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Field Notes

Field Notes: Getting Recharged at Slaughter Sink

As the New Year approaches, I look forward to making more outdoor discoveries and quite likely taking a new year’s day hike. Missouri has many stunning geologic features worth visiting. Sometimes it helps to have a guide along to point out what’s what.

Earlier this month, I met geologist Fletcher Bone at his Missouri Geological Survey office in Rolla. We drove down Highway 44 a dozen or so miles, exited, turned right, then right again and then left.

Here’s some audio from that hike where we visited a pair of Missouri’s larger sinkholes. Perhaps our experience inspires you to take a First Day Hike of your own.

Interpretation at Conical Sink, which lies near Slaughter Sink, Phelps County, Missouri

To learn more about Missouri geology, check out this episode of my podcast, Mo’ Curious.

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Field Notes

Field Notes: One Less Drive-Through

It’s hard to always do the right thing. Hi, my name is Trevor Harris and I have high cholesterol. My body is genetically predisposed to higher cholesterol says the doctor. I also have a family history of heart disease. Those factors taken together led my doctor to suggest lifestyle changes. It seems like an extreme term for what is needed. I hear lifestyle change and I think about becoming trans or becoming a travelling hemp activist or something like that. None of that is required. The good doctor says to eat less meat and other high cholesterol foods. 

And that is where doing the right thing comes into play. Most days I can eat oatmeal and kale and veggie burgers and tofu and love it all. 

It is when I travel that I get off my nut as they used to say. 

Last week I went to Missouri’s Bootheel on a podcast reconnaissance trip. In case you didn’t know, the bootheel is not known as a vegan hotspot. The hotel in the small town where I stayed for three days was near enough a McDonalds that I could almost smell it. So I went there. I went there three times in three days. There was also a Burger King visit in there somewhere. 

I don’t travel too much, but when I do my diet such as it is all falls apart. Somehow, I psych myself into believing that food eaten far from home doesn’t count. Or at least that’s how I justified snarfling down those Quarter Pounders and yes, I’ll take fries with that thank you. 

Back home, I can honor my mandate for health and eat at regular times. I am blessed to have a wife who is a committed vegetarian and a good cook. Lisa seems to genuinely enjoy creating new dishes for us to try. Although Friday night is always pizza night. When Lisa is here, she sees to it that our noon and evening repast happens like clockwork. We eat balanced meals and I am grateful. I am very good at dish doing. When Lisa goes to a work conference, however, my schedule shifts. I can be mercurial about when I eat and sleep. Not eating lunch until 3:00pm doesn’t bother me until I am on one of my regular mulch site runs and realize how hungry I am what with it now closer to dinner than lunchtime.  

Suddenly the Boca burgers at home in the fridge are forgotten as I create a fast-food map in my mind. It takes a healthy dose willpower to skip the fried chicken at the first grocery store I pass. Then avoid other. I visualize how I could drive to KFC for a three-piece or over to Arbys for their gyros. My intellect battles with my stomach. The part of me that knows all the food at home is so much healthier works to suppress my stomach’s urge to navigate our Ford Ranger to the drive-thru for a full meal deal thank you not just the burger! 

It is in these choices each day that I imagine my body is healthier instead of in some stage of the inevitable decline that we will all experience. I’ll know more about my cholesterol when I go back to the doctor for my next annual check-up. This is of course a First World Problem. Billions got rice and beans today or less and I am worried about an elevated LDL. I saw on Al Jazeera last night that the Philippines is soaked after a typhoon and many are suddenly homeless. I heard on NPR this afternoon that 8% of Africans are vaccinated and the continent probably won’t wipe COVID out until 2024. My African brothers and sisters not getting enough daily calories and access to the COVID vaccine is truly tragic.  

This all makes my concerns about heart health seem kind of petty.

What kept my will power strong today is indeed the global picture. I am not deeply concerned about cholesterol. I should be more so, I know. I am concerned about climate change. What I believe in more than that oatmeal can lower my cholesterol is that eating meat increases methane in the atmosphere. The BBC reports that almost a quarter of greenhouse gasses come from agriculture and that livestock are a major part of that. 

Call it altruism or call bullshit on me. I don’t care. What I do care about is having a livable planet on which to dwell. I don’t want to evangelize. I did enough of that in college and afterwards. I am sorry if you were on the receiving end of it. I am much funner to be around now. I swear. I do believe that the climate on our one precious planet Earth is changing. I want the young people and the future people to enjoy nature as much as I have and do. I also believe that eating a plant-based diet can slow the damage as can avoiding plane travel and minimizing unnecessary car trips. 

You do what you need to do and I am going to do what I feel is best for the planet and my arteries. I am far from perfect. My cholesterol and my quite likely my karma tell the tale. 

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Mo-Curious

Mo’ Curious: ‘There is a better way’

In an intentional community, or commune, people organize themselves around cooperative activities. Where much of modern, industrial, late stage capitalism is based around competition for scarce material resources, there are a few among us who choose to work together to achieve a standard of living that’s good enough.

