Relative Something

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

Archive for September 2019

Imagination

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darkness abounds
beneath the trees
in the deep woods
casting shadows
darker still
creating shapes
along the trails
hollow spots
that echo footsteps
crunching leaves
snapping sticks
long after creatures that made them
have run away
leaving just an earworm
Eric Clapton
singing in circles
filling the space between ears
because imagination
is boundless
easily melding
music and fears

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Written by johnwhays

September 30, 2019 at 6:00 am

Always Falling

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I never realized before owning acres of forest how consistently trees fall over. Something is always falling, whether we are around to hear it or not. Behind the barn sometime overnight an old dead snag gave up its vertical position to gravity.

I am glad it wasn’t any taller or there’d have been a dent in the barn roof.

This morning dawned soaking wet. Delilah had no interest in an extended walk before her breakfast and took every shortcut possible to show me her goal of getting back to the house after she had taken care of all her important business. I would have been happy to accommodate her, except we had some chickens also interested in a morning snack.

At least that gave Delilah a chance to take a pause inside the barn while I was opening the chicken door and throwing out some feed. She busies herself with futile attempts leaping toward the rafters in naive hope she might catch one of the pigeons roosting up high. I figure it’s good exercise for her.

Due to the rain, my deck project is halted just as I was beginning to get some momentum in removing screws and nails. I’ve decided to leave the boards in place after detaching them, giving something to [carefully!] walk on in place of just the joists. By flipping the boards over, it is easy to see which are no longer attached.

Step on at your own risk.

I also slid in one of the new boards to confirm the dimensions are what I was expecting. These are not what are considered deck boards by today’s standards. The person delivering the lumber called me with concern there might have been a mistake on the order, after Cyndie told him it was for our deck.

The deck was built long enough ago that they spaced the joists 24-inches on center and used 2×6 boards for the top surface. Now decks use 1-1/4-inch thick boards and require narrower joist spacing. The cheapest fix for our rotting boards was to replace them with treated boards in the original dimensions.

It’s like falling off a log, if you know what I mean.

And I know a lot about falling “logs.”

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Written by johnwhays

September 29, 2019 at 10:07 am

Delicate Balance

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In the end, we have turned down all the quotes for resurfacing our deck because the costs all exceeded our available funds. The only affordable option was to buy the lumber and do the work ourselves with the generous support of willing friends.

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We have already begun experimenting with several techniques for removing the old boards, with varying success. Yesterday, I resorted to buying a hole-saw bit that would allow drilling around a stripped-out screw to free up a board and leave the screw behind to be extracted with a vice-grip plier.

I don’t mind working slow, but at the pace I am achieving, the 815-square-foot deck surface will not be completed in a weekend.

Initially, I envisioned getting all the old wood removed before focusing on installing the new boards, but then I heard a suggestion of just removing one board at a time and replacing it. That way the project could start and stop at any time without the deck being in total disarray.

One big challenge for me if this project ends up lasting for a long time is the delicate balance I am trying to manage in dealing with a bulging disc in my lower back. When it flares up, my mobility is greatly hampered.

I had high hopes of making big progress yesterday removing screws from boards, but a sharp twang of breathtaking pain suddenly limited my success to a single board.

The reason I describe the challenge of my bulging disc as a balancing act is because of the way the problem manifests. For most of my days I experience no pain and no limitations of movement. Then, without warning, the slightest movement will unleash the hint of a stab that takes my breath away and sends an adrenaline spike that contracts my muscles in an attempt to prevent a deeper stab.

Moments later, I am able to move like normal, yet with an understandable precautionary stiffness in fear the worst outcome is just as possible, likely even, if I make one wrong move.

I just have no idea which movement will end up being a wrong one.

A natural response to this scenario is to walk in the stiffest posture possible, but that isn’t a realistic solution. Instead, I returned to my core-strengthening exercises and flexibility stretches. This routine is the opposite of maintaining the stiffest posture possible and allows me to move very close to normal.

But it still leaves me in a delicate balance, because the bulge in my disc doesn’t instantaneously recede. That takes time. Weeks.

