Imagine a walk through a sun-dappled glade. To your left, the bucolic sights and sounds of a forest stream. You have been here time and again, in different seasons: winter’s snowy mantle, the first vivid greens of spring, the delighted shouts of summer bathers, the russet colors and crisp air of fall. But, now you can only imagine. A series of newly erected ‘No Trespassing’ signs bar the way.
The glade and its swimming hole are now ‘off limits’.
So let’s imagine once again. This time a bird’s eye view of this creek and its path through Woodstock just a few summers ago. Up by the Millstream, guests and locals are enjoying the refreshing water. Slightly downstream, someone is sitting in a lawn chair in the creek reading a novel. But the real action lies ahead. Big Deep is brimming. Farther down, Little Deep is full of water bathers, sunbathers and brave souls shouldering the waterfalls strong percussion on their heads.
But now you can only imagine. It’s all ‘off limits’ this summer. And the influx of unruly outsiders is commonly blamed. Yet, the creek still flows. Not just through property lines, but through the dells and hollows of memory. How many generations of visitors enjoyed these waters, weaving their experiences into the fabric of the town, its stories and its reputation? How many were viewed as ‘other’: immigrants, utopians, bohemians, free-thinkers, artists, revelers? How often were they felt to be a nuisance, from the Byrdcliffe’s turpentine rags left in fields, to The Maverick with their strange festivities?
And what of the simple joys? How many children splashing? How many lovers caressing? How many strumming guitars and beating drums echoing in the glade? The signs stand mute, guarding us from ourselves, it seems. And the creek that runs through the center of the town, and its creative and social history, must feel for the footfalls that do not sound, look in vain for the artists who would capture its beauty, and listen closely, hoping for the raucous din and hum of its Summer crowds.
But, now, you can only imagine.