Lake House, May the 9th. 1833.
WHAT a different winter this has been to what I had anticipated. The snows of December were continually thawing; on the 1st of January not a flake was to be seen on our clearing, though it lingered in the bush. The warmth of the sun was so great on the first and second days of the new year that it was hardly possible to endure a cloak, or even shawl, out of doors; and within, the fire was quite too much for us. The weather remained pretty open till the latter part of the month, when the cold set in severely enough, and continued so during February. The 1st of March was the coldest day and night I ever experienced in my life; the mercury was down to twenty five degrees in the house; abroad it was much lower. The sensation of cold early in the morning was very painful, producing an involuntary shuddering, and an almost convulsive feeling in the chest and stomach. Our breaths were congealed in hoar-frost on the sheets and blankets. Every thing we touched of metal seemed to freeze our fingers. This excessive degree of cold only lasted three days, and then a gradual amelioration of temperature was felt.
During this very cold weather I was surprised by the frequent recurrence of a phenomenon that I suppose was of an electrical nature. When the frosts were most intense I noticed that when I undressed, my clothes, which are at this cold season chiefly of woollen cloth, or lined with flannel, gave out when moved a succession of sounds, like the crackling and snapping of fire, and in the absence of a candle emitted sparks of a pale whitish blue light, similar to the flashes produced by cutting loaf-sugar in the dark, or stroking the back of a black cat: the same effect was also produced when I combed and brushed my hair*.
[* This phenomenon is common enough everywhere when the air is very dry.—Ed.]
The snow lay very deep on the ground during February, and until the l9th of March, when a rapid thaw commenced, which continued without intermission till the ground was thoroughly freed from its hoary livery, which was effected in less than a fortnight’s time. The air during the progress of the thaw was much warmer and more balmy than it usually is in England, when a disagreeable damp cold is felt during that process.
Though the Canadian winter has its disadvantages, it also has its charms. After a day or two of heavy snow the sky brightens, and the air becomes exquisitely clear and free from vapour; the smoke ascends in tall spiral columns till it is lost: seen against the saffron-tinted sky of an evening, or early of a clear morning, when the hoar-frost sparkles on the trees, the effect is singularly beautiful.
I enjoy a walk in the woods of a bright winter-day, when not a cloud, or the faint shadow of a cloud, obscures the soft azure of the heavens above; when but for the silver covering of the earth I might look upwards to the cloudless sky and say, “It is June, sweet June.” The evergreens, as the pines, cedars, hemlock, and balsam firs, are bending their pendent branches, loaded with snow, which the least motion scatters in a mimic shower around, but so light and dry is it that it is shaken off without the slightest inconvenience.