Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Time's Up, Summerfield, NC
Mindful acceptance includes acknowledging all that life has to offer from suffering to joy. Acceptance of life itself includes acceptance of death as well. Accepting death releases us from our inhibitions and fears so that we don’t miss the opportunities before us in our limited time on this planet.
Monday, October 17, 2011
Wispy Autumn Sky, Jamestown, NC
Shepherd of the Forest, Jamestown, NC
Free Falling Autumn Spirit,Summerfield, NC
There is a sense of changing seasons in the air today. Yellow, orange and scarlet colors filter the sunlight rays that pierce through the woodlands to provide a subtle aura that subconsciously alerts us that change is imminent. The Autumn sky is patterned by high flying wispy cirrus clouds. The sun’s rays only project warmth if you’re in their direct path due to the cool ambient temperature. The winds are gusting in advance of a weather front that’s triggering cold rain showers in its wake off to the west.
The trees have already begun a transformation to shut down the growing process for the year. Leaves high overhead have been deprived of the life giving chlorophyll that facilitates the green growth of these ancient shepherds of the forests that the middle earth people knew as Ents.
The final adventure begins ever so slowly with a quickening crescendo that finally attracts the attention of even the casual observer. One by one the colorful spirits are loosed from their moorings and they begin a silent and graceful free fall in the autumn winds. Whole formations take flight at once and swoop down on unsuspecting travelers, swirling all around them in sudden bursts of energy. And then they settle to the ground below that has been just out of reach ever since they evolved. There was never a longing to reach skyward, for that was their environment from inception. But there was a longing to be among all the creatures below and possess their exhilarating freedom of movement. It seemed the shackles of the tree limbs could never be broken.
And then one recent night the temperature suddenly dropped below anything they had ever experienced. There was a stirring of retreat and letting go within all the branches that remained deathly still on that fateful night of a full harvest moon. The life giving sap was withdrawing from all the extremities and slowly moving to the center of the giant Ent’s core and further down to the very roots embedded in mother earth. The colony of veined leaflets swayed and fluttered in the morning breezes and the experience only heightened their desire for freedom. Now at last their release was assured as they watched in wonder as their fellow captives were released from the bonds of the giant Ents that no longer required their services. The free fall was glorious! It seemed to last much, much longer than in reality, but the experience was so long in coming and the anticipation was so extreme that the moment was absolutely sublime.
When these colorful free falling spirits finally touched the good earth, pure joy abounded among them. They gathered in great bands and rapidly joined together in powerful wind gusts to race down paved streets and along banked gutters. The very high spirited among them raced onto the freeways, attempting to outrun the speeding vehicles in a scene reminiscent of the running of the bulls. Some were eventually gathered into huge piles where small children were free to smother and embrace them in gales of laughter. Others glided onto the surface of rapidly moving streams of water and were carried for days on a journey into the vast oceans. Ultimately the matter that had been drawn from the earth mother by the symbiotic Ent to sustain and grow the leaf spirits began to return to its source in anticipation of another cycle of growth and resurrection.
For man, the autumn season is a time for gathering. But for nature, it is a time for scattering. And it’s been written that the true measure of a man’s life is not about how much he gathers for himself, but how much he caringly scatters among others to resurrect their lives. Perhaps that’s the reminder we all were meant to experience every autumn when the colorful emancipated spirits of autumn gracefully glide around us. Or, the lesson may be even more allegorical. Human souls are inextricably connected to our bodies and are spiritually informed as long as the body actively thrives on this planet. And as with the autumn spirits, we must die to this life so that our spirit may be set free to soar into the next.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Guardian of the Sonoran Desert, Phoenix, AZ
Guardian of the Paris Streets, Paris
Spider Web, Jamestown, NC
Just what is it about certain forms and shapes that make them interesting and pleasing to our eye? Geometric shapes have mathematically consistent curves such as circles, squares, triangles and spirals. They generally dominate man made architecture, but can also be found in organic structures such as crystalline shapes and spiral shells. And the reverse is also found in free form art such as a Henry Moore sculpture or windblown snow drifts and sand dunes.
In the visual arts, shape is a flat, two-dimensional image while form adds the three-dimensional volume and depth associated with images such as cubes, cylinders and pyramids. Photographs are generally compositions of forms from both nature and industry that are presented in two-dimensions. I thought it was interesting to find comparisons in my digital files of similar forms from both areas in our world. It seemed even more intriguing to find that these were images that I considered interesting enough to photograph in the first place and then edit and save them for future use.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
The Many Faces of God, Jamestown, NC
There’s an old story I’ve always liked that concerns the unfiltered innocence of a child in conversation with a seasoned adult. The young child is coloring away at a summer church camp when a discerning adult occasions by to critique her work. The adult quizzically asks, “What are you creating”? And the child enthusiastically answers, “I’m coloring the face of God”! The knowing adult wisely responds that no one has ever seen or knows what God looks like. And the child matter-of-factly says, “Well, they will as soon as I’m finished”!
I’ve read that some religions not only forbid any attempt to create an image of God, but they forbid people to even write or speak a name for our creator. I can understand how this kind of thinking would evolve in human understanding. After all, the divine spiritual being that created this universe and all of us human beings in His own image also is a being that scripture tells us is omnipresent in all of this creation. That would take a verrrrrrry wide angle camera lens to capture, let alone a canvas from here to eternity. Old Testament accounts of interactions between men and God included warnings of instant death if they directly gazed upon His being. But we’re also told in the scriptures that our all powerful God has the ability to manifest His presence in any way He chooses; like pillars of cloud and fire that led the ancient Israelites through the desert to their promised land. He also walked this earth over two thousand years ago in the flesh of a human and spiritual being named Jesus to intimately experience human existence and teach us once and for all how to live.
