Relative Something

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

Winter Lull

leave a comment »

We are enjoying a pause in the harsh, cold winter temperatures this week. It truly is a welcome relief for those of us who have to do things outdoors every day no matter what the weather is like. Hanging out with our horses, cleaning up around them, and feeding them, I get a very good sense of how much more at ease they are now that we’ve come out of the latest blast of extreme cold.

Those wicked cold mornings have the horses looking so stoic as they stiffly brace themselves against the stinging bite of the frigid air. They do very little moving to conserve what little warmth is lingering under their winter growth right up to the moment they prepare for the delivery of their feed pans by romping about, running, and kicking to jump-start their circulation.

In contrast, their lack of stiffness yesterday morning energized me. The horses radiated a feeling of ease and contentedness that stood out more than usual because of how different it was from just days before.

There has been a lull in snowfall for many more days than the cold temps, and the snow in the paddocks is getting thoroughly beaten down as a result. It remains deep enough in the fields that they have barely ventured beyond the fences but there are some tracks out there.

It’s unclear to me how many of those footprints are evidence of new activity or old tracks emerging as sunny afternoons have started to shrink back some of the coverage.

Yesterday afternoon, I lingered for a long time, leaning against a gate to watch their activity after they had all finished eating from the feed pans. They were just being horses with no urgent agenda.

It made me want to be a horse along with them —a horse during a warm spell on a February day.

When it’s cold again, I want to be a human living indoors.

.

.

.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

February 8, 2023 at 7:00 am

Just Like

with one comment

The Grammy Award for Song of the Year went to Bonnie Raitt on Sunday night for the title song of her latest album, “Just Like That.” I’m willing to bet that most of you haven’t listened to the song. I hope you will use five minutes of your time to listen while following the lyrics. She has written a precious heartstring-puller.

Before you decide to focus on the song, watch this video of her reaction to the announcement of her win and hear her acceptance speech:

.

.

You can read the lyrics while listening to the song here:

.

.

You might want to have a tissue handy.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

February 7, 2023 at 7:00 am

Friendly Family

with 8 comments

That was fun! Just hanging with my brothers and sisters for an afternoon after not being altogether for three years.

I feel so lucky to have siblings who all get along and seamlessly enjoy time together regardless of how many months might pass between visits. Yesterday included plenty of laughs over memories of our shared childhood experiences, including some details we don’t all agree on. Honestly, one thing that I’m becoming more certain about as I age is that I am not certain about any precise details conjured in my memories.

No matter how clear my memory of past events seems, it is only fair to qualify them as my vague recollections.

With some luck, the date we picked for a summer weekend gathering will work for all our extended families and we can have a larger span of time together for sharing stories. The hours we were together yesterday only scratched the surface of catching up with each person.

In the same way that time seems to fly by when you are having fun, it also can sail away from you when you aren’t paying attention. In a blink, years can pass between sibling get-togethers. Throw in a pandemic to wipe out another big chunk of time and it makes it hard to remember the last gathering.

That’s too long between visits for a family that is so much fun to be around. Here’s hoping we can work on improving that in the future.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

February 6, 2023 at 6:00 am

Siblings Again

leave a comment »

Cyndie and I are driving up to North Branch, Minnesota, today for a planned gathering of my Hays siblings. There were a couple of farther-reaching Hays relation reunions that were canceled by the pandemic and I don’t believe the five of us have been in the same place at the same time since January 2020. Yesterday, I scoured the photo archives of my blog for a record of our gatherings throughout the last decade for comparison, and hopefully, to coerce us to get an up-to-date portrait while we are together today.

In my search, I came across some shots from when we were kids that I’ll insert to start this gallery.

abt. 1960: Judy holding me, Elliott, Mary, Linda (1952-1997)

abt 1961: Judy, Mary, John, Elliott, Linda (1952-1997) holding David

with Mom, abt. late 1990s – early 2000s in Eden Prairie

Brothers, maybe?

abt 2009: Wasn’t everybody, but close.

Winter 2014, Beldenville.

Summer 2017, Richfield.

Summer 2018, Richfield.

Winter 2020, North Branch

We don’t tend to choreograph our positioning with any regularity, do we? It will keep you guessing who each person is.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

February 5, 2023 at 8:00 am

Every Step

leave a comment »

I spotted an impressive phenomenon of nature after heading down to the barn yesterday morning.

Each and every small animal footprint through the snow had captured a fallen oak leaf.

The latest air mass of bitterly cold temperatures has left us for the east coast. At noon today, I plan to give the horses a break from wearing blankets again. Other than the off-and-on annoying sounds of snowmobile engines passing by, it is calm and quiet under the hazy sunshine in our valley.