In the meantime, I proceed walking and leaning forward within an immeasurably small fraction of that startling reminder the bulge is in close proximity to spinal nerves.

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Written by johnwhays

September 28, 2019 at 10:03 am

All Quiet

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All quiet in our little corner of Wobegon world this week. I was right about my suspicions that the burrowing woodchuck would show up again somewhere. Since we secured the window well, the pest spent time messing around the outside edges in search of a new way in. Just lovely.

Cyndie leaves for the lake today with friends of hers for the weekend and I will be partying at home alone with the pets. Maybe I’ll see if I can get Delilah to help me pull up the old deck boards. The new lumber has been purchased and already delivered in two stacks on the driveway.

So much for paying someone else to do the job. Think of the money we will save!

Mike has volunteered to help with installing the new boards, and we have a plan to hit that task next week. I would like to make some progress before then by pulling the old boards, if my bulging discs will allow.

That’s about all the news I have today. I’ll leave you with a scene of our skinny trees that Cyndie captured to show how the property is beginning to make the transformation toward leaflessness.

Peace!

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Written by johnwhays

September 27, 2019 at 6:00 am

Unintentional Meditation

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The truth is, I just don’t know what to think. There is a simple solution for that, though. Sometimes I just don’t.

Think, that is. Maybe that is my version of unintentional meditation.

There are plenty of days that boil down to just putting one foot in front of the other. Some people do a better job of that than others. I believe there is an art to finding a way to carry on with a seemingly endless routine, regardless of having either a preconceived intention or none at all, on any given day.

Being something of a “both/and” person, I have no problem reconciling the odd combination of experiencing two opposing emotions simultaneously. More often than not, it is probably fair to say that I feel both happy and sad all at the same time.

Whatever gets you through the day is okay.

There is an interesting dynamic in the process of striving to become more healthy with time. Like peeling an onion, or zooming in for a closer look, new opportunities for improvement keep coming into view as progress is achieved. It’s as if someone keeps moving the goal line of optimal health farther away as I approach.

Progress begets progress, and so in one aspect, advances –both mental and physical– seem to come a little easier with time. But, there is also a change in the rate of improvement over time which makes it harder to perceive ongoing gains being achieved.

Of course, I have chosen love as my secret –or not so secret– weapon of choice for solving life challenges. I need to remind myself to love myself and send love to others all along the way. It helps to sooth angst over plateauing progress and energize doldrums that might begin to weigh me down.

The biggest success I hope to celebrate someday in my life will be a time when I discover that I am beaming that self-love and love for others without needing to think about it.

Wouldn’t that be a fine ambiance in which to live?

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A Weakness

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When there is a Ken Burns documentary on PBS, I seem to lose my ability to turn away. And when it is a series of 8 two-hour episodes over two weeks, my nights vanish in a blink.

Last night, I barely noticed the storm that rolled over us because I was fixated by episode 7 of “Country Music.” Luckily, we didn’t need to move to the basement for cover.

I never considered myself a “fan” of country music as presented by radio stations, but the portions of this epic documentary that I have seen in the prime time broadcasts this week and last are showing me how much of the music that I do like is interrelated. The performing artists, songwriters, and recording engineers frequently cross over the artificial boundaries created by radio stations and record companies intended to compartmentalize their “product” and maximize profits.

The music that works the best for me comes from the fringes of Country Music where there is more artistic control and less broad commercial appeal.

In general, I could say I have a weakness for Ken Burns’s documentaries, but this one on the subject of a particularly American style of music, much of which has occurred in my lifetime, is almost overpowering in its demand for my attention.

I hope the universe will forgive me for getting nothing productive accomplished while this show is making its broadcast debut.

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Written by johnwhays

September 25, 2019 at 6:00 am

Wild Turkeys

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Something tells me the local flock of turkeys has expanded in size since I last saw them. It’s been a while. I’m guessing there is an added generation running with them at this point. Yesterday, while mowing the lawn, I spotted over 15 of them strolling through the labyrinth. I couldn’t count them all.

I was a bit surprised they didn’t startle over the loud roar of the mower when I approached. They simply walked, pretty much in single file, into the shadows of the trees.

We frequently find dropped feathers and plenty of footprints, but more often than not, they keep themselves out of sight.

