Walking On Ice (or, “On Faith”)

I was reading Justin’s recent post, and thinking about metaphors for faith…

Faith is the thing, when you’re not really sure,
That allows you to walk on the ice
When the skeptical people are looking for proof
There’s no reason for you to think twice

Believe—just believe—it’s sufficient support;
That you won’t simply fall through and drown
Though no one has tested, and no one has shown
So the data are hard to pin down

You’re risking your life, or perhaps even more
As you make your way out on the pond
A crack, or a slip, stands between having fun
And an icy death waiting beyond

But life has its risks—there are no guarantees—
And faith is a virtue, we’re told
You’re taking a chance, going out on the ice
But promoting pure faith? Now, that’s cold.

A bit more, after the jump:

I’ve been looking for data on how many people die each year, falling through the ice. I did find 35 years worth of data for Minnesota, but nothing nationwide or global thus far (let me know, reader, if you can find what I am after!) Having lived on (well, beside) Lake Erie for a number of years, I am well aware that experienced ice-fishermen can venture out onto needle ice and not be seen until Spring. The price of faith.

Now, “Walking On Ice”, by Devonsquare. I saw them the year this came out, which both dates me and localizes me, I fear. But the ice metaphor is a good one, and they make good use of it:


  1. Grep Agni says

    Having lived on (well, beside) Lake Erie for a number of years, I am well aware that experienced ice-fishermen can venture out onto needle ice and not be seen until Spring.

    Since I’d never hears of needle ice, I did a bit of searching. According to Wikipedia needle ice forms on soil rather than open water. Does it grow over quicksand or something?

  2. Cuttlefish says


    I may well be misusing the term–I use it as I heard it used by others on Lake Erie; the idea was that there would be areas of ice that looked as thick as any others, but which were fractured vertically, as if a bundle of needles rather than a solid mass. Step on it, and go right through.

    Whether or not that’s the actual physical reality, that was the cautionary tale. I thank you for the skeptical eye, and will have to (when time permits) take a look to see whether the cautionary tale was more myth than fact!

  3. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    It’s also called “candle ice” Candle ice is a form of rotten ice that develops in columns perpendicular to the surface of a lake.



    Breaks apart easily even when it’s several inches thick, which is, of course, not good for your health.

    And a variation of “black ice” grows downward in fine needles after freezing a skin across the top of a pond or lake. It looks real thick, but isn’t always strong.

  4. Cuttlefish says

    Thanks, TDN!

    I found one source that implies that it’s a phenomenon that happens at the edges of ice sheets, where they grind against other ice sheets and occasionally crack and refreeze.

  5. Crudely Wrott says

    I observed “pencil ice” on a New Hampshire lake in early April, 1969. Early one morning the ice, frequently two feet think, began to make some sounds and I was close by.

    Long story short, within three hours the whole lake surface, several square miles of recently solid ice, was opening long leads accompanied by booms and squeals (yeah, sounded like squealing kids or pinnepeds or mutant cephalopods). The air stirred and the ice flowed over itself and actually rose up on the shore which my vantage. I could clearly observe the vertical cross section of at least three layers of ice that were just an hour earlier coplanar on the still surface of the lake.

    When the sun cleared the hills to the east the stronger light began to reveal some detail. I could see that the edges of ice bore vertical striations and, upon closer inspection, it was apparent that the ice had formed hexagonal crystals that spanned the full thickness of the ice like pencils standing vertically, nested together.

    Not only that, but with a rise in morning temperature the individual crystals on the exposed edge were falling away, some here, a few there and then in ranks and battalions. The whole of winter’s effort to blanket and still the lake fell apart before my eyes. It looked like a nightmare pencil factory with pencils by the tens of thousands peeling off in sequence from an endless conveyor belt and then, just melting into the lake. Gone. Just like that.

    I sat there till near midday, till the first boats of the year ventured out between the shrinking floes while spring crept in quietly behind its morning spectacle, and I thought about what I’d seen. I still think about that morning and what I got to see.

    Later that year I swam and fished in the lake. It was warm as toast.

  6. Cuttlefish says

    Grep–A) I didn’t take it that way, but B) if you had been, that would be perfectly fine. Encouraged, even.

  7. RW Ahrens says

    @Crudely Wrott #5;

    What a beautiful picture in words, I could clearly see those pencils falling away! Thanks for the images. I love such illustrative writing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *