I left my desk a few minutes ago and saw this pot of forsythia lit up by the sunlight flooding into the kitchen.

P1090555The camera kept warning, Backlight, backlight, as though that was something you wouldn’t want. We’ve waited a long time for this sunlight and I’m not going to filter it out now.

Anyway, there was such clarity in the colours — the yellow forsythia, the deep blue glass pot. (The brown clay tiles on the kitchen counter…) And I wanted such clarity. All morning I’ve been struggling with some writing, trying to write about Pascal’s triangle (I do understand this: it’s a triangular representation of binomial coefficients) and how (I think) it can also be used as a model for talking about heredity. I’m trying to work backwards on a particular element of genetics, tracing how a certain member of my family has been gifted with an ability for which there doesn’t seem to be a precedent. So I look at these diagrams and their attendant theorems and feel lost at sea somehow. But I do mean to figure it out.

In the meantime, spring is everywhere. Earlier this morning I went out to peek at the garden and realized I was hearing the first varied thrush song of the season. I thought of Don McKay, much easier for my brain to understand than the binomial theorem, and his beautiful poem, “Song for the Song of the Varied Thrush”:

                       …a close

vibrato waking up the pause

which follows, then

once more on a lower or a higher pitch…

Before I began voice lessons 6 years ago, I wouldn’t have understood the slight shifts in pitch, or vibrato, so maybe there’s hope.

convergent threads (an equation)

I’m (slowly) working on a long essay, “Euclid’s Orchard”, which hovers in and around mathematics, horticulture, family history, and memory. Part of the work of the essay is puzzling through some theories and planning a quilt to accompany this thinking. I’ve gathered many images from my reading about math and genetics and am struck over and over again by their beauty. My mind is always drawn to pattern so looking at some of the graphic representations of Mendelian inheritance, Pascal’s triangle (esp. his own drawing of this, with his beautiful handwriting), the elegant Hardy-Weinberg principle, and others has been a fascinating journey into design and method. Friends Joe and Solveigh gave me Edward Frenkel’s Love & Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality for my birthday in January and it’s been such a revelation to spend time in the company of this extraordinary mathematician. The book is part memoir, part explication of his introduction to, and life-long commitment to, the Langlands Program, essentially a grand unified theory of mathematics. I really enjoyed his joyous presentation of braid groups in Chapter Five (serendipitously titled “Threads of the Solution”); the illustrations are clear and nicely organized and I’ve been pondering how to translate one (or more) to a quilt block.

Sometimes a gift comes from an unexpected source. The other day an email friend, Andrea, sent a link to a Discover magazine feature on artists using math ideas to make art. 

A fashionable equation: the Yang Baxter scarf, by Robin Endelman, 2013. Manos del Uruguay’s Silk Blend (merino and silk, hand-dyed).

I’m not sure yet what my quilt block will look like but I was thrilled to see this scarf and am happy to know that others in the world experience math by translating its equations to thread and texture.