It’s exciting to be able to see them looking so comfortable on our property. Thinking about it, maybe the good fortune we’ve had with our 8 chickens surviving all summer is reflected in the large number of wild turkeys also surviving. The predators must be finding other sources of sustenance.

I don’t know what the coyotes in the area have been eating, but they’ve been rather vocal in the wee hours of darkness recently. Apparently, it’s not turkeys sleeping up in the trees at night.

Maybe the coyotes will help me out and eliminate that nuisance woodchuck that has been burrowing around here lately.

It’s wild out there!

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Written by johnwhays

September 24, 2019 at 6:00 am

Two Pets

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Recent images of our dog, Delilah and our cat, Pequenita…

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They don’t often pose so well for portraits, so we are enjoying these two captures. 

Both seemed very happy to have us home again last night. Pequenita appeared to be showing an interest in traveling before we even left for the weekend on Friday.

Anna stayed with them while we were away and also tended to our chickens. It is such a treat to have all our creatures well cared for when we are away. It is a great blessing for which we are supremely grateful.

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Written by johnwhays

September 23, 2019 at 6:00 am

Late Season

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A day away from the calendar start of autumn has us checking out the lake place in transition and it is as glorious as ever this weekend, despite some gray and rainy weather.

We went to dinner last night at the recently reopened restaurant located about a block away from our driveway. The new name is Tavern at White Stag Farm. The atmosphere hints at old European with a delicious menu to match. Fred and Marie treated us in celebration of our anniversary. It was grand!

When we aren’t feasting on luscious meals, we have been competing in mixed teams at the cribbage board game, “CrossCrib®” taking turns claiming bragging rights. This morning will likely bring the challenge for weekend supremacy.

The other excitement has been the close proximity of our resident eagles and their fledglings. They have taken to perching on the pine tree right outside our window.

We have seen the young ones fly, but it appears they may still lack some confidence. They spend a lot of energy being highly vocal on their perch, crying out for something. Research reveals a common training behavior is for the parent eagles to withhold food as an enticement to the fledglings to fly.

That scenario is easy to ascribe to what we have been witnessing.

I can report that the eagles are not bashful about screeching loudly before the sun has broken the horizon.

Maybe they are feeling some urgency to get this flying thing mastered before the fall season ushers in the freezing of the lake where they have been enjoying easy pickings of fish all summer.

Despite the unusually warm temperatures this weekend, there is no denying that the summer of 2019 is behind us now.

Here’s hoping it will soon usher in the bright colors and brisk temperatures of fall.

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Written by johnwhays

September 22, 2019 at 9:22 am

Digging Out

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I’m not confident this is the final chapter of our woodchuck pest, but yesterday I dug out the window well to reclaim our egress space for the basement bedroom. You may recall I posted this image of the early evidence of a burrowing invader making a mess outside the window.

We did eventually enlist the services of a professional with wild animal extraction expertise, but the results weren’t exactly what we had in mind.

Initially, he set a trap across the opening of the hole. When that didn’t do the trick and the displaced sand filled over half the height of the window, he came back and added a second baited trap.

Days passed with little evidence of activity, but one trap tripped. The trail camera he added captured one image of the critter going under the little opening beneath the plastic cover over the window well, so he suggested we block that with a piece of wood.

The plan was to reset the trap one last time with the opening blocked. If there was no activity, we could assume the pest was on the outside and would no longer have access.

While he was setting things up for that last time, Cyndie warned him to be careful of the wasps showing up nearby. He spotted the ground nest a few feet away and offered to take care of it, at a discount, since he was already on site.

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Ultimately, those ended up being the only pests he visibly dispatched.

Yesterday, we noticed he had removed his traps, as planned since there was no additional activity. That was my cue to dig out the well and replace the cover.

I sure wish I could put all that sand back where it came from, but hardly any of it fit back into the hole in the corner. The rest had to be hauled away for use filling various washout voids around the yard.

In the absence of an actual capture, I will not be surprised if new burrowing shows up someplace else around the house.

It’s becoming pretty much the norm around here.

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Written by johnwhays

September 21, 2019 at 10:05 am