Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Longhorn Cavern, part 4

with 22 comments


On January 26th we visited Longhorn Cavern State Park, which is about an hour’s drive west of home.
All the pictures here came from my iPhone 14 in raw mode at 48.8 megapixels per image.



Our tour guide surprised me by bringing up the word pareidolia and asking if any of us knew what it meant. It’s been a mainstay in my posts for several years, so naturally I piped up with a definition. The guide said I was only the third person he’d encountered in a tour group who knew it (and of course many of you would have known it, too). The reason he brought up pareidolia is that visitors tend to imagine they see something in several of the Longhorn Cavern formations.



The mass of rock above—found elsewhere in the cavern and moved to this pedestal—strikes many onlookers as a mammal of some sort. I leave the formation below to your imagination. Speak up if you’re so inclined.




✦        ✦        ✦



Here are still more quotations from Andrew Doyle‘s 2022 book The New Puritans.
(I’ve retained his British spelling and punctuation.)


This tendency to persist with false convictions even when evidence is produced to contradict them is known as ‘belief perseverance’, and is a recurring trait among ideologues. This applies as much to the student activist who has convinced himself that his university is a hothouse of white supremacy as it does to the soldier in the gulag committing acts of torture on those innocent prisoners who refused to recite the approved creed.

The greatest trick of authoritarians is to convince their subjects to rejoice in their own subjugation.

Claiming to be an ‘anti-fascist’ is rather like wearing a badge saying ‘I am not a paedophile’; it makes others wonder what you’re hiding.

Hysteria is no sound basis for political analysis….

When you ask someone to declare pronouns, you are doing one of two things. You are either saying that you are having trouble identifying this person’s sex, or you are saying that you believe in the notion of gender identity and expect others to do the same. As a species we are very well attuned to recognising the sex of other people, so, for the most part, to ask for pronouns is an expression of fealty to a fashionable ideology, and to set a test for others to do likewise. This is akin to a religious conviction, and we would be rightly appalled if employers were to demand that their staff proclaim their faith in Christ the Saviour or Baal the Canaanite god of fertility before each meeting.


UPDATE: You can read an article about belief perseverance.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 17, 2023 at 4:30 AM

22 Responses

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  1. You found the sculpture room. 😀 I definitely fall into the category of seeing shapes and familiar things in/on things where they aren’t.
    The top image upper right corner I see a long-horned sheep or horse, and a horse, and a cat is the lone shape, and the bottom one looks like a whale lunging or breaching out of the sea.


    February 17, 2023 at 6:55 AM

    • So we could say Pareidolia is your middle name. I’m with you when it comes to the breaching whale at the bottom, but I doubt I’d ever have singled out a long-horned sheep or horse in the upper right corner of the top picture. Chacun à son goût—et à sa vision.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 17, 2023 at 7:08 AM

  2. I’d have thought the first formation was a weathered statue of a dog from ancient Canisnopolis. The 2nd a desert lizard.

    Robert Parker

    February 17, 2023 at 7:22 AM

    • I’m with you in Canisnopolis on your dogged pursuit of an identity for the first one. The desert lizard has eluded me—you know how fast some lizards can run.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 17, 2023 at 7:42 AM

  3. I see a dog and a spy-hopping whale. 🙂

    Eliza Waters

    February 17, 2023 at 7:48 AM

  4. My favorite of the group is the collection of sharp-edged twists in the first photo. It doesn’t look ‘like’ anything but itself to me, but it’s immensely attractive. No doubt influenced by recent news reports, I see a balloon with its string dangling in the second; influenced by a certain photographer, I see a frog in the last. It is Friday, after all.


    February 17, 2023 at 8:16 AM

    • Ah, Friday, named for a Norse goddess, of whom Wikipedia notes: “In Norse paganism, Freyja (Old Norse ‘(the) Lady’) is a goddess associated with love, beauty, fertility, sex, war, gold, and seiðr (magic for seeing and influencing the future).” You’ve hopped on the seeing part with your balloon and frog. In the first picture the formations seem different from any I’ve seen in other caverns. On the right side, I can kind of imagine a buffalo with lowered head charging down a hill.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 17, 2023 at 8:29 AM

  5. Somehow I had missed the Longhorn park post. Looks like an interesting place to go. Rock formations are a delight to photograph and it seems as though your iPhone did a good job at it. I do see shapes in everything.

