Thursday, June 28, 2007

Don't Mind the Seeds

Another California tale from an Arizona resident, fresh like this watermelon Virgin of Guadalupe. More abstract even than the Jesus driftwood from my last post, this sighting is all about the shape. No matter what you may, or may not, see, it really doesn’t matter because Mary Lou Robles noticed this holy form as soon as she split open the melon. That’s how Mary’s daughter Crystal sees it, too: “It's unexplainable but sometimes God does miracles and maybe it brought her a visual of the watermelon so she can realize she's a great woman and somebody else is watching over her. . . . As long as she sees it and as long as she knows that it’s a thank you.”

Apparently, the watermelon, reported yesterday by First Coast News, is already more than 10 days old, with no sign of rotting.

Interesting about this also is the fact that Robles works in the Calipatria State Prison snack bar. She was getting ready to cube the watermelon so it could be served. Her co-workers told her to throw it out.

Only in California would inmates get fresh fruit.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Beach Combing

I've wiled away many happy hours on California beaches. Back then, I didn't have a cell phone though, and I never found a piece of driftwood that looked like Jesus. But that's exactly what an unnamed California woman found recently as she strolled along the coast, talking on the phone.

According to KNSD/NBC, the gnarled stick has entered this woman's life at just the right time. Her husband is serving in Iraq and is due back in September. She interprets this Jesus stick as a sign that his safe return is inevitable. I sure hope she is right.

I am reminded of a book called Faces of the Living Dead, which Mark Batty Publisher did (the house that published Madonna of the Toast). Author Martyn Jolly examines spirit photography at the advent of photography and correlates spikes in its popularity to times of war, namely the American Civil War and World War I. Confronted with death and destruction on a scale previously unknown, people sought to cope with loss by any means that provided solace, in this case spirit photography.

In reporting these instances of religious iconography showing up in all sorts of places, I have been surprised that more people's stories don't relate to the wars going on in the world today, at this very moment. It is true that spirit photography was something foisted on people looking for answers and that the stories I relay to you are about individuals stumbling upon something that reminds them of something else, but at the core of both is hope and faith: the desire to name the inexplicable and unknowable for piece of mind.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Endings Are Never as Good as the Stories

The Sopranos is a searching study of the problem of small horizons. The problem is that they are beautiful and they are crushing. Who does not come from a place that mistakes itself for the universe? All metaphysics is local. If it is possible to have a vision of the Virgin Mary, then it possible to have a vision of the Virgin Mary at the Bada Bing. The Sopranos locates the human lot in north Jersey, but the human lot is available everywhere or it is available nowhere.”

Leon Wieseltier, The New Republic, 6.18.07

EVERYONE got in on the whole The Sopranos wrap-up, deconstruct thing. I have never lived with HBO, so my knowledge of the show, and appreciation, stems from catching a single episode here and there, or settling into a three or four episode session thanks to Netflix or On Demand at my folks’ house. I feel no sense of loss. My Sundays feel the same as ever. I have been impressed, and surprised (since I never gave myself over to the show), by how the final episode generated so much analysis. But then again, who the hell keeps thinking about pareidolia, and insists it possesses great cultural significance?

That’s what I like about the above excerpt from Leon Wieseltier; with great acuity, he identifies why such events matter. The import is in the possibility of such events (whether reported as news or reflected in art), as the possibility is a product, and virtue, of “the human lot.”

This tree is located near St. Michael’s Church in Memphis, Tennessee, and once again we have the face of Jesus in bark. Apparently, this tree stands between two other trees, evoking for believers the Trinity, according to NBC5 in Dallas/Fort Worth.

There’s not much information about who first discovered the face and under what circumstances. I’d guess that the face has been there quite some time, unnoticed until the right person walked past and saw Jesus. Perhaps he or she had just heard a stirring sermon, or was on a soul-searching stroll. Impossible to know, of course, but as Wieseltier writes, “All metaphysics is local.” Recognizable faces are found everywhere around the world, but even for the similarities that many of the stories share, all of these instances are unique to a time and place. Everything that stems from these sightings is interpretation, disseminated and reinterpreted.

I guess that’s why The Sopranos ended without an ending (so I’ve read).

For some more pics of the tree, check out WMC in Memphis.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

It's Regional, Not Religious

Yup, that's Elvis on toast. It's not a new sighting, which goes to show you that these sightings happen all the time, and have always happened. Now, if you've been keeping up with me here, these occurrences come as no great surprise. You know what pareidolia is, you know about Madonna of the Toast and you may even know that the book includes a story about Elvis on a receipt.

While the book may be the first of its kind, this blog isn't the first one to report news of strange sightings. Because of that, I'm always amazed by how quickly conventional media outlets pick up on these stories, which, by the way, all lead back to Diana Duyser. Such is the case with this article from the Daily Herald in Arlington Heights, Illinois. The writer is responding to all of the attention the Mayor Donald Stephens sycamore tree has been getting.(Read my last post to learn more.) CNN picked it up from the Associated Press and apparently so many people have traveled to see the face, a barrier has been built to protect the tree.

I'm still not prepared to say that technology influences these sightings, but it certainly informs us about them in mere moments. The more important issue is why does interest in such stories never diminish?

Something else I like about this article from Illinois, is how the writer mentions other religious sightings from the greater Chicago area. If you've really been paying attention, you know that I have been keeping tabs on where these sightings take place. Soon, I will run a tally. The front runners include Texas and Ohio, but it seems like Illinois may be in the running. Just check out the Virgin Mary turtle above and the Virgin Mary roadside stain below.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Of Trees, Both Living and Turned into Newspaper

This is a first: a two-in-one face! Discovered in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, Illinois, this sycamore tree bears a resemblance to former Mayor Donald E. Stephens, and Jesus. Reported today by the Chicago Sun-Times, even relatives and close friends of the recently deceased man see his face in the peeling bark of this tree outside of a health club. Even the village’s new mayor, Stephens’s son Bradley, sees his father in the tree.

Why this tree of all trees? Well, apparently Stephens twice saved this tree from being chopped down, and now his acts of conservation have earned him a spot in nature (if you can call a tree by a parking lot a part of nature).

The story doesn’t end there, though. A couple weeks after the face was identified, a woman came along and prayed to the tree because to her the face looks like Jesus.

There’s no way to say who’s right, but I think it is safe to say that this tree will not be felled anytime soon, and at this rate the world can use all the trees it can get!

And from news of the midwest to news from more southern climes: You may remember that a couple of posts back I mentioned my trip down to Miami the Thursday before Memorial Day to chat with Diana Duyser about her Grilled Cheese Madonna fame and fortune. The well-appointed Coral Gables Books and Books hosted the event, and though the crowd was thin, those in attendance were engaged.

The other day, Nicholas Spangler wrote a piece about Diana, and mentioned the reading, in the Miami Herald.

I guess Spangler has spent some time with Diana and her husband over the years, and this piece focuses on their current state of affairs, which is less than ideal. In light of their circumstances, he seems to dig into them a bit, which admittedly they set themselves up for, but not everything is as it looks, just consider all of these various objects in which some people see holy figures and other people see water stains.