According to researchers, in the first hour after birth, infants are more visually attuned to their mother's faces than to her nipple. In fact, Phyllis H. Klaus and Marshall H. Klaus reported that during this time, newborns are especially interested in their mother's eyes, even though her nipple on which to feed is right next to their lips.
Finding human faces is something we naturally do. People search for faces everywhere, even in unlikely places. If you check online, you can find glacial gouging of rocks that some writers claim to be the carvings of faces made by ancient people. All that's needed to make a recognizable face are two spots for eyes and, preferably, a mouth.
The human need to see human faces has taken a beating during the pandemic. Mask wearing is completely necessary, although somewhat tragic. I look forward to the end of COVID-19, not only because of the decrease in suffering we all hope for, but also because I deeply miss going into town and talking with strangers (primarily in coffee shops) and with friends face to face. I think talking to strangers is good for me; finding something to talk about with someone I knew very little about made me feel more connected to all human beings. It also allows for random bits of kindness, or at least friendliness.
Friends felt good to talk with, because, well, they’re friends. Face to face, I could see their whole face light up or frown or do any of the amazing things that a person does when they are unguarded about their demeanor or opinions when they are talking with you, like a friend.
Recently I have been working on a project to bring more faces out into the open. I mean giant faces… great, big, giant Snow Heads carved out of snow piles that are lying around being allowed to melt away. WHAT A WASTE OF AN ARTISTIC RESOURCE! You can help prevent this wastage with a few friends or with your child, or by yourself. All it takes is a shovel and a few minutes of effort, and volia! Add some humor to your day and that of everyone who sees your work.
This is something I have been doing on my birthday for about 15 years. It's one of the many projects I and other faculty members of the "University of Brattleboro" (the oldest non-existent university in New England) have created. (See universityofbrattleboro.com.) Our motto has always been, "Desperandum nobis pugna est cum humor," which is Google-translate Latin for, "We fight despair with humor."
This year for my birthday, a small group of my friends got together (all wearing masks of course and trying to stay six feet apart) and made a Snow Head in the parking lot of the New England Youth Theater. We succeeded in turning that pile of snow into a giant head, recognizable as such from more than 200 feet away. And that's my goal. I want people to be surprised and delighted, even from a great distance.
Thanks to a grant from the town of Brattleboro's Art Fund, I am able to offer three $100 prizes for the top three Snow Heads. There is a prize for Goofiness, Artistry and Delight that the head causes.
It is possible to make a successful Snow Head in a matter of minutes. Eye, eye, mouth, and boom, you will probably make someone smile when they see it. But to add a little artistry to your creation, pay attention to fine details. Consider adding a sculpted nose and digging out nostrils. Deeply dug features will make your face recognizable as a face. And remember that humans really respond to eyes. These can be created by either digging deeply into the snow, or by adding some vegetable matter, such as leaves for eyebrows, or black paper, cardboard or black cotton socks for pupils.
The only rules: make your head out of snow and plant material (though this can include black cotton socks as stated above, because they make such great eyeballs).
When you have your creation all set, take its photo and email it to email@example.com by March 20.
Do this. It's fun! And it's fun to maybe win a prize. But the most fun, I believe, comes from imagining other people getting the lift and the spark they need when they unexpectedly come upon your giant, happy monster face, gaping, staring or smiling at them. So, if you can't make it to Brattleboro, do this in your town, or, wherever and whenever you see a snow pile that is going to waste. It’s just waiting for you to turn it into something good!
Rolf Parker received a master’s degree in entomology from Clemson University. He lives with his wife, Cynthia Houghton, and their son in Brattleboro. He is a freelance writer and math tutor. See what else he and his wife are up to at greenmountainartifacts.com.