Since January 28, 2019, I have been doing the final editing and design layout on a 350-page book titled Spiny Succulents: Euphorbias, cacti, and other sculptural succulents, and (mostly) spiny xerophytic plants. I finished it yesterday. It will be on sale in late October or early November, and is the fourth book by the author, Jeff Moore, on cacti and succulents. As with his first three books, there are lots of beautiful pictures, over 1,340 of them.
Seeing how easy it is to publish a book in today’s world—one can even get an ISBN for as low as $4.95—encouraged me to do what I have always wanted to do: write a book. I actually have two books in mind, Nature’s Geometry: Flora and Nature’s Geometry: Fauna. They basically will be picture books, with a little writing thrown in for good measure, and will allow me to combine a lifelong love of photography, nature, writing, and mathematics. My first task, then, was to ask myself, “Who is Russel and why does he get to write these two books?” In other words, “About the Author.” I sat down last night while watching the movie “Silent Hill” and wrote about Russel (that’s me!), a long diatribe that obviously will be edited for brevity for the final book. Following is what I came up with, still in first person:
I was born in 1955 in Kingsville, Texas. After my dad died in 1961, mom moved us to northern Utah where her family was from. It was in Brigham City, Utah, where I became fascinated by nature. Our neighbor next door was Mrs. Larson, my first grade teacher. She had beautiful plants in her yard, and one day she gave me a “heartleaf ivy,” Philodendron cordatum. That started my fascination with plants.
My paternal grandmother adopted me in December 1965 and took me home to Kingsville. In September 1966, the principal of the grade school was going around to home rooms and asking for volunteers to learn photography. The school provided Nikon cameras, a darkroom, supplies for the darkroom, adult supervisors for the darkroom, and, most importantly, free entry to all school events, including football, baseball, basketball, and tennis (my four favorite sports). I was an easy sell, and that was my start in photography.
In September 1968, my first class in eighth grade was botany. My teacher, Mrs. Bajza, presented a slide show of many beautiful plants, all growing in her gardens. When I got home that afternoon, I asked my grandmother if I could have a small garden in her yard. I was expecting a loud and definitive, “NO!”. However, granddad and I had installed central heating and cooling earlier that year, and grandma gave me the 100-ft square section where the cooling condenser was located. If you’re familiar with cooling condensers, nothing had been growing around ours for about six months because of the hot air blowing from that condenser. I was depressed and went over to visit my best friend, Richard. He and his parents listened to me complain and invited me to go with them to the Rio Grande Valley the coming weekend to visit nurseries, which turned out to be specialized cactus and succulent nurseries. I was mesmerized. Richard’s parents allowed me to pick out plants that I liked and they bought them for me. I created a rock wall surrounding the cooling condenser to force the hot air up, allowing me to plant my cacti & succulents on the other side of the rock wall, protected from the hot condenser wind. Eventually the plants grew and bloomed, and that was the start of my fascination with cacti & succulents.
My math addiction came about because I had been good with numbers from a very early age. I was quite adept using a slide rule when I was in first grade.
In twelfth grade, I won a math competition in South Texas for my presentation, “Tips & Tricks To Help You With Math.” That allowed me to go to a statewide competition a few weeks later, where I came in second. First place was taken by a girl in twelfth grade in Dallas for her presentation, “Fibonacci Numbers & Nature.” Her presentation resulted in me combining my three loves of math, nature, and photography.
This book will explore nature’s geometry using math, specifically the golden ratio created by the Fibonacci sequence of numbers, but also the golden angle, the reverse golden angle, the golden rectangle, and the golden spiral, all derived from the Fibonacci number sequence.
Throughout these pages are pictures, most of them my pictures of plants in my collection, showing how the Fibonacci number sequence expressed itself in our cacti & succulents as the number of ribs on a gymnocalycium, the number of spines in a cactus areole, and, of course, the spirals prominently displayed in many species, most notably in the center of the sunflower (Helianthus) and the spiral aloe (Aloe polyphylla).