I’m astonished at what I find on a walk if only I keep my eyes open. But far more important than my eyes is my imagination.
I have a whole folder of pictures which are mysterious and amusing oddities seen in rocks and trees. Most of them are tree creatures like The Stonesucker and one or two are downright scary, but perhaps the most interesting are the ones which aren’t immediately obvious, or which could be a number of different things.
I enjoy showing them to friends and discovering what they think they are, and I’m often surprised by what they see which I’d missed entirely. Of course once you’ve seen one thing in a shape it’s almost impossible to see anything different. The brain seems to seize it and lock onto it, and that’s it.
I glimpsed this on a walk along the Cumbrian coast in July 2011, going north from Maryport towards Allonby, and I knew at once what I thought it was.
I wonder what you’re making of it?
Don’t look too hard – don’t think too much – just glance and then glance again, and whatever you do don’t start censoring your impressions. You mustn’t say ‘Oh that’s silly.’ There’re no wrong answers to these oddities. You must allow them to be whatever they want to be.
I’m not trying to play a psychological trick on you, there’ll be no explanations of what any interpretation tells me about you, and unless you’re absolutely dying to tell me, or someone else, what you’ve seen, no one else will ever know what you’ve decided it is. And please, please, don’t misuse it that way! This is just a bit of fun – so let it be that. I certainly don’t want you to tell me what it reveals about me, so don’t risk falling out with me over it.
So, what was it? It was the smoothed side of a very old tree stump and branch sitting among long grasses just above the beach. It had lost most of its bark – you can see a little bit at the bottom and in the lower right corner – and over the years the weather had smoothed and then cracked it, and lichens had worked their way into the under layers of the wood.
What do I think it is?
With apologies to all Americans and Canadians, I think it’s a map of North America. Now I’m no expert on the States of America, and apart from a stop-over in L.A. on my way to New Zealand, I’ve never visited it, but looking at this, I said, ‘Oh! It’s a map of America.’
I’ll show you more of my surprise oddities from time to time, but in the meantime if you do know the States, perhaps you could have fun trying to name some of these!
A weathered tree stump on the Solway Coast north of Maryport.