The 19th century mathematician Jules Henri Poincaré was also a physicist, engineer and philosopher, aptly qualifying him to be a polymath, someone who knows a lot about many and varied things. In his writings, Poincaré spoke of a form of beauty that he believed to be more profound than that which strikes the senses. This profound beauty, he said, comes from the harmonious order of the parts.

After a very wet spring and a hot, rainless summer dense with smoke from nearby wilderness fires, the autumn colours are spectacular this year. I came across an expression of Poincaré’s unique form of beauty yesterday, while walking along the shoreline where Harrop Creek joins the West Arm of Kootenay Lake. Scraps of cast-off dead cedar branches had collected after a wind and rainstorm storm. They traced the fluid arc of shoreline with their rust-iron glow. The cedar tracings echoed up into the cottonwoods, alders and birches. As I stood measuring the glory, an eagle swerved across the water and settled in the tallest cottonwood, as if to oversee the majesty of it all.

In the creek, a few fallen leaves had caught on a cobble, to gather like thoughts piling up on each other. “Science,” Poincaré wrote, “is built up of facts, as a house is built of stones; but an accumulation of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house.”

In celebration of polymaths, polychrome harmony, and the poly-glorious days of autumn.

Written by Eileen Delehanty Pearkes