My Life on Film

You’d think that the editors of Adirondack Life would be inundated with requests for personal appearances at schools and community groups, given the magazine’s long history and location in the shadow of Whiteface Mountain. Well, inundated is a strong word—trickle is more appropriate. We do get invitations from journalism classes at Plattsburgh State, but it’s been rare for local teachers to ask us to visit.

Last year Noelle Short, who teaches English at Long Lake Central School was using Short Carries: Essays from Adirondack Life in her semester that covered nature writing. She invited me to speak to the juniors, and I brought an assortment of prompts—a pine siskin nest, a turkey feather, a beaver-chewed stick, the kind of stuff that litters our house in Blue Mountain Lake. As it happened, the students needed no prompts at all to share their own observations of the wild world around them. One young woman told about watching an eagle on a lakeside pine swoop down to snatch a fish from an osprey in heroic detail. That was just the beginning of a flood of true stories no suburban kids could even imagine.

This winter, when Short Carries was selected as a book for Indian Lake Theater’s Hamilton County Reads project I was tickled but also at a loss about how to jazz up the program. Other authors and books, like Kristin Kimball and The Dirty Life or Scott Wallace and The Unconquered had great film footage that underscored their words.

So I asked Noelle if her students might be interested in making a video based on one of the essays in the book. She consulted her 11th graders, who looked through the material for cinematic potential. They chose “Why We Bagged It” and produced an 11-minute film, which was shown on January 5 at Indian Lake Theater. The afternoon also included Johnsburg Central School music teacher Mary Leach reading “A Little Night Music” and Our Town Theater Group “penny readers” Mary Ellen Dowling and Dennis Wilson presenting “Why We Bagged It” and “Blinded by the Light.”

The film—shot at Long Lake’s ADK Trading Post—and depicting me and my husband almost as young (and way more hip) as we were when we ran a general store in Blue Mountain Lake was a big hit with the crowd.  Short says, “Shaneka Burch  played Betsy and Johnathan Cortis played Tom. Ranya Hamdan was the film maker. She was so diligent and helpful through a brand-new project for all of us. Jazmin Piraino also helped with filming. The project was created by my 11th grade English class, and we had the help of the 10th grade class too, who stood in as extras and other minor roles.”

You can watch it above and read its inspiration, “Why We Bagged It.”

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