Out of the Nest
Harris Center camp programs, now called Summer or Winter Adventures, used to be called Wol’s Nest — named for Owl, who misspelled the sign on his home (“Owl’s Nest”) in the classic A.A. Milne book, Winnie the Pooh. (The photo to the right, featuring campers in their own oversized homemade nest, was taken during Summer Adventures in 2019.)
The Harris Center contacted several Wol’s Nest alums to ask about their time as young campers and whether it had any impact on their adult lives. We think it’s safe to say that their camp experiences had a powerful effect!
Lauryn Welch is an artist who is currently studying for her master’s degree in art at Hunter College. She attended Wol’s Nest summer and winter camp programs for many years — from the time she and her family moved to New Hampshire when she was eight years old until well into middle school.
“One of my first camp counselors was Celeste Lunetta, and I used to be really jealous of Evan and Silas for having her as their mom, because I thought she was such a cool person! I’ve since grown close with the Lunetta family, and they made a huge impact on my life as I was growing up. I am deeply inspired by the kindness and love they give to every living thing.”
Lauryn’s favorite activities at Wol’s Nest included hiking the Dandelyon Trail and Mount Skatutakee, and outings to Willard Pond to catch little salamanders. She also fondly remembers going swimming, learning to knit, making puppets, identifying edible plants, and drawing different types of frogs.
“I think Wol’s Nest taught me how to really ‘look’ and be curious about what I was looking at. This is a skill I use all the time in the art world, but I don’t think I would have had that skill, nor would I be making artwork sourced from direct observation of nature, if I hadn’t learned it at Wol’s Nest first. When I am outside, even in New York City, every walk to the subway is a chance to identify a new type of moss or catch up with the drama of our local pigeon families.”
Lauryn’s love of nature is reflected in much of her artwork. The Harris Center exhibited a collection of her lavishly colored bird drawings in December 2019.
“Nature is the language of joy in all of my relationships — the literal language. My partner and my best friends will communicate with me using the calls of geese, ravens, wrens, bellbirds, and grey loeries (go-away birds). There is so much that is difficult in this world, especially living in an age of a rapidly unraveling climate. The only thing I’ve found that feels like a meaningful and sustainable action is to love and care for the growing things in my own backyard, and to pass that mundane but deeply held appreciation to others in my life.”
Grayson Blake (called Libby back in camping days) started at Wol’s Nest at age 4, attending every year until age 10 before returning as a counselor-in-training the following summer, and finally as a counselor for two summers after that. That’s dedication!
“My experience as a camper has had a significant impact on my adult life. Being educated in nature and in art as a child inspired a continued love of the earth and of its inhabitants. I am currently pursuing my art teaching license, and I attribute some of my affinity for education to my time at the Harris Center.
My absolute favorite thing to do as a child was swim, and I have a multitude of fond swimming memories from camp. Another favorite memory is the end-of-camp gathering of families, at which every camper was given an award for their participation that compared them to an animal chosen by their counselor(s).
My connection to nature is very strong at this point in my life. In my teaching, I put an emphasis on the integration of nature into art, along with a strong basic appreciation of the surrounding world that was instilled in me as a Wol’s Nester.”
Storm (called Anna back in camping days) is Lauryn Welch’s younger sibling. Creativity and artistry run deep in the Welch family!
“I came to the Harris Center for camp when I was in elementary school around 2003. I remember meeting a lot of other kids my age that kept popping up around the Monadnock Region as I got older, but the people who had the biggest impact on me were Susie Spikol and Eliza Dery, two people who continue to impress me with their dedication to environmental education and stewardship.
I have vivid memories from Wol’s Nest: peering closely at the taxidermy owls and bobcats in one of the Harris Center’s giant rooms; drawing them and being told not to touch them, but maybe sneaking a pet when no one was looking; feeling absolutely delighted by the frog pond; and searching for hidden notes in the stone walls that bordered the Harris Center’s front lawn.
When I was young, art was the most important thing to me, and learning about animals was the most inspiring. The Harris Center had a consistently creative approach to guiding us kids through the natural world that allowed me to utilize my artistic abilities as a tool for understanding. We did many fun activities, but the skill I utilized and developed the most there was drawing.
As an adult, I’m much more interested in hiking, trail work, and environmental justice than I was as a kid. The Harris Center gave me a magical lens in which to experience nature, and I like feeling like I still have that tool in my back pocket when hiking gets exhausting or the rain becomes unbearable.
Right now I’m seeking ways to combine art-making and storytelling with environmental education as I transition from my trail working season with the Backcountry Trails Program in the Inyo National Forest. I’m not sure how this idea will develop, but my hope is that whatever happens, I’ll get to be outside!”
Comfort Halsey Cope of Francestown recently contacted Susie Spikol upon reading about her in the local newspaper. Susie had been her daughter’s camp counselor at the Harris Center many years ago. Comfort said:
“I was delighted to read the profile of you in the Monadnock Transcript-Ledger. What a difference you have made to many young naturalists, including our daughter Eliza, a camper at the Harris Center 25 years ago.
Now 30 years old, she is committed to a career in place-based education. After UNH, she began a master’s degree at the Teton Science School in Jackson, Wyoming, and finished at University of Edinburgh. She now teaches elementary science in Los Angeles. An avid birder, knowledgeable naturalist, and skillful teacher, we consider it all began with the fairy houses at the Harris Center!”
For more information on the Harris Center’s 50th anniversary celebrations, please contact Lisa Murray at (603) 525-3394 or by email.