I Want This + Life + Health

It’s right behind me…

It’s a little scary, my tiny new air plant, isn’t it? I hung it by the window in my office, and I keep glancing back over my shoulder to see if it’s creeping any closer while I’m not looking.

I have some kind of weird phobia that’s sort of like trypophobia, but not really. I feel sick when I look at clusters of things like certain kinds of plant roots (leeks are horrifying!) or rice stuck in a sink strainer. It’s impossible to explain to someone who doesn’t feel the same way, but trust me, it’s real—and my air plant is doing weird things to my mind. I can’t stop looking at it, but I also want to look away…

My air plant comes from Air Plant Supply Co., and it’s held in place by its roots and doesn’t need any soil. Every week, I have to give it a bath. In other words, I’ll probably kill it in no time! Heh. No, I’m really going to try to keep this thing alive.

The hanging pod it’s in comes from ceramacist Michael McDowell’s company Mudpuppy, who I wrote about previously in relation to one of my other nightmares, the one where all of my teeth fall out. This guy has quite a knack for honing right in on the things that make me feel uncomfortable, and I like it!

Photos from Mudpuppy

I can’t decide if putting the air plant in a ceramic baby head makes it more or less terrifying! Displaying it alongside a ceramic skull definitely adds something, but then you know how I feel about decorative skulls. The more the merrier!

OH, HEY! I just noticed that the Mudpuppy plant pods are actually on sale at Fab.com right now for 30% off regular price. Full disclosure: If you use this link to sign up for a Fab.com account, I will get a credit if you buy something within a month of joining. Ordinarily that’s not something I’d put here on the blog, but there’s no way to buy stuff from Fab.com without making an account first. It’s an invitation-based, design-focused shopping site, and quite honestly I’m a little addicted.

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  • Reply Cristina December 14, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Yes! I have something like this! I love Crunchie candy bars, but hate looking at the honeycomb-y inside. I also get all skin-crawl-y when I look at mushrooms growing out of the ground and various other things. My ex- thought I was completely insane and bought me a mushroom growing kit for my birthday. :/ I got all squicked out looking at a photo of that Guatemalan sinkhole from a few years back. I’m happy to see I’m not completely alone. 🙂

    • Anna @ D16 December 14, 2011 at 4:56 pm

      Yes, I understand completely, especially about the sinkhole!!

  • Reply Loren December 14, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Wow, those lotus seed pods have ALWAYS given me the willies. I never knew that was a common thing.
    I didn’t really have a problem with any other ‘cluster of hole’. But then I just looked through that slideshow and now I’m going to think about it every time I look at a sponge. Blergh.

    • Anna @ D16 December 14, 2011 at 5:00 pm

      It’s funny, the lotus seed pod thing is really common, but they actually don’t bother me! I think it’s the same kind of feeling, though. Just icky!

  • Reply alexandra @ work & tumble December 14, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    TRYPOPHOBIA! I can’t stand looking at lotus pods, strawberries (the patterns the seeds form), and yes, things like rice in the bottom of the sink and even bubbles. And bone marrow. All sorts of semi-organic patterns make my skin crawl – literally. I never understood phobias until I figure out that I had this one. It’s totally irrational.

    Wow, you’re the first person I’ve encountered to describe the same thing – everyone always thinks I’m insane!

    • Anna @ D16 December 14, 2011 at 5:01 pm

      YES YES YES YES!!! Semi-organic patterns, exactly. I think it’s our brains trying to make something perfect out of something that’s imperfect…

  • Reply Jayca December 14, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    Ok so I’m a follower and kind of never comment, but now I feel the need to, due to a sort of kinship with that whole almost-trypophobia thing [yes, I wish I could comment on the super-neat pods, etc – but the it’s the clusters that get me . . . ]

    I read the article attached and was a little squirmy, but then read a comment there about clusters of cracks or layers and literally started to itch both of my forearms – my shoulders are hunched and my nose is wrinkled right now.

    Honestly, I’m not this weird – but it’s nice to know others “aren’t,” too. 🙂

    • Anna @ D16 December 14, 2011 at 5:02 pm

      I was SO excited when I learned about trypophobia and that there are other people who feel the same way about certain things. My mother had been teasing me for years for saying I don’t like looking at the roots of plants!!

    • Serenity December 15, 2011 at 5:27 pm

      Reading that last comment with the article also put me over the edge. Looking at all the pictures made me feel funny, but the the comment with all the perfectly descriptive words really did me in.

      This was really interesting!

  • Reply mommy December 14, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    No wonder I don’t know what to give you for Christmas! Why don’t you just kill them off right away instead of forcing yourself to live with them?