    Alessandra Chaves

    February 17, 2023 at 8:45 AM

    • Sounds like you’re not just pareidolic but panpareidolic (from Greek pan, meaning ‘all’). If you click the “Longhorn Cavern” tag at the bottom of this post’s text you can scroll down in reverse order through all four parts in the series about this cavern. Somehow we’d never visited Longhorn Cavern State Park till last month, even though it’s not far from home. The visit was well worth it, and the iPhone proved its mettle.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 17, 2023 at 9:16 AM

  6. Love your iPhone photos from Longhorn Caverns… now all I have to do is figure out how to get my significant other to give me an upgrade to my iPhone 12, which doesn’t have all the photo upgrades the 14 does… Pareidolia: the last object reminds me of the images of various whales breaching the surface of the ocean whenever the Extraordinary Attorney Woo Young Woo gets an inspired idea (Attorney Woo is series on Netflix, now available dubbed in English). (I see I’m not alone in that assignment of pattern to rock).
    About Longhorn Caverns State Park: The NPSOT-Wilco chapter had a field trip there, quite a few years ago, which I scouted and led. On the nature trail walk I had discovered a beautiful specimen of Lindheimer’s Morning Glory (Ipomoea lindheimeri), which was well worth the trip. You might want to return to seek it out later in the year during its blooming season. (One of the other members snapped a photo of me at th entrance/exit to the cavern. I liked the photo mainly for the juxtaposition of the straight orderly stairs to the right and the chaotic mass of large rocks to the left).
    “When you ask someone to declare pronouns…” I was once given a Draw A Person test during the late 1960s. I drew a head of a person with long hair and eyeglasses, similar to what I wore at the time. The psychologist then asked me to draw the rest of the person’s body, which I did, long-sleeved denim shirt and bell bottomed jeans.
    He then asked me whether it was a male or female. I looked at my drawing closely, and told him I couldn’t tell. I remember his response, but don’t recall mine, but it should have been “You said to draw a Person, not a person of a specific sex.” These days, given the opportunity, I use person and one as preferred pronouns, followed by he, him, and Hey you!, otherwise, I just use the binary sex assigned at birth option.
    Thanks (?) again for your photography and interesting “opinion” materials, which have distracted me from my daily to do list once again.


    February 17, 2023 at 10:04 AM

    • I used an iPhone 12 until this past fall, when I upgraded to the 14. The 12 gets good pictures, but not till the 14 could a person get 48.8 megapixels in raw mode with the 1x camera.

      You’re not alone in seeing a whale in the last picture. I’m with you.

      When I was at Longhorn Cavern State Park I also thought about returning a few months from now to take advantage of the wildflowers. That trip could be combined with nearby Inks Lake State Park, as we did on January 26th.

      Distractions from to-do lists are welcome, aren’t they?

      I haven’t bought into the “assigned at birth” terminology. I first encountered it several years ago in National Geographic, and I promptly dropped my subscription to the magazine. As I see it—and have been meaning to lay out in a commentary—I was no more “assigned male at birth” than I was “assigned” one head, two arms, a liver, a heart, etc.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 17, 2023 at 7:31 PM

      • That’s my boy! (LOL)


        February 17, 2023 at 9:02 PM

        • Yes, a boy at birth, and I have XY chromosomes to prove it.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 18, 2023 at 6:48 AM

          • Actually, I did once meet a young teenager, who had been assigned “Female” as his sex at birth. Turns out, when he reached puberty, that his male genes took over, after having been raised as a girl for 12-13 or so years. Needless to say, he was a patient on the psychiatric ward I was (working, I somehow feel the need to say) on.


            March 23, 2023 at 11:03 PM

            • There are a tiny number of ambiguous cases where at birth it’s hard to tell male from female. I assume that now, with DNA testing, doctors could determine a baby’s genetic sex.

              We would never draw the wrong conclusion from your mention of having been in a psychiatric ward.

              Steve Schwartzman

              March 24, 2023 at 9:03 AM

  7. I am going to say frog-like for the lower formation.

    Lavinia Ross

    February 17, 2023 at 10:59 AM

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