The human eye seeks out symmetry as a measure of beauty.
It is not in short supply. Today’s–February 14th’s–ubiquitous exaggerated hearts leap from cards in perfectly uniform pinks and reds, with no variegation or variation in outline or tone.
But the world also gives us quirky, imperfect hearts: wavering shadows from intertwined leaves, branches clutching each other into a boxy Picasso love sign, wildflowers gathered in a pointillist Valentine.
It takes close inspection to discern within an orchid’s kaleidoscope of mirrored images only a single delicately curled tendril on its lower lip. Among its glorious companions, it is very slightly broken.
Slightly skewed symmetry is not, of course, confined to nature.
Whether by temperament or experience, I gravitate to the imperfect versions. Give me a nicked heart, one dashed off in a quivering hand or weathered by hurricane-force winds.
Hand me a Valentine visible only to me, as I walk alone by the shore and my eyes narrow against a burst of deep winter memory, or as the sun casts a sharp half-heart shadow against snowbanks lit a ghostly whiter shade of pale.
Slide a hand over the lower left-hand corner and what do you see? A majestic snowy mountain range?
Only the relatively wee barbed wire-topped fence gives away both the scale and subject. It’s actually only about twelve feet of plowed snow caught at sunset. (Use of the word “only” to modify “twelve feet of snow” will not come as any surprise to inhabitants of the Northeast.)
I enjoy playing with scale when taking photographs, whether it’s an artificially overblown snow pile or a deceptively Lilliputian panorama reflected in a garden orb. An icicle seems to dwarf an enormous willow tree. Old Boston’s architectural scale captured in a single shot in Copley Square. A towering arachnid and a tiny beagle puppy. My husband’s still-warm hand, billowing clouds and blue and green mountains dotted below.
At the end of January, it is comparatively early in the season (my glass half-full nephew reminds me that it’s “only eight weeks until Spring!”) . . . but also so very, very deep.
And somehow it’s all still out there: brilliant buds waiting in the soil, hearty birds calling out as they find clusters of ruby berries still clinging to branches in white-out winds, fish gliding under inches of ice.
In the depths of winter, may you find within you “an invincible summer.”