I’ve been intrigued for some time now about what a spiritual being of this magnitude could possibly look like if His presence is not only teeming in the very rooms we occupy, but in the entire universe He created. I’m pretty sure that may remain one of those divine mysteries we won’t understand in this mortal life, but just might be revealed to us in the next spiritual world. I suspect many folks have an image of God from Michelangelo’s painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and Jesus never sat for a portrait for good reason. In the meantime, since God is present in all of His creation, I’ve come to believe through my own personal experience that our creator is revealed to us in every brilliant sunrise and sunset and that the ancient wisdom that teaches, “if you have looked into the glory of a blooming flower, you have looked into the face of God”, is quite plausible with the right attitude and mind set. The words to the contemporary Christmas song “Mary Did You Know?” immediately caught my imagination the first time I heard the words, “Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod? When you kiss your little baby, you’ve kissed the face of God”. That may actually be the gift of every new mother on the planet.
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Traveling Away from Home, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
Living Life, Blue Ridge Parkway, NC
Traveling home from a career autumn weekend in the Blue Ridge Mountains with my daughter and son-in-law, these three, succinct, five word thoughts entered my consciousness:
To appreciate home, leave it.
To appreciate love, lose it.
To appreciate life, live it.
Monday, October 3, 2011
To Bee Fibonacci or Not to Bee, Jamestown, NC
Fibonacci Floret Spirals, Jamestown, NC
Fibonacci Petals, Jamestown, NC
During the European Renaissance mathematics and music were called perfect arts. As man began to evolve into the higher realms of these disciplines I believe that we also became closer to the ultimate creator of this universe. Some folks would argue that science will ultimately have an answer to all of life’s mysteries that will exclude the existence of a divine mind that is the source of all creation. Others like Francis Collins who headed the Human Genome Project that sequenced the DNA code of life, has found that a higher understanding of our world only strengthens their faith in God. He introduces his book, The Language of God, with the observation that “science’s domain is to explore nature. God’s domain is in the spiritual world, a realm not possible to explore with the tools and language of science. It must be examined with the heart, the mind, and the soul—and the mind must find a way to embrace both realms”. Collins writes, “How marvelous and intricate life turns out to be! How deeply satisfying is the digital elegance of DNA! How aesthetically appealing and artistically sublime are the components of living things…For those who believe in God, there are reasons now to be more in awe, not less”.
I awoke to a bright and cool early autumn October morning to discover that Shasta Daisies had blossomed overnight after a soaking rain. So, I retreated out into my backyard after a warm cup of coffee with my trusty digital camera in hand to document the event. It was only after I downloaded and cropped the images on my computer that I witnessed the startling, organized, and opposing spirals of tightly-packed tiny florets in the center of the blooms. It seemed more than a bit of serendipity that only yesterday as I was writing a short blog on shapes and forms that I had remembered a college mathematics class where we worked with the Fibonacci sequence of integer numbers. For starters, they relate to an ancient Greek mathematical proportion of 1.618034 that appeals to both the intellect and the eye and is achieved as you go further out in the sequence to calculate the ratio of adjacent terms. This became the famous ratio called The Golden Mean of Euclid and Aristotle, the divine proportion of Leonardo daVinci (Mona Lisa’s face), and has since been valued as the most beautiful proportion to the human eye. The golden ratio is integral to the horizontal and vertical beams of the Christian cross. The visually pleasing golden rectangle the Greeks derived had a proportion where the length was 1.618034 and the width was 1.0 and this shape became the basis for their art and architecture. This esthetic of thirds was adopted by the great Renaissance artists and remains to this day as a visually pleasing proportion for cropping land and seascape images.
If I learned nothing more in my pursuit of a mathematics degree, it was that the higher I advanced in successively more complicated studies, the more I began to appreciate the beautiful structure of our universe and the world around me. The Fibonacci sequence that has application in a variety of studies reinforced that concept for me—especially when found in nature. These numbers can be created by beginning with 0 and 1 and then adding the previous two numbers in the sequence to arrive at the next one. The number of petals on many flowers, for instance, can be associated with one of the Fibonacci numbers. Most daisies like the ones blooming in my backyard have 34, 55 or 89 petals; the 9th, 10th and 11th Fibonacci numbers. There can be 21 spirals going to the left and 34 to the right. Four leaf clovers are rare because four isn’t a Fibonacci number. But it is in the center of the Daisy I photographed that incredible order is observed to mathematical precision. If you start at the very center or the capitulum, you will find one individual floret and then they spiral out in rows of Fibonacci numbers of 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, etc. The number of curving clockwise and counterclockwise ordered spirals can be found in the seeds of sunflowers, bracts of pine cones, and scales of pineapples. Golden spirals can be found in chambered nautilus sea shells and the curve of waves. Leaves on the stem of a flower or a tree branch often grow in a helical pattern as the branch grows outward. A pear tree, for example, will have 8 leaves and 3 turns along the branch—both numbers are Fibonacci numbers. The number of the sets of seed spirals on a sunflower will always be consecutive like 21 and 34 or 55 and 89 to further confirm the beautiful Fibonacci mystique.