Monday, August 24, 2009

Waiting for the Mail

For me, trees rank right up there at the top of the love pyramid, just below grandchildren and sweetened whipped cream. (Not too far below is a Bloody Mary for breakfast on a deep blue October morning.)

The Bigleaf Magnolia (foliage at right, looking up) ranks at the very top of my tree pyramid. This is not the classic tree everyone associates with the Deep South, but its redneck cousin from the hills. Its leaves are at least a foot long, and, as you can see, grow like spokes around a central stem. It is thus sometimes called an "umbrella tree." In late spring, at the center of each umbrella, a huge white flower develops. We had Bigleaf Magnolias in the yard of our first house. They created beautiful texture and color alongside oak trees and sumac and wild hydrangea.

Although foliage appears as chaos, it really is an amazing marvel of fractals (patterns repeated on different scales). I don't think human eyes "get" chaos; it isn't interesting, and--in a way-- doesn't even exist: we "see" faces in a few dots on a page or monsters in clouds.

We see things in books and stories in a similar way. Foreshadowing, for instance, works by a kind of gestalt. The classic gun-over-the-mantel in the opening scene of a whodunit is at first a subtle suggestion. But by the climax, when we see the perpetrator aiming that same gun at the detective, we remember the beginning and say "Aha! I thought so!"

What does this have to do with my title? Nothing, except that I wrote it while I was--waiting for the mail!

No comments:

Post a Comment