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September 2011

I was flipping through the sketches of that plant I've been studying for the last couple of days and I noticed something. The upper sketch was done with my left hand and the lower with my right. Besides all the rendering differences that fascinate me, what I saw was that in the short time between making the two sketches the large bud had already started to open.

These blooms start out small and tight, then inflate into an alien ovoid with delicate green lines, and finally burst; spitting out thin white tendrils with brown caps.

Picks stalks and leaves.

Goldenrod in bloom; even a drawing makes my eyes water.

Riffing on goldenrod.

My daydreams are infused with the smell of the lavender that grows below my office window.

A closer look at the lavender.

The first fingers of fall. The spicebush is already turning yellow; its berries bright red.

In early September the hickory nuts are still on the trees. Impatient squirrels take matters into their own paws and start chewing open the green husks.

We use this special basil in Thai recipes. During late summer, when it goes to seed, magenta flowers on long purple stalks tower above pointy green leaves.

Queen Anne's Lace.

The peaches are juicy and sweet this season. I have eaten so many that the pits are piling up on the drawing table. I justify the mess by telling myself that I will plant the pits; since the trees they came from are local and I know they will do well here. Today, seeing the pile, I attempted to draw one and it was not so easy. All the crenulations make it challenging to render. Finally, to get a result, I shifted my attention away from the ridges and folds and instead tried to see through the rough exterior to the life asleep inside.

Around 11am I noticed a pile of these sectioned hickory nut husks. The squirrels must have been sitting directly above me in the tree peeling and dropping them. The greens and yellows were luminous in the direct sun and the air smelled newly picked. When I went back around 5pm, the sun was behind the trees, the air was damp and husks were getting darker.

Husks abstracted. Are the seasons about to change?

Hybrid cycle. Chapter two ends with a cycle drawing and opening this chapter with a new cycle brings us back around again; awake to the story. Almost a month has gone by; and while I have been drawing pictures of plants from my yard, our characters have traveled their own paths. Our journeys share a deep immersion into the senses; feeling sight, touching taste, smelling sound. And days spent experiencing how the body receives the world and how the mind's filters frame it.

By using nature to bridge the cycles, my whole brain participates in the drawing practice. One thing the last few weeks of sketching plants has taught me is that the information that comes from my eyes is fundamentally the same as the visual information from my imagination. In other words, at the level of understanding, sensory impressions of plants are equal to sensory impressions of pretend plants.

The plants in the drawings are going to share the stage and eventually get taken over by more abstract drawings. If you get disoriented, please remember that all the weird forms and colors you will see spring from the seeds of ideas growing naturally and spontaneously within the landscape of my mind.

Acornic cycle. Appear on a branch. Fall from a tree. Get buried in soil. Germinate in spring. Become an oak. Sprout acorns.

Maple leaf phylogon. The inevitable result of integration.

In this chapter the focus of our story transitions from us listening to the internal dialog of a programmer's mind to us tagging along and watching him navigate the world outside. This shift of scenes takes place at the same time our storyteller refocuses his gaze from examining nature to examining his imagination. So our story idles, for the moment, at the center of this cyclone, in the vortex formed by these opposite movements, a stationary front that will probably take several days and some lengthy conjecture about the nature of cycles and phylogons to clear.

In his novel 'The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldrich', Philip K. Dick goes to great lengths to show how experience marks us in ways that can't be undone. The programmer experienced a change that he couldn't explain. Whatever got into him, it forced him into a greater awareness of his senses (to his benefit). We know that this hyper-awareness was imprinted because plant drawings keep showing up in the cycles. The plant studies that seemed to me to be a natural break for myself from the writing of Chapter Two simultaneously played a part in the story. Let's call them Chapter Three because it turns out that the harlequin, enjoying the body he now shared, was having an extended romp; finding out just what human eyes could see.

The purple topped thistles are sending out seeds.

Further integration. Lines derived from retinal input begin to form cycles.

Wild thoughts surround our hero. He focuses of his job but longs for the timeless. He wavers with fear and desire on the boundary. Curled phylogons swirl imagined scenarios past his emotions. He tries not to get wrapped up in them. Integration is a time of transition and he wants to let go. He breathes and grounds himself. "I am here", he says but holds too tightly to 'I'. Another breath and his attention shifts to the warm summer sun on his skin. The static disappears on the autumn breeze that follows.

Illusion of alignment. Our hero negotiates the tunnel of phylogons. He tries to find where things fit together so his journey will make sense. A synchronistic moment, a lucky break, an insight, an inspiration, a revelation, a vision; and then things move apart again except they were never moving together. Our hero's integration doesn't reach an endpoint; but we can watch him search for his center in the shifting matrix of endless possibility.

Autumn kissing summer farewell.

Maple seeds, storing sunlight all summer, swirl down from the branches; grounded until the moment comes to be a tree again.

With phylogons oriented in all directions, how does our hero find his path? Faith. Mindless repetition. Patterns of procrastination. Habits. Hope. Rituals. Comforts. Compulsions. Obsessions. Following bliss. Complacency. Mantra. Disciplined practice. Assembling the river. Waiting for flow. Or just going into that place he ignores? The place he can't not go. The most obvious spot.

Closed channel. He thought he saw the answer, the end, and got excited, got proud. At last something to grab hold of, something to believe in, an accomplishment. The grabbing was what triggered the contraction.

Multiple simultaneous cycles. This is becoming a whole chapter on cycles. Our hero is caught on the wheel of fortune, spinning around, and can't move forward. The seasons cycle. He wants to go forward and that is what holds him back. Another time around. "I am here and I know I am here." His breath goes in and out without him doing anything. Breath cycles. Food cycles. Sleep cycles. Bicycles. With absolutely no volition he laughs and his eyes turn outward.

At first, the outside world resembles the inside world but he soon discerns photons from fantasy. Then the aspects of outside things endlessly and unpredictably unfold to him. Our hero learns that edges and boundaries are fluid but the places where things intersect are solid.

When the projection is all encompassing he finds himself in a body in a world. He believes with all his heart that he is a person living on a planet that everyone calls Earth.

Can we break the pattern without breaking the system? Is there no way out of the 'growth' loop? Or do we need a crisis to force us to work together? If we believe we live on a planet in space, then we really ought to recognize the limits of our resources. Can you name one thing whose life does not depend on this planet?