In the country

Inferior Mirage
Park Rapids, Minnesota
1:30 p.m., July 11, 1997

Mirage Myth:

I always thought a mirage that looks like a pool of water (like this one) was a reflection of a real lake somewhere in the distance. An inferior mirage bends light that would normally head to the ground up toward your eye. The "pools" are usually images of the sky and maybe the tops of the trees. Because I am used to seeing water on the ground and I know that water reflects, the mirage image of the sky and trees looks a little like a lake. But it isn't a reflection of a real lake.

I saw this mirage on a sunny day in central Minnesota. I knew those puddles were only mirages and I knew a little bit about what causes mirages, but I still half-believed that what I saw on the road were shimmering pools of water. When I was taking pictures of them, I kept thinking to myself that I would see how close we could get to the "water" before it "evaporated".

Mirages interest me because they make me wonder how I interpret what I see and how I understand things when what I see conflicts with what I know. I am an artist, and much of my artwork is based on what I learn about the world through observation. So what if I can't believe my eyes? How do I know when a patch of water is only a mirage? And if I know it is only a mirage, why does it still look so much like real water?

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Why, do I wonder?

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