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A Living Link

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Published on: Dec. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 10, 2010

early age to respect our forebears. We were surrounded by many of their possessions and stories of their struggles."

Her grandmother had seven children, but one-a son-died as an infant. "I always wondered why she wouldn't tolerate white flowers in her garden, then someone explained to me that white flowers were always used at the funerals of children. For my grandmother, they were a painful reminder of the loss of her baby."

However, her grandmother grew colorful flowers in profusion. "They adorned the church so thoroughly each Sunday that Grandpa sometimes complained he felt like the town undertaker because Allie had him carry in so many flowers to the church."

Going to church was a family affair, as was going to The Woods. "Getting to go to The Woods remains one of my happiest childhood memories, partly because the activity included everybody-from grandparents to the youngest child, and because of the tradition in our family, which started long before my time, of protecting nature. The Woods on my cousin's farm in Marion County remain lovely today. Besides the unusually blue bluebells and the geodes in the stream beds, quartz crystals are still plentiful in the area, and the variety of wildflowers, such as wild hyacinths, hepatica, Solomon's seal, Jack-in-the-pulpit and bird's foot violets, is absolutely delightful."

Going to the woods was as much a part of Mrs. Gorman's life as going to a mall or playing a video game is to today's generation.

"I started from day one with my grandchildren to make sure they had experiences similar to mine," said Mrs. Gorman. "It means so much to us as individuals-and for society-to understand where we all come from. We're all a part of nature and must be taught to value and nurture it.

"Some grandparents teach their grandchildren to hunt and fish, and those are excellent ways to introduce them to nature. But there are other ways that are just as valuable."

Mrs. Gorman, with her grandchildren's assistance, has created a wildflower garden in her backyard. From a treehouse perch, the grandkids can survey their wild realm and get to know its citizens. They help transplant wildflowers, digging in dirt and making the acquaintance of earthworms, slugs and other critters. And they accompany Mrs. Gorman on her forays around the state to visit conservation areas and facilities.

"Anyone can introduce kids to nature, and it's the best gift they can ever give," she says. Grandparents are especially appropriate to fill the role because they usually have more time available than parents and are looking for high quality ways to spend it.

Here are some practical tips for inspiring future conservationists:

  • Encourage young children to use all their senses when exploring nature. Let them dig in the dirt, smell the flowers and listen to the birds.
  • Use books to reinforce their observations. What is that bright red bird? Show them a picture of a cardinal in a bird book.
  • Encourage curiosity. Say, "I wonder what's under this rock?" Then show them the hellgrammite or crawdad that lurks underneath.
  • Don't be squeamish. If you find a dead animal in the woods, use it as an opportunity to explain the role of death in life.

"My grandparents gave me a good foundation on which to build my life," concludes Mrs. Gorman. "Small children benefit enormously from being around older generations, and those of us lucky enough to be grandparents realize it is one of the few things in life that can't be overrated. A love of nature is a great heritage which can be passed on free of charge-regardless of tax laws!-and will be a legacy for your grandchild to enjoy forever."

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