On any given day at the Confluence Park in Denver, Colorado, kayakers crash through the technical shoots on the Platte River while packs of cyclists, dressed in full gear, speed by on trails that wind two-hundred plus miles through the city. Joggers, unicyclists, and skateboarders glide along pathways filling any void in the mix of health enthusiasts that permeate the hearty landscape.
Denver is, perhaps, the healthiest place in the United States. Here, hikers jog up Torreys Peak, a mountain that towers fourteen-thousand feet into the sky. Eighty-year-old cyclists whiz down Vail Pass, where the air is thin and cool. Skiers jump over glaciers and soar across the Continental Divide. Indeed, healthy lifestyles are as solid as the Rocky Mountains that rise above the city skyline.
My fascination with health began while I lived in Denver. I studied books about vitamins and frequented Whole Foods, buying local, organic produce. But I soon discovered that vitamin recommendations oscillate faster than the secondhand on a stop watch. Vitamins either promote a long life or cause cancer.
With so much misinformation, I began to question the organic produce I was eating. How could it be anything but organic? Didn’t produce still come from small, family owned farms? Could beef still be purchased direct from the farmer? Would dairymen still deliver milk to your door in glass bottles that could be returned for reuse? Perhaps not.
So what was happening? Had all the small farms been replaced by huge mono-crop, mega-farms that shipped foods around the globe?
For answers, I turned my attention to the healthiest people I knew, my grandparents, who were born in the 1890s and lived to be one-hundred years old. They survived two World Wars, the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. They lived without health insurance, penicillin, and public water supply. Homemade wine, bourbon and rolled cigarettes were common indulgences. Gardening, fishing and hunting replaced trips to the grocery store. Stored food was either canned or smoked. Nothing was wasted. Even watermelon rind was pickled.
Recalling how they handled and prepared their own food, I questioned whether vitamins, insurance or packaged foods improve health as much as eating locally grown food. Was homemade food the thread that made my grandparents centurions? Could eating food made from the ground we walk on, the air we breath and the water we drink, help us adapt to our immediate environment?
While searching for answers, I examined my grandparents lives and discovered that most of the food they ate and medicines they used came from locally grown sources. Learning this inspired me to write a contemporary fiction series called ‘Community Gardens’
I have also discovered that suspense thrives in any garden and, yes, digging in the garden often uncovers more than dirt.