Water : The Mother Within
Our Mother : Flowforms
by Mary Thienes-Schuneman
are ‘simple’ water carrying vessels which integrate moving water in
spaces – indoors or out. They are also sculptures, soothers, playmates,
and enhancers of atmospheres from backyards to banks. They are workers in
farmyards and mixers in vineyards.
people who create Flowforms watch water move in Nature and create
Flowforms based on what Nature shows. These vessels are shaped by the very
movement of water itself…rhythmic and meandering water moving and being
at its freest. Flowforms make a space where water can meander like a
that matters will become clear.
Flow Forms America
were first created by the keen observations of people deep in the realms
of art, geometry and science. These were people who noted motions and
patterns in nature and that such patterns could be described in consistent
mathematical terms. The ripples and swirling eddies; patterns in wood and
bone and muscle; seas of sand; chambers of seashells; and meanders of
free-flowing streams all ‘spoke’ the same shapes. Luminaries Viktor
Schauberger, Theodor Schwenk, and John Wilkes are kindred spirits on
behalf of Water. The universal shapes Water describes captured the
imagination of these thinkers most.
three people looked at familiar things in unfamiliar ways. They are the
seminal collection of people helping us see and interpret all that Nature
is trying to tell us about the character, spirit, and shape of Water –
its inclinations to certain movements, health evoking sounds,
life-sustaining rhythms, and capacity for supporting change, renewal, and
that certain sounds, smells, places and people just feel good to us.
Sometimes we don’t know why. Sometimes we don’t even care to know the
chemical composition or area of the brain which registers a
’this-is-good-for-me’ feeling in us. People exposed to Flowforms for
the first time often have an ‘ahhhh’ experience – feeling inexplicably
relaxed and refreshed.
that the very matrix of our lives as bodies is water – rhythmical and
ever-present. In fact, during our development in the womb, a protective
bubble of water surrounds us. This water, in some sense, is the Mother
within our Mother.
patterns of our muscles, and the movement of our blood reflect spiraling
patterns, circulations and rhythms. Our very own bones contain systems of
tiny fissures organized in patterns of loops and spirals. Many of our
muscles, including our hearts, reflect an organization embedded in
don’t escape the inclinations of fluid movement EVER. Water and wind are
moved under the same principles. Our weather is made by winds spiraling
into lively breezes or thunderous storms. Take a really good look at the
weather map after the evening news. It’s awash in curves and swirls.
streams are observed to meander and not to carve out straight lines. The
streams’ swirling play against rock generates a sound we are too often
removed from in daily lives filled with earth-smothering pavement, hooting
machines, and tainted air.
we flock to the ocean for vacation? – for sound, sight, and sighs; and
perhaps for the rhythms and roars of these great elemental bodies which
are really so much like our own. We are drawn to our own, diverse selves
– part of Nature.
Schauberger - Systems
Schauberger (1885-1958), pioneering Austrian forester, inventive
iconoclast and visionary, understood that Nature is a great,
interdependent system. As a philosopher, he understood that Everything is
teacher was Water. Water taught him about spin and about motion. Water was
NOT H2O to Viktor.
study of natural energy began to point the way to many of the basic
problems of energy provision and transformation. Our well-meant, but naïve
attempts to provide ourselves with energy – from hydro-electric to
nuclear fission – generate harmful long-term effects on our total
environment. His explorations of implosive energy and diamagnetism
revealed many practical applications, most of which have yet to be
saw clearly how we could, and must, become a better partner with Nature,
and how we, in essence, could learn to get out of our own way as well. We
still suffer from our own ‘cures’ – corrections in riverways leading
to floods; industrial waste causing disease and the death of ecosystems;
weather patterns changing in response to our interventions.
Schwenk - Patterns
Schwenk used the language of systems, or patterns of systems, to
unerringly describe water and its spirals, circulations, inclinations to
spherical movement and circles.
book, Sensitive Chaos, does not contain one chemical formula; one
reminder of the ‘part-ness’ or separate ‘constituents’ of water.
article (Flowforms - Rx for Dying Water by Margret Carde) in
the Fall 1990 issue of Design Spirit magazine describes how: “…Schwenk
worked closely with a mathematician named George Adams. Together they
discovered an astonishing pattern. They noted that the curved vortex or
funnel shape prevalent in the movements and forms of cosmic activity was
also present in the morphology of plants and the movements of water. They
imagined that the forms that nature had created might also be the shapes
that would enliven and restore water.”
was NOT H2O to Theodor.
