Mad in Pursuit Notebook

Earth Water Air Fire

Sense of Place: Earth Water Air Fire

Feb. 13, 2016. [Cont'd from Feb. 7, 2016] Can't remember when I first learned of those classical elements Earth, Water, Air, Fire. But I'm pretty sure they were taught as the working of primitive minds minds before the enlightenment of Modern Science. But those early Greeks (and the Babylonians before them) lacked only tools, not intelligence or insight.

Anyway, like an ancient Greek philosopher gazing at the Mediterranean, I've spent the past few months gazing out my window at Lake Ontario, observing, and hoping some deep thoughts will come my way. After being consumed for a while with sea and sky, I realized, oh yeah, that I was sitting on a patch of flowering land. So, earth. Three of the ancient elements. Where's the fire? My city girl mindset did not serve me well here. I couldn't get past candles and "needing a fire pit" to comeplete my scheme. It took me way too long to get it that every night we rushed outside at sunset to witness a fire larger than all my patches of earth, sky, and sea put together.

I doodled. How did it fit together? The shoreline and the horizon demand layers. Here's a tarted up version of how those doodles went. Fire Air Water Earth

I was delighted to find that the Greeks saw it the same way -- part of their "music of the spheres," their sense of mathematical harmony. From an eye-level perspective, the shore gives way to the vast waters. And it is the waters that meet the sky (nevermind the wind in my face). Beyond the sky are the fires of the universe. It seems importance to me that their schematic came from experience rather than from abstract thought.

Music of the Spheres: Earth, Air, Water, Fire

Empedocles (b. 490 BCE) was the first to pin down the four elements, which he called "roots." He figured out two powers at work upon them: Love (or Harmony) vs. Strife (or Kaos). The cosmic cycle -- life -- requires a constant battle between the power that unites (love) and the power that divides (strife). Very wise.

Today, scientists associate the four classical elements with states of matter: solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. "Plasma" was a new one on me, but it's apparently the most common state in the known universe -- stars!

I tried to put my layers into a round "cosmogram" -- a depiction of my universe, below. It's hand-drawn with some heavy-handed color applied in Photoshop. I added in the four compass points, to make it look "official," but haven't visually connected them yet with four seasons or other potentially meaningful concepts. So, as always... a work in progress.

Cosmogram: Earth, Water, Air, Fire

The photo at the top grew out of my frustration at trying to depict my observations in a meaningful way. So I picked four photographs from the last six months and bottled them up. (The bottle on the far right, Fire, contains a composite of three images.) If you go to Google images for "earth air water fire" you'll see some awesome renditions. Looks like I'm not the only one still thinking along these ancient lines.



THE SUDDEN SILENCE: A Tale of Suspense and Found Treasure (2015) Thailand: lovers of ancient treasure tangle with international black markets. Delia Rivera pulls Martin Moon back into the game and their quest turns deadly. In paperback and Kindle editions.

TRIBE OF THE BREAKAWAY BEADS: Book of Exits and Fresh Starts (2011) Time after time, Mary asks herself: Do I go or do I stay? She finds her power in her ancestors: Smart women turn discontent into action. An illustrated memoir in paperback and Kindle editions.

PASSION AND PERIL ON THE SILK ROAD: A Thriller in Pakistan and China (2008) The twin forces of revenge and redemption drive Nellie MacKenzie and Taylor Jackson on a crazed adventure into the heart of Central Asia. They grapple with issues of ethics, trust, rage, and bitter heartbreak -- as well as the intrigue of the international antiquities trade. In paperback and Kindle editions.



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All pages in this website by Susan Barrett Price are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. [The snowstorm image at the top of this page came from Wikipedia, under a Creative Commons license.]