    • Anna @ D16 December 14, 2011 at 4:32 pm

      I want help in my garden! That’s all I want! (Clearly I need it…)

  • Reply eliza December 14, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    wow. it’s so lovecraftian and cthulu-esque… i’m not sure i could deal with it.

    but it’s really cool!

  • Reply Pati N December 14, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Wow who knew? Trypophobia…My sister has it and yes I thought it was a bit strange. She gets so grossed out by Surinam toads and lotus seed pods!
    I think your plant looks like a jelly fish Anna…kind of cute.

  • Reply Kylie December 14, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Oh my I think I have that too. I never knew there was a name for it. I was saw a documentary on frogs that has these random holes etc on their skin and I had nightmares for months over it! (I feel sick just writing about it!)

    • Anna @ D16 December 14, 2011 at 6:53 pm

      I really don’t want to think about frogs with holes in them, ugggghhhhh!

  • Reply Anna (twelve22) December 14, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    I’ll chime in with the others and say YES! I share your phobia, clusters more than holes. Seeds really do it to me, especially if they’re wet/sticky, like tomato seeds and seeds in cooked eggplant. Erg.

  • Reply Christina December 14, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    Wow…so i never comment but i HAD to with this one…you have made me so happy to know i’m not alone!! Who cares if its not a real phobia…at least i’m not the only person who has an extreme aversion to this!!!! Wow!!!!

  • Reply Anna @ D16 December 14, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    This is wild!!! I’m amazed by how many of you have this same weirdo phobia! I’m oddly comforted…

  • Reply Emily December 14, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    I diagnosed myself with trypophobia back in middle school. It started when my little brother suctioned his hand to the bathtub drain and it left all the little holey marks on his skin. Ugh! These days, overly large holes in crackers (like Wasas), too many potholes on the road, and those lotus pods all freak me out.

  • Reply victoria December 14, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    i like it hanging there — it looks interesting against your view of metropolis. which is splendid, by the way.

    oh, and if you start watching ‘american horror story’ you will really be looking over your shoulder. 🙂

  • Reply victoria December 14, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    p.s. if there is ANYTHING in my sink strainer at all, i cannot tolerate it. total freakout.

  • Reply Suzanne December 14, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    there’s a horrible internet meme where someone photoshopped an open seed pod onto a nipple. It is about 1000x more horrible than you might think, and now I can’t look at seed pods. I CANT DO IT.

  • Reply jennifer_in_sf December 14, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Yeah, I don’t have this so much* but this post (DON’T CLICK THE LINKS IF YOU HAVE IT) made me realize how common it is!

    *although I spend a fair amount of brainspace trying not to think about those frogs. *la la la lalala la* don’t exist.

  • Reply Samone December 14, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    Holy molasses, Anna, I really wish I hadn’t Googled ‘trypophobia’ to find out what it is.

    Sometimes I have a horrible vision of something similar and clustery and gruesome!!! There was a Star Trek character that made me want to hurl just looking at it because of this.


    From the responses here, perhaps this is a really super common aversion. I mean, look at it! NO WONDER!

    All that aside, cool freaky plant.

    • Elena December 15, 2011 at 12:27 pm

      I just googled it too. OMG!!! I felt a scared feeling though, not sick. It frightened me.

  • Reply amy good house December 14, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    I am totally freaking out. As I was reading this I was literally thinking to myself “that must be like that feeling I have about little holes” and I clicked on the Trypophobia link and now I want to hurl.
    At the same time I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  • Reply Mo December 14, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    I bought pods from mudpuppy at fab recently and they are adorable. One is for a gift and the rest are for me. I wanted the plants, but wasn’t sure about bringing them into Canada. I can’t wait to get them up.

  • Reply April December 15, 2011 at 12:41 am

    LOVE air plants. I’ve had such success with my 4 tiny ones (size matters in a tiny house) and I tend to kill most plants. Sent my sister a couple for her birthday, too. They’re all over etsy.

  • Reply ileana December 15, 2011 at 6:58 am

    great post! beautiful photo of your plant. i have a bunch of these in my bathroom. they have survived for over 2 years now with their weekly bath. and thanks so much for letting us know about what looks to be like a great supplier of airplants – i’ll be shopping.

  • Reply Angel Y December 15, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Ugh I have trypophobia myself. It drives me nuts. I totally can’t even say the “cl” word without shuddering.

  • Reply Terri December 15, 2011 at 9:46 am

    My goodness! It’s not only me then! Crazy random organic patterns and holes have always made me feel queezy. I can’t stand the sight of stray rice in the strainer either! eeww, just thinking about it has made me go all shivery.

  • Reply Ainsley December 15, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Hmm. I didn’t realize this was a “thing”. I googled trypophobia and looked at the images, and while some of them were inexplicably creepy (and some just gross), I don’t seem to be particularly freaked out. *whew* I can see how this would be a major inconvenience!

