K is for Kaleidoscope

Nautilus Shell copyright Debra Myers Woodward
Nautilus Shell
copyright Debra Myers Woodward

Remember the kaleidoscopes we had as a kid that were cardboard tubes with all sorts of things sandwiched between two pieces of plastic probably.  You could shake it and here them, and hold them up to your eye and twist the end to watch them tumble in the fractured, repeated image.

This reminds me of a concept I learned about nature that is pretty freaking amazing.  In nature there are these things called fractals. Fractals are patterns that repeat at every scale.  The pictured nautilus shell is an example, as is ice forming on a surface.

I learned that some trees follow fractal patterns–all the way from their cell structure, to the veins in the leaves, to how the leaves attach to branches, and branches to trunks and even how they grow in the forest.  That was an amazing discovery.

Here is an experiment you can do for yourself.

Take a look at a tree sometime.  Notice how the branches are positioned. Do they come out of the trunk directly opposite one another? Or do they come out all at one point? Or do they come out staggered up the trunk?

Now look at how the leaves are attached to the branches.  Do you notice that they are exactly positioned to the branch as the branch is to the trunk? And look at the veins on the leaves. Don’t they match this pattern as well?

I remember reading that the formation of how the trees grow in the forest (for some species at least) will match the pattern as well! That would certainly make it easier to anticipate where to look for a specific tree if using it for medicinal or dietary purposes.

I bet most people aren’t aware of these patterns in nature all around us.  And I believe that all life is a series of patterns that we miss, because we can’t see the whole picture or we don’t look closely enough. What might you notice if you looked for patterns of behavior, or patterns in societies? Might there be a bigger picture that we just haven’t noticed? And how might that help us live more peaceful and happy lives?

I have appreciated learning more about behavioral patterns through study of the Enneagram. Through this study, I have discovered ways that my personality runs on auto-pilot in specific ways. Seeing these patterns has helped me to alter my behavior toward more healthy ways of relating to myself and others. It has helped me to break bad habits as well.

For more about the Enneagram, check out the Enneagram Institute here.

7 thoughts on “K is for Kaleidoscope

  1. The photograph is beautiful. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, too. I loved kaleidoscopes when I was a kid–I still like them, actually. When I was in Waldorf teacher training, we studied the golden ratio–which is I think what you are describing. As for noticing my own patterns–it’s a work in progress! I’ve done a little bit with the Enneagram institute. It’s fascinating!

    1. Yes…I realized as I was writing it that it would have been better under F. 🙂 But each day, I just listen for what word and kaleidoscope led me to fractals. I”ve been writing these pretty much stream of consciousness and not editing. I’ll check out your blog too. Thanks for commenting.

  2. I’ve read a little on the golden ratio, it is such a fascinating topic. I can’t always see it for myself when out exploring, making me wonder if sometimes we fit observations into the box we want them in.

    The nautilus is the perfect example though of one of nature’s great patterns.

    1. Yes, and there are a few others. I was fascinated to learn about the trees that spread themselves out in an orderly way (maybe they are all of one root system). I haven’t seen it either. But the leaf, branch, trunk thing is totally observable on almost every plant.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *