Sunday, May 5, 2013


NOTE: A Writing example for my students.

There’s a name for it – pareidolia.

We’ve all experienced it. Pareidolia is that odd phenomenon that makes you see faces in inanimate objects: The image of the Virgin Mary in a piece of toast, that eerie face of a man staring back at you from the surfaceof Mars.
Then there’s the name for the other thing – joint and crack sealing.

We’ve all seen it. Drive down any street in the United States, you’ll see those odd little lines of black, crisscrossing the pavement. Slow down and you’ll see it’s some kind of gooey tar set into the cracks, sealing them up so water doesn’t seep into the road surface to cause potholes.
There is beauty in joint crack sealing. Even as an adult, if I’m walking along a road with many sealed joints and cracks, I’m compelled to tread only once on that bit of pavement surrounded by those flatblack lines. Tread twice on the same bit of pavement, I fear, and it will open up beneath me and I will fall, fall, fall into the lava below.
Childish? Yes.
There’s more.
In front of my house, an eye. A rather alluring, sensuously-lashed female eye, winking and blinking at me as I stare at it from the upstairs window. As I stare at it through the windshield of my truck. Staring at me unblinking through the rain, through the snow, as bits of tumbleweed and McDonalds bags blow over it in Idaho’s constant winds.
I know it’s just cracks in the pavement.
But it’s an eye. Sometimes sensuous. Sometimes Sauron, its burning glare penetrating the flimsy vinyl siding and the wood and plaster and paint that make up the walls of my house.
Pareidolia. A constant companion since childhood. That might explain the pig-nosed-shaped rock collection. That might explain why I see faces in clouds, in tree bark, in flowers freshly bloomed and wilting and curling to brown. I see faces in the wrinkles on my wrists and in the swirls of plaster on the ceiling. Oh, as a child: Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner chased each other endlessly on my plastered ceiling. On the ceiling of our home in Sugar City, the Easter Bunny hiding from a crocodile and a duck. And, oh, on the ceiling of our home in Ammon: A massive, swirling black hole that threatens to suck me in when I’m sick.
Yes, it’s a little weird. Explaining it is difficult. I think the Aspergers syndrome my son has came from me, because, like him, I obsess about things. It’s weird, I tell you, to go everywhere and everywhere to see faces, faces staring back. Faces looking at me from faces where no one else sees faces.
Cars, on some days, are bad. Worst are the 1960s Volkswagen bugs, with their leering bumper lips and bugged-out headlight eyes. I owned a 1976 Chevy Nova I could not approach from the front, with its leering buck-toothed grille and chrome-trimmed eyes, baring teeth at me in a cockeyed fashion, because the chrome trim around one headlight was missing.
It’s not all bad. Because many of the faces are smiling at me. Flowers are generally friendly, as are the clouds – even storm clouds bear with them happy faces that promise rain and thunder and lightning and the smell of sage brush blown in off the desert.
Some are amusing – my wife was cutting an onion for dinner today, and, inside it, two weeping eyes and a mouth contorted in compassion for her as the onion juices made her cry.
But it’s unnerving. Because they’re always there. I think I’m done now. Because, from the garbage can, a wad of masking tape is peeping at me.

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