The Old Bum by the Lake
A Funny Memory
I wrote this poem many years after the fact as a funny memory of a visit to my cousin back in 1960 or so.
It was summer, and like many kids, we thought it would be a real hoot to see if we could stay awake all night long. We told jokes, acted goofy, snuck snacks, and did all the usual "girlie" things that kids to at a pajama party.
My cousins lived near the edge of a lake, and the nearby water caused some ground fog to form overnight. As we peered out the window, alternately opening it, and trying to force our eyeballs through the window screening, then closing it against the damp and chill (even in summer, it gets cool overnight near a lake), we honestly thought we saw something strange, alternately moving and freezing stock-still.
All Night Long...
...and in the dim before dawn by the fog-crested lake,
Murky shadows and shapes weave
in and out of the edge of sight,
offering glimpses of
A lurking beast;
All morphing in and out of reality
as window screen and fog
conspire to deny clear focus.
All vie for the upper hand
in our pre-teen minds.
Sleep-deprived from trying to focus all night,
we envision upcoming adventure, excitement, discovery.
Disappointed when sunrise spotlights
a plain green shrub.
What Was Really Going On?
Our night-long vigil and the things we thought we saw can be attributed to a phenomenon known as pattern matrixing, in which the brain attempts to make sense of random shapes and the play of light and shadow.
Often this results in seeing things that are not really there, or mistaken identity of things that are. A couple of examples are seeing whales, poodles, castles and images of other familiar things in a cloudy sky, or in the embers of a dying campfire.
It also explains "miraculous pictures of holy figures" in places like grilled cheese sandwiches; and it is the force at work behind the famous (or perhaps infamous!) Rorschach inkblot test.
© 2010 Liz Elias