And so it was that having gone through this experience at one time or another, I was also surprised how readily an uncomfortable feeling can be transferred from those who are comfortably situated in their nakedness to those who might simply journey through the region fully clothed. Late one afternoon I decided to photograph parts of the Coxing Kill downstream after previously spending a few dawns to photograph Split Rock. I discovered immediately that if the heaviness of my hiking boots and backpack were not enough to unnerve the bather’s supple senses, the large medium-format camera mounted atop the tripod that I was carrying certainly represented a thoroughly obnoxious presentation. It had been many years since I had been one of the bathers in the region, so I had forgotten the unstated rules from the perspective of the bathers. In truth, I simply did not know the activity was still in practice. Onward I marched, nonetheless, with interrogating looks greeting me at every step. Eventually I had no other recourse but to plunge into the adjacent forest, as if it were my purposeful objective all along. This did little to settle the air I unnerved, for, I suppose in retrospect, it was simply thought that I sought a hidden vantage to set up my gear and spy on the native bathers unnoticed. It turned out, in fact, that I was followed to ensure that was not going to be the case. Even though my real objective was to place myself in the magical light as the sun grew low on the horizon, my gear was obviously interpreted as an alarming attempt to voyeuristically photograph the bodies that bathed—a clear act of intrusion. Someone decided to spy on the spy so as to reflect back the same pressure of observation to nudge me out of the region.
It was clear that I had disrupted the peaceful tranquility— and I completely understood. At the edge of the forest I discovered a little moss-carpeted streambed that probably flowed only in early spring. It was barren now— though beautiful in the green-luminant starkness of its carpeting. The streambed dropped off a small series of rounded white boulders and ran parallel to the Coxing Kill stream for a short distance before merging with it downstream. Shadows deepened in the sparsely forested region at the edge of the main forest as I attempted to set up shop and photograph the moss-carpeted bed in the opposite direction to the bathers. Even this activity became overly exhibitional on behalf of my trailing inquisitor, however, for he did not appear to be comforted as he stood his ground within sight. The independent nature of my act was in vain, for in the end, all that I captured was a cluster of mosquito bites and a hasty retreat— fully clothed, chin up, and with just as much nonchalance forced into my gesture as those who had become overly aware of my presence. I resolved to come to the region at another magic hour: the dawn of another day. And so I did.
At dawn the bathing region reverts into the bosom of nature. Here, the pre-dawn hour is not the prelude for the coming day with its scattered population of occupants. It is a prelude, more primordially, to a renewed existence. Objects emerge not so much from darkness, but with darkness and shadow integrated as spatial regions of their deeper forms. Dawn is the withdrawal of that immersion into a different formation of depth. As little pools swell their liquid masses into a side-winding mass, the dark Coxing Kill seems to pulse and upwell repeatedly, pushing forth from the depths of the bedrock itself. In truth, the water has arrived in the form of these recurrent currents after a journey that began way back in the ravine between Millbrook Mountain and the outlet at the south end of Lake Minnewaska. The distance has extracted tannins from pitch pine, hemlock, and other species along the way— brewing up a root beer colored tea— much like that of the Peters Kill stream only a mile on the other side of the rising landmass that houses Dickie Barre and Lost City on the west side of The Clove. There, after departing further south from the outlet of Lake Awosting, the Peters Kill stream steeps its tannins even longer than the Coxing Kill. But here, without the reflective brilliance of full daylight, the Coxing Kill’s body appears dark and viscous, until sunlight arrives to throw a spotlight on its finite depths. With the rising sun, the scene immediately transitions into its namesake: a scenic image; a region that might suggest the right setting to invite a lone deer or a bather into its midst— or perhaps a romanticized member of the Lenape tribe kneeling near the water’s edge. With its streaming portals ready to highlight the subject matter, the sun plays host to this scenic space. Beneath the waterline and just outside the reach of the sun’s portals, light-colored splashes of lichen paint symbolic patches on the submerged rocks. The painted splotches bolster the general significance in the air. Even if only self-referential, for the moment, the lichen have provided another source of luminance for our free-roaming eyes. To the east, in the direction of the Coxing Kill’s flow during parts of its meander northeast, the sun rose from a point directly at the end of the broad corridor of the stream. It seems now to course for no other reason than to greet it. Sunlight immediately plates the creeping, undulating surface with molten silver and gold. Edging the outskirts of the wide corridor, a mixed forest gains a mysterious unified presence with the disclosure of depth through the shadowplay that hints through the sun’s filtered light. It would be easy to follow the corridor directly toward the rising sun, or veer off into the mysterious shadowy forest on each side of the molten flow. Instead, the hour of magic is rapidly closing, and there is still more photography to be done. Soon, the self-luminant rock will bleach to mere substance. The Coxing Kill, like the Peters Kill, will project its snakelike ripples onto the surrounding bedrock. Its surface, and then its shallow depths, will display the same reptile skin— which is quite appropriate for its side-winding slither. Soon after, it will shed also that temporary skin and deepen its translucent clarity just in time to gently enwrap the exposed and sensitive flesh of the next round of bathers.