Relative Something

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

Archive for the ‘Chronicle’ Category

Celebration Dinner

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It was a small gathering last night, in terms of usual for a birthday event celebrated by Cyndie’s family. Our two kids and Cyndie’s parents met downtown in Minneapolis for a royal feast at the Melting Pot restaurant for Julian’s birthday dinner.

The fact that it was also Cyndie’s and my 38th wedding anniversary helped to bolster the celebration a couple of notches.

The multiple courses of fondue made for a long meal. I didn’t get around to snapping photos until we were working on dessert because I had been so focused on cooking my own food.

Fred had the best line of the night when he said to the waiter, “My compliments to the chef!”

There were so many flavors being mixed and mingled it was dizzying. Most of the time, I didn’t know what I was eating, but it all tasted mighty good. My entree was a combination of meats that included shrimp, pork, chicken, and beef with a variety of spices. Add in six versions of dipping sauces and the two different flavored cooking oils and I had a good excuse for struggling to identify each bite.

It felt wonderfully celebratory!

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Mental Mixups

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I’m not sure how a person can know when they are actually at the top of their game, but I have a pretty good idea when I’m not achieving peak performance out of my mind. The shortcomings have come in series for me lately in a repeating pattern that is becoming difficult to miss.

Although, missing things is one of the shortcomings I am noticing. The thing with that is, it makes me suddenly wonder if there are other things I missed when individual errors pop up. It gets my mind all mixed up.

Is any of this related to the song stuck in my head since Sunday morning? While making breakfast that morning, I heard Kris Kristofferson’s version of “Me and Bobby McGee.” Later in the afternoon, while I was mowing the lawn, it was Janis Joplin’s voice “ear-worming” over and over in my mind.

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Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose…

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I found it interesting that my mind jumped to Janis’ version, but not that surprising. It’s the one I’ve heard the most. What seems odd to me is how long it has hung around.

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I’d trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday…

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Then my poor brain got stretched into next year. Did you know 2020 is a leap year and Christmas will be on a Friday?

(Just to emphasize my point, while writing that, I asked Cyndie if she knew 2020 is a leap year. She said, “You already asked me that an hour ago.”)

One of my challenges with the day-job is the need to function far from the immediate moments and plan the future. Yesterday I was forced to print out a calendar for 2020 to assign dates into January. No wonder my mind gets mixed up.

It’s a wonder I ever know what day it is.

On the way home from work yesterday, I forgot to get gas in the car.

I sure hope I haven’t forgotten anything else important this week.

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No Ropes

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No nets, no map, no ropes, no guarantees. I saved the rented movie, “Free Solo” for Cyndie to see when she got home and I watched it again last night so we could experience the fascinating drama together. It is really a moving portrait of multiple levels of the story about Alex Honnold’s quest to climb El Capitan without ropes.

I’m left with a vivid impression of how the uncertainty dramatically exposed by climbing deadly heights without ropes is present to varying degrees in every moment of our lives. The deadly risks may not be so intense, but the uncertainty is, whether we realize it, or not.

Humans make our plans and celebrate when things go right, but things go wrong just as easily.

I think sports competition for entertainment taps into a relatively safe dance with that uncertainty. Both sides might plan to succeed, but there will always be something to foil the best-laid plans of one of the teams or individuals involved. We, as spectators, can live vicariously through the drama and for a time escape the real-life uncertainties about the outcome of our plans for tomorrow.

Will I make it to work on time? Will the weather be a problem? Will there be a surprise test?

No guarantee, except for the uncertainty. That’s inherent.

A tire could blow out. An unexpected storm could pop up. And, yes, there might be a test. You can use your notes.

I don’t know what we are going to do next with Wintervale Ranch. When this all started, we had a plan, but only a vague map, no ropes, a small net, and definitely no guarantees.

We were free soloing.

The future is uncertain, but the possibilities are enticing.

Watching the documentary of Alex Honnold’s dramatic success at the high-risk endeavor of climbing about 3000 feet (900 m) without ropes to save him if he falls was very inspiring.

We are energized for exploring new opportunities in the year ahead and feeling a heightened awareness of the uncertainties we navigate every day. Since they are always present, it makes sense to fortify our abilities to accept, adapt, and respond to whatever comes our way.

Given a comparison to clinging to a sheer rock face thousands of feet off the ground, coping with our challenges at ground level seems almost harmless.

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Written by johnwhays

September 17, 2019 at 6:00 am

Trailer Appreciation

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Boy am I ever glad to have a trailer for the ATV again. This weekend I put it to good use hauling logs out of the woods and cleaning up failed attempts at round bales in our fields.

The neighbors who rented our fields this summer did not have much success trying to get bales out of it. I feel for them. There never seemed to be enough consecutive dry days to finish the job. Instead, the cut hay got soaked by rain. They tried raking it out in hopes of drying the cut grass, but then it rained on the windrows.

