Introduction for Harry Thurston

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The highlight of the presentation ceremony is the introduction of the authors by distinguished individuals.

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Nancy Flight, the Associate Publisher of Greystone Books, and Harry's editor introduced Harry Thurston's book A Place between the Tides.

Over the years I have been fortunate to work with Harry on several books, beginning with a grade 4 social studies book published in the 1980s, and more recently, two nature books published by Greystone Books, including A Place Between the Tides. It has been the greatest honor and pleasure to work with Harry, and it is a great honor and pleasure to introduce him today.

Harry was born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and grew up on a farm on the banks of a salt marsh there. He received a B.Sc. in Biology from Acadia University but soon found his true calling as a poet and writer. He is the author of sixteen books, including four books of poetry and twelve books of nonfiction. He has won numerous awards for both his poetry and his nonfiction, among them the Evelyn Richardson Memorial Literary Award, which he has won three times.

In addition, Harry has written for a long list of magazines and periodicals, and his poems have appeared in many anthologies and literary magazines. He is considered one of the best nature writers in Canada and has been compared to David Quammen and Simon Winchester.

A Place Between the Tides describes a year in the life of the salt marsh where Harry now lives, interweaving his observations of the marsh with his recollections of his boyhood growing up on a similar marsh. The book opens with a magical scene in which his mother is holding him up to the window when he was about three years old so that he can see the moonlight on the river. But Harry seems something else as well. "Ducks," he exclaims, and then his mother sees them too.

In a later scene, he spies a doe and her fawn in a lattice of grasses, the fawn's tail twitching above the grass tops as if in happiness. Harry recalls his own happiness as a child hiding in the midst of the marsh, the green world enfolding him.

In these and many other scenes throughout the book, Harry seems to live in the embrace of the natural world, to strongly identify with the creatures of the natural world, and to feel most at peace and at home there. These peaceful scenes are juxtaposed, however, with the fox that plucks a duckling from the brood and the deer that must be killed, bled, and gutted to feed the family. All of these events are described with a naturalist's keen observation, a poet's love of language, and a boy's sense of wonder and delight. Harry has never lost that sense of wonder, and in many ways he is still the boy at the window.

I will end with one final anecdote from the book. Many years ago, Harry lived with an extended family of Cree goose hunters for a week in May. One morning, as he was out walking, he was surprised by the sudden appearance of a herd of caribou, passing him in a single file just a few hundred feet from where he was standing. They seemed not to be bothered by his presence, and watching the pale, peaceful procession, as he describes it, seemed like a dream to Harry.

Later one of the Cree hunters told him that the land had recognized Harry as a child, its own child, someone worthy of being shown these things. Thank you, Harry, for sharing that gift with us, for showing us those things the rest of us cannot see.

Nancy Flight
British Columbia Achievement Foundation
T. 604.261.9777 | Toll Free 866.882.6088 (in BC)

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