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Chapter Thirteen: House-Warming
In this chapter, Thoreau addresses the coming of his first winter at Walden Pond. To be prepared for the colder weather, he begins to store grapes, chestnuts, and wild apples. While wandering in the woods, he begins to observe the seasonal changes affecting the trees and the way Nature has begun to adapt to the weather. In describing the longing of all living things to move towards warmth, he explains that a group of wasps came to live inside his cabin, seeking to get out of the cold. He, too, is spending more time inside; as a result, he dedicates himself to finishing the cabin. In order to have warmth in the winter months ahead, he builds a fireplace and chimney; in the process he learns many things about bricks and trowels.
As the season grows colder, Walden Pond begins to freeze. Thoreau takes great pleasure in studying the pond and the way in which it changes from liquid to solid form. He keeps extensive scientific records of the winter changes in Nature, including the time it takes for the ice to turn from blue-green to white and the day the geese fly south in search of warmer weather. Thoreau also gathers a stockpile of wood, which he burns in the fireplace throughout the winter to keep warm. He enjoys watching the flames dance around the wood and calls the fire his friend and faithful companion. His second winter at Walden Pond, he purchases an oven, but regrets the decision since he can no longer see the friendly fire which used to keep him company.
The images in this chapter subtly change from shades of green and blue to stark contrasts of brown and white. The trees lose their colorful leaves, and the pond freezes over with a glaze of white. With the coldness of winter, the pace of all activity in the woods slows down. Many of the birds, including the geese, fly south, and many of the animals go into hibernation. "Even the wildest animals love comfort and warmth. . .and they survive only because they are so careful to secure them." Thoreau also retreats to his cabin, keeping himself warm with a constant fire in the fireplace he has built. Since visitors in winter are few, he thinks of the fire as his faithful friend and companion.