A Living Link

Conservation Commissioner Anita Gorman has great advice for grandparents: Use every opportunity to introduce your grandkids to nature.

Her grandmother, Alice Belle McPike, helped her connect with the natural world and she, in turn, is now teaching her own grandchildren about nature's gifts.

She is proud of the handiwork of her 8-year-old granddaughter, Michelle Royle, who created a diorama of swans swimming in a pond. The swans are made of Playdough and they swim among construction-paper reeds and brightly colored fish. Michelle wrote a glossy booklet on swans and their habitat to accompany the diorama.

Mrs. Gorman is the link between Alice Belle McPike and Michelle. Together they represent five generations who have grown to love and appreciate "The Woods."

"All our farms were surrounded by forest, but the special place, the one we called "The Woods," belonged to Aunt Janie," recalled Mrs. Gorman. There, bluebells grew in profusion and a steep, shaded hollow produced succulent morels. The whole family joined in treasure hunts for mushrooms, wildflowers and unusual rocks. "You'd go to our cousins' homes and each one would be filled by our rock collections."

The Fabius River flowed through the farm of one of Anita's aunts. It yielded beautiful geodes-round rock formations filled with crystals-yet another natural quarry for the treasure hunters. Her cousin, Jack Triplett, keeps the farm in pristine condition.

Alice Belle McPike was almost 90 when she accompanied the family to The Woods for the last time in 1954. Mrs. Gorman remembers it as a special time with a woman who had forever influenced her appreciation for the natural world.

"She grew up in Marion County, but went to finishing school in Connecticut," recalled Mrs. Gorman. "She endured the hardships of the Depression but managed to keep a productive garden by irrigating it. We had no idea there was a Depression going on! Our family rarely threw anything away, so conserving in the outdoor world came as second nature to all of us. We also quickly learned from our grandparents respect for Native Americans. If we were lucky enough to find an ancient artifact to add to the family collection, it was cause for celebration."

Mrs. Gorman remembers lively conversations about civic issues and events around the family dinner table.

"All of the family members viewed working hard, being thrifty and caring for the less fortunate as part of everyday life," she said. "Because family was so important to my grandparents, we learned at an