When Art & Math Unite

colored fractal

In 2015 through my online college, I took a required general education math course on math concepts for which I chose thinking I could maybe get through that seeing how horribly I did in math in my high school years.  That most math above the basics was something to avoid and something appearing too foreign like a lost prehistoric language with strange and cryptic symbols.

Ahem…All you math geniuses out there, please humor me and follow me through this post.

How naive I was to think math concepts would be easier.  So many of these concepts I’d never heard of before, but by week two, I was to choose one for my final 10-page paper on this concept.

This discovery caused me great anxiety, and I wrung my hands and shed tears of fear and panic allowing these scary unfamiliar math theories and formulas to balloon up to a major overwhelming hurdle over which I didn’t believe I could jump.

I beseeched my advisor that perhaps it had been a mistake to take this class, and really, I needed to go back to square one and take a basic algebra class first before my brain could wrap itself around any of these heady applications.

But alas, I’d missed the window to withdrawal from the course and with a gulp and shaky body, I braced myself for the onslaught of cryptic, confusing, symbolic hell.

By week two, I was introduced to the Fibonacci sequence, and immediately, my mind was blown.  The same numbers (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, …) found on pinecones were found on other objects in nature, such as flower petals and the nautilus. Yes, I’m sure you all already knew this, but for me, this was all new and fascinating!

Cool video by Khan Academy on the Fibonacci Sequence:

(credit to Khan Academy)

There was a dark, cobwebbed, spongy crevice in my brain that opened up like the detachable hood off of a convertible, and God’s universe glistened bright and infinitely vast before me.  The mathematical number sequence and how it joined with nature screamed the hands of God, for nothing perfect in this world can be accidental or just be.  Something perfect has to be created by Someone Perfect–God.

Suddenly, math had taken on a totally different view for me, and I liked it.

Reading over and looking up the meaning of the list of math concepts in which we students were to choose from, I finally chose the knot theory because it sounded less scary and perhaps even something my simple, elementary math brain could comprehend.

So, for the next few weeks, in between weekly assignments, I read the history of knot theory, its formulas, how it’s used in life, and watched videos of professors teaching the knot theory by scribbling many different knots on the chalk board and explaining the negative and positive integers used in them.  Frankly, I enjoyed watching those lectures!

While researching how the knot theory is used in life, such as in our DNA and mountain climbing, I was pleasantly surprised to find it in art, and not just any art, art by sculptor, John Robinson.

immortality sculpture

The first one shown above titled Immortality, sculpted in 1982, resembles a trefoil knot.  The meaning behind this great work of art is profound and beautiful.  He created this trefoil to represent the three generations of his family, he being the oldest of the three.  It shows the continuous movement and connection through time, becoming infinite.  Robinson said, “I believe that Immortality is made up of one’s memories of the past, as well as those one leaves behind.  I see this Symbolic Sculpture not only as a continuous journey, but also the scroll of which all life’s experiences (DNA) is recorded.”

rhythm of life pic

In the second picture, his sculpture, Rhythm of Life,  was also done in 1982. When creating this piece, he had wrapped a ribbon around an inner tire tube.  The last wrap was the fourth time around, and it returned to its original starting point.  Ronnie Brown, an English mathematician, had explained that this happens in Torus knots in math.  Robinson said, “I created the sculpture about the time that the miracle of DNA had just been discovered, and for me, this delightful flowing ribbon summed up the continuity of Genes.  I found I could balance the 18-inch maquette on a single point.”

Through this math course that was called The Heart of Math, I truly learned there was a lot of heart to it, and a lot of soul and beauty.  It may have taken decades for me to have found an appreciation for math via this class, but I’m just grateful I did discover it.

 

Works Cited
Symbolic Sculpture:  The Collected Works of John Robinson.  (n.d.).  Rhythm of Life.  Symbolic Sculpture:  The Collected Works of John Robinson.  Retrieved from
http://www.bradshawfoundation.com/jr/rhythm_of_life.php

 

A Place That Brings You Joy

RMNP Colorado Rockies June 2017

Have you ever been to a place, or lived in a place that brought you such joy and peace that every day you looked out your window or stepped outside your door, you smiled at the grand and scenic landscape around you?

