Friday, May 13, 2011

Elegant Spirals

We've walked through the rain forest ringing Kilauea several times now and each time we are struck by the elegance of the spiral in nature.  We know that in Connecticut we see ferns pushing through the soil in early spring, their leaves coiled in a tight spiral.  We can even eat the spring "fiddleheads" that are the leaves before they open out.  Sometimes the Stop and Shop has them if we go at just the right time.

Here in the rain forest the spirals continue--and sometimes they are huge.  They belong to what are called "tree ferns," ancient ferns that can grow up to 20 or so feet high.  They predate deciduous trees in the path of evolution, I believe, and date from the Jurassic period (the heyday of the dinosaurs).
Tree fern fronds, a few feet high

And then there were the fronds half unfurled, the spiral still magnificent, a real work of divine art:
Tree fern frond unfurling, about 3 or 4 feet high

But what was most arresting was this set of fronds at the left of this text.  They were arresting because they were 6 or 8 feet high, still tightly curled at their tips.  And I was so struck by how much they resembled bishop's croziers.  The big silver crozier that our diocesan bishop uses at Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford is the shape of these fronds.  I have no idea but surely do hope that the Bishop of Hawaii has a crozier modeled on these fern fronds!

Climbing fern fronds
And another type of fern called a climbing fern is also indigenous to these Hawaiian rain forests.  Their fronds look "naked," coming from what appears to be bare ground, and looking strikingly elegant.   The plants are smaller, but the fronds no less spectacular.

OK so here's the takeaway from all these fronds:  now I understand more than ever why a spiral is a symbol of growth--just consider all the potential in there, waiting to mature and unfurl in its proper time.  And that explains why the crozier with spiral top is so appropriate for the office of bishop, chief teacher in the church.  He/She carries the potential for so much growth in so many people.   I guess at various times and with regard to various issues we are each unfurling, too, each at an appropriate rate ... with God's help.

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