Local author Sy Montgomery receives award

  • Eleanor Briggs and Sy Montgomery pose together for a photo to commemorate the award.  STAFF PHOTOS BY ORIANA CAMARA

  • An Eastern Painted Turtle —STAFF PHOTO BY ORIANA CAMARA

  • Local award winning author, Sy Montgomery. 

  • A special moment between two nature loving friends.  —STAFF PHOTO BY ORIANA CAMARA

For the Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/13/2023 4:13:28 PM

Amidst the cool spring air of Saturday, June 10, two local naturalists described each other’s life accomplishments to the dedicated supporters of the Harris Center for Conservation Education. Eleanor Briggs awarded the first ever Eleanor Briggs Award to local author, naturalist and animal rights activist Sy Montgomery. Saturday was a day of celebration, acknowledging these two mountain-moving women. 

The Harris Center’s mission states it is dedicated to promoting understanding and respect for the natural environment. The organization connects humans to nature, providing education about the natural world and protecting more than 25,000 acres of land in the Monadnock Region.

“Each year, thousands of children and adults learn increased empathy for the lively green world around us,” the website states.

“We created this award to honor Eleanor Briggs who founded the Harris Center 53 years ago, then served 18 as board chair,” said Chair of Trustees Michael George. “We are all beneficiaries of her amazing foresight and generosity,” he said. “She is a walking testimony to the impact one person can make on so many people. Eleanor Briggs has spent her life encouraging connection to nature.”

The website states, "The idea for the Harris Center came out of a terrible anxiety that Hancock could go the way of Long Island, and a desire to protect it.” Eleanor Briggs purchased the land and dedicated it to research and conservation.

Briggs introduced award-winning author Sy Montgomery, author of 34 books, each teaching compassion and empathy for animals.

“Sy not only qualifies but personifies this award,” Briggs said. “We experience nature through her eyes. We learn not only about admired creators like tigers and birds but about great white sharks, snakes, hyenas, and turtles.”

Montgomery, whose new book “Of Time And Turtles: Mending the World, Shell by Shattered Shell,” will be released Sept. 17, said, “The focus of my work is that animals matter.” She thanked the Harris Center and said of colleague and friend Eleanor Briggs, “When Eleanor and I first met, I didn’t know enough about her to be intimidated. Eleanor is very visionary. Fifty years ago, nobody had thought of an organization like the Harris Center.” 

Sy Montgomery closed her remarks with thoughts about what turtles have taught her about time: “Time too, can accumulate. Time is fleeting in one sense but in another, it is eternal and shows us that something wonderful might happen any moment. The more time we have on this glorious green earth, the more time we have to see and appreciate hidden beauty, and like Eleanor Briggs, the more time we have to make a difference.” 

The remainder of the event was dedicated to turtle education. Blanding’s, eastern box, common musk, eastern painted, snapping, spotted and wood turtles are found in the Granite State. Eric D’Aleo of Squam Lakes Natural Science Center presented a talk about turtles and the natural world. “Turtles really haven’t changed in millions of years,” he said. They have long necks, protective shells, bask in the sun in the summer and slow down their bodies in winter.

“Of Time And Turtles: Mending the World, Shell by Shattered Shell” is available for pre-order at the Toadstool Bookshop. 

To learn more about the Harris Center for Conservation Education, visit harriscenter.org

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