I think that tree bark, like cloud formations, lends itself to woolgathering. Do you see a face in this image? Does it have an expression? And even without invoking the imagination, the interplay of light and shadows, as well as the variety of colors made me stop and appreciate the feeling it created.
Seeing shapes in clouds – or faces in bark or in a water stain – is a type of pareidolia, defined as “the perception of familiar objects in random images, abstract things or patterns.” (Müri and Göbel, 2020) It may also occur with sound patterns.
As I read neuroscientists Müri and Göbel’s article, I found it interesting that in the past, pareidolia was viewed negatively; in the late 1800s, it was considered by some “to be a symptom of psychosis or a sign of dementia”. Hmm.
Conversely, Leonardo da Vinci viewed it as a source of creative inspiration. Müri and Göbel describe how they performed creativity tests on individuals and found that the “results suggest that creative processes are involved in the production of pareidolias, and that pareidolia might offer new ways to investigate creative cognition.” It certainly sparks creativity for me!
Reference: Müri, R. and Göbel, N. (2020, July 15). See faces in the clouds? It might be a sign of your creativity. Psyche.