“Wouldn’t it be fun if one suddenly appeared at White Sands?”
One of the many things I love about Santa Fe is the open and imagnative mind that is characteristic of residents. I saw that again yesterday at a standing-room-only lecture on crop circles at the International Folk Art Museum.
The speaker was Donna Bone, who has a garden design firm here and who was sharing her experience as a member of an international tour group in Great Britain last year. Her talk was very rich with photographs of the designs, some so beautiful and intricate that the audience gasped. The number of appearances has increased rapidly since the 1970s, and about ninety percent of the formations in the last century occurred in Great Britain. Over 10,000 have now been documented worldwide in fields of crops like borage, oats, wheat, barley, etc.
After the lecture, I turned to the Internet to get more information, and the person who wrote the article on Wikipedia was clearly skeptical. There have been cases where pranksters, artists, engineers, and others have created creditable designs to show how humans could do this work, but they damage plants in the act. In the “real” crop circles, plants will soon stand up again if no one walks on them.
According to the Wikipedia article, the first image of a crop circle appeared in a 17th century English woodcut, only it is oblong rather than round and reportedly depicts the Devil with a scythe mowing the design. In her presentation, Bone pointed out that it is hard to detect the design of a crop circle on the ground. Now they can be captured with cameras and airplanes and helicopters, so there may have been many more than we will ever know.
I took an interest in crop circles a long time ago, but I haven’t followed their development. I was struck in this presentation, however, by their evolving complexity. The first designs were really just circles, but they became steadily more elaborate. Among the photographs Bone shared, one design suggested the construction of a compound, another appeared three-dimensional, and one resembled planetary movements. The swirling patterns reminded me of the way filings can be manipulated by a magnet. Photographer Steve Alexander shares a variety of images at http://temporarytemples.co.uk/imagelibrary/2002.html.
Some of the designs are huge, the area covered as much as 1,000 feet wide. An innovation described as “a nest” has recently appeared where, in the very center of the design, stems have been twisted into a knot. It takes Christo weeks sometimes to create his works of environmental art. These usually appear overnight. In one documented case, however, the crop circle was created within 20 minutes–during a daylight hour.
As I said, the complexity of the designs seems to be increasing at a rapid rate, so it appears that the source is evolving. Bone said that crop circles are now appearing in 50 countries and are now being seen in ice and sand as well as on farmland. Wouldn’t it be fun if one suddenly appeared at White Sands?
Crop circles are a matter of interest to only a very small population of people right now, and the “So what?” question hovers. I find their existence hopeful somehow. In a world in which people are fighting to the death over ancient history, something new is developing, something that is extremely beautiful, vibrant, intelligent, and apparently benign. Perhaps there are those with special brains among us who will study the patterns long enough to be able to translate. That could be very interesting. As Donna Bone said at the outset, “They force us to suspend belief about how the world works.”