as close as anyone gets to seeing wind

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C.S.Hy

Senior Member
Mandarin Chinese
The hill is paved with wild wheat. If the conifers and sagebrush are soloists, the wheat field is a corps de ballet, each stem following all the rest in bursts of movement, a million ballerinas bending, one after the other, as great gales dent their golden heads. The shape of that dent lasts only a moment, and is [ as close as anyone gets to seeing wind.

[Text extract is from Educated, by Tara Westover. Source added: DonnyB - moderator]


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I took part in a discussion about this question originally raised by someone else and I gave an explanation, but then I felt it was not so solid. So I come here for better answers.

The same further questions as the the original asker put to me:

1) who are the 'anyone' ( any observer ? or any ballerina<any plant of wild wheat>)?
2) what does 'close' here mean?
3) What does 'get to' mean?
4) why not 'get to see'?
 
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  • Chez

    Senior Member
    English English
    as close as anyone gets to seeing wind = the nearest experience any person can have to 'seeing' wind (which is invisible so you can't 'see' it – you can only see the effect it has on trees/a wheat field.

    to get to see something = to have the opportunity to see something
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    as close as anyone gets to seeing wind = the nearest experience any person can have to 'seeing' wind (which is invisible so you can't 'see' it – you can only see the effect it has on trees/a wheat field.
    But what about the begining of the phrase:
    "The shape of that dent ... is as close ..."

    As close to what?
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    1) who are the 'anyone' -> any human
    2) what does 'close' here mean? -> near
    3) What does 'get to' mean? -> to get [to somewhere or something] = to receive or possess [an object, item, idea or experience]; arrive at [a place]; to reach [a place in space or time];
    4) why not 'get to see'? -> Because that is not what the writer meant. The writer chose their words carefully. There is a difference between the simple form of the verb "I see" and the continuous form "I am seeing".
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    I don't understand how it connects with "The shape of that dent".
    We cannot actually see wind. But to observe this dent is almost like seeing wind. It is the next best (or nearest or closest) thing. Thus it is as close as we (or anyone) can get to seeing wind.
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    I wouldn't have guessed.
    I don't understand why not. You're familiar with the "as ... as" construction, and you know that "close" is often followed by "to", right? So consider this example:

    Put your ear as close to the sea-shell as you can, and you'll be able to hear the sea. No problem, right?
    Put your ear as close as you can to the sea-shell, and you'll be able to hear the sea. Why should this re-ordering pose a problem? If anything this should be more natural than above.
     

    C.S.Hy

    Senior Member
    Mandarin Chinese
    1) who are the 'anyone' -> any human
    2) what does 'close' here mean? -> near
    3) What does 'get to' mean? -> to get [to somewhere or something] = to receive or possess [an object, item, idea or experience]; arrive at [a place]; to reach [a place in space or time];
    4) why not 'get to see'? -> Because that is not what the writer meant. The writer chose their words carefully. There is a difference between the simple form of the verb "I see" and the continuous form "I am seeing".
    Thank you, every answerer!

    Still, I'd venture to ask: does it make sense if I interpret the last clause as:

    1) who are the 'anyone' ?---- any ballerina, any stem of the wild wheat
    2) what does 'close' here mean?---- similar, be close = look like = seem to be
    3) What does 'get to' mean? ---- get to (something), (close to what's said above by the answers), reach, be able to (do something)
    4) why not 'get to see'? ----meaning difference between a gerund and an infinitive: gerund> stative, infinitive> dynamic

    I so comprehend the sentence because I believe there probably is some connection between the two cluases: the reason that 'the shape of that dent lasts only a moment' is that 'any ballerina/stem can see the wind (at the same time)' so that it does not cost a lot of time for them to pass the information (the arrival of the wind and the directive to bend) for one (/row) to the other.
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    I don't understand why not. You're familiar with the "as ... as" construction, and you know that "close" is often followed by "to", right? So consider this example:

    Put your ear as close to the sea-shell as you can, and you'll be able to hear the sea. No problem, right?
    Put your ear as close as you can to the sea-shell, and you'll be able to hear the sea. Why should this re-ordering pose a problem? If anything this should be more natural than above.
    It's not that. In your examples, "put your ear" makes perfect sense and is logically connected with the rest of the sentence. In the OP, "The shape of that dent is" doesn't help, at least to me, get the idea.
     

    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    As said above:
    Your first question: "Anyone" = "any person".
    Second and third: "as close as anyone gets [=can get] to" = No one can do this (see the wind), but this is the nearest possible approximation to it.
    Fourth: "to" is a preposition, and so followed by a noun or, in this case, a gerund (form of a verb used as a noun), "seeing".
    Think of the lyrics from the song "America, the Beautiful": "amber waves of grain".
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    1) who are the 'anyone' ?---- any ballerina, any stem of the wild wheat
    2) what does 'close' here mean?---- similar, be close = look like = seem to be
    3) What does 'get to' mean? ---- get to (something), (close to what's said above by the answers), reach, be able to (do something)
    4) why not 'get to see'? ----meaning difference between a gerund and an infinitive: gerund> stative, infinitive> dynamic:thumbsup:
    The shape of that dent lasts only a moment, and when you see it happen, it is the closest experience that anyone in the world gets receives/has to seeing wind.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I see that Paul has struck out the first three of your points, C.S.Hy; unfortunately, I would strike out your 4, too:
    4) why not 'get to see'? ----meaning difference between a gerund and an infinitive: gerund> stative, infinitive> dynamic

    As has been said earlier in the thread, "to seeing" doesn't go with gets, it goes with close:
    As close as anyone gets to seeing wind = As close to seeing wind as anyone gets.

    That's why you have the ING-form. As ain'tt says, "to" is a preposition.
     

    C.S.Hy

    Senior Member
    Mandarin Chinese
    I see that Paul has struck out the first three of your points, C.S.Hy; unfortunately, I would strike out your 4, too:
    4) why not 'get to see'? ----meaning difference between a gerund and an infinitive: gerund> stative, infinitive> dynamic

    As has been said earlier in the thread, "to seeing" doesn't go with gets, it goes with close:
    As close as anyone gets to seeing wind = As close to seeing wind as anyone gets.

    That's why you have the ING-form. As ain'tt says, "to" is a preposition.
    Thank you Loob and every other answerer! I think I finally get to understand the sentencev now. "(The shape of that dent lasts only a moment, and) is as close as anyone gets to seeing wind" =

    is ( a vision, image, feeling, experience) as close to seeing wind as (the most possible vision, ...) that anyone (can) get=

    is as close as anyone (can) get (close) to seeing wind.

    Am I right?
     
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    AnythingGoes

    Senior Member
    English - USA (Midwest/Appalachia)
    "(The shape of that dent lasts only a moment, and) is as close as anyone gets to seeing wind" =

    is ( a vision, image, feeling, experience) as close to seeing wind as (the most possible vision, ...) that anyone (can) get. Am I right?
    You may be as close as you're going to get. :)
     
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