By Vicki Croke and Christen Goguen
It was a really fun day goofing around and catching up with one of the world’s best nature writers, my friend, Sy Montgomery, at her home in New Hampshire.
Sy has traveled the world to produce a tremendous body of work on all kinds of creatures and, in doing so, she’s been stalked, chased, and bitten by a tiger, a gorilla, and a vampire bat, among others. We caught the elusive Sy while she was between adventures.
We walked her dog Sally… Fed the chickens from our hands… Picked bugs off each other?… And we went inside, where every corner of her house seemed to scream: Sy!
Sy and I have felt like kindred spirits over the years, so, of course, we made time to talk about our love of animals and what they teach us.
Sy Montgomery: The idea that we’re only supposed to have friendships with one species among the thousands and thousands… that’s crazy. If somebody said “I only eat one food. I eat nothing but nachos. I never eat anything else.” It’d be crazy! “I only listen to one song, and only like one color.” You’d be so impoverished. And yet there are so many people who focus entirely, not only on just one species, but, one race or one sex in one neighborhood of one species.
I married a human and I have lots of human friends like you, but I have friends in other species as well and I don’t think that that speaks to a deficit in our growing up either.
Vicki Croke: I often hear the phrase, or people say, “They make us more human.” I feel like that’s true. I don’t know that I could really define why that is but I feel, for sure, that I’m a better person because of my relationships with animals.
Sy Montgomery: I totally agree… What is a person?… If you go back to human origins, we lived in nature with other species. So that’s how, I think, we cannot be whole otherwise.
Vicki Croke: Do you feel as though you’ve learned, not just about an animal’s natural history, but lessons about life for yourself?
Sy Montgomery: How to be a good creature. How do you be compassionate?… I think that animals teach compassion better than anything else and compassion doesn’t necessarily just mean a little mouse with a sore foot and you try to fix it. It means getting yourself inside the mind and heart of someone else. Seeing someone’s soul, looking for their truth. Animals teach you all of that and that’s how you get compassion and heart, I think…
Vicki Croke: I do too.
Sy’s book for children, “Chasing Cheetahs,” was released this month.
Listen to more of the
interview with Sy:
:45 “All my best friends were animals…”
2:33 An apprentice to Molly the dog
3:00 Animals make us “more home in the world”
5:00 A trip to Australia changes everything
5:37 Falling in love with a hairy-nosed wombat
6:33 How following wild emus in the outback made Sy feel beautiful for the first time in her life…
8:00 …even though her hair got a mat “like a dog” and her husband said she had “gone feral”
9:46 Her books: from great apes to cheetahs…
10:25 The man-eating tigers who silently swim up to boats to snatch their victims …
11:10 Pink dolphins
11:35 Moon bears
11:55 The world’s most charming pig—Christopher Hogwood
12:18 “Pig spa!”
13:09 The purr of the cheetah
15:50 “How to be a good creature…”