Two Ways

Two Ways

January 07 2021

“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein

One needn’t look for big rising from the dead miracles, but tiny miracles are everywhere, I see them everyday in my gardens. Garden variety miracles, if you will.

Every time a flower unfurls its petals, every tulip sprout nosing out of the cold ground after a 40 below winter, or seeds that pass through birds or fire to germinate, these are small miracles. Our earth, teeming with life, flora and fauna-it’s a wonder. Especially since around 99 percent of life ever on earth is extinct. Yet here we are, counting and categorizing; our presence alone is a miracle.

There is one thing in particular that astonishes me-the regularity and predictability of plant patterns. I don’t mean just things that differentiate plant families, like square vs. round stems, opposite vs. alternate leaves, one or two seed leaves, or the myriad arrangements of stamens and pistils, but the mathematical precision that can literally be graphed.

Look closely at the precise spirals of the coneflower. Each row of disc florets in the center of the flower is a lovely Fibonacci spiral. Fibonacci numbers are a sequence of numbers where the next number is a sum of the previous two. Think 0 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 34 55 89 144. If you graph those numbers you have the shape of one of those spirals in a coneflower. Or sunflowers, or clematis seed heads. I hope you’re suitably amazed!

Another example of mathematical precision is a fern frond. Each progressively smaller section is a replica of the larger ones. Nature repeats herself, smaller and smaller. The mathematical term for this is fractals. You can choose to see these astounding little details (and the fact that we notice) as miracles, or not, up to you.

Purple Coneflowers or echinacea (from the Greek word ‘echinos’ meaning hedgehog) in this case come in the usual pink, but also white, orange, reddish, even green, some with frizzled mop heads, or petals that droop (echinacea pallida). They are Native American wildflowers and are of course, well known as an herb to strengthen the immune system. They add splendid late summer color to my gardens as do other coneflowers, all members of the prolific Aster family. Not to be confused with echinacea are Cut-leaf Coneflower (rudbeckia laciniata), or Prairie or Yellow coneflowers, or Mexican Hat (ratibida columnifera). Interestingly, there is another yellow coneflower, Echinacea paradoxa, which is not the typical purple to pink color and is not a hybrid like many of the other colored echinacea.

I don’t know about you, but I’m choosing to see miracles.

Purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea

Echinacea angustifolia

Echinacea pallida

Echinacea paradoxa