Pareidolia?

Before today, I thought I was just crazy. I see out-of-context things in ordinary patterns. 

Here’s how it works. I see a contraption on the beach. I can’t see the base of it because it’s behind the dunes. It’s at least a half mile away, and for a moment, I think–no, I’m positive–there’s a huge crane sticking its erector-set neck up out of the middle of what I know is a lagoon where no crane that big would ever go. There is a cameraman perched on the top of it wearing an Indiana Jones hat, hiding in a makeshift blind, waiting for just the right moment to catch that line of pelican’s swooping across the waves on the other side of the dunes. I walk at little further and the object morphs like a Salvador Dali painting into a crooked driftwood tree trunk someone has hung their hat on, not more than twenty yards away.

Really?

Last year they put up a new billboard along the highway on my way home from my local beach. It’s a dog face, with floppy, dachshund-like ears, a cute black nose, and his pink tongue peeking out.  He’s sporting a sad smile, his eyes half-mast. When I get closer, I see that it’s an advertisement for bank loans with two people shaking hands. 

Huh? 

Every time I drive by, it’s the same: first the dog, then the people.  It freaks the heck out of me because this isn’t an uncommon experience.  It happens to me all the time. I was at my daughter’s last month, and magnetized to her refrigerator door is a picture of a horse with a Mona Lisa smile.  He’s looking right at me, and reminds me that I could be…what? A little off? Delusional? It’s so disconcerting that I confess:

“Now, I don’t want you to worry, but…I see freaky stuff that turns out to be ordinary.  I see ordinary stuff that turns out to be freaky.”

I tell her about the horse.  Trooper that she is, and a mother now herself, she humors me. (Come to think of it, we used to see things together in the random patterns of our shower tile–lions, tigers, and bears.) “Oh, yeah…I see it,” she says.  With an arm around my shoulder, she walks me up to the fridge to show me the portrait. A family portrait of some friends.  No horse, no smile. Just ordinary people. 

But today, I’m vindicated.  And relieved.   And I can thank a random post on my social media page for my relief. There’s a name for this–I’ll call it a gift. It’s called pareidolia.  No, it’s not a matching set of those lacy crocheted things your great grandmother pin all over the furniture. 

Pareidolia is, according to Wikepedia, a “vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant. Like the man in the moon and those little lion faces on the shower tile? Yep.  Pareidolia. Honest to Pete, I didn’t make this up.  You can read and see some wonderful examples here: Pareidolia

I, my darlings, will stick this away in my writer’s toolbox and return to my WIP: A novel based on a woman who sees freaky things in the wallpaper. And keeps it to herself.

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