A Permaculture General Pattern Model of Events

Permaculture Designers Manual




Section 4.2 –

A Permaculture General Pattern Model of Events

When we look about us in the world, we see the hills, rivers, trees, clouds, animals, and landforms generally as a set of shapes, apparently unrelated to each other, at least as far as a common underlying pattern is concerned.

What do we see?

We can list some of the visible forms as follows:

WAVES on water and “frozen” as ripples in dunes and sandstones or fossilized quartzite’s and slates.




STREAMLINES as foam strips in water, and in streams themselves.




CLOUD FORMS in travertine (porous calcite from hot springs), tree crowns and “puffy” clouds or as cloud streams.




SPIRALS In galaxies, sunflowers, and the global circulation of air, whirlpools, and chains of islands in arcs.




LOBES, as at the edge of reefs, in lichens, and fringing the borders of salt pans.




BRANCHES, in trees and streams converging or diverging; explosive shatter zones.




SCATTERS of algae, tree dumps in swamps, islands, and lichens on rocks.




NETS as cracks in mud, honeycomb, inside bird bones, in the columns of basalt (as viewed from above), and cells of rising and falling air on deserts.

The NETS or cracks in mud and cooling lava are shrinkage patterns caused not by flow or growth, but by the lateral tension of drying or cooling, as are many patterns in ice flows and the cracked pattern of pottery, or the cracks in bark on trees.

Thermal wind cells arise at the confluence of large heat cells on desert floors, forming a net pattern if viewed from above or below.

In all of these categories, I hope to show that one master pattern is applicable, and that even the bodies of animals are made up of bones, organs and muscles of one or more of the forms above.

I will link these phenomena – generated by growth and now – into a single model form.

That form is a stylized tree (See Figure 4.1). Around the central tree form of this model are arranged various cross-sections, plans, longitudinal sections, and streamline paths, all derived from real sections, paths or projections of the tree.

The evolution of such a form from an initial point in space-time, I call an EVENT.

Such events can be abstract or palpable. They have in common an origin (0), a phase of growth (Tl-T6: an expression of their energy potential), decay and dissolution into other events of a like or unlike form.

The event of a tree is at least three dimensional, and must be thought of as extending into and out of a plane (P).

However, many similar events such as migration patterns or glaciations can be as well portrayed (as they are seen in aerial photographs) as two-dimensional.

The curvilinear STREAMLINES (Sl-S9), are seen to curve or spiral through the Origin, just as (in fact) the phloem  (storage cells) and xylem (sap bearing cells) spiral through the X-X’ axis, or earth surface plane (P), of a real tree.

Not so easy to portray is the fact that the xylem is external to the stems and internal to the roots and the phloem the reverse. At a zone in the plane (P), therefore, these cells INTERWEAVE or cross over as they spiral out of or into the media.


This deceptively simple “apple core” or t-shape, spiraling out of the plane (P) is a slow-moving vortex such as we see in tornadoes and whirlpools.

Traffic through the streamlines is in both directions. In trees, sugars and photosynthetic products travel from crown to root margin, and water and minerals from roots to crown.

Thus, each margin of our pattern is both collecting and distributing materials from different media . The tree trades both ways with elements of the media, and there is active water and gaseous exchange with the media (M1, M2).

Two-way trade is the normality of plants, organs, and natural forms.

As we know, a crosscut of a tree stem, the basis of the study of dendrochronology, reveals a target pattern of expanding  growth  (by  which  the  tree  adds  bulk annually) and from which we can discover much about past occurrences of drought , seasonal changes, atmospheric composition, fire, and wind (Figure 4.1-F).


Screw palms (Pandanuss spp.) of the tropics develop ascending stem spirals, very reminiscent of fan turbine blades, and sunflowers create open seed spirals (in two directions), so common in many whorled plants.

The stem itself forces open an ever-expanding flow through the X-Y plane between the media, allowing more material to pass through as time accumulates.

The event expands the initial rupture of the surface between the media, allowing great flow to take place, and this too is recorded in the target pattern of the stem, at the point of germination of the event (O).



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