The Beautiful Math of Soil

Here’s what I’m talking about.


Look how the sun and its shadows are interacting with the slopes of this ravine to create wet and dry, cold and warm zones (which alternate with seasons and time of day) to move water (and life) through the soil. If this irregular surface were flattened (the same as if DNA were flattened, or the hydrocarbons of leaves were flattened), the potentiality of such activity would be shifted to some other point of boundary between these forces, at the valley bottom, at the lake shore, at a stream bed, or some point fifty kilometres away, wherever the boundary was. Here’s also what I mean about the beautiful mathematics of soil: P2160057

Notice how the flat, packed surface is impervious to the sun, and retains its snow, while the grassy slopes lose snow quickly. It’s not just about slope. Here’s another reason, grass:


Each blade of the grass, adept at collecting light for photosynthesis in the summer, can also collect heat, transmit it downwards, concentrate it in the increasingly-dense mound of the grass, and not only melt the snow but deliver its water to the roots of the grass, which soak it up. The surface might be a boundary to visual creatures, like humans, but it is an exploited and manipulated space by the grass: infinitely malleable; a place that can gather sun and water. Here’s a grass that specializes in this surface manipulation more than most, blue bunch wheatgrass:


She knows the power of resonance effects well. Now, I know, I promised to talk about soil, so let’s not forget that this is not soil:


That is glacial clay laid down rapidly 10,000 years ago as the glaciers melted away. It has been bared to the air for a decade now, with not even the tiniest weed to show for itself. It’s just ground up mountain. Plants have no use for this stuff. This is soil:


Here all kinds of “life” have modified their mineral selves by self-replicating and climbing towers and conduits of water tension manipulated by surfaces and the sun, and have create new and far more complex surfaces in the process, concentrating water tension in the same way that the blue bunch wheat grass above concentrated the sun into resonance patterns within their mounds. We could talk for a long time about the complex biological processes involved in this work, and it would be a great pleasure, but it’s joyful to also celebrate the simplicity driving it all: surface. It not only creates this…


… which can be represented by this…


… which is grand stuff, or viewed as it is in the material universe (in the same level of beauty and complexity, but using different factors, as read by bodies not cognitive systems)…


And, let’s remember, that this story of surfaces continues deep underground and that if a cloud passes overhead …


… the bacteria that make up the soil, breathing the underground atmosphere and the life-giving breath of plant roots, react to it with a complexity equally or exceeding this:



(x2+y2)2 + (z2+w2)2 + 2b(xz-yw)2+2c(xw+yz)2 = 0

And remember that we all, all of us, have the words for this. There are many of them. Here are three: elk, sumac, and pond.

P2050845 p2090315 P2010650

It’s not that mathematics can be rendered in presence and dance but that there is presence, and there is dance. They are all extensions of soil.

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