Monday, June 23, 2008

Minnie Falls Park: A Hidden Jewel

Jonathan Hyman noticed me photographing the wooden POW figure in a nondescript, overgrown field near the town convenience store. When he approached me, he told me he had just stopped to get an after school snack for his daughter but sensed a need to engage me in a conversation, especially since I was intrigued by the towering sculptures. We talked about this local expression of folk art, its appeal to me, and how it had obviously been long forgotten by the town of Bethel, New York. I told him about my 10,000 Mile Grand Tour and chronicle of the trip on my blog “Did Someone Say RV Road Trip?”

He too had a chronicle of a unique road trip. Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, Jonathan began a photographic journey from Maine to Virginia and across the Midwest. He documented the memorial responses of Americans to the events of 9/11 with over 15,000 photographs. He showed me some of the photos by leafing through the pages of his book – farmhouses painted with giant flags, tree trunks painted with the stars and stripes too. I felt moved emotionally by his documentation of these memorial responses. I promised him that I keep a watchful eye for other memorial expressions as we continued our travels.

I am not sure what actually motivated Jonathan to take his next step. Was it his way of giving back to all the folks who he encountered during his photographic journey? Was it just a simple expression neighborliness? Whatever, Jonathan’s motivation, I appreciate what he did next. He offered to lead us through Smallwood, a little bungalow community, and take us to a beautiful, photo perfect spot - Minnie Falls Park.

Travelers to Bethel, New York would likely miss Minnie Falls Park. The main draw to the area is the Museum at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, a museum that explores the unique experience of the 1969 Woodstock Festival. We had visited the museum that very day.

As we followed Jonathan along Lake Shore Drive and through the rustic roads of Smallwood, he stopped frequently to show us unique features of this hamlet - the vintage log cabins with original stone fireplaces and the old general store.

At White Lake Brook, Jonathan pointed out the scenic cascades of water flowing beneath the canopy of trees. He took some photos of us in this lovely spot until his battery failed. Still he was able to email the photo you see here.

Not far from the brook, Jonathan signaled for us to pull over along the road at Minnie Falls Park. He and his daughter walked with us for a bit. We paused for a reverent moment at the burial place of Mr. and Mrs. Smallwood, founders of the town. Then, Ed returned the favor to Jonathan by taking a few photos of him and his daughter. When they left us, Ed and I continued to walk through the park on the soft moss cushioned ground. We explored the short trails and found our way among the boulders to the brook once again.

Minnie Falls Park is a lovely spot and we appreciate Jonathan and his daughter’s kindness for showing us the way. I would not want droves of people visiting this hidden jewel, that would disrupt the peacefulness of the park. So it is probably just as well that travelers make their way to the Bethel Center passing by Minnie Falls.

June 4, 2008

Photo of Ed & Patty taken by Jonathan Hyman 2008

On the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Jonathan Hyman’s photographs appeared in solo exhibitions at the World Trade Center Memorial Museum in New York and the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. In September, 2008, I read that Jonathan Hyman had joined the Asch Center – a study center for ethno political conflict - as an associate director where he will explore the role of visual culture in the context of ethnic conflict.

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