“The Pond in Winter” is the sixteenth chapter in Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. For Thoreau, his life at the pond and nature in general is a type of divine naturalistic experience. At the beginning of this chapter, he awakes from a night’s sleep with the feeling that he has a question to answer which is a metaphor for him awakening to purpose in his life. Thoreau describes the pond’s esthetics in winter, explaining the depths of the snow and ice as he goes about getting his daily water. He does not find the landscape barren as some would; instead he sees the color variations and snow undulations. He says, “Heaven is under our feet is well as over our heads.
When describing the ice anglers who come to Walden Pond, he speaks of them as naturalists. They are able to devise ways of fishing using crude methods. He then speaks of how they unknowing deal with the food chain when they start with their bait of grubs which is food for perch, who become bait for the pickerel that live in the pond. These men are able to fill their buckets with fish just as others do in the summer. They use their natural instincts to devise ways to fish through the winter so deep.
Pickerel are not the fish of choice for most New Englanders who would rather eat cod. He describes the colorings of the pickerel in great detail. He describes how easily they die after they are caught and compares them to a person who dies too young.
In this chapter, Thoreau maps the depths of Walden Pond, which many have described as bottomless. Making a systematic grid of holes in the ice, he drops a rope tied to a stone to measure the depths with uncanny accuracy. He feels he must prove that the pond depths are finite. After he measures and maps the pond, he compares its attributes to the moral ethics of man.
Lastly, Thoreau details how the local inhabitants come to cut ice blocks to save for summer. One winter this turns into an ice business established by an already rich man. Hired men come and cut blocks of ice to save for the summer. He dislikes the pond being used for commercial purposes. In Thoreau’s mind, this is not the natural purpose for the pond; it does not fit into his ideal of the order of things in which each small bit of nature has a purpose divined by nature itself. Thoreau describes the men as being of many races and origins bringing their history with them to his tiny pond. He feels their lives all commune by way of the pond.