The morning skies this past week have been graced with the presence of Venus. Seeing the shining orb glowing with an slight orange tint just above the eastern horizon has been a unique experience. Even my dogs noticed its presence and seemed mesmerized by the glow. This morning, we also saw the waning moon in the south eastern sky. In a few days, the moon will appear next to Venus in the morning sky, adding its crescent shape to the scene.
Seeing Venus and the moon so early in the sky reminded me of how intricately woven nature’s elements are and how these elements react to each other’s changes. The stars, moon, sun, and planets are constantly changing position, sometimes in plain view and other times seemingly hidden by clouds, physical aspects (such as a dimmer glow or smaller appearance), or changing vantage points.
Like the inhabitants of the skies, we too, change physically throughout each day. Though our appearance on the surface may be the same, cells within us are being reconfigured and rearranged at high speed. Different types of cells are dying and being replaced at various rates within the body every day.
Over time, we may feel the effects of these changes either physically, mentally, or emotionally. Sometimes we feel better after such changes, as when dying cells are replaced to give us more energy or a clearer thought process. Other times, we may wish the changes never occurred, as when the cells cause us to feel lethargic or appear older. Still other times, we are kind of stuck in limbo, waiting to see the effects of the changes.
While walking the dogs in the yard, we discovered the tiny buds of the salvia, columbine, and iris had opened up, adding color to the landscape. Along my bike ride last night, I found the first blooming red clover, daisy fleabane, rattlesnake weed, and crown vetch of the season.
I also caught a faint scent that made me scan the tree tops above for its origin. After some searching and pedaling back and forth along the road, I found what I was looking for: the flowers of the locust tree, very white and full blowing in the gentle breeze. All of these flowers have such intricate structures, unique to their family of plants.
Looking at these structures made me recall an article I read about the mathematics behind the patterns in nature. One of the most prevalent patterns in nature is the Fibonacci sequence: a series of numbers where a number in the sequence is found by adding up the two numbers before it. Starting with 0, and 1, 0 + 1 = 1, so the sequence goes 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, etc. The number of petals on a flower are a common example, along with cell or seed arrangements in spiral patterns.
Seeing light in the skies each morning and the blooming flowers gives me hope for the days to come. Though life has its messy parts, trials, and tribulations, the light in the sky (be it from the sun, moon, or stars) and the colors of the blooms act as encouragement for me to forge ahead. My faith tells me that despite all the chaos around me and the changing cells within me, I will survive, and time will move me to a different place (whether I want to go along with it or not) upon the journey leading to my destination.
I must confess it was not always this way for me. There was a time in my life when gray or dim skies equated to a negative outlook and little optimism. Much of what I saw affected how I felt, and how I felt affected my perspective of what I saw. It was a viscous cycle of cause and effect, one that left me drained, defeated, and devoid of life to be honest. I don’t know when or how things changed for the better, but I am thankful to have moved past this period in my life (and I hope to never revisit it again).
My experience illustrates how we often relate and equate to what we see, hear, taste, and touch. Our senses act as little compasses to guide us through life. As we go along, the abilities within our senses may change, forcing us to adjust or redirect our focus. Sometimes the changes are permanent, as with deteriorating vision or hearing loss due to age, and other times the changes are temporary, as when nerve cells are compromised due to injury and need time to heal. In either case, we may need to rely more on our faith in order to navigate upon our path.
Perhaps the apostles offer a good example in relying upon faith as a compass. Jesus’ death left them without a shining star (or a Son) in their skies to help guide them. What they saw and heard in the days following his death may have been less than encouraging. However, their faith in Jesus’ teaching acted as a guide to lead them past the darkness into the light once again. In sharing this light with others, the apostles offered hope and reassurance, as illustrated in the Biblical book of the Acts of the Apostles (which was written by St. Luke).
As humans, we often need directions to help us find our way. We may look to the skies, use a compass or a GPS, or even seek the help of others we know or the comfort of nature’s patterns to get the information we need. Whether we realize it or not, we are intricately woven into our surroundings, just as the elements in the skies, the cells within us, and the patterns in nature are uniquely connected. What we do and how we react has an impact upon us and others around us. Sometimes we have control of our situations, and other times we do not, so we need to be careful and recognize our both our extents and limitations.
Science and Art
As we learn to recognize these extents and limitations, we see how intricate and complex the worlds within and around us really are. In this process, we learn much about the sciences involved in everyday life. Chemistry, biology, physics, anatomy, psychology, physiology, and mathematics are constantly at work. What we study using these sciences allows us to see the complexity and detail, as well as the beauty and creativity (what I call the artistic side) of nature. Through both science and art, we discover and experience life itself.
May the light in the skies guide us upon our journey. May the experiences we have along the way allow us to recognize the intricate and complex relationships we share in the world, and may we recognize both science and art in living life.
Morning star shining bright
From afar before the day’s first light,
Breaking through the atmosphere
With a light true and dear
To create a sense of peace
As the soul makes its way to see
The intricate beauty of nature’s art
Blessed from God to thee in the dark.
Red, red clover along the road
Spread, spreading over with crown vetch in tow,
Delicate pink daisy fleabane and yellow rattlesnake weed
Swaying to the fro in the breeze
As the locust flower sends its scent
Across the fields below where it towers and bends
In the wind of nature’s art
Coming around again with each season’s start.
Directions, directions everywhere
In the sunlight’s reflection and flowers’ care
Made intricate by the patterns and the hues
That dip, sway, scatter, and diffuse
To lead the soul upon its way
Through the hours that unfold within the day
Across hill and dale, field and stream,
Desert plains, poppy swales, and rivers that gleam,
Woven into the fabric of nature’s art
Made elaborate by the beauty they impart.
-Lisa A. Wisniewski
Resources and Related Links
Acts of the Apostles – http://www.usccb.org/bible/acts/0
Cell replacement in the human body – http://www.livescience.com/33179-does-human-body-replace-cells-seven-years.html
Fibonacci sequence – http://www.livescience.com/37470-fibonacci-sequence.html
Fibonacci numbers in nature – https://www.mathsisfun.com/numbers/nature-golden-ratio-fibonacci.html