As the air warms it becomes obvious that the thick snowpack becomes its own refrigerant, radiating cold from below. Even though the daily high temperatures are forecast to rise above freezing, it doesn’t guarantee it will feel as warm as thermometers indicate.

However, with all things being relative, any above-zero temperatures offer welcome relief after extreme cold spells like we endured Thursday night/Friday morning. The horses seemed to begrudgingly tolerate the pain, gritting their teeth and standing still in a meditative state that hid any spark of life in their eyes.

This morning, they looked much more alive and were a smidge more active. I think they will be as happy as me to be granted several days of ease, free of the brutal grip of dramatically cold air masses.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

February 4, 2023 at 10:55 am

Walking Shoes

leave a comment »

One of the things we did on our brief holiday away from the ranch was shop for walking shoes for Cyndie’s recuperation period. It’s hard to describe how weird it was to watch Cyndie trying to partially use her right foot and walk/crutch back and forth around the store. She’d only started using her right foot two days before and now she was trying on shoe after shoe and motoring around the place for what seemed like an endless parade of indecision.

Ultimately, decisions were made. Two new pairs of footwear –one for indoors and one for outside, and both on sale– were picked to help Cyndie step her way through regaining her stride.

She is making impressive progress already but with anticipated residual consequences that call for periods of rest after doing a lot of “walking.” She is still relying on two crutches but the transition to just one crutch may happen soon.

We are both very happy that she will now be supporting her ankle with new shoes that fit comfortably.

.

Written by johnwhays

February 3, 2023 at 7:00 am

Wayback Break2

with 6 comments

This morning we woke up in a strange bed away from home. I’m letting the Wayback Machine determine what today’s blog post will be (from the Previous Somethings archive). Just click on the image! (One time, when I tested it, it popped me into an entire month from 2010 instead of just a single post. The powers of the Wayback Machine are mystically magical, indeed.)

.

.

Written by johnwhays

February 2, 2023 at 7:00 am

Wayback Break1

leave a comment »

It’s February! In case you were somehow unaware. Today, Cyndie and I are heading out on a day-and-a-half adventure. After I take her to a physical therapy appointment, we are going away for an overnight at the home of friends and leaving horse care to sitters during our absence. In honor of this stepping away from the usual daily grind, I am also leaving Relative Something in the trusty control of the Wayback Machine. This way, you get to go on a couple of little adventures, too.

Just click the Wayback image to be automatically transported to a random post from any of the many years of Previous Somethings! What are the odds of it being a post about chickens?

.

.

Written by johnwhays

February 1, 2023 at 7:00 am

Old Images

leave a comment »

I was exploring old images and came upon these shots from 2013, our first spring on this property. We were in the process of installing new fencing to create the paddocks outside the barn and trying to build the hay shed.

That spring was so wet the main post holes that had been dug for the hay shed sat filled with water week after week. I remember thinking the pole shed might never happen.

It pains my brain to think about all that I DIDN’T know back then. Somehow we forged ahead to eventually get where we are today. It involved a lot of making things up as we went along. Looking back on it, I’m happy now for all the wild ideas we entertained back then.

Makes me wonder about what things I might not know today that in ten years could become our everyday.

Probably hovercrafts.

At the same time, it always feels presumptuous to assume I’ll be here in ten years.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

January 31, 2023 at 7:00 am

Numbing Cold

leave a comment »

It is cold outside again. It might be ridiculous trying to parse the subtle differences in how cold feels between tens of degrees further below the freezing point, but they are there. When temperatures drop to single digits (F) or negative numbers, the impact on activities at the barn doesn’t feel all that subtle. Extremes of cold tend to complicate things that are usually simple.

Yesterday, there was an incredibly quiet calmness during the long pauses between snowmobile traffic on the local trail that passes our southern border. There was no breeze and the birds and squirrels were out of sight and silent. With the horses standing completely still, the quiet was dramatic.

Silence like that outdoors is almost enough to distract me from the numbness developing in my fingers and toes. Sometimes I forget. Is it better to be able to feel the sting of cold in my fingers or the absence of any feeling at all?

I couldn’t resist lingering against the gate with the horses for a while after all my work was done, enjoying the peacefulness despite my body growing ever more chilled.

The sun had come up and was beaming brightly through the clear sky above, complementing the cold air with its cheery rays.

On my way back up to the house, I stopped under an oak tree and looked up at the remnants of leaves beneath the deep blue sky.

As if taking note of my hands being out of my chopper mitts, old man winter brought up a little breeze for variety. At -2°F, numbness returned in a blink.

Stepping back inside to the warmth of the house on mornings like this is such a wonderful relief. Top that off with a plate of fresh waffles Cyndie just prepared and my numb fingers are suddenly nothing but a fading memory.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

January 30, 2023 at 7:00 am