Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Everything Fatigue

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I can totally relate to the Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engine suffering metal fatigue last weekend. I’m feeling a bit of everything fatigue lately, although, I do my best to avoid raining debris all over people around me, unlike that airplane in Denver Saturday.

I’m clinging to my thread of sanity with a weary, wavering grip. There is a climate calamity unraveling right in front of our eyes that appears to deserve a lot more change to our ways of life than the slow-responding societies around the globe are revealing any willingness to undertake. Communities are burning, flooding, freezing, suffering drought, or reaching intolerably high temperatures –sometimes experiencing an unlikely combination of the extremes– but I still climb in my gas-powered car and drive an hour to work like always.

It just feels wrong.

It also feels dangerous. Yesterday morning, I had a close encounter that used up some of my limited luck on avoiding a collision on the interstate. I commonly operate in cruise control mode with my car holding the speed and distance related to the vehicle in front of me. A business panel van passed me on the left and then slowed down entering a curve in the highway. My car maintained the cruise speed and caught right up beside the van in the turn as it slowed, at which point he decided to move into my lane.

I hit the brakes and swerved as little as possible, having no time to look to the lane to my right for clearance. My lunch tote on the front seat instantly relocated to the floor below.

It happened so fast, I didn’t have time to honk my horn to alert the other driver to my position. I suspect the assumption was that I had been passed and was no longer a concern. It wouldn’t surprise me if the other driver wasn’t even aware of having slowed at the curve.

The event provided me an unwelcome shot of adrenaline and triggered visions of a fate I flirt with two times a day, four days a week. Haunted by a belief that anything can go dangerously wrong at any time when commuting in traffic, I’m feeling the fatigue of having tolerated the risks of this trip for too many years.

I’m fatigued with the pandemic, its death toll, and everything related to coping with the ever-present threat of spreading the virus.

I’m even growing fatigued with our latest jigsaw puzzle. We picked one with way too much solid black background that is cut entirely of one primary classic puzzle piece shape: four arms, a knob on each end, two cutouts on each side. The only variation is the size and shape of each of those features.

It is very possible I will give myself permission to give up before placing every piece. That just depends on whether searching for the barely perceptible features of each completely black piece distracts me from the other angsts nibbling at me and releases the blessed endorphins when I stumble upon ones that fit.

Endorphins do wonders for fatigue.

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Warmth Visits

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We are enjoying a welcome break from the harsh depths of the gripping cold that commanded all attention for the previous two weeks. Cyndie said snow and ice sliding off the roof throughout the day created startling noises that jostled sensibilities. Delilah would react with equally startling barks of her own in response.

Walking our trails in the winter, one clearly experiences the dramatic influence the snowpack exerts in holding the temperature down. Think: walking the frozen foods aisle in an otherwise comfortable grocery store. There is a noticeable chill. Walking our trails in the winter when the air temperature rises above freezing is like walking on a refrigerated carpet.

The cold radiates up from below, overcoming the natural order of cold air falling low.

The two pictures above were captured by Cyndie on Saturday as we drove to Pepin. The bottom one could almost be interpreted as being over water instead of the snow that was really there.

Or, maybe that just a reflection of my response to the visit of this February thaw.

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Written by johnwhays

February 23, 2021 at 7:00 am

Meandering

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no explanation
it’s all that comes to mind in this moment
just words
random ones
trepidation
okay, that one
but also, surprise
wonder
adventure
mystery
misery
miserly
listening
laughing
loving
lifting
wanting more
wasting nothing
timing essences
cats
dogs
calamity
insanity
walking all day long
looking for everything lost
asking why didn’t we call
noteworthy
newsworthy
pithiness
à la carte
without a care
sleep
time
extra breath
deep sigh
falling snow
wandering eye
vast unrest
captive audience
long goodbyes
waiting
wanting
finally learning
holding hands
meandering
all the while

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Written by johnwhays

February 22, 2021 at 7:00 am

Rare Interaction

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We interacted in a social way with other humans yesterday! Late February 2021. A milestone. Duly masked for appropriate social behavior in a pandemic, we hosted our friends, Barb and Mike Wilkus to share an appetizer, visit the chickens, and then travel to Pepin for a snowshoe hiking event at YMCA’s Camp Pepin. Afterward, we returned to our house for a light dinner, dessert by the fire, a little banter, and …blink, blink… the night was over.

