During our recent hike to the Lower Yosemite Falls, my husband and I were  delighted by the beautiful snowy banks along the creek. Nowhere else was there snow on the valley floor, save along the creek banks. While we noticed the difference at the time, we didn’t think much of it. Then a friend sent me an amazing video about frazil ice in Yosemite.

Crystals of frozen mist develop as water, cascading over the Upper Yosemite Falls, freezes during the vacillation between warming and sub-freezing temperatures that occur in March and April. That’s frazil ice. Some of it falls straightaway to the towering snow cone at the foot of the upper falls. Some of it beards the granite cliffs, till if falls of its own weight, or warming temperatures, onto the snow cone below with a loud rumble that can be heard throughout the valley. 

On our early spring walk what looked like beautiful pristine snow banks inviting play along the creek banks were really dangerous patches of frazil ice. If stepped on, one might plunge through it into deep, swiftly moving, icy water  As the frazil ice mixed with water gains momentum, the creek begins to look like a giant Slurpee – slushy, frigid lava flow randonly engulfing whatever is in its path – the forest litter of downed trees, broken branches, brush, small boulders.  Walking paths are overrun and concrete pilings on foot bridges can be uprooted. What appears so benignly beautiful from one perspective can become dangerous and destructive from another.

Life can be like frazil ice. We can be enthralled by the beauty of something, or someone, and not realize the possibilities for hidden dangers. That inherently beautiful something might not be problematic in certain circumstance, but it can become dangerous in others. My frazil ice might be the temptation of overeating. Food, in and of itself is good, but when I choose unwisely what and how much I eat, that’s frazil ice. Fulfilling work is a beautiful something, but when I get swept away by an over busy, stressed out life, that’s frazil ice on the move.  Leisure time is wonderful and renewing, but when it involves mind-numbing, time-wasting activities, it’s frazil ice that gives way when I step on it. I can be sucked under by the swiftly moving current if I’m not respectful of the danger hidden in the beauty.

What’s a beautiful something in you life that has a hidden danger? What’s your frazil ice? Have you ever stepped on what you thought was solid ground and been swept away by a raging current when the surface unexpectedly gave way? How did you regain your footing? If you were to paint that scene, what would it look like?

Looking forward to your comments.

Enjoy the YouTube video on frazil ice at the following link:


5 comments to Frazil

  • Barbara

    This is beautifully written, Lynne! Now that I’m out of school, frazil ice has been Face Book, which is why I gave it up for Lent. No harm done, as I realized I was sinking and could easily extricate myself. Frazil ice can also be accepting a bid on work on your home because the sales person seemed genuine and thoroughly professional, then little bumps turn into big nightmares and deep regrets. This frazil ice I wish I could recognize while still on solid ground. I wonder what happened to my prayer, “God protect me,” when I undergo these projects.


    Wonderful article comparing the frazil ice to our lives. How true this can be.

    I have seen the video of the frazil ice flowing a couple of times. Have you seen the firefall picture that happens in February? Looks almost like the old real firefalls they used to have, but it is just the sun on the falls only at this certain time of year. I could send you a picture if you have not seen it. Beautiful to see.

  • Ginny Starkey

    For Tom and I it takes the form of accepting one too many writing projects – it looks so nice and easy at the outset – “God is providing us a way to put a little more money in savings or afford a vacation….won’t take too much time.” But a few weeks in we are cranky from not having any free time and the kids are fending for themselves a little too much. Would have been better to have focused a few of those hours on money saving activity and spent more time as a family and a couple and less hours as worker bees…
    I know that facebook would suck me down – I have avoided it despite my friends and kids telling me I should be on it – I don’t have enough discipline!

  • Deanna J Bowling

    For me, being frazzled comes when I agree to do something against my better judgment (as Mike Flynn puts it, I don’t listen to my inner knower). It’s usually something that I know I am capable of doing, but ….. When I am feeling good, I forget about my chronic conditions, then I get into one or more projects that I should not have agreed to do, and …………

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