I became fascinated with fractals many years ago when I came across two wonderful photography books on nature: Patterns in the Wild and By Nature’s Design. Fractals, or fragments, display characteristics similar to a larger whole. In nature, fractals form repeating patterns that can be seen everywhere. One example is an oak tree, in which the branching pattern of a leaf is the same as the branch to which it is attached, which is the same as the tree itself. A leafless tree silhouetted against a winter skyline shows countless large and small fractals in its branching. The branching of blood vessels in the human body also looks very much like a tree’s branches, as does lightning in the night sky. The spiraling pattern in the center of a sunflower resembles a spiral-shaped shell on the beach, as well as a spiral galaxy in the heavens. Infinitely complex examples of fractals are visible throughout the natural world. These repeating patterns together make up the greater whole of the universe we are part of.
My own backyard and flower garden are full of nature’s fractals. Perhaps that’s one reason why I love being in nature. I am continually in awe of the colorful patterns I see there, whether bird feather, butterfly wing, flower, or leaf. When I sit and gaze at the beauty with patterning in mind, I begin to see the connectedness of everything on Earth. The tiger swallowtail butterflies that visit my butterfly bush in summer call to mind their namesake, the tiger. An allium flower is made up of tiny flowerettes, forming a larger ball that looks like a small lavender planet. Sunflowers, of course, resemble the sun itself, with rays of golden light shining out. Many other flowers are named for what they remind us of. Cleome, or spider flowers, have long thin stamens that resemble the legs of a spider. Cardinal flowers look like smaller versions of the brilliant red feathers of the male cardinal. And pastel-pink bleeding hearts, which hang by the dozen from the branches of the plant, are indeed just like tiny hearts.
When I work outside in the garden, I am reminded again and again of the extraordinary complexity of the living world. Every plant, flower, insect, bird, stone, and piece of dirt is an integral part of something much greater, of which I too am a part. I look at the sunlight filtering down through the trees, the clouds floating by overhead, the hummingbird darting between the honeysuckle and bee balm flowers, and I feel the oneness that connects every small fragment of life everywhere: I am the leaf and I am the tree. I am the wave and I am the ocean. I am the spiral shell and I am the galaxy. We are all fractals in an infinite, perfectly designed and geometrically sacred multiverse. We are all fractals of God.