Bees and weasels, bobolinks and meadowlarks and tufted titmice, corn and potatoes, the plants and animals of the Finger Lakes Region of New York are varied and numerous. There was a surprisingly mild winter this year, but the return of real springtime brings the human population outdoors again to share space with the wild turkeys and wood ferns and lilies. People again move through the forests and meadows and every encounter can bring fresh discoveries. Those discoveries are often inspiring and delightful, but sometimes unpleasant. Mary Hood has seen them all.
Mary A. Hood of Bathm, New York is a microbiologist, conservationist and professor emerita at the University of West Florida in Pensicola. She is also a published poet and was poet laureate of the Florida Panhandle. She is a world traveller who has written in “The Strangler Fig & Other Tales” about places from the Patagonia region of Argentina to Hudson’s Bay. Her book “River Time” takes the reader on trips along (to pick a few) the Nile, Ganges, Amazon and Yangtze as well as the Mississippi and the Conhocton River in upstate New York. Dr. Hood now lives in Steuben County, NY and her fascination and affection for this part of the country is obvious and infectious. Her encounters and contemplation take place in the most basic of ways, on foot along pathways and unpaved roads. “Walking slows the thoughts to the pace of meditation and mindfulness,” she writes. “There is probably no other activity that affords us the ease of connecting mind, body and place.”
But other connections are less satisfying. The natural world of the Finger Lakes Region is experiencing a threat from industrial forces: not only the incursion of 300-foot wind generators above and the possibility of hydraulic fracturing below the surface to reach the natural gas inside the Marcellus Shale. There is also the subdivision of former farmland to make way for “McMansions”, upscale vacation homes of well-heeled newcomers who,ironically, may be instrumental in community resistance to energy development. “The conflict of what is practical and what we need to preserve may play out on the canvas of this [Pulteney Highlands] landscape. My hope is that it will not be an irreversible compromise.”