Instead, his book contains page upon page of illustrated systems of spirals, swirls, whorls, vortices, meanders, circulations, systems, and flow.
while, a reader nearly expects the pages themselves to ripple! After a
while, too, the reader most certainly recognizes that those curved and
flowing images are embedded profoundly in us – from our fingerprints to
our ears; from our bones to our heart.
Wilkes – Synthesis and Rhythm
Wilkes (born 19??) is the inventor of flowforms. Wilkes’ genius is that
he brought the ideas of Schwenk and Schauberger together into physical
forms – water vessels – flowforms.
an artist and sculptor first, John’s fascination with water and with
structure led him to exploring the bonds between art and science.
is NOT H2O to John.
studies projective geometry and has much experience with the physical
properties of water. John remains a constant student of Nature. His water
sculptures – his flowforms – are not only works of graceful art, but
are vehicles by which water can be allowed to return to its more natural
(meaning healthy) state by moving in its natural way…which we now know
is in spirals and vortices with inclinations to doing figure-eights.
started working with water flowing on inclined planes. What he eventually
observed biologist Mark Riegner wonderfully described in the 1998 Winter
issue of Orion Nature Quarterly: “Wilkes observed what was for a him a
remarkable occurrence. At one place in the system, the dimensions of the
aperture were of the precise proportions such that there was a momentary
hesitation as water flowed from one section into the next. Had the
aperture been wider, water would have flowed through uninterrupted; if
narrower, the system would have filled up and overflowed. The
unanticipated hesitation induced an alternating channel. Furthermore, in
each cavity, water swirled in a vortex. The overall movement was a figure
eight, or lemniscate, with one side rotating clockwise, the other
counterclockwise. Left and right rotational motions were thus joined in
one rhythmical movement, which Wilkes later termed a ‘vertical
meander.’ This rhythmical motion, induced by the inter-relationship of
the channel’s surfaces, was also evident as water streamed from the exit
in a pulsating waterfall. The regular, rhythmic pulsation reminded Wilkes
of his own pulse and strengthened the impression that water in this system
has been ‘enlivened,’ that is, brought into a condition of movement
and rhythm similar to the circulation of a living organism.”
established the Flow Design Research Group at Emerson College in the UK
which is concerned with sustainable approaches to the engagement of water
rest of us – Chaos and Consequences
But we’ve made water a problem. We’ve piped and canalled and
engineered water into overload. We assumed that Mother Nature’s System
would/could/should absorb all of our waste. As UK Waste Water Specialist
Mark Moodie puts it, “Thinking that the solution to pollution is
dilution, industries have put their toxic waste into the same system.”
The Cuyahoga River in Ohio delivered a dramatic message when it burst into
flames because of all we’d asked it to take in. Recent floods in Europe
are the direct consequence of our tinkering.
at work – Better Ways in Norway and Wisconsin
must be a real place as most of us evoke it so many times. Sewage is
something we’d rather send Away! (Wherever
fact, we’ve worked so hard to keep the smelly stuff out of sight that
we’ve done ourselves a deep disservice. We actually act out the old
adage, ‘Out of sight, out of mind.’ We pollute our ‘nests,’ with
our own discharge and are disconnected from a very basic process – the
process of no waste in Nature. Mark Moodie, in a Resurgence magazine
article, says, “We’ve taken lots of potential nutrient, mixed it with
clean water, the element of life, and made vast amounts of poison. It
represents unawareness of our ecology entwined with an outmoded taboo.”
aware and taboo-free water consultant and advocate, Will Browne, has
designed a highly successful sewage processing system in Norway using
Flowform-assisted ponds and reed beds. The system was devised for Vidarǻsen
Camphill, a community of 160 people, including effluent from their dairy,
food processing workshop, bakery and laundry facilities.
colleague, Petter D. Jenssen, Professor of Agricultural Engineering at the
University of Norway, has collected data and provided documentation of
system consists of sludge settlement pond, pre-treatment vertical-flow
constructed wetlands, an advanced primary stabilization pond, three
smaller stabilization ponds, and finally, a horizontal-flow constructed
wetland filled with light-weight aggregate. The advanced primary
stabilization ponds are equipped with Flowform cascades which provide
year-round aeration, rhythmical treatment and thorough mixing of
wastewater in the ponds. Treatment performance during the first three
years has been good and has been improving steadily as the system
establishes itself. The system is unaffected by harsh winter conditions
and is ecologically diverse, supporting abundant populations of higher
aquatic life such as ducks, amphibians and carp.
Wisconsin, an organic dairy farm is at the center of Martina and
Christopher Mann’s national effort, centered in East Troy, Wisconsin, to
promote Bio-dynamic and organic farming.
