Homes; Tortoiseshell

Homes; Tortoiseshell original
Ink on Acrylic Monotype

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Another tribute to the gopher tortoise, a true keystone species that provides homes to over 300 animals through its burrows. This ink on acrylic monotype is composed of words by D.H. Lawrence “Tortoiseshell”. Read on about the magical mathematics of the tortoiseshell:


The Cross, the Cross

Goes deeper in than we know,

Deeper into life;

Right into the marrow

And through the bone.

Along the back of the baby tortoise

The scales are locked in an arch like a bridge,

Scale-lapping, like a lobster’s sections

Or a bee’s.

Then crossways down his sides

Tiger-stripes and wasp-bands.

Five, and five again, and five again,

And round the edges twenty-five little ones,

The sections of the baby tortoise shell.

Four, and a keystone;

Four, and a keystone;

Four, and a keystone;

Then twenty-four, and a tiny little keystone.

It needed Pythagoras to see life playing with counters on the living back

Of the baby tortoise;

Life establishing the first eternal mathematical tablet,

Not in stone, like the Judean Lord, or bronze, but in life-clouded, life-rosy tortoise shell.

The first little mathematical gentleman

Stepping, wee mite, in his loose trousers

Under all the eternal dome of mathematical law.

Fives, and tens,

Threes and fours and twelves,

All the volte face of decimals,

The whirligig of dozens and the pinnacle of seven.

Turn him on his back,

The kicking little beetle,

And there again, on his shell-tender, earth-touching belly,

The long cleavage of division, upright of the eternal cross

And on either side count five,

On each side, two above, on each side, two below

The dark bar horizontal.

The Cross!

It goes right through him, the sprottling insect,

Through his cross-wise cloven psyche,

Through his five-fold complex-nature.

So turn him over on his toes again;

Four pin-point toes, and a problematical thumb-piece,

Four rowing limbs, and one wedge-balancing head,

Four and one makes five, which is the clue to all mathematics.

The Lord wrote it all down on the little slate

Of the baby tortoise.

Outward and visible indication of the plan within,

The complex, manifold involvedness of an individual creature

Plotted out

On this small bird, this rudiment,

This little dome, this pediment

Of all creation,

This slow one.