Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Crop circle in the sand

Walking along the long, deserted beach on a late-summer, Sunday afternoon, I stumble upon an unusual find.

A large deposit of sand has risen out of the channel, surrounded by a moat of pulsing water and waves.

Looking at the contours and intricate design of the beach formation, I am reminded of a crop circle, a landing pad bearing the impression of an alien ship.

A crop circle is a large pattern, created by the flattening of wheat, corn or other crops.

The film “Signs,” written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, is the story of a Bucks County, Pennsylvania, family who wake up one morning to discover a 500-foot crop circle in their backyard. Extraterrestrials are responsible for the sign in their field and for crop circles all over the world. The invasion tests the family’s faith, but ultimately, they see the signs that God is watching over them.

During the last 40 years, documented cases have substantially increased, with 26 countries reporting the appearance of approximately 10,000 crop circles.

Most of those crop circles were located in southern England and positioned near Stonehenge and other ancient monuments.

However, scientific consensus is that crop circles are man-made, with a few possible exceptions due to natural phenomena.

Placing my fanciful imagination aside, I survey the sand deposit and recall what I learned in oceanography class many years ago.

I know that sand remains on a beach because it is carried uphill toward shore by unbroken incoming waves.

Normally, the sand does not go out beyond the surf zone, because the water motion beneath the waves would carry it back.

More exposed beaches, like ours along the Sakonnet River, tend to have steeper slopes and coarser sediments.

When broken waves carry sand along the beach parallel to the shoreline, it is called the littoral drift.

But sometimes, the littoral flow of sand along our coastline is interrupted.

Here at Fogland, the sand flows past the river mouth at the estuary, and strong currents carry it out to deeper water, where the sand accumulates.

Scientifically speaking, that accounts for my discovery today.

Yet on the long walk back to the summer house, I think about the crop circle in the sand – the perfectly formed pattern encircled by sea water teeming with life, the ebb and flow of the channel directed by the heavens, and each tiny grain of sand, the artistry of the Master.

I see the signs.