There will never be enough time to catch up on the year of social interaction we have lost since the pandemic swept the world.

Hanging with friends will never feel fully satisfying until masking is no longer standard procedure.

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Despite the limitations, we happily absorbed every second of the gift of friends who love the outdoors and are up for adventures. Camp Pepin was decked out with ice lanterns along a groomed trail and campfires aglow in the woods for an open house event intended to rejuvenate interest in camp activities that the virus outbreak has squelched.

As the dusk of the hour consumed us, we came upon a familiar scene of a deer carcass that had certainly fed a variety of wildlife.

 Looked strikingly similar to the one we found in our woods, antlers, and all.

The weather was perfectly comfortable for winter activity and the treasure of enjoying it with precious friends was a wonderful treat.

It sparks a glimmer of hope for visions of increased opportunities on the horizon in the months ahead. Do we dare begin to make plans again for renewing our old level of interactions with other people as vaccinations reach a greater majority?

That will be one step toward making it happen. Let’s all start making plans now for as normal a summer as possible to help galvanize the future reality we want to happen.

I am emphatically hoping it can play out sans masks.

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Written by johnwhays

February 21, 2021 at 11:29 am

Morning Scene

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Our spell of extremely cold weather is slowly easing back to normal cold, with this morning’s wake-up temperature just a few degrees (F) below zero. That’s enough of a chill that the chickens were showing reasonable hesitancy about getting up and facing the day. Rocky and a few hens didn’t even leave the coop when given the chance after Cyndie opened the chicken door.

There was an uncharacteristic whiff in the air that something burned that shouldn’t overnight, but nothing in our line of sight showed any evidence of disruption. It’s a strange feeling to wake up so completely oblivious to significant activity that may have happened nearby during our contented slumber. It was too prominent a smell and spread over the large expanse of our entire valley to not have been something noteworthy.

The sky was cloudless and the air just thick enough that a thin coating of frost is covering our branches. It’s going to be a beautiful day.

The bite of the pre-dawn chill had many of our chickens looking to get their feet off the cold ground as they huddled in the corner where the sunshine will first arrive when it makes its way above the treeline. We’ve propped up a couple branches for their benefit. I noticed two of the Domestiques chose to balance impressively on one foot on the wobbly perch so they could keep the other foot tucked up inside their feathers for warmth.

I have a feeling the solar energy will warm the day in multiple ways today.

Don’t know if it will be able to do anything about the odd smoky smell, but it is definitely boosting the emotional outlook a good amount.

That’s how it goes after you’ve just endured weeks of epic deep-freeze temperatures.

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Written by johnwhays

February 20, 2021 at 10:24 am

Regal Visitors

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It isn’t at all surprising that Delilah gets alerted to something and starts barking at the doors and windows. Happens multiple times a day. Yesterday afternoon, seconds after one such flourish, Cyndie commented about all the birds making a racket. She joined Delilah at the door to the deck and quickly exclaimed there were eagles perched in our trees. Four of them.

She stepped out to take a picture and one of the four took flight, no sound but the whoosh of wings.

I joined her at the door in time to see another one fly off.

After several minutes, a third one launched into a gorgeous glide. We fully expected the last one to fly and that would be that, but suddenly two of the flyers zoomed back on the scene. One appeared to consider a landing but the big branch it picked snapped off and fell toward the ground.

With that, all three spread their wings and flew away into the distance.

Other than worrying a little about the health and well-being of our chickens, we are thrilled whenever the majestic bald eagles pay us a visit. More often it’s one or two coasting overhead in the sky making a brief appearance. Finding them perched is a bit of a rarity and offers extended viewing, but four at a time was a first.

I liked that they showed little concern about Delilah’s barking.

Sometimes I wonder what they must think about us and our activities down below them.

I suspect they find us a lot less fascinating than we do them.

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Written by johnwhays

February 19, 2021 at 7:00 am

Parts

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Words on Images

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Written by johnwhays

February 18, 2021 at 7:00 am

Relief Comes

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The temperature climbed above zero (F) yesterday. Given the reference point of the biting cold that we have been subject to for the last couple of weeks, stepping out into the February sunshine felt remarkably comfortable. Warm, even. Though it really wasn’t.

