To the casual observer nature presents itself almost like a unified block of color or shape. The endless white fields of winter, the solid green wall of the summer forest, even the meadow of flowers in the spring. Our visual reception of these is generally that of a single element, punctuated occasionally by small interruptions of detail. In the fall, however, we get to see the structure of our natural reality and discover it is not as unified as we perceive. The features we formerly observed as large units now resolve themselves into their more fundamental components. And many of the components are curved.
Curves are such a synonym for nature that even where man incorporates them into architecture or graphic design, the result is proclaimed to be “naturalistic,” as if all the other forms we use are artificial or contrived. Curves serve a function in nature that we have adopted for our own use. Curves distribute force across a broader area using less material – nature being efficient in the use of building materials while maintaining strength. Curves increase surface area that can be exposed to the elements of sun, rain, shade – nature maximizing the potential for an object. Curves constitute such basic elements of natural design that we usually ignore them, paying more attention to the whole structure but little on the details.
Yet in fall much of these details suddenly become apparent. Leaves fall, revealing the nature of limbs and branches. Berries and fruits ripen, showing off the perfect marriage of potential energy and support construction. Seeds mature, their weight bending but not breaking the stems supporting them. Even the animals display curvilinear details in the buck’s strong antlers, essential tools in the fight for procreation that must endure tremendous pressure and stress in the jousting for superiority.
Fall is like looking at a house just before the sheathing goes onto the frame – you can see all the decisions made about structural supports and the design choices on where utilities run. All the essential elements that go into making a house useful but that are never seen again once the structure is complete. Spring and summer cover all these natural elements with massive displays of color and solids; winter with an obscuring blanket of snow. Only fall reveals, giving us the opportunity to marvel at the constructive genius that makes up the natural world.