Carving and seeing nature at its joints

April 23, 2008 | By | 4 Replies More

I previously wrote that I bought a little camera that I try to take everywhere. Having that camera nearby forces me to look more carefully at the startling sights that are everywhere. Many of those sights are the postures and expressions of people, but privacy concerns keep me from freely photographing or sharing the photos of strangers (I haven’t given up somehow accomplishing this!). To this point, I’ve focused on taking photos of nature and architecture. This morning, my wife Anne and I took a walk in Forest Park (in St. Louis, Missouri). In the morning light, we came upon some startling bursts of color, causing me to take out my little camera.

When I look at biological wonders, I sometimes imagine standing with Charles Darwin and learning from him. That’s how I felt a few weeks ago at an orchid show at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Even before Darwin published his findings there were various levels at which one could appreciate nature (it’s beautiful, it’s functional, it inspires poetry). Darwin added an explosive new level, however. Such was his impressive legacy. Before I appreciated Darwin’s contributions, my attention to plants was limited. But now I see functionality embedded in the beauty–there is now so much more to behold [I was also inspired last year when I viewed David Attenborough’s Private Life of Plants and Life in the Undergrowth (focuses on bugs). These are both spell-binding must-watch collections].

There are life and death wars going on out there among the plants and bugs. The thing that first caught our eye this morning was this flowering fruit tree. It was truly exploding with blossoms in its effort to propagate.

Flowering fruit tree

It’s beauty was “fractal,” in that it offered similar views from different distances. Anne especially enjoyed the contrast between the blossoms and the blue sky behind them. She took the photo below.

I was most fascinated by the sex organs of the trees (see below photo–parental discretion advised).

As we strolled away from this tree I noticed the expansive patches of clover that were lit up by a huge ball of nuclear explosions 93 million miles away. I took this picture to illustrate a quirky story: I have repeatedly seen something (actually many things) that I can’t explain. This particular story has to do with my wife Anne. She has the uncanny ability to spot a four-leaf clover while walking briskly. I’ve seen her do this several dozen times. When walking, she will stop suddenly, maybe back up a step or two and then reach down to pick up a four leaf clover. The first few times I witnessed this, I suspected that it might be a trick, but it wasn’t. She can really do it.

What makes it more amazing (or, perhaps, more believable) is that Anne’s mother can also do this. They are both gifted with incredibly sharp long-distance vision, but that really doesn’t explain this ability. For most people, finding a four leaf clover requires getting down on one’s knees and carefully and slowly fingering through the individual plants. When I ask Anne how she does it, she says “I just see them. Four leaf clovers stand out. Tonight, I had another chance to look closely at nature. My youngest daughter is going to build a little monument for a class project. I suggested that we go to a local granite and marble store to see whether they might have any scraps that they’d be willing to give away. Sure enough, they did. An extraordinarily pleasant woman at the store invited us to take away whatever we wanted from the “graveyard,” because the shop had no use for these leftovers from kitchen and bathroom remodeling jobs. Some of the leftover chunks were as big as 2 feet by 4 feet. We also found hundreds of smaller scraps of granite and marble in the graveyard, each of them as striking as any intentional work of art. This piece of slate was one of my favorites. I’m thinking of hanging it up on a wall (come to think of it, it has a bit of that “Ten Commandments” shape).

Rust colored slate slab

Below, you can see a piece of emerald granite, loaded with other colors too.

emerald granite

And here’s another emerald pattern (the coin will give you an idea of the size of the details).

Dark streaky emerald granite

My older daughter fell in love with chunks of blue granite.

Blue Granite

All of this artwork was buried in the ground until a quarry worker pulled them out and polished them. As we cleaned up these pieces at home, wiping them with wet paper towels, they exploded into 3-D color, with beauty to rival that of the fruit tree at the top of this post. How is it that such beauty can exist in the world (or, at least, how is it that human animals are so incredibly attracted to such plants and rocks)? Many people would blurt out the word “God,” and consider that to be an final explanation; they draw from this word “God” some sort of overall “purpose.” I simply consider today’s observations awe-inspiring springboards to questions that point in both reductionist and emergent directions. I am now led on by my sense of wonder and by my gut-sense of connectedness with these beautiful plants and rocks that are now part of my conscious existence.


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Category: Art, Evolution, Psychology Cognition, Religion, Science, Sex, Whimsy

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (4)

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  1. Erika Price says:

    Another point of wonder: that people can bypass these beautiful "creations" of nature and fail to appreciate them. Before you came and took note of them, those gorgeous bits of granite were unwanted scraps. How many people failed to notice those same clovers, or even those flowers? Yet those same people perhaps would have shelled out a considerable amount of money to buy that granite or a prepackaged bundle of flowers. These natural sights, however, have more value than the trivial amount we assign to them commercially.

  2. Ben says:

    It has been estimated that there are approximately 10,000 three-leaf clovers for every four-leaf clover. (wiki)

  3. Amanda says:

    Sir, you are an amazing man. I admire the fact that you have noticed these things. It is heartening to see that more than a handful of people see things like this, especially when they are some of the most beautiful things you can see. I just want to say, thank you.

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