    Cool plant! It does seem to sort of *loom* there, though. o.o

  • Reply Bright December 15, 2011 at 10:37 am

    I really like the concept of giving a plant a bath.

    I have four or five succulents and they should probably be brought in for the winter, it’s getting really chilly. More importantly though, I can’t believe they haven’t died yet. I’m awful at keeping plants alive. I wish they would meow for water.

    • Bright December 15, 2011 at 10:38 am

      Also, yes, that plant is seriously creeping me out too. It has tentacles!

  • Reply Sarah December 15, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    My husband SWEARS he has trypophobia! Can’t believe so many people here say they have it as well.

  • Reply Christian December 15, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    I have trypophobia!

    Also linking me to fab.com just ruined my bank account. Thank you. haha.

    I signed up yesterday under your referral! I plan on buying some stuff soon!

    • Anna @ D16 December 15, 2011 at 5:34 pm

      Haha, I’m here to ruin your life with clusters of holes and fancy designy stuff! 😀

  • Reply LeeAnn December 15, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    With a plant like that, I feel as if Sigourney Weaver has to be near. 🙂

    I had no idea that patterns/shapes could freak people out. Do you think this impacts how you design?

    I googled trypophobia, found a slide show of images and I have discovered I am quite the opposite. I find all those images interesting and intriguing. Though that species of toad has always grossed me out.

    • Anna @ D16 December 15, 2011 at 4:31 pm

      I don’t think it affects me as a designer at all, at least not consciously. In my case, it’s really only organic patterns and clusters that are skeeve-inducing!

  • Reply Lori E. December 15, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    Ok, wow. Wow. Things like that have always troubled me to a certain degree but I couldn’t NOT look, ya know? Like I couldn’t tear myself away and would just look and look and look. Tonight I just googled this whole thing and this link made me yell, my scalp itch and I just can’t UN-SEE it.
    Off to post the google link on FB so others can share the joy… Blech.

    • Anna @ D16 December 15, 2011 at 8:15 pm


    • Lori E. December 15, 2011 at 8:17 pm

      I KNOW! I just looked a second time… Gah!!!

    • Mary January 17, 2012 at 7:41 pm

      eep. I know what you mean, because I’m so tempted to look, but I know if I do I will want to crawl right out of my skin. yuck.

  • Reply Adriane Duckworth December 15, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    So…I find this plant a little creepy too, but also, awesome.

  • Reply Janine December 15, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Hey Anna, I know at least three people who have clusterphobia. There are lots of triggers of it! It seems to run in families, mother to daughter. Ask your Mom or aunts if they also are squicked by groups of small things.

    Anyway, you’re not weird or anything.

    • Anna @ D16 December 15, 2011 at 9:17 pm

      Nope, no one else in my family has any idea what I’m talking about, believe me!

  • Reply Nicole December 16, 2011 at 9:50 am

    I have wanted some air plants for a while! They are so interesting. And the idea of bathing a plant is inexplicably cute.

    I don’t have anything near a phobia–I actually find the types of patterns you are describing very appealing and paint/draw similar things all the time, and spend a lot of “art” time idly punching divots and holes into clay or stretching it out into root-like clusters–but the infamous Lotus Breast photoshop definitely scarred me on lotus pods, at least. Also I googled up the hole-y frogs and that’s just gross. But that’s the extent of it 🙂

    Whenever this comes up in a discussion thread online (this is two I’ve seen recently; the other was on a nail polish site of all places, in response to a pebbled manicure she’d done) I am always surprised by how common it is. I have a friend who gets visibly grossed out over natural sponges and loofahs, and until I started seeing comment threads about this I always thought she was just weird. I wonder what the evolutionary basis for this is, if any. It seems so widespread and hindbrain that I feel like it must have some deep-rooted purpose!

    On a tangential note related to the frog, there is a fascinating type of newt that can use its ribs as weapons. If it’s freaked out it expands them and they jut out like sharp blades through the skin on their sides to stab and tear. Newts being the regenerative creatures they are it’s not too much of a detriment to have their bones sticking out of their sides 🙂 Not sure why I felt the need to share that, but there you go.

  • Reply lindsey clare December 16, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    Ohhhh another trypophobe here. I actually just heard of it the other day after randomly googling “freaked out by certain patterns”. Ha. I’ve always been just a little bit squeamish about fishbones, skeletons, weird skin things. My theory is that our brains don’t like seeing potentially “harmful” patterns because it reminds us of our organic bodies that are not immortal! Something like that.

