New book an homage to nature
By Jenn Watt
Published April 21 2016
The natural world thrills Gordon Harrison. Its creatures and plants fill him with an excitement not just at their inherent beauty but at the great scientific wonder they present.
Throughout his life he has been wandering the woods of the Highlands capturing photographs of the tiny devil’s paintbrush wildflower and the hefty black bear the white-bellied squirrel and the short-tailed weasel.
The very fact of the world’s existence and the incredible power of natural selection and evolution fuel’s Harrison’s curiosity and ultimately motivated him to write his latest book My Cousin and Me and Other Animals.
“I’ve had a lifetime relationship with the land up there” says Harrison who lives part time in Peterborough and part time in the Minden area. “And when you write any book you have to have some fire in the belly. I love the land I love the animals I love the memories of the people I knew all of whom are gone now. That’s my motivation.”
Harrison lived in the Minden area until about age five when his family moved to Toronto to find work. Each summer during his childhood he would come back to stay with his cousin and his aunt and uncle who had a property in the Highlands – the one he now owns.
As an adult Harrison became a mathematics teacher instructing in Toronto and Peterborough.
But no matter where he went he always kept a foot in Haliburton County.
By way of explanation he quotes naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough: “It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.”
As his own homage to science and nature My Cousin and Me takes readers on a journey through Harrison’s interactions with nature illustrated with photographs taken on his property through the years.
He tells touching stories about experiences he’s had peppering his tales with facts about wildlife marvelling at adaptations provided by natural selection.
One such story is of a mother bear who he calls “Mother Courage.” Mother Courage was a black bear on his property that he discovered was paraplegic. She had two male cubs and Harrison was able to discern through use of a trail camera that she risked her own life for months on end to protect her cubs and ensure their survival.
“The cubs were always first by several minutes [to the food Harrison put out] until this heroic animal dragged her bleeding backside out of the deep forest only to collapse in exhaustion. On many occasions she never ate – she just watched her cubs devour the cracked corn and dog food” he writes in the book.
“Clearly this mother bear was exhibiting behaviour that can only be described as moral. And just as clearly this behaviour was preserving her genes by enhancing the chance that her two male cubs would survive and reproduce” he writes.
Harrison says many people have misconceptions about nature particularly the danger it presents.
“There is no fear walking in the forest. None whatsoever. It’s the safest place you can be. It’s safer than downtown Peterborough at night” he laughs. “As I say in the book there have only been two verified cases in all of North American history of wolves killing people. Far more have lost their life from banana peels.”
Besides My Cousin and Me Harrison is the author of three other books which he self-published. He says he didn’t get into the writing business to make money. He does it to express love for nature.
“It’s a celebration of the natural world” he says.
You can find Harrison’s books on Amazon.com at Chapters or other fine bookstores which can order you a copy if they are not in stock. It is also available as an e-book. Minden Mercantile also has a few copies for sale.
You can read a chapter from the book at https://mycousinandme.net.