Relative Something

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

Archive for the ‘Chronicle’ Category

Showing Off

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Some days it feels like nature is toying with us. Sure, fog can roll in at just the right temperatures, and overnight, ice crystals will form on tree branches. We love it! The look is festive and mesmerizing. So photogenic!

 

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You think you’re looking at the best scenery possible, but then nature lets you know you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Watch what happens when a little sunshine and blue sky is added to the scene.

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Now it feels like nature is just showing off.

What a gorgeous place it is that we live where the four seasons play out with such dramatic diversity.

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Written by johnwhays

January 3, 2021 at 11:02 am

Virtual Hugs

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Flip the calendar. It’s another year. And here I sit, isolated from all but my wife. This doesn’t feel any different than the year that ended two days ago. Our cat, Pequenita just gave out a yowl of objection from the other room and Cyndie immediately responded with an admonishment to Delilah, sight unseen.

Once again, the dog was trying to play with the cat in the manner that dogs like playing. Pequenita has not once shown the least bit of interest in playing like dogs, including this morning. I wonder if I can teach Delilah to give virtual hugs.

Stuck in continued isolation for the unknown future, I am feeling inclined toward practicing increased focus on nurturing my metaphysical energies to travel the universe so I can mingle with the essences of all those whose vibrations resonate with mine. My heart loves others and I want to send that out in a virtual hug of your energies, all over the world.

But that is not all. I also want to send that love to those whose vibrations don’t resonate with mine. Like it or not, you just might get hugged.

Like the arms of my favorite tree, the reach is up and out in every direction, branching out in too many separate forks and arms to count.

We are all connected. Our thoughts and energies infectious. I don’t know if my love and wishes for peaceful feelings hold the power to eliminate anxieties and emotional pain in others, but maybe they can give a moment of pause. Provide a window of opportunity to choose a preferred alternative.

This may sound all too sanctimoniously philanthropic, but consider the possibility that there is a fair amount of selfish interest in my intentions.

I am seeking this path as a way of helping myself evade a tendency for doom and gloom. I don’t suffer so much from anxieties, but I tend toward a despondency of disheartened hopelessness.

I strive to love others as a means of avoiding a slide into my self-centered depression.

It’s what I can do from wherever I am, whenever I need. It’s choosing to make the world a better place no matter what virus or corruption or neglect is wreaking havoc at the time. It’s allowing myself to be happy in the face of misery.

In that, I see this as a win-win situation. Loving you helps me.

<virtually hugging you right now>

May you feel peace into this new year. May dogs and cats find a way to love each other, at a comfortable distance.

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Allowing Happiness

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We did it! We have arrived at the last day of 2020, bowing respectively for the sad number of others for whom the year would become their last.

There you have it, right there in the opening lines, my perpetual dilemma. It is time to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of a new one, but how can we celebrate in the depths of this disastrous pandemic? How did the people of downtown Nashville celebrate Christmas when the morning dawned with a terrorizing suicide bombing?

It’s not easy. But I’ve come to value the challenge of allowing for happiness amid a world of sorrow. Doing so is more worthy than the alternative of not cultivating joy simply because of all the things that continue to be wrong in the world.

I weep for those who are in pain, poverty-stricken, devoid of love, homeless, country-less, hungry, lost, forsaken, oppressed, unjustly imprisoned, or ill of health. Would that there comes a time when all people are free of the worst of possible situations.

It is reality that for every grand success of accomplishment worthy of celebration throughout history, someone, somewhere, was simultaneously suffering. For far too long in my life, I couldn’t reconcile the complicated mental gymnastics of untangling the two opposite realities that coexisted.

It has taken me a lot of practice to reach a place where I feel okay about allowing myself to be happy in the midst of an unhappy world. I don’t have any concise trick to offer toward how I achieve this milestone. I would say the primary factor is probably my developing a tenacity to repeatedly remind myself I am allowed to feel happy. Our happiness doesn’t automatically devalue the sorrow of others.

Maybe there is a trick. I would say it has to do with love. There I go again about loving others. If I am cultivating love for all people, my joy is not callously disregarding others who are hurting. I can feel their pain while experiencing my happiness. We are complex organisms, able to do more than one thing at a time.

We can celebrate the end of a difficult year, feel joy for our blessings, revel in the mysterious greatness of the universe, bask in the love of family and friends, and spread love to those who aren’t feeling it.

Bring on the new year. May it provide oodles and oodles more happiness for all!

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Written by johnwhays

December 31, 2020 at 7:00 am

Winter Landscape

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It’s not as harsh as it sometimes looks. I don’t mean to be gatekeeping, but images of a winter landscape are viewed best with a reference of having walked in the pre-dawn quiet with the squeak of snow under boots being the only disruption of the brisk surroundings.

To know the difference between how below zero feels on the skin compared to a day when it gets above freezing.

To see the muted lighting first hand, in a way a camera will never equally convey.

To absorb the full expanse of the sky from one horizon to the next while feeling the icebox chill emanating from the snow cover below.

A winter landscape is so much more than a photograph is able to capture, but that never stops us from trying.

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Written by johnwhays

December 30, 2020 at 7:00 am

Isolated Festively

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Over a holiday weekend that historically would have us venturing sixty-some miles to the west three times in two days to mingle and nosh with Cyndie’s relations, the Christmas of 2020 in all its pandemic isolation reduced our travels to one time to exchange gifts at her mom’s house. Distanced, masked, and without risking a shared meal, our children met us at Marie’s house in Edina on Christmas eve day for the briefest of gift exchanges.

