On Becoming a Kansan

It’s a beautiful, albeit humid, summer Saturday in Kansas. This morning my labbie-girl, Daisy, and I headed out fairly early for Milford Lake in order to do some fishing before the temperature got too hot. Personally, I don’t like hot summers but will stay outside if I’m having fun despite my discomfort. Daisy, however, has a thick coat of yellow Labrador fur which keeps her heated up even when the temperature hasn’t reached uncomfortable for sweating bipeds.

While it seemed the fish opted to ignore my bait all morning, I still enjoyed the beauty of my surroundings. The lake was fuller than when I last visited (just last weekend, I think), so the water lapped against the rocks as boats passed by, creating a hypnotic, relaxing sound. The sky was a brilliant shade of blue, dappled with puffy white clouds here and there. On the shore across the inlet from me I could hear a heron screeching for fish, and at one point a fisherman aboard a small watercraft yelling for all to hear that he had “big Bertha” on the line.

Although I believe the personal is political (a modicum of sense from my days as a Liberal), I endeavor not to mix politics with my outdoor adventure writing. They are connected to me, but separate to most.  But recently I have been thoughtful about living in Kansas since reading Flyover Nation last weekend (written by Dana Loesch). The book is a perusal of what makes the Heartland, a.k.a. Flyover Nation, special from the coasts. It focuses primarily on the politics of Flyover Nation as opposed to the East and West coasts, yet I suspect Ms. Loesch recognizes the personal as political as well. Whereas folks in the Heartland may be Democrat or Republican, they tend to share similar values with regard to religion and faith, caring for and living from the land, and embracing the spirit of the second amendment.

I have known for quite some time that I enjoy living in Kansas, being a transplant to the area for my job working with soldiers who have substance abuse issues. My roots are Californian (San Francisco-Bay Area), and much of my adult life has been lived in Florida (Orlando), so I’ve got legitimate Coastie energy, but I have also lived down South (the real south, not the Florida version)  and spent time in Ohio. All in all, I think I’m an acceptable blend of environments and ideologies. Reading Flyover Nation clarified for me, however, how much I have become a Kansan, and how I have grown into myself, found myself, since moving here in 2011.

Kansas re-introduced me to fishing; something my father and I did when I was a child, but that I walked away from for decades. It is in Kansas where I finally fulfilled my desire to hunt; having now spent two, almost three, years filling my autumn mornings and evenings with deer hunting and turkey hunting, and turkey hunting again in spring. I’ve grown from a wimpy disabled chick, to a crossbow wielding, rifle toting hunter; from a designated hiking trail gal to a woman excited to spend hours in the woods pretending to be a bush or tree; from a environmentalist attending Earth Day festivals to a conservationist having real-life encounters with deer, coyotes, turkeys, and myriad other woodland creatures (including ticks). And I’ve gone from a suburban grocery store shopper to a rural harvester of much of my animal protein, be it an assortment of Kansas fish (which I gut and prepare myself), or Kansas game which I harvest, field dress, and cook myself. Very important as well; my spiritual encounters with animals aren’t just in meditations anymore – they’re up close and personal. I’ve written previously that my connection to G-d has grown in my time outdoors; and though I’m spiritual and not religious (perhaps part of my coastal upbringing), my faith has been nurtured by my presence in G-d’s natural creation. Being in nature lets me re-create myself. After-all, isn’t that what recreation is all about…?

Though my position as an Army civilian affords me some fluidity in my career, I have come to realize that Kansas is now my home. I am a Heartlander; an American by birth, and a Kansan by the grace of G-d. I don’t think I could ever return to the concrete jungle. There is no art in a museum more beautiful than a Kansas sunset, or more breathtaking than being hidden five feet away from an 8-point buck or seven feet away from wild coyotes who want to walk on the berm I’m sitting atop while hunting.

My labbie-girl and I went fishing yesterday and today and walked away without a single fish. But the experience of being connected to the water and the land far exceeds the momentary thrill of having a fish on the line (yet having that struggle while reeling in is an awesome experience). Weekends were made for fishing, and I will continue to pursue aquatic game… until September 12th, when archery deer season begins!

A Look at The Paleo Diet (Glad I’m a Hunter)

It’s been less than one week since I began perusing the book, The Paleo Diet, by Loren Cordain, Ph.D. Initially I was reading it starting with the introduction, but after perusing the website (thepaleodiet.com) I started reading from the index instead of front to back. Between the book and the website, which is chalk full of interesting articles, I have come to realize everything I thought I knew… was wrong. My life’s been a lie! Okay, so not really a lie; that was an over dramatization of how I feel since being redirected in my thinking.

Let me backtrack a tad here, to first share how I even came across the paleo diet and the book of the same name. As an avid second amendment supporter I read Hands Off My Gun, by Dana Loesch, a pro-2A pundit on Fox News and the Blaze. I actually happened upon her by accident (or by G-d’s design) which led me to her book (a very good read – read my Goodreads review) and, in this modern era of tech and electronic networking, to her Instagram account. While following Loesch on Instagram I happened to “like” one of the photos she posted of herself in a dress showing off her toned legs, and in the description she mentioned the paleo diet. So off I trotted to online retailers to get the best price on a copy of the book, The Paleo Diet, so I can learn more. And the rest, they say, is history….

