Folding is nature’s most common way of making patterns. The action of folding is simple enough, but the dynamics within the action are infinitely varied. They turn a mechanical concept into a process. A simple fold displays a range of dynamics and depth. If we take a moment to pause and gaze at any fold, a perceptual duet emerges. We begin to entrain to the energetic vitality of design before us. Within moments, a static line yields, comes alive in the interplay of light and shadow. Creases lengthen and deepen, shimmer and flow.
Our perceptions can magically shift from habitual myopia to a meaningful encounter when we take the time to really look. Let’s see how this works by looking at small-scale natural phenomena. Take moss, for example. I recently read that there are 22,000 species of moss, each its own specialized ecosystem Taking the time to appreciate the micropatterning of moss is a true gift of our capacity to reflect on, and deepen, life experience. In one of the latest online issues of Brain Pickings, Botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer speaks of the incredible enchantment when gazing upon these micro-cosma in her book, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses. Part scientist, poet and philosopher, Kimmerer calls for a willingnessto see beyond the pedestrian.
As a somatic movement teacher (muse), I make a practice of looking at folds in the familiar every day. I try to keep a log of these kinds of transformations – these noticings of small-scale familiarity. The words not only help me articulate my experience but also keep me from easily glossing over it. I particularly resonate with Kimmerer’s perceptual delight when I indulge my own hobby, cell phone photography of tree stumps, dead leaves and peeled bark. A few photo edits transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. The cracks and crevices within their decay are a feast to my eye.
Here, a maple tree stump becomes a mandala or an exotic map to an unknown world.
The world around us can so easily vanish into a vaster landscape of distracting thoughts and daily preoccupations. Perhaps, too, the miracle of nature often goes unnoticed due to familiar scale and sheer redundancy, Kimmerer echoes this perceptual loss when she writes:
‘With a degree of humility rare in our species, we acknowledge there is much we can’t see, and so contrive remarkable ways to observe the world. Infrared satellite imagery, optical telescopes, and the Hubble space telescope bring vastness within our visual sphere. Electron microscopes let us wander the remote universe of our own cells. But at the middle scale, that of the unaided eye, our senses seem to be strangely dulled. With sophisticated technology, we strive to see what is beyond us, but are often blind to the myriad sparkling facets that lie so close at hand. We think we’re seeing when we’ve only scratched the surface. Our acuity at this middle scale seems diminished, not by any failing of the eyes, but by the willingness of the mind.’
Next time you notice the shadow created by the conjoining of two adjacent walls, or the sheet hanging over the bedpost, pause for a good minute. Let oblivion give way to something else, into the relational depth before you. What feeling, memory, or mood does it conjure up? Take on the folds of that sheet – ‘be’ that sheet for a moment. What movement does it stir in you? What intimacy arises? Let the experience etch you’re your memory. It will fold into the memory bank of your entire biological archive of your life’s patterning, a co-creation of self and world.