Sunday, May 29, 2016

What's nature's pattern language? #phenology

It's slowly starting to sink in that having calendars on which "Spring" starts, and "Winter" ends, on a given date is as misguided as ending "Spring" and starting "Summer" on some other date about three months later. The same perspective applies to all the other seasons regardless of whether we're using astrological or meteorological starts and end dates. Perhaps you're better at taking things less literally than I do and so are less inclined to experience events and weather conditions as seasonal or unseasonal. I need to retrain myself to consider the starts and finishes of seasons as being painted with a very broad brush rather than demarked with an extra-fine black line.

a color mix of dame's rocket flowers
a color mix of dame's rocket flowers
Photo by J. Harrington
Perhaps even better would be if I could keep in mind the way pointillist painters portray a scene or a face. Each day in a season becomes a dot of a different shade. Or, if I regularly remembered how those who create mosaics use different shapes and colors, sometimes contrasting, to provide a readily comprehended scene that gets lost if the individual pieces become the focus. That's the way seasons develop and fade, the way flowers bud-burst, get pollinated and slowly turn to fruit and seeds.

This enhanced perspective was triggered this morning after I finished reading William Gibson's novel The Peripheral. His writing style is based on sequencing series after series of short chapters that take the place of pointillist paint dots or mosaic tile pieces. Only after enough chapters have been read does a plot and a story arc and a cast of characters begin to come into focus. I discovered if I focus too much on any one character of the event(s) in any particular chapter that I loose the forward movement of the broader story. This all reminds me of the consistent challenge I have with photography and my desire to simultaneously have a noticeable depth of field and the focus on a single point of interest. Christopher Alexander called our attention to Pattern Language. Computer programmers found that useful for object oriented programming. I suspect there's much to be gained by seeing where a pattern language approach to phenology can take us. It's easy to remember that "nature abhors a vacuum" and "there are very few straight lines in nature." Each of those is phrased as a negative. I think it's time to further explore the question of "how can we learn what nature needs from us?"


Mosaic Me

by Sophia Tait


The world is changed when seen through
A mirror, smashed and cracked. The view
Is broken. I can only see
A jigsaw puzzle;
Mosaic me.
I look into a broken face,
Patterned, lined across, like lace,
And now my eyes stare back at me,
Stare right back at
Mosaic me.
My bedroom is cracked straight through,
The walls, the floor, the windows too,
Yet when I look around I see,
A normal world. No
Mosaic me.


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