One night, Thoreau says, he woke up with questions on his mind but was quieted by serene nature outside his window, which asks no questions and answers none either. He goes out to the pond in search of water to drink, making his way through snow and ice. As he drinks, he declares that "heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads."
For Thoreau, Nature is perfectly peaceful, an expression of spiritual serenity that is proof it is greater than humankind. It is full of surprises even to him, who is constantly alert to it.
Early in the morning, fishermen come to the lake who are so wild that they are essentially a part of nature. They are not observers of nature but rather should themselves be objects of study themselves for naturalists.
Thoreau seems to want for himself a kind of existence like that of the wild fishermen, who are more a part of nature than of society.
Wondering how deep the pond is, Thoreau determines the shape of its bottom using a stone and a cord. He makes a map of the pond as well as of White Pond, and finds a pattern: the intersection of the widest and longest parts of the pond is generally the deepest part of the pond. He comments that ethics follows a similar pattern: that the aggregate of a man's daily behavior is his character.
Thoreau takes a scientific interest in the pond, giving it a level of scrutiny that others wouldn't consider. When Thoreau wonders about something, he pursues the thought. And in doing so, he comes up a with a spiritual lesson.
In the winter, many people come from town to collect ice from the pond in order to save it for summer, when they will add it to their drinks to cool down. In addition, some northern men come down to the pond to collect peat. Occasionally, one of these men fall into the water and Thoreau takes him into his house to get dry.
Thoreau observes these men as an outsider, a solitary man belonging to nature more than he belongs to other men. They are men who come not to admire the pond but to use it, and as such they do not seem to always recognize that the pond has a sort of life of its own, and that their use of it might not be entirely without consequences.