I grew up a military dependent, so we moved around every two to four years.  I was painfully shy growing up, and it took me many months to make friends, and that friendship was enjoyed for a couple years or less, and then it was off to another place.   The moves were difficult, but I adapted.  I kept in touch with my friends over the years via actual snail mail that seems unheard of these days, but it was great fun the years my friends and I wrote each other.  I still remember the excitement I felt when I got a letter from a friend.

The pattern of my emotions in each move consisted of initial sadness when I found out we were moving, to tingling anticipation in the last few weeks before moving day, wondering what the new place would be like.

Here’s a short history of where I’ve lived up to the place I found to be my happy haven.  I was born in Maine, and from there moved to Taiwan, then Massachusetts, Virginia, Alabama, Germany, Illinois, Virginia again, and then Colorado.  All the states and Germany (which was amazing, clean, and gorgeous) pretty much had the same climate–four seasons, humid and hot in the summers, various bugs depending on the area….bigger ones down South (ugh).  So I knew no other type of climate other than hot, muggy buggy, and cold, humid in the winters. Until Colorado.

I remember when we drove into the state and I first stepped outside the car at the local Air Force Base’s gas station.  We were headed to the TLF (temporary lodging facility) until the house Dad and Mom had purchased, was ready to move in, as it was a new house in a new subdivision down in Castle Rock.  As soon as I stepped outside the vehicle, I noticed immediately the difference in the air.  It was light, thin, and fresh.  The sky was an incredible deep azure, with the sun shining so bright, it was nearly white.  Although it was mid summer, it didn’t feel as oppressive as it had in Virginia, Illinois, or Alabama.  And the first time I saw the Rocky Mountains, I caught my breath.  They dominated the western landscape, and demanded respect.  If it were at all possible in some type of sense, I fell in love with Colorado right then, and this has never dissipated.

Colorado Rockies and elk

I was blessed and lucky enough to have lived there twice.  The first time was from 1987 to 1995, and the second time was from 2007 to 2013.  Both times that I left this wonderful haven was not because I wanted to, but more because I didn’t really have a choice.  The first time was when I was in my early twenties, and my job was being phased out, and therefore, I moved south to Northern Louisiana where my parents had moved months before me, and also where my sister had been living for many years because her husband was from there.  The second time was because my husband believed he had a calling to the priesthood, and so we needed to go to Boston for him to attend the graduate school there.  But for several reasons, his degree at that time didn’t come to pass, and because our house in Colorado was being rented out, we couldn’t go back to it, and at that time, my husband wasn’t sure if he’d return to school at a later date.  Therefore, we ended up in Pennsylvania, the state in which my husband had grown up. Also, his family still resided there.

We settled in Lancaster, and struggled for the first year and half as my husband searched and applied for many jobs.  Finally, he was hired last May in 2017 at a local school district.

Lancaster is a lovely area dotted with many farms, rolling hills, and Amish buggies.

Lancaster, PA

We were fortunate to take a vacation back to Colorado in June of 2017 where we stayed at Estes Park in a beautiful, little rustic cabin and hiked the Rocky Mountain trails in Rocky Mountain National Park, and then visited our spiritual father and his family, and our parish family in Colorado Springs.  It was a great respite that truly felt euphoric.

Lancaster is charming, but we knew when we moved into our rental home here and know now that it really is a temporary place in which we have been blessed to regroup, work out personal issues, heal, and grow.

We don’t know how long we’ll be in Lancaster.  I only know that Colorado is always in my heart and in the back of my mind, and the urging to return never goes away.  My husband feels the same way, which works out well for us; no arguments or disagreements on where we want to retire.  God willing, we’ll return some time in the future to this glorious state that has me literally smiling and my heart soaring every time we drive into it and spot those majestic Rockies.

RMNP June 2017

Do you have a place that makes you happy and causes your heart to swell?

 

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Holy Pascha

Christ's Resurrection

Let God Arise!  Let His enemies be scattered!

