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  • Writer's pictureAllan Shedlin

Granddaddying Wisdom: Let Nature Be Your Teacher

Guest Post by Harry Groome

Author and Conservationist

Me carrying Hal in an Adirondack basket shortly after the letter went “public”

EDITORS NOTE: The following is a letter author Harry Groome sent to his first grandchild when he was six months old. The letter was Groome's contribution to a Nature Conservancy convention in San Antonio in 2003. Groome says, "Hal has read it. He even was in attendance several years ago when I read it to a large gathering in the Adirondacks. He loves the outdoors and has fished a wee bit with me. I’ve yet to coax him to my favorite river in Canada, but he’s busy being a college sophomore right now."

This year, The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey created a gorgeous video to accompany Groome reading his letter. You can view it HERE.

To help the Daddying blog celebrate the arrival of the vernal equinox, the great outdoors, and the pure joys of granddaddying, Groome's letter has been reprinted here with his permission:


Dear Hal,

I’ve been asked to tell a lot of very sleepy people why I give so much of your inheritance to The Nature Conservancy! I guess now that you’ve learned I’m giving away what someday could be yours, you might be interested in hearing what I have to say. And I have a feeling your parents might be listening, too.

Well, my love affair with nature began when I was a boy, a bit older than you, but not much. I was captivated by the natural world, although in those days, I just called it “the outdoors.” It began with animals, and eventually, I could name almost every species in North America.

Then my love affair spread to fish and where they live; not only the rivers and the streams they call their home but the valleys, the gorges, and the mountainsides these waters flow through and over. Some fifty years later, Hal, I still find myself in awe of streams and rivers, wondering what secrets lie beneath their broken surface, where they’ve been, and where they’re headed after they leave me.

The Drake Bluebill (lesser scaup) I carved in 1980-something

As you’ll learn, ducks and geese got me, too, taking such a stronghold on me that I spent hundreds of hours trying to recreate my favorites with wood and paint. I always fell way short of the way nature presents them to us, but I loved the bond carving and painting created between me and the birds I tried to portray.

And then, of course, there’s been my long-standing love affair with the high peaks of the Adirondacks. Every time I first see those purple-blue mountains silently appear as we drive north from Pennsylvania, I relax, and my throat crowds with joy. Every time, Hal, and I only hope someday we can share the feeling together.

“In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create but by what we refuse to destroy.”

So, when I started volunteering for The Nature Conservancy and giving them what might someday be yours, what I was doing was very selfish, for I wanted to preserve all these treasures for myself. But after a lot of thought, I now realize that when I make a donation to The Nature Conservancy, I’m not giving anything of yours away. On the contrary, I’m investing for you – saving for you – and all your generation and generations to come, so that, as William Wordsworth wrote, you will “come forth into the light of things, (and) let nature be your teacher,” as it has been mine.

And I’m doing it so that I won’t be accused of another poet’s curse:

The earth died screaming

While I lay dreaming...”

And, last, I’m doing it so that the words of John Sawhill, a great man and a great friend of mine – and all of ours – won’t go unheeded. John said, “In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create but by what we refuse to destroy.” And I couldn’t agree more.

So, what I’m trying to tell you is that I’m working hard to save the last great places because I think it may well be the most loving thing I can do for you.

Thanks, Hal, for making things come so clear.


Harry Groome is the retired chairman of SmithKline Beecham Consumer Healthcare and a Governor Emeritus of The Nature Conservancy. He is the author of the novels Wing Walking, Thirty Below, Celebrity Cast, The Best of Families, which won the IndieReader Discovery Award for popular fiction, and the award-winning Stieg Larsson parody, The Girl Who Fished with a Worm. His short stories, poems, and articles have appeared in dozens of magazines and anthologies, including Gray’s Sporting Journal, Field & Stream, and Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature, and have won numerous awards, including a Pushcart Prize nomination. His latest novel, Giant of the Valley, will be published this December by Adelaide Books.

Harry is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and holds an MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. He and his wife, Lyn, divide their time between Villanova, Pennsylvania, and the Adirondack Mountains in New York. Visit Harry at his website


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