Keep Calm and Skate On

Yesterday afternoon I went skating near my house at the Kanata Beaver Pond. There is something about the motion of skating that is meditative, going around in circles, over and over and for some reason never wanting to stop. I even played with the hockey stick and puck that were left there by some kids, pretending I was Wayne Gretzky, racing across the ice, hoping to score that big goal.

The sun hits the ice
My skates glide smoothly along
Oops! – Was that a bump?

Here is a video of my first skate. (There is also another one of me spinning but watching it makes me dizzy!).

Later I went for a walk and basked in the beautiful weather.  A little chipmunk put on a show for me while I snapped a few photos:


Scurrying away to gather some nuts:


I encountered a mother and her daughter walking their dog across the frozen pond:


The woods near my house always make me reflect, and have a haunting effect as the sun rays peek through the treetops:


A beautiful afternoon in solitude, nature, and surrounded by beauty. When life gets a little overwhelming, keep calm and skate on!



A Walk To Remember

It was a gorgeous day today, sunny and only -3 degrees! (balmy for January in Ottawa). In the afternoon, my Mom and brother went shopping, my Dad took a nap, and I decided to take a long walk. Well initially I thought it would be a short one, but I ended up walking and exploring for over an hour and a half.

I walked through trails and along roads, to the Beaverbrook plaza, through puddles, and across a little bridge over a stream. I saw many people along the way – a woman out for a walk with her young daughter, a couple taking pictures of the sky, and a girl walking her dog.

At Beaverbrook plaza, I saw that CHEO Autism Services is opening soon. It’s so great that the plaza has become a hub for community services – there is the Lotus Centre which offers music therapy for special needs children, Main Street Community Services, and now CHEO Autism as well. It’s amazing that there are so many resources available for special needs kids and low-income families, and I can only imagine the synergies that will be created between these three organizations.

I walked over to Kumon, hoping to run into my friend Sanjit who runs the centre, but it was closed for the day. I guess the kids get a well-deserved break on Saturdays!

Eventually my legs started to tire and I walked home, snapping photos and selfies along the way. Here are a few:

When I got home, my Dad was in his PJs making tea. I went to my room and lay down on my bed to relax – just as I was getting sleepy, the doorbell rang (my Mom and brother were home), and I heard “Mitttaaaaaa….. I need you in the kitchen!”. Then the real fun began. ;-)

Nature by Numbers

Can you see fractals in the treetops?
A pattern that knows itself, like the laughing Buddha
Meditating under the Bodhi tree.
Branch by twig, and twig by branch,
Spinning, whirling, multiplying –
Writing into the sky.

Count the spirals on a pinecone:
Eight, thirteen, or twenty-one;
Knowingly, they turn to the centre,
while Fibonacci’s rabbits dart across footpaths,
scurrying onto their next adventure.

In the stillness of the hummingbird’s flutter,
Swirling eights form a sequence:
Down and around, up and through –
Weaving a piece of the infinite.

Numbers come to life around me,
Tallying nature’s score;
The gentle stream carries eternal sounds 
And leads us to that without limits.

* * *

This poem is inspired by my daily walks to the Beaver Pond in Kanata (my current home), where I witness the beauty of nature every day and often relate it to the beauty of mathematics. I tutor kids in math, and I’m always looking for creative ways for them to learn and appreciate math, beyond the standard curriculum. One way is to recognize that there are definite patterns in nature, which make it even more beautiful – you can literally see fractals in treetops, the golden ratio at play, and spirals in flowers and pinecones that follow the rules discovered by the mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci.

A few years ago, I was asked to do a creative writing assignment on choosing a shape for a story of my choice. I had chosen the Ramayana (an ancient Hindhu epic), and I found it impossible to choose a linear shape to represent such a mystical sequence of events. The only phenomenon I could think of was a fractal, which is a pattern that repeats itself based on a defined set of parameters. The Fibonacci sequence is as follows:

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, …….

Each number in this sequence is the sum of the two numbers that preceed it.  These numbers appear everywhere in nature – seashells, trees, pinecones, etc. If you count the spirals on the bottom of a pinecone, you will see that the number of spirals that weave to centre will most likely be one of the Fibonacci numbers. I commonly find pinecones that have either 8, 13, or 21 spirals. Next time you pick up a pinecone, count the spirals and see if the number is in the Fibonacci sequence!

Fibonacci also discovered rules that predict how rabbits multiply – as commonly known, rabbits are pretty frisky and tend to multiply rapidly. I am lucky to see rabbits everywhere I go in Kanata, and I especially find their fluffy white tails so adorable. Rabbits are known for eating twigs, grass, herbs and clover; four-leaf clover if they’re lucky.

Alright, I hope I’ve managed to convince you that there is more to math than  trigonometry and boring equations – it may even make you appreciate the beauty of the universe a little more!