Relative Something

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

Archive for November 2016

Passenger Pilot

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It occurred to me two days ago how split I feel between being the pilot who directs the activity of my body and a passenger riding along for whatever happens next. Whether it’s a virus that pays a visit or an emotion that elicits a response, there is a constant balance of submission and control.

johnhsgradyoungjacksonbrownersmagWhen I was younger, I wanted to have straight long hair that would fall around my face the way Jackson Browne’s did. My hair style involved inherent waves. I worked desperately to battle my natural flip that keenly mimicked the classic women’s hairstyle of the ’60s.

Achieving 6 foot height was not in the cards for me, either. These things were not in my control. I’m a passenger to the genes determining such features.

At the same time, in the role of pilot, I was making decisions (and learning from my mistakes) on who I wanted to be and how I wanted to behave. I get to choose how I react to the world around me and decide whether I want to make healthy decisions for this body, or not.

It gets tricky at times, because there are a lot of mind/body interactions that happen unconsciously, plenty of it at a cellular level, in the areas of transition between the two perspectives of pilot and passenger. We have the freedom to choose how self-aware we are going to be. Some people think it serves them just fine to be willfully inattentive, even though they often grumble about the eventual outcomes that result.

I struggle to comprehend why our minds so easily overlook information and evidence that indicate negative consequences for our choices or behaviors. Why isn’t there a stronger drive to improve ourselves at every opportunity? It should be an integral part of our survival instinct.

Why would either the pilot or the passenger choose to settle for less than the best?

In time, I figured out a way to stop fighting my hair and instead let it do what it wants to naturally do. It curls. I even took it to the extreme for a while and dreadlocked it. I have yet to perfect the part where I choose not to settle for something less than optimal health —mind, body, & soul. There remain some days when I give in and allow myself to pay no heed to the healthiest choice.

For me, the secret to getting away with that is an intentional effort to ensure those are only temporary lapses. I need for more days than not to involve me getting off my butt and navigating down the center line of my healthy highway.

I think I’d also like to keep relearning how to integrate the two extremes of pilot and passenger that reside within me every day.

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Written by johnwhays

November 30, 2016 at 7:00 am

Looking Down

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I have an affinity for looking straight up or directly beneath me when I’ve got a camera in my hands. I’m also a fan of surface textures and single content features filling the frame.

Adding in the shadow of a perfect hoof print is a real bonus.

dscn5513eI had just been looking into the sun at Cayenne when I dropped my gaze and captured the ground in front of me. She had turned to observe my activity and then resumed the noble pose that had grabbed my attention in the first place.

I captured both.

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I think she was enjoying the last of the warm afternoon sun prior to our latest bout of cold rain. That is, cold in the relative sense, because yesterday it climbed to 50° (F) here, which is rather warm for late November.

Leaves us wondering when we will get to look down at our feet and see some useable snow. For the time being, it is mostly mud!

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Written by johnwhays

November 29, 2016 at 7:00 am

Last Thing

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There was one last thing I’ve been wanting to do in the paddock before the winter weather sets in for good this season. When we had the fences installed to create our two paddock spaces, the smaller side encompassed two trees. There was a gorgeous willow tree with a cottonwood close beside it.

It didn’t take long for both trees to show evidence of not being entirely happy about the new arrangement, but the willow has at least continued to show signs of life. The cottonwood gave up in the first year. It has been standing dead for quite a while now and the small branches from it have started to litter the ground with increasing frequency.

The tree makes a convenient scratching post for the horses, so I have no interest in cutting it down. I just wanted to cut off the branches and leave the snag for birds to perch on and horses to rub against.

Mark this one off as “Done.”

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Bringing all those branches down created quite a pile that needed to be dealt with. I tend to overlook that detail when I get all fired up to trim our trees. Cutting branches down ends up being a small part of the whole project.

Luckily, George was available to help and I opted to try chipping them without delay. The other option was to move the pile somewhere and save the chipping for a future opportunity. That could lead to a lot of chances for procrastination, so I felt pretty good about taking quick action on this occasion.

I cranked up both the ATV and the diesel tractor, attached a trailer to the former and the chipper to the latter and away we went. Parking the trailer beside the chipper allowed us to fill it directly from the chute and save any extra handling to convert a pile of branches into chips unloaded in our convenient storage location by the labyrinth.

