Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Duplicitous Serenity | Frank Lloyd Wright

Above Roy R. Behrens, digital montage portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright (2017).


What was it like to encounter for the first time the Midwestern prairie, not yet dominated by Euro-Americans at the time of the American Revolutionary War? Below is a description, based on eyewitness accounts from 1782, as invading American troops were in pursuit of Native Americans who had sided with the British.

Allan W. Eckert, That Dark and Bloody River: Chronicles of the Ohio River Valley. New York: Bantam Books, 1996, p. 342—

For those of the army who had never before seen the Sandusky Plains [in Ohio], their first view of it yesterday was breathtaking. The heavily forested hills through which they had been riding for the better part of a week had abruptly leveled out into high plains, with vast fields of grass as far as the eye could see. Their guides told them this type of terrain would continue all the way to the Sandusky towns, still some 30 miles distant: deep, thick grasses that were emerald green in their lush new growth and so high that the early morning dew soaked their horses and bathed the riders themselves to their waists. There was a deceptive sense of peace to the vista and a strong illusion that they had entered upon an expansive green sea where the surface was calm and smooth except where breezes touched down and rippled the grass in pleasant swaths all the way to the western horizon. The illusion of a sea was further enhanced by, here and there in the distance, great isolated groves of trees projecting above the grasses, appearing to be a series of lovely islands. So strong was this sense, in fact, that almost immediately the men referred to these groves as islands and dubbed them colorful names based on their size or shape or color. Smaller groves, hazy and indistinct in the distance, loomed above the grasses like ships traversing the sea from one of the larger islands to another.

Some of the men, however, viewed the deep grass with a rise of fear; in this sort of cover, a whole great army of Indians could lie hidden beyond detection, abruptly to rise at any given moment and pour a devastating fire into the troops. Their fear became infectious, and soon the initial serenity of the scene was replaced in the men's minds with uneasy expectation.