Hat tip to Anita for reminding me about this striking image, via Astronomy Picture of the Day, from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The swirly patterns are formed by dust devils that blow aside reddish surface dust to reveal dark material just beneath it.
I am old enough to be reminded of the Nazca lines, geoglyphs made by ancient peoples in a South American desert, that figured prominently in 'ancient astronauts' crankery. The patterns are entirely different, but you can imagine a playful intelligence at work here. 'Dust devil' is an apt term - think of the Tasmanian Devil in old Warner Bros. cartoons. Dust devils on Mars can reach 8 km in height, and have extended the life of Mars rovers by blowing the dust off their solar panels.
Once again Mars evokes an offworldly American Southwest. The Bat Durston theme is quintessentially SF, perhaps the very heart of 'Murrican SF, but oddly enough it never entirely applied to the old, rocketpunk era Mars. The old Mars, Percival Lowell's Mars, was a desert world indeed, but a desert of vast flat plains (the better for the canal system).
No one dreamed that Mars had both the highest mountain and the largest canyon in the Solar System. By pleasing irony, Lowell's observatory is not so far from the Grand Canyon.
Lowell's Mars was flat because it was a slowly dying world, its topography long since worn down by its desert winds. Real Mars fall from Earthlike grace more quickly, its atmosphere now too thin for its winds to wear down Olympus Mons. The forces that break mountains have faded along with the forces that make them. Now the winds of Mars produce only dust devils. (And the occasional planetwide dust storm.)
Yet the dust devils are also a reminded that Mars is not quite dead. Winds swirl across its surface; from time to time liquid water still flows there. It is still a world with weather.
Related Post: I noted in March that in spite of appearances, Mars is fiercely unlike Arizona.