strands of which approach
one another, bifurcate,
intersect or ignore each
other through the centuries,
embraces every possibility.
We do not exist in most of them.
In some you exist and not I,
while in others I do,
and you do not"
“When you touch the celestial in your heart,
you will realize that the beauty of your soul
is so pure, so vast and so devastating that
you have no option but to merge with it.
You have no option but to feel the rhythm
of the universe in the rhythm of your heart.”
Postscript. This is (for now) the last of my recent "celestial leaves" series. In the context of "creative process," I thought it worth mentioning how these images came to be. As with 90%+ of my photographs, very little forethought went into them; at least, initially. After picking up the Sunday paper from the bottom of our driveway, turning and heading back to the house, I noticed a small shriveled leaf - perhaps two inches long or so (and that I couldn't immediately identify) - lying just off to the side of our walkway. I was mesmerized by its delicately translucent veins and patterns. The weathered leaf had clearly been "sitting" around for quite some time, as evidenced by its many rips and tears, and splotches of dirt and fungus. Still, in my mind's eye, it was radiantly beautiful. I knew instinctively that I needed to try to capture its essence. I had "pictured" it almost exactly as shown above (in what is effectively a digital negative, to highlight its luminescent quality), and as each of the other recent images appear. Despite a valiant effort to find similar-looking "dilapidated leaves" (including a 2 hour dedicated mini-hike around the woodlands in our neighborhood!), I managed to find only three others; which my wife finally identified as belonging to a simple hosta bush. But the real story as far as the "creative process" goes is just this: that one's muse prods when she will, on her own schedule; and that we must always be attuned to our muse's musings. I had nary a thought to whip out my macro lens to take still-lifes of dilapidated leaves this past Sunday morning; heck, I strolled out for the paper even before my first coffee! But that numinous little "celestial leaf" that I noticed by chance (or, better, that my muse's own eye wisely led me to) eventually - and happily - consumed my creative energies for days afterward 😊
"What is the life that we discern in things?"
- D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson (1860 - 1948)
Postscript. As may be the case with many of you, my day-job constraints leave me precious little time to devote to purely aesthetic pleasures (notwithstanding those that occasionally overlap with more mathematical pursuits). Sometimes, as now, even my weekend time is filled mostly with staring at gibberish on a computer screen, and pounding away at my keyboard to produce picture-less reams of technical reports (even as I day-dream of month-long photo-safaris in far-away lands). Thus, the short walks my wife and I take through our neighborhood after breakfast each day have become immeasurably important physical and spiritual oases for me. The simple pleasure of encountering beautifully haphazard arrangements of natural forms rejuvenates and nourishes my soul. The images in the triptych above were taken no more than a few minutes apart during a walk that itself lasted less than a half hour. But what a joy it is to stumble upon such humble transcendent beauty hiding in plain sight! The great polymath Thompson's book, On Growth and Form (the first edition of which came out in 1917, and which to this day remains an extraordinarily beautiful book to read) is essentially a 1100+ page erudite argument that biology can be reduced to mathematics (a sentiment that a much younger version of myself would have been happy to accept): "It behooves us always to remember that in physics it has taken great men to discover simple things. They are very great names indeed which we couple with the explanation of the path of a stone, the droop of a chain, the tints of a bubble, the shadows in a cup. It is but the slightest adumbration of a dynamical morphology that we can hope to have until the physicist and the mathematician shall have made these problems of ours their own." For those of you interested in exploring (taking a deep-dive, really, into) the broader entanglement of art and science, here are some slides I used for a 2017 presentation at a Humanities and Technology Association conference (held that year in Newport, RI). This lecture is one of three I've given in (relatively) recent years during which I wore both of my hats, as physicist and photographer. The other two lectures were given at the American Center for Physics (College Park, MD in 2009) and at the Morrison House (Alexandria, VA in 2011).