In the first part of this two-part episode, we explored what 19th and 20th century Missouri utopias were like. In this episode, we head to Northeast Missouri’s Scotland County to meet some contemporary communards and hear what draws them to the land in search of a more intentional and low-impact life.

Part one of this two part series on Missouri utopias can be heard here.

Thanks for listening. Let me know what you think and share ideas for future episodes. Contact me at Trevor@RecollectionAgency.com.

Kyle Yoder lovin’ on his cat at Dancing Rabbit near Rutledge, Missouri.

The Mo’ Curious podcast is generously sponsored by Missouri Life.

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Field Notes

Field Notes: ‘In Burma we really need help.’

Soethu Hlamyo is a Columbia resident. With his wife, he owns and operates Shwe Market. Trevor Harris interviewed Soethu about his family, his business and his hopes for a return to democracy in his native Burma.

This is an excerpt of an August 11, 2021 interview.

The nation of Burma – highlighted in red above – sits on the Bay of Bengal and is bordered by Bangladesh to the Wets and Thailand to the East. Photo credit: TUBS/Wikipedia.
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Mo-Curious

Mo’ Curious: ‘That American Ideal’

Almost as long as there has been a Missouri, there have been idealists in our midst. In 1844, “Doctor” Wilhelm Keil and his followers established the German Communal Society of Bethel in Northeast Missouri. They were followed by an Icarian outpost in 1858 near St. Louis.

In this episode of Mo’ Curious by Missouri Life, you’ll learn about these settlements, what inspired them and how the lineage of radical rural cooperation continues into the 21st century.

This is the first part of a two-part episode on utopias and communes in Missouri. Here is part II.

The Mo’ Curious podcast is generously sponsored by Missouri Life.

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Field Notes

Field Notes: ‘Missouri is ready made for dramatic writing’

Steve Wiegenstein draws on real life settings from his native state when crafting his works of historic fiction. The Columbia, Missouri-based writer’s recent work – Scattered Lights – was nominated earlier this year for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Here, Steve shares why ‘Walden’ inspires him, introduces us to a group of 19th century Missouri utopians and makes no promises that you’ll meet anyone famous when you read his stories.

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Mo-Curious

Mo’ Curious: Missouri Rocks!

Curious to know more about our state’s geologic past, Trevor Harris recently talked to a pair of geologists and a cave mapper.

Mo’ Curious is generously sponsored by Missouri Life.

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Field Notes

Field Notes: ‘Charity, like in faith and hope.’

We’ve lost a lot in the pandemic to date. Many Americans have lost their jobs, their health, their loved ones. When the rent came due and her fellow Kansas Citians faced eviction, Diane Charity helped organize tenants to fight from losing their homes, too.

In this Field Notes, Ms. Charity talks about her mother’s influence on her activism, the culture of sharing at Parade Park and why she still fights the good fight.

We talked on March 26, 2021 at Kansas City, Missouri’s Black Archives of Mid-America.

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Field Notes

Field Notes: ‘It was a lifetime of stuff that hit me at one time.’

The past year has presented previously unimaginable challenges. While many of us spent last year mostly stunned, Tanika Cherie’s lived life had conditioned her for what 2020 had to deal out.

Here, the social worker, single mother, devoted Christian and motivational speaker explained what helped her live through the toughest years of her life.

This audio is taken from an February 12, 2021 in-person interview at Kansas City’s Black Archives of Mid-America and follow-up e-mail interview.

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Mo-Curious

Mo’ Curious: The View from Beacon Hill

In 2019, my wife and I moved to Kansas City for her new job. We wanted to live in a real neighborhood with real people. We needed to dwell near enough downtown for her to walk and bike to work. The house we rented was in Beacon Hill. From our earliest days on Tracy Avenue, I immediately saw two neighborhoods existing in one urban space.

As the middle class fled Kansas City’s urban core after 1970, Beacon Hill’s fortunes changed. Many families and retailers decamped for greener suburban pastures. Numerous families stayed put in Beacon Hill. In recent years these long-timers had increasingly been joined by the likes of my wife and I: younger and mostly white professionals. Renters like us tended to drive up prices in the local rental housing market. Growing numbers of newcomers to Beacon Hill had bought available lots, then built and occupied new homes. These homes commanded prices previously unheard of in the 64108 zip code.

At my first neighborhood meeting, I met the leadership of the Beacon Hill/McFeders Community Council. These women had spent decades in Beacon Hill and raised families there. They were eager to share their neighborhood memoirs. In 2020 and 2021, seven long-time neighborhood residents discussed how their part of Kansas City had changed during their years there.

Drawing on oral histories conducted at the Black Archives of Mid-America in 2020 and 2021 this episode of Mo’ Curious podcast draws on the cultural memory of Kansas City’s Beacon Hill, one of Missouri’s urban neighborhood in transition.