Anne Horrigan Geary: Geometry and nature



Geometry was my favorite math subject. I was drawn to the clarity and purity of its shapes, and the predictability of its relationships. In art, I favored mechanical-type drawings of circles, squares, and ellipses. Simply put, the protractor was my friend, and compasses my companions.

Perhaps that is why I often observe the geometric in nature. There is symmetry everywhere in the yard, particularly in patterns of leaves on plant stems and branches on trees. Looking outside today, I can see the pairs of opposing pointed leaves on the stem of the six-foot tall lily, vibrant still although the blooms have faded months ago. The branches of the pussy willow create a lacy framework of straight lines clearly visible among the yellowing leaves.

Leaves will fill a sketchbook with their variety of shape and size, and I like to put them in pairs to replicate their position on a branch.

Looking at Audubon bird prints, I never cease to notice the foliage upon which his subjects perched. Not everything in nature lines up in parallel lines or symmetrical groups; but random patterns are also beautiful. After the rainstorm last week, the blue hot tub cover was littered with pine needles in the most awe-inspiring array of intersecting lines. I took a series of photos of many of the groupings, which I intend to enlarge and frame. To me, they are spectacular forms of art.

There is so much beauty in the fall landscape it is hard to keep one's eyes on the road when driving. Our Wednesday adventure last week took us on a back-road trip to Shelburne Falls. Traveling on deserted roads gave us a chance to gawk at the grandeur all around us: water rippling over rocky riverbanks, cow-dotted green pastures, and ever-changing hillsides of vibrant scarlets, chrome yellows, and deep, dark greens. So many hillsides! So many sheets of random colors smeared from the ridges to the riverbanks! Occasionally, the road would curve and there would be a glimpse of a panorama of mountain ridges, where the colors were more blurry and the brights were set off by the dusky mountain blueness that only distance provides.

Walking across the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls always provides a visual overload of colors and shapes; but in the fall it is less crowded, providing more time to stop and stare at the flowers, the river, and the adjacent car bridge, built to resemble an Erector set masterpiece. The spherical shapes of the dahlias in every possible color and shading pattern were still at their peak. There were light and deep oranges, purples and yellows, and pinks which shaded out to purest white.

The camera keep clicking as I tried to preserve images to take home with me, to keep the flowers alive for more than one season. It was easy to get good glimpses of the placid blue river behind the flowers, but there were no colorful kayaks on this day. Looking toward the other bridge, there were drifts of sky-blue morning glories and creamy-white sweet autumn clematis draping the chain-link fence -- more symmetrical shapes enhanced by the random twirls and swirls of vines and flowers.

On the Buckland side of the bridge, the town has set squares of granite planters filled with more flowers to augment the stunning flowers on the bridge. The sharp-edged gray granite served to enhance the soft-edged petals of the bright marigolds, mums, other plants. The squares contrasted nicely with the roundness of the flowerheads, a heady combination of geometrical wonders.

Traveling home by another route, we passed through more tree-lined tunnels of colors, mostly more muted because of the deepening shade. All the hours of the day were filled with lines and patterns of amazing colors, more than enough to saturate the mind of a lover of geometry and nature.

Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.


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