How Do You Count?

Nature doesn’t count the way we do. When you look at a flower, some flowers are in sets of three, some fours and others fives.

Purple trillium is an easy one to see the sets of three in. It has three leaves, three sepals and three petals. False garlic is another one.

Bluets come with four petals. The early small bluet so hard to photograph as the camera always tries to lose focus has four distinct petals in some shade of lavender, blue or white. The later long leaf bluet has a trumpet that breaks into the four petal lobes at the top.

count three with purple trillium

A spring ephemeral purple trillium sends up a single stalk with three leaves. On them open three sepals exposing three purple petals hiding three yellow anthers.

The rose family has a set of fives. Tame roses have been bred to have so many petals, it’s hard to see the underlying fives. Wild roses, crabapples, wild plums and swamp agrimony have five petals.

People count in sets of ten. We have five fingers, all right, four fingers and a thumb, on each hand. Children use each one to stand for a number and end up making ten.

Our number system is set up on tens. We keep adding one number at a time until we get to that tenth one. It goes in the next column as one complete set of ten plus no ones (10). The ones add up again until we get to that tenth one again. It becomes a two in the tens column plus no ones (20).

count four on a bluet

A common bluet flower has four petals. They are often blue but range from white to lavender. All have the dots of color at the base. I find them very difficult to photograph. They seem to stay out of focus.

As I began to look over my rough – very rough – draft of The Carduan Chronicles, I hit this fundamental fact. I was counting in sets of ten. The Carduans would not count in tens as they do not have five fingers on each hand.

Now, as the Carduans are imaginary, I could change that. Yet I had good reasons for not giving them five fingers. Size is the most important factor.

I am roughly fifteen times bigger than the average Carduan. My hand is about six inches long from palm base to finger tip and half that wide. That would give the average Carduan a hand four tenths of an inch long and two tenths wide, roughly half an inch by a quarter inch. Their fingers would be a sixteenth of an inch in diameter, ridiculously small to have any strength in them.

count five on prairie roses

Prairie roses have this wonderful scent. It’s a bit sweet and spreads for five feet and more around a bush. These simple roses show the typical five petals.

So the Carduans have two fingers and an opposable thumb, three digits on each hand. They will count in sixes. Theoretical math calls this base 6. I’ve heard of it, but know little about how to use it.

This means I have to recalculate things in the draft and correct these counts before I can do a proper rewrite. This changes the number of ration packs in a crate. It changes the time frame altering the time line I need to construct to correct another set of problems.

The one thing I don’t need to change is the number of degrees in a circle. That was invented by the Sumerians long ago and they used a base of sixty giving 360 degrees in a circle. We still use this for navigation, for longitude and for compass readings. And sixty is divisible by six.

I still prefer using the normal way to count.

Wildflowers are one topic of photographs and haikus in “My Ozark Home.”

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