    Cute plant though 🙂

  • Reply lindsay December 16, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    I think it’s pretty…looks like a jelly fish suspended in air! Also, just curious…how do you bathe it? Dipping, mist it, wipe it down?

    • Anna @ D16 December 16, 2011 at 9:49 pm

      Stick it in a bowl a water! 🙂

  • Reply Nina December 16, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    The kid head with the plant reminds me of Medusa.

  • Reply Whitney December 17, 2011 at 1:46 am

    That happened to me when I saw the “roots” of ivy growing through the screen on my bedroom window when I was a kid. The ivy was really pretty on the brick outside but I couldn’t handle it through the screen. I remember trying to cut it off with scissors and feeling nauseated! It makes my cheeks tingle. Humans are such fascinating creatures aren’t we?

  • Reply Jen December 17, 2011 at 6:53 am

    Yes yes yes! I’m not posting the link, but that poor man who lives in Indonesia who has a skin condition that makes growths on his arms, legs, hands, face etc that look like …aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh, roots of plants.

    I thought it was just me!

    Also, the scars on trees when a branch is cut off…

  • Reply Jen December 18, 2011 at 3:59 am

    PS there’s a trypophobia facebook page (of course) and some interesting links.

    I’d also like to add… pecan nuts, sliced across the middle (not lengthways). Cringe!

  • Reply Stephanie December 18, 2011 at 6:48 am

    I’d never heard of this but since this post and googling “trypophobia” I’ve come to realize that I’m the complete opposite of most everyone on here! I can’t look away from these images and I want to see more! The lotus pod is pretty weird but I still love looking at it. So funny

  • Reply Sherisa D December 18, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    OMG I have that exact same phobia too!! I didn’t know it was an actual phobia, though. Yikes.

  • Reply Tania December 18, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    It makes think of a squid (in a good way). I like the skull version but I tend to be partial to skulls so it’s probably not a fair contest.

    I love fab.com too, they have unique items which you don’t see all over the place.

  • Reply andrea December 19, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    What about that Ethiopian bread called injera. Does that make you trypophobes squirm? Or how about crumpets?

    I’ve never heard of this phobia and am suddenly feeling a bit left out.

    • Mirmaid December 22, 2011 at 3:36 pm

      Not tryptophobic, so the holes don’t make me squirm, but that bread is gross. I love most exotic food and went out of my way when visiting Washington D.C. to go eat Ethiopian on a website recommendation. Yuck.

  • Reply Tina December 19, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Wow, wow wow these are SO cool. I wouldnt normally have indoor plants, but these air plants in these planters look just amazing. And a little bit scary.

  • Reply fritzdecat December 19, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    It reminds me of that little probe that went into the guys belly button in The Matrix

  • Reply TheChangingHouse December 22, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    Oh wow! That plant does look a little scary but so unique! Nice!

  • Reply Izabelle December 24, 2011 at 1:27 am

    Just the thought of clusters has my heart racing and I’m now in a sweat. My fear isn’t limited to holes though, clusters of anything (round things like fish eggs, mushrooms, dots, whatever) has me in a state of panic. I’ve had multiple meltdowns at dinners when SURPRISE my Dad didn’t get to the fish row before me…

  • Reply Sean December 28, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    That is such a cool plant it looks like an Aloe Vera plant, its crazy how it can grow upside down, can all plants grow that way? How do you keep the dirt in the pot, would imagine there is not dirt right?? Crazy.

    • Anna @ D16 December 28, 2011 at 7:11 pm

      Nope, no dirt! And it’s only certain kinds of plants.

  • Reply Jodie Chapman December 30, 2011 at 5:36 am

    My name’s Jodie and I’m a trypophobe. For some reason I even belong to a Facebook group for it. I can’t look at those lotus seed pods, certain bubbles, enlarged cells or pores, brussel sprouts growing on the stalk, the end of steel tubes you see going past on the backs of lorries, and the word “cluster” makes me itch my face until it bleeds. It’s a very common phobia – my husband, my dad and my niece all suffer from it. Other people think we’re crazy, but that’s the beauty of it. Glad to know you are a fellow sufferer!

  • Reply Mary January 17, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    Oh my god! I’m 31 years old and had no idea other people had this issue. I have ALWAYS had this, but didn’t know it had a name! I just googled trypophobe & could barely stand to look at the results page. yuck.

    That plant is morbidly cool, though.

    • deeds August 8, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      i looked at a few lotus pods and my chest got tight and my skin started to crawl.
      i actually broke out in tears later in the day because i couldnt get the imgage out of my head, full blown panic attack. but i still am obsessed with looking at them. i think i am a freak.

  • Reply john June 16, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    The first airplant photo is like something out of invasion of the bodysnatchers! but ya, airplants are strange but cool! low maintenence as well!

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