Water Tower, Waterton

Years ago I read that we need the fractal nature of the natural world for our mental health.  The argument, as I recall, was that our brains evolved in the complexity of the natural environment and need more stimulation than they get from the clean, straight lines that dominate our current built environment.  An interesting proposition, no?

I have a hunch it was a Steven Pinker proposition, but when I tried to find it again I failed, so it’s only a hunch, not a definitive attribution.  

Anyway, I like to live in the city but feel better with regular doses of the outdoors, so I was amused to find my attention drawn to the built environment on my latest trip to those very outdoors in Waterton Lakes National Park.

Mindful of the injunction to remove the extraneous from the frame, I tried different approaches to framing the water tower:

  • Including the trees that survived a devastating 2017 wildfire, thereby picking up the same colour in the background
  • Contrasting its relatively fragile construction with the hulking mountain behind it
  • Stripping away everything but the structure itself

Different ways of framing a water towerI kinda like them all, but I think this view is my favourite, with the not-even-100-year-old water tower looming over the 75-million-year-old mountain.

Water tower towering over mountain in background

6 Comments

  1. Your opening paragraph is fascinating. I wonder if I have retained my appreciation for structures, like that old water tower, because my location is rural with all of the fractal nature of Nature one could wish for. If that is a condition essential to mental health (I have a wish list that includes much more of “ordered” and far less of “fractal”), then this place is ideal for the recovery of mental health. In regard to our son’s cerebral integration issues, I have sometimes thought the property resembles old-fashioned mental hospitals with their spreading lawns and stately trees. You have given me something additional to ponder about his recoveries.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Laurna – As a speculation — and an unattributed one at that — it’s an interesting notion. Is it true (and true for everyone)? Who knows? I like it because it aligns with my experience and my own speculation that our brains function best within a range of mental “load,” akin to the optimal load for engines, where less is not necessarily better. Even if true, that range, of course, is likely to be entirely idiosyncratic.

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Judith – Interesting. Composition is an elusive art, I find. Of course, if it were a science or a set of absolute procedures, it wouldn’t be any fun. 🙂

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