“Nature abhors Vacuum” – Aristotle

Flow is the state of the ever-expanding universe.

Nature follows the path of least resistance where flow is the only constant. Oceans polish the softest rocks first, rivers twist and turn as dictated by gravity, and reach the seas. Trees reach for light tunneling through the branches of other trees. Lightning finds the path of least resistance on its route to connect with the earth. Obstacles are never yielded to, the recalcitrant ones are erased over time, moved aside, climbed over, and dissolved. In a very physical sense, our globe itself is a large canvas that gets painted on a daily basis yielding to the laws of least resistance. The tools of nature, namely gravity, continental shift, cataclysms like earthquakes and volcanoes, avalanches, snow, ice and glaciers, climate, seasons, rains and floods, dryness and droughts, storms and tides, the eroding and corroding of elements upon oxidation and effects on salts and reactions of chemicals, all have and are constantly changing the face of the earth every moment. The mills of nature grind sometimes violently but most often slowly and surely. Nature surprises through its infinite manifestations that get transformed every moment.

The human constructs of civilization follow the paths of least resistance too. We inhabit easy-to-occupy lands, figure out easy-to-climb routes and easy-to-cultivate crops. Time being the constraint, traffic flows in and out of cities following the routes with the least delays. Wrong information seeks the paths of least resistance too, reaching the gullible first. Markets that make modern life possible operate where supply flows to demand through the most optimized routes.

Emptiness yields to being filled and fulfilled. Flow is also the exuberant feeling a person has when in one’s element. When one is enjoying the moment, the sense of doing right, the sense of using the innate skills, the sense of accomplishment, the sense of well-being, and the sense of inner peace prevailing. When one feels there are no obstacles or resistance to one’s being and feels the sense of being one with the world and the sense of being alive. Art happens when one is in that flow. An artist can take what appears plain and unremarkable and reveal a view that can change perceptions.

Today, thanks to flights and satellite photo mapping of the surface of the globe we have Google Earth offering the facility of the planet shrunk into our phones and view the earth from above from any height 63170 km downwards all the way to a few meters from the ground. Depending on the laws of the country and the level of resolution desired every inch of the earth has been captured right down to street level. The only limiting factor is frozen time as these are static images of the earth stitched together over years of efforts and layers and layers of photos taken from different heights. However, it is possible to move backward in time to see older surface details as well as move closer to the ground and see further layers with higher resolution. This has opened up scope for every industry and sector to take advantage of the humongous geographical information for their business, administrative and educational strategies. Right from traffic management, travel planning, virtual touring, navigation, predictive routing, under the surface mapping of structures, the study of climate change over a period and its impact on the globe, and so on, the virtual globe has become an extremely versatile tool for exploration.

My attempt using Google Earth has been to discern patterns and abstract images on the surface and also images that define the flow. This flow has decided how the seas carve its beaches one bite at a time, how the rivers etch the valleys like an engraver, how vegetation carpets the terrain like a patchwork quilt, and how volcanos draw scary sketches in black ink. The ice on mountain tops continues to create exquisite designs every winter and the sun scorches the lakes in summer leaving behind modern art. The earthquakes have exposed layers of past cataclysms like a sliced marble cake, and the minerals have painted all over the continents with their broad brush strokes. From the boondocks of Australia to the fiery deserts of Africa, from the bone-dry Gobi Desert to the lush rainforests of the Amazon, from the frozen firmament of Siberia to the twisting canyons of Colorado, from the smoking volcanoes to the writhing Volga, nature has always created incredible designs. Interestingly, flow also dictates the repetition of designs. What is a snow-covered range of hills could easily be mistaken for dew-covered vegetation. What appears to be a dry leafless tree trunk and branches reaching into a grey sky may as well be a river flowing into a lake. For every image on earth, there is always an equivalent in some other tinier iteration that we are familiar with.

The creations displayed here are a synthesis of what is freely available for everyone who likes to explore Google Earth with some additional image manipulation to bring out the colors and effects. They are either abstract images or those that resemble more mundane sights, all chosen from various locations of the globe and framed, captured, and enhanced for effect. No inversion of colors or superimposed images is used. No photos of 3D terrain are used. All are screenshots of the 2D option of flat-surfaced images of Google Earth satellite images. Sharp edges if any due to stitching by Google systems have been softened and the Google watermark removed for aesthetic purposes. To enhance resolution multiple screenshots in grid pattern taken from a uniform height have been captured and stitched into a single larger image through suitable applications.

The conception and creation has been an interesting journey of discovery in the literal sense because it involved a virtual journey to different virtual locations of the world and because of the concept of degree, minute and second to denote the co-ordinates on the globe was refreshed from school days. Though the exploration is virtual, it establishes the vastness of the tiny planet of ours and helps discover so many areas that are still untouched by humans. In the abstract sense, it reiterates our sense of insignificance in the larger scheme of things.

The flow must go on.

Published in 2021

R. Sudhakar