That leaves me about as ready as I’ve ever been for freezing temperatures and oodles of snow to arrive for winter. Unfortunately, the weather continues to run warmer than normal and the precipitation we are getting is all rain.

Do they make galoshes for snowshoes? I might have to get me some of those so I can do some trekking in all this rain.

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Written by johnwhays

November 28, 2016 at 7:00 am

Shaping Up

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It has snowed and then melted again, so the ground here is well saturated, but not frozen. It was time to tend to the raised circle in the paddock before the earth becomes hard as rock. It’s been a year since I last shaped it and the definition was fading to the point it wasn’t really performing as a raised perch above the wet.

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Try as I might, I am not able to pack it firm enough to support the weight of the horses, but if I keep reshaping the circle as they stomp around on it, eventually it will become what I envision. It worked in another spot that we created when the excavator was here digging out our drainage swale.

That flat mound is visible in the corner of fence in the picture above on the left. Since it was made from slabs of turf scraped from the swale, there was a lot of grass in it that seems to have added a lot of stability. The circle I am creating in the middle has a lot of layers of hay which the horses’ hooves punch through with ease. It becomes a pock-marked uneven surface.

On the plus side, residue from the hay includes plenty of grass seed that wants to grow and will help firm up the surface over time. If I keep tending to it, I’ll get what I’m after. In the end, it’ll seem like it’s always been that way.dscn5514e

Good thing I’m a patient person.

Dezirea supervised my progress while Legacy grazed from the slow-feeder behind her. I get the feeling the horses recognize what I’m trying to create, and they approve.

When I came out from taking a lunch break halfway through the project, I found Cayenne standing beside the circle on the ground I had just raked flat.

It was as if she wanted to be close to what I was doing, but didn’t want to mess it up by stomping on it too soon. I appreciated her discretion, but in no time, the results of my reshaping will be hard to perceive amid the multitude of hoof prints.

Watching the horses all day long, you get the impression that they don’t really move very much. They don’t appear to cover much ground in a day. However, if you survey the ground over time, it becomes evident that there isn’t a spot where they haven’t been at one time or another.

In the long run, they are definitely shaping the ground of their confines.

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Written by johnwhays

November 27, 2016 at 11:03 am

Days Happen

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dscn5459eDespite our lofty plans and petty concerns, time marches on. Days happen, one right after the other. The present moment unfurls and that quickly becomes history. Last night, I was struck by a reference in a PBS Frontline story to research done in the archives for information from 1977. Was that really that long ago?

I guess so.

Today I am struck anew by the amazing place where I now reside. As the year 2016 nears the twelfth month, we have become ever more normalized with our rolling hills and areas of hardwood forest. We have slowly developed new trails and arranged sections of fenced pasture. It is becoming a reflection of us and the animals now living here.

In the relatively short time we have been here, the neighborhood has changed noticeably. We are currently in the final weekend of the annual deer hunting season, an event that has quieted significantly compared to our first years on the property.

dscn5458eI’m not sure why there is less activity visible this year on the properties adjacent to us, but it’s been nice to have fewer sights and sounds to trigger Delilah into the fits of unnecessary outbursts she feels called to deliver. I wish I could attribute her good behavior to a continued maturation, but evidence hints otherwise.

It’s quite possible that her presence alone is a factor in relocating local hunters to more distant acres, although she isn’t chasing all the deer off. We still see them around with regularity. More likely, what has moved the hunters away is the combined activity of the horses and humans roving around here along with her on a daily basis.

Life is happening here everyday. And as soon as I chronicle it, the stories become archived in the “Previous Somethings.”

Time marches on.

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Written by johnwhays

November 26, 2016 at 10:29 am

Picture Story

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Three shots that tell part of the story.

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It deserves to be pointed out that 3 (pi)es were presented for dessert.

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Written by johnwhays

November 25, 2016 at 9:29 am

Happy Thanksgiving

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Written by johnwhays

November 24, 2016 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Snow Arrives

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The drive home from the day-job yesterday was a fascinating adventure in the full gamut of transitioning to winter precipitation. It was wet at the start, then turned in to a variety of audible ice hitting the windshield before becoming heavy snow. Traffic slowed to a crawl as the visibility dropped and the sides of the road turned white.

