by Thea Constantine and Carrie Connor
Welcome to Thea Constantine and Carrie Connor, our new prompt columnists. They’ll take turns each month offering us ideas about how to energize our writing. This month Thea challenges us with the man in the moon!
by Thea Constantine
Holy tortillas, the man in the moon! We’ve all seen him. Pareidolia is the phenomenon of perceiving significant images in random objects. Some think it’s a part of our larger facial pattern recognition ability. Others write it off as simple anthropomorphism. In the Western world we see a man in the moon – in Asia they see a rabbit. Even NASA went into fits of fancy when the Viking mission brought back this image from a Martian mesa that disappeared when viewed from any other angle.
Pareidolia can be aural, too, like the messages perceived in certain Rock ’n’ Roll albums through rotating your record backwards on the turntable. Millions of people claimed to have heard John Lennon saying, “Paul is dead” on the Magical Mystery tour album during the time the artist went “missing.” Simpler examples are those times where you could swear someone called your name in a crowd or you heard music in the sound of the waves.
Even Leonardo da Vinci wrote about pareidolia as an artistic device:
If you look at any walls spotted with various stains or with a mixture of different kinds of stones, if you are about to invent some scene you will be able to see in it a resemblance to various different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys, and various groups of hills … .*
Maybe that water stain that looked like a lion’s head or the big-nosed doorknob in your childhood bedroom can inspire a Remembrance of Things Past, or perhaps you can take another look at something simple like playing cards or chess pieces and find yourself on the other side of the Looking Glass. Whatever it is, it’s a wonderful starting point for a poem or a scene in a piece of fiction or non-fiction. So go out, take a look around and see who looks back. Don’t forget to come back here and tell us all about it.
*Edawrd M. C. Curdy (1923). “Leonardo Da Vinci S Note-Books Arranged And Rendered Into English”. Empire State Book Company.
Thea Constantine is writer and certified AWA facilitator with PDX Writers. Her short stories have most recently appeared in In Focus, the quarterly magazine of the PEN Cyprus Center; Stellazine; Roving Writers; “On the Yellow Line,” a weekly column for Street Roots; and an original serial for the on-line magazine The Black Boot. Her work has been included in a number of anthologies. She just won 1st Place Short Story in the maiden edition of the Watercress Journal. She is currently at work on her first novel, Stumptown.
A friend once asked Carrie Connor why she writes. “Because I have to,” she said. “You mean like publish or perish?” he asked. “No,” she said, “It’s more like … breathing.” Carrie has spent 20 years as a staff and features journalist and freelance copywriter for a variety of publications and companies. One day, while interviewing an emerging novelist about her new book release, she realized she was done writing about other people’s accomplishments. She’s currently putting together a yet-untitled collection of short stories and a screenplay.