Futility Closet relates the story behind this beautiful occurrence.
When a magnitude 6.8 earthquake shook Olympia in 2001, shop owner Jason Ward discovered that a sand-tracing pendulum had recorded the vibrations in the image above. Seismologists say that the “flower” at the center reflects the higher-frequency waves that arrived first; the outer, larger-amplitude oscillations record the lower-frequency waves that arrived later. “You never think about an earthquake as being artistic—it’s violent and destructive. But in the middle of all that chaos, this fine, delicate artwork was created.”
This marvelous natural expression is reminiscent of an aesthetic experiment discussed by Paul Klee. In a lecture at Bauhaus, Klee suggested that if you take a thin sheet of metal, cover it with sand, and stroke the edge with a violin bow, the oscillating vibrations will express themselves in a corresponding rhythmic pattern in the sand. For Klee it was an analogy of the artist and her medium; the artistic spirit rendered into the material world. “That is to say, impetus to vibrate (or will or urge to live), then transposition into material happening and finally visible expression thereof in a new ordering of matter. We (the artists) are the bow, we are the will to expression, matter is the intermediary, the figures in the sand are the ultimate formal product.”
With this & the earthquake-rose in mind, what a beautiful coincidence that Klee should have a painting called “Flora on Sand”.