In explaining how to make sentences more readable (I know I am one to talk!), I frequently explain to students that language understanding is a combination of a schema-based syntactic structure with more sequential associative reading. Only recently I realised this was also the way we had been addressing the issue of task sequence inference in the TIM project. and is related also to the way we interpret action in the real world.
I am in Tirrenia, one of the resorts on the Mediterranean outside Pisa. February is not the normal tourist month and the palm trees are all wrapped in sacking or plastic to protect them from the rain.
It was overcast when I arrived and yesterday was bleak with heavy rain, but this morning the sky was open from edge to edge, the unfettered wind blowing the waves clear from the coasts of Spain.
Dabbling my toes in the waters edge, or wading deeper having to run as the larger waves threatened to wash me clear to my waist. Icy feeling, but I’m sure still just the chill of cool water, air thrown through the night, no Arctic currents penetrate here.
To my back are the shuttered beach buildings, and tall rectangular pillars of plywood I assume enclosing the summer showers. Also sprinklers along the beach edges. I’d wondered at these when I’d walked at dusk when I’d first arrived, but not realised they were along every beach side – presumably to dampen the sand and keep it from blowing and burying the resort.
The sand slopes steeply towards the sea, and on the water’s edge a huge driftwood log, like a seat deliberately placed to watch the sea, but now periodically half covered then left stranded by the flow of waves.
On the map it is an contained sea, the Mediterranean, but here I see open sea – if there are boundaries they are far away and the waves long enough to build and be as terrible and awesome as those that had crossed the whole atlantic a few months ago when I was in Brazil. These waves though are less uniform, not the slowly growing and breaking of surf beaches, but more a tumbling boiling ferment.
To the north the jagged edges of snow flecked mountains mirror the wave crests, sharp edged against the clear morning sky. Further north they will become the marble-shot mountains of Carrera from which the best stone in the world is quarried. Marble not unlike the frozen surface of these surf flecked seas.
The sun just breaks over the land. It must be a marvelous place for sunsets over the sea. Slowly as the orange edge rises over the beach buildings the first rays touch the white wave crests, shining above the grey troughs between, then gradually the grey surface turns slate green.
I retrieve my sandals from under the pile of flotsam where I’d left them earlier, then reluctantly turn my back to the sea.