I still recall descending on a small plane into Ithaca, NY, in 2001. It was a business trip that brought me to this destination, where I would meet with a number of law faculty at Cornell University, some long-time authors of the academic publishing company I worked for at the time.
I hadn’t wanted to make this trip, which required troublesome connecting flights. In fact, I came only at the urging of my manager who thought I might enjoy the area. It turns out, she was right. As my plane descended through the air, my eyes met a vast bouquet of autumn-leaved trees filling the hills and I felt an immediate connection with the landscape below.
By the time I settled into my hotel room, located right on Cornell’s campus, twilight had arrived with lights from the University’s historic buildings dotting the hillside on which Cornell is situated. It had only been three weeks since my divorce and I had carried ample stress with me to Ithaca. At that moment, however, it all lifted. I was certain I had never seen a lovelier view.
In my last author meeting the following day, I mentioned how struck I was by the overwhelming beauty of the area. Upon inquiry, the author discovered that we shared a passion for hiking. He informed me that there was a gorge (as it turns out, one of Ithaca’s many gorges) that ran right through campus. He told me how to reach the gorge. Fortunately, I had packed athletic shoes, which served my purpose on that trip as I hiked along the ancient gorge that was cut by glacial fill many times over the past two million years, and water continues to cut a path running down to the “Finger Lakes” found in the region.
After my first visit to Ithaca, I requested and was assigned that trip every year for the eight years I was with the publishing company. I would pack my hiking boots and fly in a few days early, spending weekends exploring the many hiking trails, state parks, gorges and waterfalls found in the Finger Lakes Region. I also stayed at a variety of interesting locations, including a Bed and Breakfast located in Ithaca’s EcoVillage, as well as a Bed and Breakfast just for women. After all of the hiking, I’d always find time for a delicious vegetarian meal at the famous Moosewood Restaurant, located in downtown Ithaca.
Now that I am no longer working with the publishing company, I plan to regularly make Ithaca one of my vacation destinations. It is a place where my soul is completely at home and I can feel my heart gently folding open. As I hike the gorges, I always learn essential lessons to guide my steps in this life, listening to the whispering trees and my whispering heart.