The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Thursday 18 April 2024

Feather Musings

A few days ago I found a tiny feather (see attached photo.) It’s reddish-orange colour, with black at the base and apex, and the small yellow wedge at the tip, all intrigued me. It’s tiny size and exquisite colouring set me to musing.

Feathers have been key symbols in many cultures for millennia. Along with shells and beads they have adorned our heads, arms and legs as decoration. Feathers have hung from necklaces, drums, and dreamcatchers. They have also had spiritual and mythical significance.

Many of our legends include feathers as crucial elements. The modern-day legends of Harry Potter note that phoenix feathers are one of the three supreme cores for wizard wands (the other two being dragon heartstring and unicorn hair.) One of the famous legends of Persia tells of the flying creature named Simurgh. It is said that one who finds a golden feather from Simurgh will be blessed with the fulfillment of their greatest hopes.

Mind you, for some, the use of feathers did not result in their hopes being fulfilled. Icarus attached feathers to himself with glue so that he could fly, only to plummet to earth when the glue melted on passing too close to the sun.

Away from the realm of symbolism, myth, and legend, feathers provide us with an example of fractals. Fractals, in brief, are geometrical shapes that show a self-similarity at different scales.

Feathers have a distinctive shape and construction to them if we look at them. If we take a closer look, then we notice that the individual barbs of the feather show a similar shape and pattern to that of the feather as a whole. When magnified using an electron microscope we can see this same pattern repeating. (See photo below.)

Feather magnified by electron microscope

This self-similarity is not restricted to feathers. Many natural phenomena display fractal and fractal-like structure. Sunflowers, Nautilus and snail shells, clouds, mountain ranges, river deltas, trees, and even the arteries, veins, and capillaries in our own bodies – all display fractal structures.

Often it is this fractal quality in nature that underlies our appreciation of, and for, beauty.

So, next time you find a feather, look at it closely. Look closely also at a tree, notice how the ranches, twigs, leaves, and leaf veins, all replicate each other in ever smaller (or larger) self-similar patterns.

Then consider the self-similarity that our own bodies show in comparison with other elements in nature. Notice, for example, how the bronchi, bronchioles, and alveoli of our lungs resemble the patterns of rivers, streams, and creeks of a watershed.

Truly, beauty surrounds us and contains us, at micro and macro levels.

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