Wednesday, September 10, 2014

100 Miles And A Couple Centuries

Last of The Mohicans

If Daniel Day Lewis is not in your “Top Five” list, he most certainly will be after watching this film based on James Fenimore Cooper’s classic tale of life on the American frontier.  In Cooper’s time, the frontier stretched all the way into upstate New York and democracy still remained a vision to be scribed, much less lived.  Nonetheless, Lewis’ portrayal aptly created an impression of life in the colonies during the French and Indian War, when the spattering of cities and the frontiersman beyond their reach still aligned with the crown and an actor in leather could make any British daughter (and most any female viewer) swoon.  If anyone ever told me, “Stay alive; I will find you,” with such passion, I would readily obey.  If Daniel Day Lewis instructed me accordingly, I would develop successful cryogenics technology to enable such a possibility.

Nonetheless, the plot of Last of the Mohicans revolved around the idea of doing what is law versus doing what is right.  And as each character chose between each option, the story unfolds in a breathtaking setting, albeit cinematically altered, to give the impression that the uppermost British colonies on the North American continent offered vistas lost to the time of nobility, gentry, gallantry, romance, and heroism.  Those were most assuredly days long gone, in scenery transformed over two and a half centuries, but a click of the DVD player brings them, and brings Lewis fabulously back to my living room.
Lake George
With a toddler and a first-grader in tow, I cruise upward from Albany into the lush mountains of eastern New York.  We barely set foot inside the expanses of the Adirondacks when we begin our climb up to the hundred-mile view.  Not as imposing as the Bitterroot Mountains (see “The Rivers of Idaho,” December 2011), these peaks stretching down into Saratoga horse country and up just below the border with Quebec characterize much of the contrast between the state’s most renowned escapes and the state’s most renowned city.  The Adirondacks, while a focus of tourism yet without the skyscrapers of the city, still offers views far above the highway, gazing across the lakes and rivers, peering into Vermont on a tranquil, clear autumn afternoon.
Son Number One knows the basic highlights of American history at age eight and Son Number Two knows the basics of human communication as he approaches age two, yet they both sit quietly, enjoying the solemnity of the scene.  Below them on the shores of Lake George, more than two hundred years before their birth, a band of state militia fought to defend Fort William Henry from the threats of the French guns.  On where now exists little more than a souvenir stand, the characters from Last of the Mohicans paraded in a formal surrender before the French have the delight of burning the structure to the ground.  Here at this site, two boys sit quietly, sit closely, and sit patiently as their mother enjoys the history of this place, the tranquility of the view, and perhaps a wistful thought to Daniel Day Lewis’s portrayal of the something historically memorable, not to mention visually yummy.