Nature’s Repeating Patterns

A morning walk has me thinking about patterns in nature. The pinecone I happen upon has arranged itself into a swirl of notches and seeds. Logic and order lays itself out as though it is nothing out of the ordinary. Patterns in nature inspire both admiration and curiosity. Of course, human curiosity is nothing new, since philosophers and mathematicians have been pondering petals of a flower or observing the pattern of a tree’s rings for centuries.

Mathematician Leonardo Bonacci, also called Leonardo of Pisa or Fibonacci, born around 1170 made a point of traveling the Mediterranean region to study a variety of merchant’s systems of arithmetic. With an eddy of systems like Roman numerals, the Hindu-Arabic numeral system and the Abacus, he attempted to solve increasingly complicated math problems, eventually leading to his famed Fibonacci sequence when each number is the sum of its two preceding numbers.

Today, we recognize his Fibonacci spiral in countless (no pun intended) areas of nature, such as the arrangement of seeds in a sunflower, the swirl and pattern of a fern, pineapples, sea shells, and the aforementioned pine cone. It turns out that the amazing ratio of the Fibonacci sequence can even be applied to an egg!

Have you heard of the Fibonacci spiral? Nature’s logarithmic spirals include spiral galaxies like our own Milky Way Galaxy. More pattern in Nature! Technically, the Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy with a central bar-shaped arrangement comprised of stars.

I come upon an unidentified clump of mushrooms and marvel at the pattern of their growth. One upon the other, but staggered like little cheerleaders forming a human pyrmid. Underneath, the intricate pattern of gills grows so tenderly, while the tough-appearing cap is held up by a sturdy-looking stem.

I recently marveled at the textured pattern of the shed skin of an alligator lizard that has made a home in my pottery studio. I’d been trying to catch and release him for months, and one day when I forgot all about him I found the gossamer shed skin at my clay wedging table. I picked it up and said, “Ah, so you’re still here?” The rows of rectangles were perfection, down to the shed skin of his legs! The skin was delicate, flimsy, and transparent.

In the interesting book entitled, “Patternity- A New Way of Seeing – The Inspirational Power of Pattern” (available at Lake County’s libraries), the author exhaustively researches all things patterned- including patterns which abound in our day-to-day lives, from patterns we wear, patterns we walk over, and even those that we eat and drink. The book challenges you to “Look beyond the mundane forms that we see every day to find the hidden beauty in the underlying patterns that normally pass us by.”

The repeating patterns of nature occur on a grand scale daily and seasonally with moonrise, sunset, and the ebb and flow of fall, winter, spring, and summer. As we make our way through our sometimes difficult lives, nature’s repeating patterns contribute to order and a sense of well-being in our lives. Since our minds naturally seek out patterns in lines, shapes, and colors, we can seek out patterns as a touchstone of daily life.

Kathleen Scavone

Kathleen Scavone, MA., is a retired educator who has resided in beautiful Lake County for over 45 years. She freelances fiction, poetry, nature writing, curriculum ideas, and local history. She writes for The Press Democrat, Napa Valley Register, News From Native California, Green Prints, etc. She has published three books, a play and a poetry chapbook. The second edition of her locally set historical novella, People of the Water- a novella of the events leading to the Bloody Island Massacre of 1850 is available in local museums and stores, as well as on Amazon.com and IngramSpark in both paperback and e-book formats. She has written Anderson Marsh State Historic Park- A Walking History, Prehistory, Flora and Fauna tour of a California State Park, and Native Americans of Lake County. Kathleen is a photographer and potter. Her other interests include hiking, assisting on archaeology digs, travel, gardening and reading.

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