When you take the journey with Christ from His entrance into Jerusalem on a donkey, praised and honored through the laying down of palms, through the grueling walk to Golgotha, wailing with His Mother, to experiencing the thunderous, earth-trembling from His death, His descent into Hades, breaking the chains and releasing those waiting in the tombs, preaching to those who did not know Him, to witnessing His glorious Resurrection, told to us by an angel at His Tomb, your body, mind, and soul are greatly and positively affected.

Your body aches from the hours of services, for which three quarters of the time you’re standing.  Your mind is filled with the readings of his journey and what it all means.  Your heart is torn into pieces listening, watching, and reading of the scourging, mockings, spitting, and especially the words “His blood be on us and on our children.” Lord, have mercy.  *doing the sign of the cross*  That line always gets you.

swinging censor

You take in the sweet smell of incense that reminds you of the realm of God’s Kingdom, the prayers of the Saints, and that you and your brothers and sisters in the nave of His Church are with Him through all of it.  You’ve heard these passages hundreds of times, but something new and profound hits you every year this is read aloud.  This time, you’re wishing you were the thief on the cross, hoping, praying, pleading, “Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom,” and you’re dying to hear Him say, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

You weep when you hear His Mother, the Theotokos, wail and say to Him as He plods to His voluntary crucifixion, “”Where are you going, my Child? Why do you travel along so fast? Would there perhaps be another wedding in Cana, and you hurry there, to turn for them water into wine? Can I not come with You, my Child? Or tarry with you? Speak to me a word; You, Who are the Word. Pass me not by in silence, You, Who kept me pure. For You are my Son and my God.”  In your humanity and being a mother of two sons, the words slice through you, cutting you deeply, and you feel Mary’s pain.

But then the Panagia tells Him to hurry and rise on the third day so that she can see Him glorified:  “O my Son, where has the beauty of Your form vanished?  I cannot bear to see You unjustly crucified; hasten, therefore, and rise up, that I too may behold Your Resurrection from the dead on the third day.”  You realize that the Theotokos knew and understood immediately what Christ had been saying before His crucifixion that He’d rise on the third day, whereas all but one of the Apostles fled in confusion, fear, and sorrow.  Beloved Apostle John stood by the Cross with Christ’s Mother and the other women.

Pictured below:

Christ crucified.  Holy Thursday evening is the Twelve Gospels Service that follows Christ’s Passion and Crucifixion.  Our bishop was present for this service, so instead of being three hours, it was four.  This night’s service is the longest, but this was the longest I’ve ever encountered, but it didn’t matter.  When you experience such profound, glorious, and heart-wrenching events, you’re undone, heart, soul, body, mind, but in a good way.

Christ crucified Annunciation GOC

This is the kouvouklion — Christ’s Tomb — that the ladies of my church decorate each year ( took this picture personally on Friday.  It is from my church).  Gorgeous.  It is carried around the church Friday evenings for the Lamentations service, where we join Joseph of Arimathea in carrying Christ’s body to the new Tomb.

kouvouklion Annunciation GOC Holy Week 2018

Video taken by me at our “home” parish back in Colorado Springs, Colorado, (2011) that gives you a glimpse into Holy Saturday morning’s Divine Liturgy where Christ descends into Hades and destroys its chains and gates and opens the tombs.  The pounding we made (and wish all Orthodox Churches did this) is to symbolize the breaking open of the gates and chains and the tombs.  The priest throws basil leaves and flowers symbolizing Christ’s victory and that He is King and Lord. (It isn’t unusual that after the two and a half hour service the night before that this service is less attended, which is unfortunate because it’s such a beautiful and joyous experience).

Holy Saturday evening’s Resurrection Service is held around midnight with a vigil and then the Divine Liturgy.

Here’s a video from an Orthodox Church of a few years ago that shows what happens around midnight when the priest announces, “Come receive the Light,” which the candle represents Christ’s descent into Hades and darkness and through His Resurrection, the Light has come into the world and has trampled down Death by His death.  After His entrance, you, along with your brothers and sisters in Christ, say joyously and triumphantly, “Christ is Risen!” and will chant this verse over and over again that early Sunday morning and the next several Sundays:

Christ is risen from the dead,

trampling down death by death, 

and upon those in the tombs,

bestowing Life.

