An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of June 22, 2006
issued from Polly's Bend, Garrard County, in
Kentucky's Bluegrass Region,  USA

GRANDMA TAYLOR

Those of you who have been with me for years know that I made my yearly visits to Kentucky to see my Grandma Taylor in Calhoun, in western Kentucky. Last Sunday morning Grandma died. Though that little corner of Kentucky is thickly populated with uncles, aunts and cousins, Grandma was my last close relative.

It's only recently that I began realizing one way Grandma contributed to my being the kind of person I have become. Her contribution escaped me for a long time because Grandma and I disagreed on some important points, and it was easy to focus on our differences. Grandma was hard-core Southern Baptist, so our opinions on race, the nature of the Creator and some other things conflicted. We never fought, but we have sat at the table with our jaws set as if we were biting nails.

But, the way I figure it, anyone born in 1911, who started a family during The Depression and raised seven children -- the last two mostly by herself -- can be excused for not believing as I do. She clearly never had the time or resources to develop a worldview based on the implications of the size and complexity of the Universe, of the behavior of subatomic particles, of organic evolution, and the genetic heritage and history of humans.

In fact, when I think about it, Grandma accomplished precisely what I aspire to do.

That is, she absorbed what information and insight she could during the times in which she lived, in the community in which she found herself, and then she lived according to the principles she recognized. I try to do the same thing. It's just that I have access to different information and I define my community differently. Grandma and I have always agreed that if you say you believe in something, you are obliged to live accordingly.

Under difficult conditions, Grandma fought her way into a hard-headed religiosity swinging the dual clubs of Bible verses and Billy-Graham pronouncements pretty much as I have bashed my way toward a homebrew spirituality wielding the cudgels of science and natural paradigms.

In a way, then -- different as we have been -- Grandma and I are essentially the same stuff, the same melodies the Creator has played, just in different keys.

It's more than even that. My experience with Grandma has made it easier for me to see and believe the thing that Nature is always saying through Her passion for diversity: That even opposites can enrich one another, and be worth caring about.