Nokomis Farm is a partnership comprised of a commercial farm in close
cooperation with an innovative educational and agricultural research
center called Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, also in East Troy.
Nokomis Farm itself consists of 240 acres and is part of a larger
ecological farm system totaling 550 acres. The Institute’s farm intern
program provides workers for the farm and provides research into
sustainable systems and organic/biodynamic agriculture for direct
application at the farm.
Farm will take its ‘waste’ and make it into part of the economic
success - instead of sending it Away.
farm had been laboring under a failing waste disposal system which began
to contaminate fields downhill. Now those fields are becoming part of a
developing showcase for integrated systems agriculture creating high
standards of treatment. Additionally, the whole physical system is a
particularly attractive landscape feature and adds welcomed revenue from
the sale of harvested produce, as we’ll see below.
system designed in a collaboration between Flowforms America
and Industrial Design Professor William Becker of the University of
Illinois – Chicago, has resulted in creation of a constructed wetland -
replacing the mire and leaching of too many nutrients into local
waterways. Now their first year, the
wetlands are ready to be planted and to begin their life, in
earnest, as a bioremediation system for farm ‘waste.’
challenge lies in maintaining adequate oxygen levels to support the
aerobic (non-smelly) bacterial action that breaks down organic material
from the cows and milk residues. That’s the point where Flowforms gets
down to work.
the solids are separated out, the liquid effluent travels down a cascade
of twelve Flowforms which begins the whole renewing process. Moving
through the cascade in the characteristic flowforming manner – making a
figure-eight pattern - the liquid becomes deeply aerated as it flows over
itself many, many times. This movement over itself is called a lemniscate
effect - adding oxygen to the layers of liquid – allowing the water to
open to other influences from Above.
at the top of the cascade, it’s almost hard to believe that the lively,
tumbling fluid is not that far removed in time or proximity from the barn
floor. It isn’t clear and clean water yet, but you can tell it’s
already on its way. There is no bad smell from the cascade flow.
liquid is being moved into a system which can soon turn the flowing
nutrient into ‘gold’ after entering the primary treatment pond at the
end of the cascade. In this pond, the real alchemy begins when a balance
of bugs, plants, and aerobic (with oxygen) and anaerobic (without oxygen)
processes make the nutrient into stable and usable forms – the
‘gold’ upon which the roots of plants thrive. This balancing process
is called root zone filtration…Nature not knowing ‘waste’ or
although these processes could work without Flowforms, ponds would have to
be constructed 30% larger to do the aerobic work done in the cascade! –
something discovered by constructed wetland specialists Simon Charter of
Ebb and Flow and Andrew Joiner of Iris Water Design in the UK.
liquid is now directed to the secondary pond through a transitional
bacterialcidal (kills harmful bacteria) zone made of plants whose roots
are particularly astringent. Ironically, these same transitional plants -
like mentha aquatica, or water mint, and acorus calamus, or sweet flag -
whose roots digest harmful bacteria, often have particularly
secondary pond, the stabilization process is completed with the help of
another Flowform cascade which continually takes water out and returns
water to the pond - ‘finishing’ the water before it is sent to a field
of hazelnut trees whose mulched leaves support crops of shiitake
mushrooms. The water does one last job of nourishing income-producing
crops on Nokomis Farm before returning to earth’s cycle.
we ARE learning…
“The larger the Island of Knowledge,
longer the Shoreline of Ignorance.“
was dad’s answer, many years ago, to my tearful lament about feeling
‘dumb’ and having ‘too many’ questions. As his big hands shaped an
expanding island in the air, he asked me to watch its ‘shoreline’ grow
and grow. I suddenly saw that my own Island of Knowledge must be quite big
in order to generate so many questions. So I kept the Shoreline
active...asking LOTS of questions…and thank dad for his gentle,
more we know, the more we know we don’t know.
of our problems have been created from being too firmly planted on our
Islands of Knowledge/Science, perhaps it is not from that place, alone,
that we should seek to solve those same problems. So a swim in a Sea of
Intuition might refresh us enough to see anew…to view familiar things in
that people standing on their own Shoreline of Ignorance often awaken to
insights. Flowforms water vessels are a gift from people having arrived at
just such a place.
Schwenk, and Wilkes speak through the voices in Water. Listening with our
bodies as well as our ears, we can hear our deep connection with the
shapes of water resonating intimately within.
Flowforms are a manifestation of what we are beginning to understand is our being IN Nature ourselves.
Reprinted by exclusive and expressed permission of the author.
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