The delay only added a half-hour to my commute because no sooner did I clear the delay occurring at the sharp curves where I94 touches I35E near downtown St. Paul, when the precipitation slowed and flakes transitioned back to ice.

Speeds picked up again and before I knew it, snow was no longer visible on the shoulders. As I reached the Wisconsin border, the roads were dry again. Before I made it home, I passed through one more brief barrage of clattering icy precipitation followed by calm.dscn5494e

I stepped in the door to find Cyndie had Thanksgiving preparations well under way. My favorite cereal treats, and a major threat to my control of daily sugar calories, were prominently displayed on the counter. Without hesitation, I grabbed a handful.

Instant reward in the pleasure centers of my brain!

On top of that comfort, there was a warm fire in the fireplace and she had dinner all planned.

I’m spoiled rotten and I admit it.

dscn5500eAs the night wore on, the weather I had driven through earlier arrived and began coating the world outside our door in a beautiful blanket of snowflakes.

This is more like it. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

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Written by johnwhays

November 23, 2016 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Doggin’ It

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Racing home to beat the sunset, I arrived in time to drive the Grizzly into the woods with my chainsaw to clear a fallen tree from the trail. Actually, to clear half a tree, as it had fallen from our neighbor’s side of the fence. The top half of it was protruding into the path of our trail.

It wasn’t large, so I made quick work of it and returned to the garage where I changed to the winter wheels on the Griz and mounted the snowplow to get it ready for the next wave of precipitation moving our way.

Then all the off-season tires for both the ATV and Cyndie’s car were stowed away on the high corner shelf, and the garage got rearranged to make room to store all the equipment we probably won’t be needing for the next few months.

By the time I got in from chores, Delilah was overdue for attention and let us know it with an endearing parade of dog toys she pulled out and presented for our review. After chasing her around the house for her rubber yellow monkey, she got distracted by her antler chew.

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I laid down next to her and listened to the sound of her teeth clanking and grinding against the hardness of the branched horn. I was down on her level and we were just chillin’ together.

With all of the things I accomplished after work on a Monday, I deserved to spend a little time dogging it.

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Written by johnwhays

November 22, 2016 at 7:00 am

Heavy Handed

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dscn5488eI haven’t quite mastered the art of using the loader on our tractor yet, but I’m gaining confidence. What that means is, I am able to make more mistakes quicker.

More than once yesterday I was heavy-handed on the lever and scooped too deep beneath the pile of lime screenings. We worked to spread most of the pile before the weather makes a season-long shift to frozen ground.

It’s the kind of thing that drives this perfectionist to major frustration.

dscn5490eOne way I get over it is to move on to the next time-sensitive task that needs to happen. Cyndie and I removed the canvas from the gazebo before the first accumulating snow falls.

From up close, I discovered the gory details related to the subtle lean the structure has taken on that has been visible for a few months.

My first inclination was that the soft wet ground had given in on one side, but now I don’t think that was the case.

It’s possible the horses pushed against one side. It’s also possible that an extreme wind gust applied enough torque to bend the frame. Thinking about it, the second scenario would seem to make more sense, because if it was the horses, I believe they would have pushed it even further. Or they would have pushed it again after the fact and compounded the damage.

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With daylight fading, I left the bent frame to be dealt with next spring and switched my attention to moving the deck furniture to our winter storage location on the back side of the house. It was the last thing I wanted to accomplish for the day.

Just as soon as I shed my outdoor gear to settle inside for the evening, Cyndie realized she needed her winter tires for a car appointment today. We store them on a shelf in the shop garage that gets accessed two times a year, so plenty of stuff ends up getting piled in the way.

Back outside I went. On the bright side, I was going to need to get the tires down anyway. I need to swap to winter wheels on the Grizzly and they are stored on that same shelf. Best of all, no additional problems turned up with my last two tasks so, no new added frustrations.

It feels good to have enough done that the impending snowfall brings with it no extra dread. The essentials have now all been handled.

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Written by johnwhays

November 21, 2016 at 7:00 am