Calling Wild Places Home

A Memoir in Essays

By Laura Waterman

Subjects: Memoir, Environmental Studies, New York/regional
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438496245, 322 pages, February 2024

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Table of contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Prologue: Wild Places

I. Getting Started

1. A Camp in the Wild, 1945–1952

2. Books in My Life

3. Growing Up with Emily Dickinson

4. Writing Together

II. The Homestead: Barra

5. Making the Break

6. The Adirondacks 46 in Winter!

7. Discovering the Spirit of Wildness

8. Seasons of Sugaring

9. Of Time and Mountains

10. Counting Our Accomplishments

11. From Climber to Mountain Steward

12. Light in a Cabin

13. Prospero’s Options

III. Lighting Out for the Territory

14. Two Sides of a Promise

15. A Vision of Wildness

16. At Home Above the Great Gulf

17. Seeking an Ethic of Restraint

18. A Wildness of the Imagination

19. Advancing Technologies and Wild Places

20. The Ascent at Eighty

Epilogue: Letting Go

Poignant and vulnerable essays that weave together seemingly disparate themes of wild places and mountain stewardship, books and reading, and building a new life after loss.


"This is some of the finest writing in Laura Waterman's long and distinguished career. Anyone who values the history of conservation, or the gnarled wilds of the Northeast, or the complexities of the human spirit will find nourishment in these pages." — Bill McKibben, author of Wandering Home

"In this new book, Laura Waterman tells the full story of her unique life. It began on the campus of a boy's school and took her to mountains, growing her own food, and writing. In these pages, readers find what it's like to grow up the daughter of the scholar who put the dashes back into Emily Dickinson's poetry; how Waterman coped with that brilliant father's alcoholism; her development as a groundbreaking climber; and her homesteading life for almost three decades. In these pages she reveals how she kept her strong sense of self while living with a dynamic, lovable, and often challenging man, her late husband, Guy Waterman. She examines closely her role in his suicide on Mount Lafayette in 2000." — Christine Woodside, editor of Appalachia and the author of Libertarians on the Prairie: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Rose Wilder Lane, and the Making of the Little House Books

Laura Waterman is the author of Losing the Garden: The Story of a Marriage and Starvation Shore: A Novel. With her husband, Guy Waterman, she maintained the Franconia Ridge in the White Mountains of New Hampshire for almost two decades and was awarded the American Alpine Club's 2012 David R. Brower Award for outstanding service in mountain conservation. Together, she and Guy wrote numerous articles and books on the outdoors, including The Green Guide to Low-Impact Hiking and Camping; Wilderness Ethics: Preserving the Spirit of Wildness; Yankee Rock & Ice: A History of Climbing in the Northeastern United States; and A Fine Kind of Madness: Mountain Adventures Tall and True. In 2019, SUNY Press published the thirtieth-anniversary edition of their book Forest and Crag: A History of Hiking, Trail Blazing, and Adventure in the Northeast Mountains. Laura lives in Vermont.


"Laura Waterman's second memoir, Calling Wild Places Home, embodies her larger-than-life legacy as a conservationist, author, climber, and homesteader. Although the task of writing such a memoir is formidable—looming like the image of Mount Lafayette on the book's cover—Waterman blazes a clear trail for the reader. With steadfast pace, she guides us through eight decades of her remarkable life." — Appalachia Journal

"Laura is a gifted writer, a treasure to those of us who revere wild places (especially alpine ones)." — Adirondack Daily Enterprise

"A legendary mountain figure and revered voice on backcountry ethics, Laura Waterman is an American treasure. Her new memoir illuminates the challenges and rewards of homesteading and wilderness stewardship. It also dives deeper into her marriage to the prolific writer and climber Guy Waterman, whose shadow looms over the Northeast because of his tragic decision to intentionally freeze to death atop Mt. Lafayette in New Hampshire. In sharp contrast, Laura chose life—and this book is an embrace of all its mystery, pain, and joy." — Stephen Kurczy, author of The Quiet Zone: Unraveling the Mystery of a Town Suspended in Silence

"In this latest memoir, celebrated wilderness steward Laura Waterman reflects on her years of homesteading, and her relationships—with herself, her late husband Guy, and the world they dove headlong into together. Examining a world under our modern noses, should we slow down to see it, Calling Wild Places Home rings like a clarion bell: honest, unflinching, and true. Now more than ever, we need Waterman's voice." — Michael Wejchert, author of Hidden Mountains: Survival and Reckoning after a Climb Gone Wrong

"Calling Wild Places Home is timely in its portrayal of a remarkable life centered on the essentials and, through it, the much deeper connection we can realize with ourselves and natural spaces. Through a series of vulnerable and poignant essays, Waterman demonstrates that the standard definitions we so often rely on to validate how we love, sacrifice, renew, and persevere most likely require some focused introspection." — Ty Gagne, author of The Last Traverse: Tragedy and Resilience in the Winter Whites

"Laura Waterman's Calling Wild Places Home is an extraordinary story. She and her husband, Guy Waterman, authored the bestselling book Forest and Crag, a history of hiking and trail blazing in the Northeast Mountains. Her new book, part memoir and part anthology of Laura Waterman's previously published essays, focuses on two interrelated stories: their lives together and their experiences as mountain climbers, homesteaders, and stewards of nature. Part of the power of the memoir lies in her depiction of her husband's demons, which culminated in his suicide in 2000. She writes sensitively and honestly about this event, offering us insights gleaned from a twenty-year perspective. As she observes, 'There is nothing like the passage of time to help us gain clarity with which to see long-ago events.' Yet Calling Wild Places Home evokes the spirit of Thoreau's Walden in its affirmation of self-reliance and resilience, but Laura Waterman's voice is uniquely her own. Readers will remember her inspirational, revelatory, life-affirming book for a long time." — Jeffrey Berman, author of Dying to Teach: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Learning