Just a little relief from the hunched clenching posture we and the chickens have been maintaining opens up a surprising amount of renewal in mind and body. Rocky and the hens were taking full advantage of the sunny wall on the end of the barn where we clear the snow for them.

Cyndie said the yellow Buff Orpington visible in the background of the image was digging in to take a little dust bath.

In a crazy coincidence of timing, Cyndie sent me a text about how big the icicle had grown from the corner of the barn roof. I suggested she knock it down proactively to avoid it falling unexpectedly. By the time she arrived to tend to the task, it had already fallen on its own.

Apparently, the frozen stalactite sensed our plan just as we were hatching it and took matters up with good old gravity to save us any extra trouble.

I struggle to reconcile a mixture of glee and guilt over the relative good fortune we are enjoying compared to the weather much of the rest of our country is suffering. The extreme cold we have dealt with is something we have lifetimes of experience and knowledge to cope with, while the cold and snow disrupting life in Texas and beyond is bizarrely out of the ordinary for them.

I feel for the hassles they are dealing with while also being grateful we have been spared a similar level of calamity.

May the southern states appreciate how quickly their climbing temperatures will melt the uncharacteristic amounts of snow that have fallen on them as we endure the typical long, slow transition from winter to spring our latitude abides.

Either way, relief does eventually come.

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Written by johnwhays

February 17, 2021 at 7:00 am

Tool Marks

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I’ve reached the phase of my latest wood sculpting project where I’m happy with the shape and am ready to sand it smooth, but that goal is hampered by the straggling tool marks that remain. Each time I move to a finer grit of sandpaper, the next level of imperfections become apparent.

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I used a grinder to rough out the shape and then some rasping with a metal file to refine it before switching to hand sanding. Inevitably, there ends up being one bothersome spot where the previous tools went a hair deeper than anywhere else. That spot pretty much ends up defining the point of completion.

At least, in that spot with that grit of sandpaper.

Usually, as I move to the next finer grit, several new scuffs appear. Rinse, repeat.

It’s very meditative for my brain, despite becoming a bit of a burden on my aging arthritic grip.

If I don’t have a bright sunny day to illuminate the finest detail, I resort to a headlamp. Otherwise, it looks just fine the way it is to my old eyes.

The prefectionist in me would never settle for that.

While working to clear snow off the roof a few weeks ago, I resorted to repeatedly telling myself that perfect is the enemy of good enough. Any snow removed was better than none at all.

When it comes to a polished wood sculpture, my feelings are just the opposite. I can’t quit until tool marks are gone. At least, on the primary features, anyway. I grant myself some leeway where my design transitions from the rough unfinished bark to the smoothly shaped and polished wood grains.

I have the advantage of not being faced with time constraints in my sculpting projects. That makes all the difference, allowing me to work as fast or slow as I choose to reach the end result I seek, infusing love into the piece all the while.

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Written by johnwhays

February 16, 2021 at 7:00 am

Managing Well

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We managed to survive the coldest weekend so far this winter without too much trouble. Our heated waterer for the chickens didn’t fare so well, though. Cyndie brought it inside to thaw and tried a second time, but when it froze again, we put the backup unit into use.

I took advantage of the brittleness of frozen firewood logs and busted a bunch of them open on the manual splitter.

Full disclosure: That graphic wasn’t from this weekend. I keep my hat on when the windchill is minus-25°(F). Still, the exercise generates plenty of body warmth. Another reason I don’t need a gym membership for working out.

The ol’ Norwegian Smart-Splitter® is ideal for making kindling. Snaps off little bite sized pieces with one stroke. I push the limits a little bit and use it along with a separate wedge to split full-sized logs. Takes a few extra throws of the weight to coerce the more stubborn logs. If you look close, the once-yellow wedge is stuck in the wood beside the green wedge of the Smart Splitter. I’ve got a maul in my left hand and I switch back and forth between the two to increase expansion pressure until the wood finally gives.

Even though the wood was easier to split, I was less interested in being outside long enough to get it all done. Truth be told, I had a greater urge to lean back with my feet up in the recliner under a snuggly blanket.

Happily, Pequenita felt similar to me about spending the rest of the day on the recliner.

That’s what I call managing well to deal with a crazy, bitterly cold day.

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Written by johnwhays

February 15, 2021 at 7:00 am