Writing In Fractals

I walk a lot. Mostly with Dog, come rain or shine. Sometimes I let my thoughts run free, more a mental ramble really. At others I have the radio on, BBC Sounds, some podcast an Audible book. And occasionally it is music. I watch the sky – cloud patterns fascinate me, as I anthropomorphise them if I can, finding stories amongst the vapour. Other walkers are another focus for my attention; if they are walking towards me I smile, just a little, more a smirk and add a bit of a nod. If they make eye contact I’ll ‘morning’ or ‘afternoon’ them as appropriate. I haven’t studied the results but most people react a little, usually positively. I don’t expect them to – why should they feel any compulsion to make any connection with me, a total stranger, even if Dog seems to minimise my weirdo status a fraction.

Why is that? Is it a British thing with our supposed love of our pets that changes the dynamic: fifty year old man walking alone = weirdo/paedo/social inadequate; same man with dog = sweet old cove/social animal/harmless on day release?

Norwood Park, about 5 minutes from my front door

What I often fail to notice are the trees. I’m lucky to live in an area full of trees so I suppose it is the familiarity. Like a good mattress. Never notice until it’s gone. I’m very aware of the sick trees; we have a particularly virulent if not fatal Horse Chestnut leaf drop that clears the leaves off our Chestnuts by the end of September rather than about now; so I watch with a mix of sadness and concern each time the schools go back as the trees expose the conkers much earlier than nature intended. It’s a little caterpillar that eats the soft middle between the outside skin of each leaf. You need to look closely to find it.

But the healthy ones are just there for the bulk of the year, pretty much unchanging in terms of size and shape, giving a solid natural architecture to the background, softening the otherwise harsh horizons of suburban south London.

This time of year, of course, the trees begin to lose that invisibility cloak and share their striptease with us, casting their tired weeds into crunchy piles and mouldering puddings on the flowerbeds and paths, sticking to our shoes.

Today, in warm sun, I sat with a coffee and realised how lucky I was to have such phenomenally beautiful and complex structures around me, home to a myriad of small essential creatures.

I even thought about mathematics.

And writing. And poetry.

It’s all to do with fractals. I love the madness of fractals. Trees exhibit some of the qualities of fractals; so do Jackson Pollock paintings, those drip creations, splodgy irregular things.

What’s a fractal?

A fractal is a natural phenomenon or a mathematical set that exhibits a repeating pattern that displays at every scale.

Pixar, those amazing animated film people who’ve given us Toy Story and Monster, Inc amongst others can trace some of their success to employing fractal concepts in their animation – that’s what makes them so life-like and less wooden than previous cartoon formats.

Trees in my park, a wonderful esoteric painter, maths, some of the best animation in the last twenty years and the inspiration for a poem. It was worth stopping for a coffee and giving thanks for the silent splendour of those trees.

I found fractals dripping

from a tree,

lines of leaf-splods

that took shape from the chaos.

 That’s what nature does,

pulls tricks right under your nose,

blinds you to Her designs.

They’re always there, always have been there,

Hidden until you learn to read a tree;

A twig is a branch by any other name,

a tree a twig grown up.

You need to see the twig-child in the man-tree

to understand.

Everywhere you go, how far back you stand,

the tree is a twig on a bigger twig

on the biggest twig.

Twig, twigger, twiggest.

Fractals are everywhere,

sprouting from within to without.

Story-twigs, a word, growing to a sentence and a flash

all the way to a novel.

Step back

and the word is in the paragraph,

then the page.

Word, wordier, wordiest.

To write is to deal in fractals.

The child-word is in the man-novel,

if you look carefully.

Some still only see word-splods

unable to distinguish the essence.

You can learn, if you stand back,

give your imagination the necessary depth

and there is it, where it’s always been,

the novel you’ve always wanted to write,

only you were too close,

lost in splods.

Not that Dog cares…

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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30 Responses to Writing In Fractals

  1. willowdot21 says:

    Live this Geoff, have I read it before…. I also live fractals, the sight of them and the actual sound of the word 💜💜💜

    Liked by 2 people

  2. arlingwoman says:

    Interestingly, trees are something I always notice–bark patterns, leaves, size, scent. When I don’t know what one is, I set about figuring it out. Going on hike this morning in a hardwood forest near the Potomac…hoping to see a pawpaw patch and get lucky.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. V.M.Sang says:

    My son had a book on fractals when he was in his teens. I wonder what became of it? They are fascinating.
    I love trees, too. Except for one. A black poplar at the end of my small garden. (I don’t have one like yours, Geoff.) This monstrosity grows to a huge size, taller than all the others around and shades my garden. Nearly all of it. In spring it released ‘fluff’ that turns the lawn into a sheep! and it gets its fluff and leaves in the drains. Every few years, when it gets too big, we and our neighbours speak to the council and the come and pollard it.
    Apart from that one, all other trees are wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Funnily enough I was just rereading a book about fractals. Perfect timing

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You are so right. Dog makes it okay. Thanks for the tour and poem.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love this piece! I still miss my dog when I go for daily walks…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. seasiders22 says:

    Oh I am glad I found your post. My fuddled brain missed the r when typing fractuals. With your post I returned to mine and corrected my entry Kaleidoscope.
    Consequently I enjoy your work.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. trifflepudling says:

    Lovely.
    Always loved trees ever since my ‘Ladybird Book of Trees’ and take (far too) many photos of them.
    In ye countrysoide everyone says Hi, Hello, Good Morning etc. I included the nod only recently! A dog appended to someone makes things a lot easier, yes.
    Maybe you could grow some Romanesco broccoli in the new bed!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A fine poem and educational post for me. I like the concept of the tees’ striptease.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Widdershins says:

    I love that Mother Nature never wastes a pattern. : ) … hello, Dog. : D

    Liked by 1 person

  11. George says:

    I’m going to be looking at the world differently from now on. Are fractals addictive?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Jennie says:

    Lovely, Geoff. Yes, we often fail to take notice of trees. This year they have been giving us a show of striking color. I will be writing a tree post as well. Keep noticing their beauty, as I will too.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. mypetience says:

    Yes, this place looks good. Definitely a heaven for people and dogs 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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