Faces in Odd Places

By on Apr 13, 2010 in Cuttings

I thought I saw John Lennon peering from behind a palm frond on a Hawaiian shirt once. I’d been rummaging through a table of men’s clothing at the Millwood Church’s annual bazaar. His bespectacled, contemplative face seemed so clear for that instant, but when I looked closer, it was only part of the overall busy, splashy pattern. I didn’t buy the shirt, but I would have if I hadn’t been mistaken about the face.

It’s funny how we look for faces in inanimate places. One of the marbled floor tiles in front of my refrigerator camouflages a distinctly overweight woman with a bizarre hairdo. Maybe she’s my conscience, because I always look at her first before I get a snack. I have to slide my foot over her face when I’m after cheesecake.

At garden stores they sell woodsy-looking, three-dimensional faces of people or animals. They’re meant to be nailed to a tree trunk, blending  in with the bark so you have to look twice to make sure the face isn’t growing out of  it. They’re not that innovative, if you ask me. People have been seeing faces in tree bark for ages. All you have to do is look at old storybooks and lithographs to figure that out. The imagined faces are not as symmetrical as store-bought, but much more satisfying. I don’t know about you, but I feel clever when I can see a face where there isn’t one.

I’m no psychologist, but it seems to me that people must be comforted by finding faces in odd places. Maybe clouds would be overwhelming if we couldn’t find wispy, human forms in them. Weathermen still use the puff-cheeked, lips-puckered exhaler as the symbol for wind. The sun symbol beams like a chubby comedian who wouldn’t think of burning us.

We had a little Cocker Spaniel once, Jake. On a crisp, fall afternoon I let him outside for some air and watched from the window as he made his way to the flower garden. He sat down next to our unpainted, chipped, concrete gnome. They watched the weather companionably for several minutes before Jake turned to him and licked his cheek.

We have SO got it over dogs, I thought. At least people don’t form relationships with inanimate objects. Then I went to the fridge for an apple. I was warmed when Mrs. Cleary looked up at me approvingly from the floor tile.

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Sue Ellis is a retired postmaster who lives and writes near Spokane, Washington. An avid sock knitter, soapmaker and fledgling writer, her short stories and poems have appeared in such places as Flash Me Magazine, Wild Violet, Ken Again and Birmingham Arts Journal. She's a member of the Internet Writers Workshop.