June Symmetries

As we head towards the midpoint of the year and the first glorious days of June arrive in London, I'm continuing to think about symmetries in Nature.  In everyday life, we often think of mirror reflections when we think of symmetries, though more generally a symmetry is a regularity, meaning something that remains the same if we make a change, for example if we move the thing along in space a little, rotate it, swap it, or do something more complex. If it still looks and behaves the same, it has a symmetry.

Symmetry offers effective perspectives when analysing nature and figuring out her patterns. It is an intiguing subject, though can be tricky and is best considered gently, by following short bursts of hard thinking with longer ones of walking around looking at other beautiful things, some of which also have symmetries.  Here are four gathered in the last 48 hours:

A flower in Hyde Park.


An Alexander Calder mobile: 'Blue and Yellow Among Reds', 1965 at Dominique Lévy gallery.


Two pages from Henry Irving's marvelous book - 'How to Know the Trees'. The words and images are his.


and Pablo Neruda's 'Ode to a Star'

Appearing at night

on the terrace

of a bitter and very high skyscraper,

I could touch the nocturnal dome

and in an act of extraordinary love

I seized a sky-blue star.

The night was black

and I slipped along

the street

with the stolen star in my pocket.

Of tremulous crystal

it seemed,

and suddenly

it was

as if I was carrying

a package of ice,

or an archangel’s sword at my belt.


I kept it

under the bed

so nobody would discover it,

but its light

first pierced through

the woolen mattress,


the tiles,

the roof of my house.

The most private needs



for me.

Always with that light

of astral acetylene

flashing like it wanted

to return to the night,

I couldn’t tend to all

my duties,

and so I forgot to pay my bills

and wound up without bread or provisions.

Meanwhile, in the street,

passerby milled around,



doubtless attracted

by the unusual brilliance 

they saw coming from my window.


I picked up 

my star again,


wrapped it in my handkerchief,

and disguised among the crowd

I could pass unrecognized.

I went west, 

to the Green River,

for there under the willows

it was calm.

I took the star of the cold night

and gently 

cast it unto the waters.

And I wasn’t surprised 

that it floated away

like an insoluble fish


in the night of the river

its diamond body.