The Holy Fire descends on the Tomb of Christ inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem every Holy Saturday.  The Greek Orthodox Patriarch receives the Holy Fire that miraculously lights his bundle of thirty-three candles each year).  Here’s a video of this mystical and miraculous event from today:

At the end of the liturgy, you receive a red egg that symbolizes the blood of Christ, and Life.  You gather with your family and brethren in the hall for some food and drink, and crack eggs with them.  The cracking of the eggs symbolizes the cracking open of the tombs.  If your egg survives the cracking contest, you are blessed.

cracking red eggs Orthodox Pascha.jpg

It’s a blessing to return home each night smelling of sweet, heavenly incense, and body wrought from worshiping Christ God in body and spirit.

On Pascha Sunday, you attend the Agape Vespers Service where the proclamation of Christ’s Resurrection is read in several different languages.  The most common languages spoken are English, Greek, Arabic, Latin, Albanian, Spanish, German, French, and sometimes Japanese and Swahili.  Others also may be said if there are parishioners who know that language or come from the country that speaks that particular language.  You enjoy hearing the Good News in many tongues, showing this message is universal.

You enjoy a Paschal picnic of lamb and all other types of meat, etc., and Pascha sweet bread, called Tsoureki in Greek.  We got one this year from the women’s monastery a few hours away:

Greek Pascha sweet bread.jpg

 

Christ is Risen!  Truly He is Risen!

 

 

 

Happy Easter to My Christian Friends and a Blessed Palm Sunday to My Orthodox Christian Brethren

palm sunday icon 1

Today is Western Christian Easter, and I wish all my Christian friends celebrating Christ’s Resurrection today a Blessed and Happy Easter.

Today is Palm Sunday for us Orthodox Christians.

palm cross 2

We Eastern Christians are on the Julian Calendar, whereas Western Christians follow the Gregorian Calendar.  If you are interested in learning a little more about this, click on this link.

Tonight (I think technically last night) starts Orthodox Christian Holy Week in which we participate and follow Christ through his Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection.  It’s the greatest feast and holiday of the year for us.  It’s also a very focused, holy, and busy week for us.  Reading my church’s bulletin, there are around sixteen services for Holy Week.

We call this celebration of Christ’s Resurrection on Sunday not Easter but Pascha.  This is the term that’s been used from the beginning, which follows the Jewish Passover (Pesach).  Here’s a couple excerpts of info on Orthodox Pascha and where the word originates from:

Pascha (Greek: Πάσχα), also called Easter, is the feast of the Resurrection of the Lord. Pascha is a transliteration of the Greek word, which is itself a transliteration of the Aramaic pascha, from the Hebrew pesach meaning Passover.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the center of the Orthodox Christian faith. Twelve weeks of preparation precede it. This is made up of pre-lenten Sundays, Great Lent, and Holy Week. The faithful try to make this long journey with repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation, prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and study. When the feast finally arrives, it is celebrated with a collection of services combined as one.

One of the hymns we sing on Palm Sunday:

Apolytikion: First Tone

By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your passion, You did confirm the universal resurrection, O Christ God! Like the children with the palms of victory, we cry out to You, O Vanquisher of death: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!

I’ll try to write a midweek post and one on Pascha to share the absolutely moving, beautiful, and profound services to give you a glimpse into what this week is like for us Orthodox.

Again, Happy Easter to all my friends celebrating today!

