Tag Archives: rocks

Warm Rocks and Cold Stares

Walking along a lush tropical garden path we often find ourselves in the company of Warm Rocks and Cold Stares.  This particular sunny morning we were not disappointed.

The warm Floridian sun had just begun to shine its way through tall trees into the lush green underbrush below.  As pockets of the sunlight lit up this hidden dark world you could see life start to move again signifying the beginning of a new day.

This brown anole lizard has discovered the perfect spot to start warming her chilled and sluggish reptilian blood.  The round white water worn stone provides the perfect location for her to warm herself to begin the day’s hunting.

Normally, these lizards will eat just about anything Warm Rocks and Cold Staresthey can fit in their mouths.  She will undoubtably go on to find a smorgasbord of mealworms, spiders, crickets, and anything other insect she can find.  Anole lizards are also known to eat the young of other lizard species and strangely enough, they will even eat their own previously shed skin.

Life is not perfect for her though, she has to wary of a number of natural predators that would happily make her a mid morning snack.  Snakes, larger lizards, and even birds would not think twice of devouring her.

To protect herself from these hungry predators, she has a series of defenses to rely on.  Her first line of defense is to use her camouflaged body to try to remain unseen.  The second defense is her unique ability to lose her tail.

This species of lizard are able to detach their tails at will.  The detached tail will continue to wiggle and move hopefully causing the predator to pay attention to it while she escapes.  Her tail will grow back eventually, however it may never reach the same length, as it’s original.

We know that this particular lizard looking at us inquisitively is a female due to the diamond-shaped colored markings running the length of her back.  While the males also have a discretionary multicolored pattern on their backs, the patterns tend to be one of spots and not actual lines.

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What Do You See in Turtle Rock?

Ann and I walked through the garden producing the photographs that became the show Walking Through the Zen Garden.  We had just walked along a narrow winding path when Ann pointed at this particular boulder and said, “That looks like a turtle.”  I looked up from fiddling with my camera and said “That isn’t a turtle that’s just a … a… turtle.”  Yeah, that does look like one.”  click.


Thus, the artwork titled Turtle Rock arrived.  But what happened?  Why did I first look at the rock and never thought it looked like a turtle, but then it did?


The answer is form of Pareidolia. No, it’s not some tropical disease.  It’s a weird scientific word that basically means that our brains attempt to make visual or auditory order out of chaos.


I saw a rock and a random texture of pebbles and crags in the rock.  My brain did not enjoy it.   Human brains dislike visual or auditory chaos.  It perceives it as a threat.   So it does something about it.  It creates the illusions you see while looking at a cloud in the sky and begin to see houses, and faces, and expressions.


This stems from the days when we were hunters and gathers and depended on our five senses to survive. You need clear vision and pattern recognition to see your dinner running through the bushes so you can aim your spear.  You also need clear distinct hearing and auditory recognition to recognize the sound of a charging elephant so you can get out-of-the-way.


If your senses trick you and offer nothing but random sights or sounds, your brain will rebel and attempt to see what it thinks it should.   The reverse of this concept is why camouflage works.  Camouflage creates chaotic patterns out of something identifiable and tricks your brain into not see what is actually there by using the opposite visual technique.


When I heard the word “turtle” my brain, not enjoying the chaos and lack of patterns in the rock, made my eyes look for the head of a turtle.  I quickly identified the snout at the top, the eye in the middle, and the nearby rock as part of a turtle shell breaking the ground like water. Art created by the power of illusion through chaos.

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What’s So Artistic About a Bunch Of Rocks?

The piece Rocks and Roots provides an interesting composition with varied layers of meaning.

At first glance you see the round pebbles and rocks of a river or stream bed displaced by the roots of a nearby tree.  However, this is a Zen garden and nothing is as it seems.

Zen gardens are places of meditation, solitude, nature and the blending of architecture with nature.  Naturally, every piece and structure, both natural and manufactured in a Zen garden has a purpose.  Usually it tells a story, or reminds you of a lesson or saying.  It works the same way that stained glass works in a church. However, it is possible to also look at the elements in a Zen garden through the eyes of art.

Artistically, this picture is not only old rocks and new roots, it’s also about the lines.  If you notice, there are almost no straight lines in this piece.    Most are of a natural form, a curve, or a smooth rounded edge.  Even the straight lines you do find on some of the roots are not completely straight but still follow a natural fragmented look.

After the study of natural lines Rocks and Roots reveals the value of the contrasts .  Discover the contrasts of texture and color between the various rocks resulting in earth tones of grey and reds but compared with the dark foreboding wood of the root.

Once our eyes are comfortable with these contrasts of line and color we discover the straight lined structure in the far upper left corner compared with the rest of the work. It is now that we have a total blend of components that serves the piece completely.

The shocking result is a work rich in a compelling study of lines, contrast and color.  The different colored rocks, the earth tones and the dark ragged hues of the wood present the miracle of nature but by leaving that straight piece of wood in the corner, we have instantly invented a theme resulting in Man vs. nature theme to the overall composition.  The artificial structure and the natural world is separate, yet part of the compelling experience.

Click here to return to the show Walking through The Zen Garden.

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