As a two-time cancer survivor with a permanent disability to remind me of the blessing of life, and as a mid-life woman (so hard to contemplate that) with arthritis and other sundry maladies, I am always endeavoring to seek improved health through dietary lifestyle changes (except for when I ate the breakfast sampler yesterday morning at Cracker Barrel – sucking down grits, hash-browns, biscuits & gravy, eggs, sausage, ham, and bacon – but not all of it!). I have been awakening in the middle of the night with hands so stiff and painful I cannot bend my fingers at all! The doctors assure me there is no current evidence of arthritis in my hands, per x-ray, however based on my level of discomfort I am likely pre-arthritic. I am loathe to take medications if not absolutely necessary, so seek to find holistic ways to repair myself, and vaguely recall reading, years ago, about the macro diet and how dairy is joint-degenerative. With that in mind, I intended to seek a dietary change, and then voila – The Paleo Diet manifested itself into my life! (It’s the Law of Attraction, I tell you!)

What I’ve come to learn thus far, is that much of what I’ve done to seek better health may have, in the long run, created some of the problems I now have. Years ago I took on the mantle of a low-carb lifestyle (except for occasional cheats) which supported weight loss and increased energy. I cut out rice (except for sushi), potatoes, candy, breads (except Ezekial) etc. Well, according to Dr. Cordain; legumes, such as soy (and peanuts, which I’ve learned are not a nut), grains, dairy, refined sugars, and salty-processed foods (like bacon!) produce chronic low-level inflammation in our bodies. This means that the soy milk I enjoy in lieu of cow’s milk, the protein powder I have used for close to a decade to reset my carb cravings and which is my staple for breakfast (which is soy and milk-based), the complex carb bread I have learned to enjoy for years, the cheese I love, and even the tofu I make my awesome pumpkin pie with are all aggravating various physiological mechanisms in my body and maintaining on-going inflammation. I won’t even go into my love of bacon (all salt and nitrate full).

The premise of the paleo diet is that our bodies, by design, work best eating as the hunter-gatherers did (Paleolithic man – hence the name). It donned on me that this is a great dietary lifestyle for me, since I am now a hunter! There is nothing quite as yummy as a lean (by design) venison steak, straight from a free-range deer. On the other hand; I have built a dietary lifestyle apparently full of “toxins” and it will take some serious effort to change. My goal is to make the switch in January 2016, because I will be spending Christmas with my parents and their every meal defies the paleo diet. But now that I know what little that I know about the foods I’ve been eating, I feel almost self-destructive continuing in the same manner. For instance; I bought a one pound bag of white beans to cook in the crockpot into white chili with my wild turkey legs and now I have legume guilt, knowing that what I initially thought was going to be a wholesome and delicious cold-weather meal may actually make my hands hurt worse.

Although I am excited to begin the paleo diet and watch myself return to vitality, I have experienced a pre-release of burdens and some added burdens at the same time. For example; I used to endeavor to follow the blood-type diet. According to that author, my type A blood is meant to be vegetarian. I have had that thought in the back of my mind even as I enjoy my fresh game. Yet according to Cordain, the blood-type diet, although somewhat sound in cutting out wheat and limiting dairy, is faulty scientifically and historically in assessing the blood types; type A is actually the oldest type and meant to be a hunter-gatherer, not a vegetarian (agrarian). So I am delighted to release that guilt niggling at the back of my mind. As much as I love hunting, enjoy wild game, and pulverize bones for marrow it was pretty hard to contemplate being a vegetarian (although I was for several years right after my cancer). A burden I have added, however, is learning that some of the nutritional supplementation I have been using, from a highly respected and beloved nutrition company, is actually a “toxin” based on the paleo diet research, and now something I feel I must choose to eliminate from my diet. Making this dietary change is sort of like learning to walk again after having been unable to for years….

Ever since my cancer, over 20 years ago, I have sought ways to attain and maintain health; to decrease foods problematic to my system, and to choose holistic alternatives. My choice to become a vegetarian after my cancer was to avoid the toxic meat supply ladened with hormones, pesticides, and anti-biotics. Now that I hunt, I am eating free-range wild animals with no hormones or anti-biotics, and minimal pesticides (depending on the farming practices near where the animals graze). There is no marbling on the deer meat, because there is next to zero fat on creatures that roam miles per day. The Paleo Diet only insures my continued hunting, and increases my desire to bag enough game to keep me fed for one year, until next hunting season comes along.

Over time I will continue to read the book, The Paleo Diet, follow it up with online research, and slowly purge my kitchen of those things that no longer fit the lifestyle I’m headed toward. And as I begin the process now, with two months of preparation, I will look forward to a new year with greater health, more energy, and less over-all inflammation throughout this only body that I have….

So glad I’m a hunter!