 

Pieces of Paradisiacal Prose

butterfly beauty

We all know and enjoy the written beauty that is found in poetry.  I know we readers also appreciate beautiful prose in fiction (and in creative nonfiction). When I come across such glorious text, I have to read it at least three times, drinking in the imagery, language, and writing style of the author’s work.  I’ve read a few books in the past two year mostly for my World Literature and Romantic Literature classes, and some of the writing really struck me at how stunning and masterfully written it was.  So, I’m going to share with you a few excerpts from three books.

plain truth book

First is a more contemporary piece.  It’s a piece of lovely writing from author, Jodi Picoult, in her novel, Plain Truth, that I read in my free time and finished a couple of weeks ago.  One of the main characters has been longing to have a child for the past several years, and she finds out she’s pregnant, which is a total surprise to her.  Here’s what the text says:

In the past five years, I had wanted a baby so much I ached. I would wake up sometimes beside Stephen and feel my arms throb, as if I had been holding a newborn weight the whole night. I would see an infant in a stroller and feel my whole body reach; I would mark my monthly period on the calendar with the sense that my life was passing me by. I wanted to grow something under my heart. I wanted to breathe, to eat, to blossom for someone else.

As a mother of two sons, I can not only relate to these words of hope, longing, and love, but also admire how she wrote it.

 

dr. jekyll & mr. hyde book

I read excerpts from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for my World Literature class several months ago, and I fell in love with Stevenson’s writing style.  It was beautiful.  Beautiful prose about the struggle of good and evil within a person.  I do plan to read the whole story one of these days!  The excerpt I’m going to share is the evil side that possessed the doctor as Hyde whenever he drank that nasty potion!

Instantly the spirit of hell awoke in me and raged. With a transport of glee, I mauled the unresisting body, tasting delight from every blow; and it was not till weariness had begun to succeed, that I was suddenly, in the top fit of my delirium, struck through the heart by a cold thrill of terror. A mist dispersed; I saw my life to be forfeit; and fled from the scene of these excesses, at once glorying and trembling, my lust of evil gratified and stimulated, my love of life screwed to the topmost peg. I ran to the house in Soho, and (to make assurance doubly sure) destroyed my papers; thence I set out through the lamplit streets, in the same divided ecstasy of mind, gloating on my crime, light-headedly devising others in the future, and yet still hastening and still hearkening in my wake for the steps of the avenger. Hyde had a song upon his lips as he compounded the draught, and as he drank it, pledged the dead man. The pangs of transformation had not done tearing him, before Henry Jekyll, with streaming tears of gratitude and remorse, had fallen upon his knees and lifted his clasped hands to God. The veil of self-indulgence was rent from head to foot, I saw my life as a whole: I followed it up from the days of childhood, when I had walked with my father’s hand, and through the self-denying toils of my professional life, to arrive again and again, with the same sense of unreality, at the damned horrors of the evening. I could have screamed aloud; I sought with tears and prayers to smother down the crowd of hideous images and sounds with which my memory swarmed against me; and still, between the petitions, the ugly face of my iniquity stared into my soul.

Nearly all of Dr. Jekyll’s confession at the end of the book is like a psalmody.  Amazing and glorious writing style.

 

the last man by mary shelley

Lastly, I read The Last Man by Mary Shelley for my Romantic Literature class and absolutely fell in love with Shelley’s poetic, beautiful, flowing prose.  I was so moved by it, I read it at least five times, and to my husband, son, and friend.  It has to be some of the best writing I’ve ever laid eyes on!  Here are three excerpts of her aesthetic work:

The laughing morning air filled them while sun-light bathed earth, sky and ocean–the placid waves divided to receive our keel, and playfully kissed the dark sides of our little skiff, murmuring a welcome.

Behold us now in our frail tenement, hemmed in by hungry, roaring waves, buffeted by winds.  In the inky east two vast clouds, sailing contrary ways, met; the lightning leapt forth, and the hoarse thunder muttered.

I thought I saw Adrian at no great distance from me, clinging to an oar; I sprung from my hold, and with energy beyond my human strength, I dashed aside the waters as I strove to lay hold of him.  As that hope failed, instinctive love of life animated me, and feelings of contention, as if a hostile will combated with mine.  I breasted the surges, and flung them from me as I would the opposing front and sharpened claws of a lion about to enfang my bosom.  When I had been beaten down by one wave, I rose on another, while I felt bitter pride curl my lip.

 

Unbelievable talent!  I hope these pieces of paradisiacal prose made your day and life richer and more beautiful. 🙂  I’d love to see your favorite excerpts of aesthetic writings.  Please feel free to share them below. 🙂

 

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