Geometry: A View From Above

(c) Jim Glennon, March 2010

My husband Jim, as I have noted, was a masterful photographer.  He had an eye for the moment, for capturing an ephemeral splash of color and light and movement and then letting it go.

Given that I have an entire blog category titled “Metaphorical Mathematics,” I hardly could let a Geometry challenge go by without weighing in.

I am by nature and nurture more of a Non-Euclidean when it comes to Geometry, and I knew instantly which two, among tens of thousands of Jim’s photographs, I needed to find.

I knew they were of the same subject, and I knew to the day when he had taken them.  I realized only after finding them that one–dominated by curving lines in the earthiest of brown, with a gradually disappearing rim of a line in Jim’s green circling towards Fibonacci’s infinity–was taken looking up, and the other, bathed in gold, was taken from high up and looking down.

These swirling fractals (more specifically, Fibonacci spirals) were among the last series of subjects my husband patiently captured with his beloved camera.  More specifically, they were among the last taken in The Before: before we knew his diagnosis; before we knew how short his time with us would be.

I know he was particularly proud of these non-Euclidean fractals because he chose to bring them to his office, where his use of artifacts was sparing.

Of course it was not simply the geometric beauty of these photographs which made them meaningful: Jim took them during his last great adventure of a trip with our daughters, when we all thought we had more, healthy such trips ahead of us.

The tumor neither of us truly knew of–except in the sense in which, as Andre Dubus has written, one may know before one knows–already clonally was expanding and winding itself around his portal vein.

So meticulously did Jim catalogue his digital images that I know exactly which shots he liked best: he even gave them ratings.  Unlike I (at least in The Before, before I learned from Jim to pare down to what remains important in so many ways), he even was able to discard hundreds of images as he organized his photographic archives.

Thus I know he was particularly proud of this photograph as well:

(c) Jim Glennon, March 2010

This view was looking up; the gold-hued one was taken from the top, stories up into the sky, looking down.

Before I went to Jim’s photographic archives, I had taken a quick look through my own.  After delivering a talk at Dana Farber’s Cancer Center in September, I had become a little bit lost on my way to an elevator and had wandered down a hallway.  I saw a three-dimensional work of art forged of clay, made by cancer-stricken children and their families and friends.

I found myself extracting the camera from my bag, breathing in and stepping back and snapping just two pictures of it.  It contains no top and no bottom, no up or down, just the charm of an infinite circle of love and hope:

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