appreciate this type of ceremony. It’s much better than being bawled at by a pastor with soft hands and no sons to sacrifice.

April 5, 1917 Early April


April 5, 1917 Early April

Another cold but sunny day. I could feel the warmth of the sun, but the strong winds removed any notion of warmth. It was windy. Damn windy. It wasn’t pleasant at all today. The wind knocked my sketch box right out of my lap and sent the sketch tumbling onto the ground. The rule that applies to buttered toast that falls also applies to sketches. It fell face down into a patch of dirt. It picked up some but I managed to get it off or cover it with a few more strokes of paint.

Despite trying to focus on the sketch. I was thinking about money But not in a good way. I am hoping that Dr. MacCallum can sell a few of my sketches in Toronto and put the money in my account. I also have over $200 credit with Shannon which I am trying to draw down as slowly as possible by helping out with the chores. This morning I spent an hour chopping firewood. The cold weather means that all three stoves in the lodge have to be going full tilt and Shannon didn’t have enough split firewood to last the day. I chopped enough to keep the lodge going through to Monday at least. Annie doesn’t want anyone to be chopping firewood on Easter Sunday.

The cold weather and strong sun are doing interesting things to the snow. It’s disappearing but not by melting.  I think it’s called sublimation. The remaining snowbanks are like pockmarked crystal banks and it makes for some interesting shapes left on the ground. I expect the snow to disappear quickly, but if this cold weather holds up we’ll see snow in the woods until May.

April 4, 1917 Letter to Winnie Trainor

Mowat P.O.
April 4, 1917

Dear Winnie,

Hopefully you received my letter from a few days ago. I am sending you this letter to let you know that it would be best to come up on May 11th or May 18th. Any earlier the weather will be too cold and I will be busy sketching. Please tell your parents I can keep an eye on cottage so they don’t need to come any earlier.

I am planning a show of my sketches on Victoria Day, May 24th so you might want to wait until then.



April 4, 1917 Letter to Florence McGillivray

Mowat P.O.
April 4, 1917

Dear Florence,

Thank you for your letter. I thought I’d better send one off to you quickly, so you can finalize your plans. It turns out that the lodge is filling up quickly, so I’ve asked Shannon to hold a room for you arriving May 4 and leaving on Sunday the 6th. Shannon’s got a whole crew coming in from Ottawa so space is tight and he wants a commitment. I’ve put the room reserve on my account.

I hear you got elected as a member of the OSA. That’s fab, but don’t expect that you’ll be able to charge more for your paintings. On the contrary you’ll become all the poorer because you’ll have to attend all those social functions. Congratulations, nonetheless. Well deserved and I always look to you for inspiration.

As for the room, if I don’t receive word from you otherwise, I’ll expect you on May 4th. You should leave Toronto before noon so you get here at decent time.



April 4, 1917 Winter Scene


April 4, 1917 Winter Scene

During this time of year at Canoe Lake you never know what the day is going to be like. One day it’s like spring, the other, like winter. Today it feels like winter today and the snow’s not going anywhere.

I walked along the shore to the southern part of the lake, where Canoe Lake goes into Tea Lake. I passed by Gill Lake where there is good fishing. Toward Tea Lake, the faster running water in the narrow channel was breaking up some of the ice so it made for a nice scene. The spruces and hemlocks in front of the rest of the bush made for a nice contrast. Another good sketch today.

I had gone out early in the morning and was back by Mowat Lodge by lunch time. Shannon was there and he said he had received an important message from George Bartlett, Park Superintendent. Mark Robinson would be returning to Canoe Lake sometime this April. I was very pleased to hear this news.

Mark was a Park Ranger when I met him first in 1912 and we had become very good friends. I was shocked when he enlisted and went overseas. Especially since he had a wife and young son at home in Barrie. But he said he had the call of duty to go. I respected his decision. I told him I wasn’t about to try to enlist again. I had other things to do in life. I had tried to enlist to fight the Boers in South Africa. If they didn’t want me then, the wouldn’t want me now.