Eventually, they enlisted a beef farmer to claim the wet hay, because cows are a lot less picky about moldy hay. He created some relatively ugly looking round bales, maybe since he was working with old, wet hay. By the time he finally tried picking up the bales and hauling them away, five of them fell apart. He just left those where they lay, creating dead spots in our fields.

I guess that is the land owner’s responsibility.

My first challenge in removing the old piles was forking the heavy, wet, moldy hay into the trailer. The second challenge was figuring out what to do with it. I generally use old hay as natural fill, but none of the many spots where we could use fill are easy to reach.

The worst spot was along our property line behind Cyndie’s perennial garden. Instead of being able to dump the load all at once, I needed to empty the trailer one pitch fork-full at a time, carrying each about 35-yards through an obstacle course of low hanging branches and a single fence wire I needed to duck under.

I only bumped my head about 3-dozen times while making repeated trips in and out.

It is super to have the trailer again, but it doesn’t fill or empty itself automatically and it can’t navigate the obstacle course behind the garden. I guess I wasn’t thinking about how much work I have to do whenever I endeavor to use the trailer.

It has me thinking I should have given more thought to that desire to replace the one Cyndie sold.

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Written by johnwhays

September 16, 2019 at 6:00 am

Shedding Season

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The hours of daylight are changing noticeably, but there are other ways the change of seasons is becoming obvious lately. When we step outside our doors there is an interesting series of sounds coming from our giant oak trees. Are they shooting at us? No, it is just the pinging and slapping of acorns strafing the land.

It’s best to wear a stiff hat if you will be spending any time beneath the oaks this time of year. Oh, and walking on the lawn under the tree outside the front door is like navigating shag carpet with a giant Lego┬« set spilled across it.

While the trees are shedding acorns, our Belgian Tervuren is shedding her fur.

It seems counter-intuitive to be shedding in the fall, but in order to grow the winter coat, dogs will lose the lighter summer coat. Delilah is one of the breeds that have a double coat, with an undercoat of short, wooly hairs beneath the top coat of long hairs, so the shedding is a bit more obvious.

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So, around here this time of year, it’s not just acorns making a mess on the lawn.

Yeah, I wish it was just the lawn where the mess occurred. Delilah spends more of her time in the house, so you can imagine what our floors are looking like lately.

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Written by johnwhays

September 15, 2019 at 6:45 am

Like This

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It’s like this every year. The forest is constantly changing, but it becomes apparent suddenly all at once. It’s not as thick as it was before. Sightlines start to open up. It becomes easier to see deeper into our woods and I discover new and interesting spectacles.

This dead tree had sloughed its bark, but a vine prevented the old skin from dropping all the way to the ground, creating an eye-catching visual.

It’s also like this when deciding to go outside on a day of varying weather conditions. Our sky was a mix of sun and clouds yesterday, resulting in dramatic swings between cheery and gloomy. When I finally rallied to head outside to get something productive accomplished, the air was suddenly wet with waves of heavy mist.

My timing was off by about ten minutes. As fast as that precipitation arrived, it departed.

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Those two views were taken at the same time, first looking east, then turning around to the west.

The swings of dreariness messed with my motivation, such that I ended up puttering the day away nipping at the edges of doing something significant, but never really making much progress to speak of.

Some days, that’s just what it’s like around here.

At least it’s a beautiful place to be when not getting all that much done.

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Written by johnwhays

September 14, 2019 at 7:41 am

Duly Moved

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Last night I watched the award-winning documentary, Free Solo about Alex Honnold’s epic climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. What a masterpiece of a film! I highly recommend it. I was duly moved by the intimate glimpse into Alex’s life, and the inclusion of the emotional challenges of those around him coping with the immensity of the monumental risk he was facing in his quest to climb that granite monolith without ropes.

Alex points out that any of us could die at any moment, whether doing something risky, or not. I tend to avoid things with a high risk of death whenever possible, but it is true that my life could end at any time. One way I interpret his thinking is to frame myself as “free soloing” all the time.

It made my walk with Delilah a little more exciting than normal after the movie.

She suffered a bit of a panic inside her overnight safe-space crate yesterday morning when a rowdy thunderstorm rumbled over top of us at oh-dark-thirty. I didn’t have much success trying to assure her we weren’t in jeopardy as I prepared to leave for work, which made it rather stressful for me to walk out the door and leave her alone until Maddie was due to show up an hour or two later.

I soothed myself by considering how she would greet me when I got home at the end of the day, as if clueless that anything out of the ordinary had happened earlier, which turned out to be true. She did.

We then made the rounds on the property, hiking the perimeter trails and surveying the results of the wild weather. There were 2.5 inches of rain in the gauge and the ground is fully saturated, but no new-fallen trees or limbs, thank goodness. That much rain, or more, is expected to fall before this weather event is done and gone.

We will carry on and survive to the best of our ability, even though I now have this new sense that I am doing it all without the benefit of any ropes.

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Written by johnwhays

September 12, 2019 at 6:00 am