My Hector Home: Protecting the Forests of the Finger Lakes

Willow looks over the world from an upstairs attic window. “What are we doing inside, Mom?” she whines with soft little moans. “The sun is shining. Let’s go.” Willow is my walking buddy now that I’m on my own.

We’re ready. Willow wears her “Hector hunting cape.” This time of year, all the fashionable dogs wear orange in my neighborhood. “Got a dog cookie?”

Bare-boned basswood trees reach for blue sky. My husband’s ashes are buried by a tall red oak near this basswood clump.

Stream water dances across the shale: water, earth, and light.

My son and his friends built shale walls, tables, and a fire pit almost twenty years ago. It’s my personal place for fires and rituals. An ancient pine stands guard. There are many species of trees in this part of my woods–shag and smooth bark hickory, red, white, and pin oak, ash trees that fight for life against a borer, white and red pines, hard and soft maples, and a few young chestnuts that won’t make it to adulthood because of blight.

The woods is under environmental stress with the loss of many species in recent years. Fracking was a constant concern until it was made illegal in New York State. My friend and helper Matt Hoff and my conservation forester Mike DeMunn help me follow healthy forest practices to keep the forest strong, but environmental challenges are everywhere with new diseases, imported insects, and climate change

In early winter, delicate moss decorates the shale with a few snowflakes for accent.

Vic and I bought this land in 1973 and signed a conservation easement with the Finger Lakes Land Trust in 2005. We hoped to protect the beauty and health of this place. Since Vic’s death, I’ve relied on the fields, forests, and long views for healing.

When grief overwhelms me, I walk the trails and remember that I’m part of the natural cycles of time.

After our walk, I’m rewarded with this sunset. Willow is rewarded with a warm nap.

I love the beauty of my land, the purity of the air, and clean water just as you love the place you call home. I hope we can protect what can’t be replaced.


Tell me about the places you love and the places where you feel at home. For more posts about the environmental threat to clean water, see Angry Faces, Churning Water and Angry Faces, Placid Water.

  1. Just lovely, Elaine. I remember your telling me about the stone “cathedral” your sons built. I got to see it tonight, here at my desk in California. And feel the warmth of your woodstove. And yourheart. xxxx m

    • Marli, thanks for your warm and encouraging response. I imagine a sunny day isn’t unusual where you live. Have a peaceful and love-filled Solstice.

  2. Thank you, Elaine…a virtual walk in your beautiful woods was what I needed…

  3. How the earth gleams with rare morning rain. The mountains are obscured but I can see snow through a gap in the clouds. I don’t walk my river walk now-the north facing road is too icy and will remain so till spring. My birds come to the feeder; the little road I live on will dry enough to walk to the river that rushes to my snowbound canyon I sing in when I can walk there.

    I went home to Humboldt county and upon return, would awaken joyous to be near my son…only to realize I’m no longer there, exiled to a home I bought in exile, beautiful, New Mexico exile, and now will leave because the terms of my exile have expired. It is time to go home. Even though it’s cold and fog-ridden, the fact I have people there that know and love me makes even the jeweled light over the Mesa seem paltry.

    • Amelia, I read your moving tribute to home a few times. Your son is in NM and you’re returning to northern CA? One of my sons wants me to move near him in North Carolina, but I haven’t done that although I consider it seriously. Maybe later. There will be a time I can’t stay here. Right now, the ice is severe after last week’s ice and wet snow storm and my 4 month old pup can’t yet manage a crunchy walk to the woods. I’m making progress after buying her a fleece jacket, so we’ll take to the windswept fields this afternoon and see if she can go all the way to the forest. (I want her to love our walks as my older dog Willow does, not hate them–and she doesn’t have the thick undercoat of my older dog.) Yes to community where you are known and a sense of home. I could have said more about the community of people I’ve known here since 1970, but I focused on the land. May you feel exiled no more.

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