Shannon also said that he received word that Charlie Scrim would be arriving on Sunday. And to top it off, I received a letter from Florence McGillivray that she plans to visit in early May. Algonquin Hotel doesn’t open until June, and the Highland Inn is too expensive. She’ll be staying at Mowat Lodge.

So the lodge is starting to get busier. Despite the fact I liked to be alone a lot of the time, I appreciated the company when I needed it. I’ll need to coordinate the timing of the girls visits [Winnie and Florence]. I don’t want a scene.

April 3, 1917 Early Spring


April 3, 1917 Early Spring

There’s still lots of snow on the north side of the hills. That’s where I decided to go today.

‘Heading for the hills today.’ That’s what I told Shannon. He smiled because he knew that was a loaded phrase. I was talking to him about the Rockies at breakfast this morning saying it might be a good idea to go out there. One of the guests brought a book that had a good chapter on Jasper Park. The Grand Trunk Pacific was building hotels similar to what was already in Algonquin Park. I had been to Seattle and to Winnipeg, but never to the Rockies in Alberta. Jackson had already gone to the Rockies. I should have gone with him but I decided not to. Maybe this summer.

As for the hills, I walked up by Potter Creek, crossed the rail tracks by Canoe Lake Station, continued north along Joe Lake shore until I was almost at Tepee Lake. I found a nice ridge with birch trees (again) that were casting shadows on the snow and earth. What caught my eye were the colours of the shadows. They were a shade of deep blue. Behind I could see a sliver of frozen lake, which was really the connection between the two lakes – Joe Lake and Tepee Lake.

The snow was still deep, but the earth was showing through at the base of the trunks. I’d hardly call it snow anymore. It’s more like petrified ice, if there is such a thing.

When I finished, I felt good about this sketch. I liked it. I was happy to set this one out for display in the dining room.

I wrote a letter to Winnie last night. I made sure it was posted this morning. She should get it by Thursday before Easter. Friday is Good Friday. Nothing is running.

April 2, 1917 April in Algonquin Park


April 2, 1917 April in Algonquin Park

A complete and miserable day today. The weather prevented me from going too far from the lodge. It was overcast and the spring winds were strong. It was unpleasant being out there for longer than a few moments. I bundled up as best I could, but when I was sketching my fingers got numb in the few minutes they were exposed and I had to warm them up about a dozen times before the sketch was finished.

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

Truth be told, I’ve been here just over a week, and the novelty of change has begun to wear off. In fact, I thought I’d see changes, but everything and everyone is about the same as they were before. Shannon with his peculiar habits is beginning to wear on me, and Annie, bless her soul, is so caught up in her chores and keeping the place running the she has little presence to talk or keep company. The other guests are all consumptives, and I am little inclined to hear the repetitive detail of their condition. I am probably part of the problem too. I’ve been rather in a sulky mood the past couple of evenings. The other guests stay clear of me, and I think Annie takes it to heart that something is amiss.

I went out later in the morning and I finished my sketch in about forty minutes around noon.. Despite the clouds, it did clear up for a few moments. I saw the blue sky, and then the clouds moved back in. The sky darkened and my mood darkened too. I went back to the lodge and spent the better part of afternoon in my room reading and laying out some feathers I found yesterday to make some fishing flies.

I was thinking about some other things too. That I should write some letters to Winnie, my father and my brother in law, Tom Harkness. It’s Easter next weekend. I should go visit Winnie, but that would put too much of an interruption into my painting. Her parents are always happy to see me. But despite their welcoming gestures, I can see in their eyes some awkwardness and anxiety. They like me, but I don’t think they appreciate that my affections toward Winnie because it has dampened her enthusiasm for other men to marry. They’ve never said, but I don’t think they see me as the marrying type. I’m not sure if I disagree with their assessment. We never spoke about it when I was up there last Thanksgiving, but you could have written it all over the walls and it still wouldn’t be more obvious.

I’ll work on the flies this afternoon. I’ll try to write Winnie later today or tomorrow. If I write by Wednesday and post before noon, she gets the mail of Thursday. That would be before Good Friday. It would make her happy.