No Straight Lines

In an art class many moons ago, we students were assigned projects, one choice being creating a series of collages. Only one young woman and I chose the collage path and you should have seen my scissors fly! I loved cutting up and pasting paper and became a collage-making fool. After I presented one section of the project, a student said, “That’s very nice, but there are no straight lines in nature.” The embarrassment-heat started at my chest, moved up the neck and over my face. (Yes, I embarrass easily.) I sat down as soon as possible, and the memory of that moment (and several others conveniently timed in the same period) caused me to begin earnestly confronting my inner critic. But I digress.

“There are no straight lines in nature?” I was the single mother of three young children and except for an occasional interest in cloud formations and birds, I hadn’t noticed nature. Well, I noticed if there was deep snow or my kids were getting sunburned. I may have worried about the drought back then but that’s about it. So I started looking around and I could not find one single straight line in nature. Trees were not straight like we draw them as kids and branches produced more branches, always at beautiful angles. Flowers and bushes were generally oval or round. Blades of grass look straight, but when I got close, they weren’t straight at all. There is nothing straight in a forest, no matter how much you look. And forest patterns are beautiful, as if each tree and plant honors the others by where it takes root—like a family—and if there’s not enough space for each member, things can’t grow right. They’re stunted.

Manmade stuff, on the other hand, like buildings, roads, furniture, paper products, parts of our cars and computers and on and on all have straight lines. You certainly can’t put things together in assembly lines if you never know what shape’s coming around the bend! The most interesting part of all this to me is that I didn’t ‘tune into’ nature until we moved to these apartments. I don’t think it’s the apartments, though. It’s the fact that I started writing, yet I’m still not sure why this connected me to nature as it has. Yesterday I heard a celebratory song and looked up a tree to see a young chickadee chirping away. I told him how beautiful his music was and he and another little chickadee followed Max and I down a tree-lined sidewalk, flitting from tree to tree. I had honored the little bird and he honored me back. Oops–digressed, again.

My point is, the student was right. There are no straight lines in nature, only ovals and circles, spirals and curlicues and globes. And everything that we humans have done is mass-producibly straight. I know why we have done this, but we sure are out-of-sync with our Mother.