September 17th, 2014 | 6:00am

Photo by author

East, west, and south, hardwood forests upholster hills named for their compass points, while to the north shines Cayuga, one of the Finger Lakes’ eleven glacial furrows. This is Ithaca, where, as it was when I grew up here forty years ago, the nearest Interstate is still thirty miles away. The aesthetic of those miles is rolling, agricultural, and often hardscrabble, with pro-fracking and “for sale” signs equally likely to appear on roadside barns. To drive to Ithaca is a commitment to the scenic route, metaphorically and visually, because there is neither a fast lane nor an unattractive one.

In Ithaca proper, “Natural Gas Means Jobs” placards disappear, and “Go Solar” bumper stickers adorn the hybrid cars that proliferate like a green invasion. As teenagers, a friend...