Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Information Overload = Pattern Recognition

DSC09046, originally uploaded by sevensixfive.

The Chesapeake is wide and shallow. Alone on a kayak, it's possible to imagine the ups and downs of the sand below by watching the patterns of waves at the surface, but it never quite makes sense. There are still spots, and big swells, and places where the waves break prematurely hundreds of feet from shore, and then settle out again.

The paddle sometimes unexpectedly hits sand at less than a foot below, and other times a test lets the paddle drop all the way down until it almost slips from your grip, and still there's no bottom. Irregularities in wave timing, thrown by tides or distant container ships, hit without lookout, making the boat bump and slide as if there were a live thing underneath.

At evening the reflections and failing light conspire with the unreliable swell to make phantom shapes. The mind of a nearsighted person who forgot his glasses, (but remembered to bring his paranoia) works like sixty, frantically reading the surface and seeing purpose and movement under it.

What is a figure? Is a wave a figure? Is sand a structure? There's no stability, just fluid on fluid on fluid, air on water on sand. Watching movement from a moving frame of reference can even make solid floating logs seem to wiggle. It doesn't help that there are strange tiny bubbles coming up in patterns, too.

And then the sea monsters come.

1 comment:

FutureNerd said...

When we were teenagers the family rented a houseboat and we plied the Chesapeak for a week.

One afternoon we dropped anchor, left Mom to snooze on the boat, and took canoes to an interesting bit of shore with a lookout tower.

At some point we looked out on the water and saw the houseboat further from shore than we remembered-- in the channel in fact, with a huge cargo ship coming.

We rushed down the stairs of the tower, across the beach to the canoe, and paddled like mad screaming and waving oars all the way...there was no collision.

But, we had dropped the anchor in sand.