An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of August 25, 2008
Written in Sabacché and issued from a
ciber in nearby Tekit, Yucatán, MÉXICO

CORNCRIB HONEYMOON

This week my cousin Audra in Kentucky sent me a note about a detail of my grandparents' lives I hadn't known about. She entitled her note "Corncrib Honeymoon."

About 90 years ago when my grandparents married, life in our part of rural Kentucky could be hard and basic. People were poor. My newlywed grandparents could have stayed in my great-grandfather's house but the young couple chose instead to move into the farm's corncrib.

Audra writes that my Papaw Conrad "hunted up a cook stove and stove pipes to extend outside... They brought in a table for two and moved their bed from upstairs of the main house. That was all the furniture they needed... They were happy in their own little nest."

Audra finishes with "Jim: Your love for the simple life comes honest!"

You can imagine how it feels learning that my own tendency to gravitate to rustic circumstances is just an echo of something that may have been going on in my family for generations. Maybe my peripatetic nature also is an echo of my grandfather's grandfather's move from Germany to the US. Knowing the family's history, I know myself better, even feel a bit more human.

Now back to those Hooded Orioles. Once I realized the teacher/student dynamic, and maybe even father/son dynamic, in the two birds always flying together as they sought food for the nestlings, my appreciation of what they were doing increased enormously. My heart softened and I felt brotherly toward them.

Finally, let me tell you about a note sent by Leona in Missouri, who lately has been ruminating about the nature of human brains, and what it all means. She sends this quote from The Sensitive Nervous System by David Butler:

"It is as if the Milky Way entered upon some cosmic dance. Swiftly the brain becomes an enchanted loom where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern, though never an abiding one, a shifting pattern of subpatterns."

And this line Leona sends "from a lecture from a person named Sherrington":

"My God how can we ever aim a bomb or missile where it will damage the brain or body of any of our fellow creatures? Will we ever get it, as a race of people?"

Everywhere, everywhere, learning more, understanding more, feeling more, begets ever deeper insights attended by ever more intense empathy, more intense compassion, greater LOVE. Opening the eyes wider, exposing the heart more, lowering defenses, accepting what is, all leads to a blossoming. Grandparents, orioles, the Milky Way are all the same blossoming, all the same beauty, knowable only by the open eye, the seeking mind, the vulnerable heart, the lover.

In this light, what is sin?

It is inertness before the television, and yielding to deadening routines. Being satisfied with preconceptions and off-the-shelf belief systems. Self-centeredness.

What is enlightenment?

Sometimes a glimpse into the Milky Way, sometimes a flight of orioles, sometimes reflecting on the context of a little corncrib in Kentucky. Whatever it is, it always requires the never-ending but hard to maintain struggle to know, to understand, to feel, to keep opening up until your very soul's nerve endings are exposed to all. Facebook Icon.