Little did we realize before setting out in the moments after our township road had finally been plowed around 11:00 a.m., we were in for some of the riskiest driving we’d experienced in recent memory. From local roads to the interstate highways, the surface was frozen and slippery. Almost every mile, sometimes more frequently, we spotted vehicles buried in the ditch.

Approaching a speed that would require the use of brakes in order to slow down was taking chances that threatened an unwelcome hell of post-storm autobody appointments, not to mention bumps and bruises, or worse.

Every overhead message board flashed warnings of crash delays ahead. As we waited in one backup, a full-size fire engine forced its way ahead and crossed all lanes to block the two left-most. We crawled ahead to where the sight of a big rig was perched on the cement barrier dividing east and westbound traffic, front tires high off the ground.

Later, another backup wrapped around a helpless pickup in a center lane, lacking enough traction to make any progress up the slight incline.

Cyndie’s expertly cautious driving got us there and back without incident.

Back home with presents in hand, we settled in for three days of isolation that Cyndie masterfully enhanced with wonderfully festive meals and activities, while simultaneously continuing to practice post-surgery regiments for her knee.

We ate like royalty and dined on some of her family holiday classics. Beef tenderloin with horseradish sauce, marinated carrots, out-of-this-world skin-on mashed red potatoes, and dessert of unparalleled greatness, cranberry cake with butter-caramel sauce.

We sat around the fireplace and worked on a new jigsaw puzzle from Marie that depicted chickens that looked just like ours. Cyndie poured herself into new books and I spent renewed time in my world-wide online community, catching up on reading and writing there.

A text-chain of family members helped us to stay connected, but there was no getting around the fact we were home alone together at one of the most family-gathering times of the year.

Somehow, maybe due to an urge to make it feel anything but just another day at home, Cyndie took interest in assembling the jigsaw puzzle with me, something in which she usually finds no pleasure. I chose to match her change in routine by deciding to skip building the outer border first, a step that moved me entirely out of my otherwise rigid norm.

We had a blast with the task, each finding great pleasure in the shared experience.

Quite simply, it helped to make the entire weekend feel downright festive, isolation be damned.

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Contemplative Shuffling

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It appears that even deer recognize the benefits of walking the labyrinth path. Before we entered, Cyndie took a picture of the footprints on the path.

It looked impressive to see them so perfectly following the trail but after the first turn the deer tracks veered off across the paths and disappeared into the woods. I picked up from there and plodded along on snowshoes to lay down the proper series of turns and pass-throughs to reach the center.

By the time I finished, the overcast daylight was beginning to wane and the color of the image took on a different hue.

There were multiple turns where my double-stack of stones had toppled and were frozen to the ground in the middle of the pathway, but the primary route is now fully established in the base layer of snow. May it remain visible for the duration of snowfall through the end of the season.

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Written by johnwhays

December 27, 2020 at 11:00 am

Triple Jump

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The latest dozen chickens that arrived in July continue to mature and adjust to their first winter. They are showing a strong dislike for all this white stuff on the ground.

The morning after the big storm, I opened the coop and coaxed a few birds out to brave the deep snow. One of the dark Barnevelders boldly forged her way through undisturbed powder, despite my well-tread path already open to the barn. She only made it so far before regret seemed to set in.

After a brief pause, she let out a chicken version of a power yell and suddenly leaped with flapping wings to make a most spectacular triple (quadruple?) jump in order to reach the barn, where she stopped against the wall and stayed motionless for a disturbingly long time. I worried she may have pulled a “hammie” if chickens even have hamstrings.

I was in the process of shoveling a clearing for them beside the sunniest side of the barn that the previous brood always appreciated. Eventually, I made my way to the shell-shocked pullet and gently cleared the snow around her to provide unobstructed access around the wall to the area under the overhang where food and water awaited.

Somewhat reluctantly, she took advantage of the easy travel and joined the two-year-old Wyandotte who had already wisely strode up the easy footpath and walked right past the motionless triple jumper to get to breakfast.

We keep hoping the two remaining old birds will teach the next generation the tricks but it’s been going the other direction. The old Buff Orpington has gladly joined the young ones in staying in the coop like a bunch of chicken chickens.

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Written by johnwhays

December 26, 2020 at 11:15 am

Lucky Surprise

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Well, well, well… nature didn’t have it in for me after all. That predicted snowstorm I referenced in yesterday’s post got upgraded several times, deservedly so, and smacked us hard with wicked wind gusts driving the falling snow horizontally, making it near impossible to tell whether the accumulation was actually from the clouds overhead or from flakes blowing in from South Dakota.

The deck railing doesn’t seem to collect any snow, but during last night’s final bedtime walk for Delilah, we discovered somewhere between 6 and 8 inches already on the ground, making the trek a bit of a challenge.

The silver lining surprise about it all is that we received hours and hours of significant rain prior to the snow. The rain completely cleaned the driveway!

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My big concern about the old glazed tire tracks becoming the base layer for today’s plowing didn’t come to pass. Hooray! Disaster averted.

Sort of.

Now we have the aftermath of the blizzard to contend with. There is an icy crust over everything from the mailbox to the chicken coop due to the rain that froze, and I’ve got a lot of plowing and shoveling to do.

A little over an hour after the precipitation had turned to snow, Delilah and I were traipsing along the main perimeter trail through the woods and I noticed the view ahead was much different than the view behind us.

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I took pictures of both scenes.

The frosted forest sure is beautiful to look at.

I sure am glad we had the lucky surprise of a clean start before the rain turned to snow.

I sure wish the shoveling was already done this morning.

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Written by johnwhays

December 24, 2020 at 7:00 am

Faulty Plan

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It was only two days ago that I wrote about the low angle of our December sunlight not providing much melting power. With that knowledge well in hand, what made me think leaving a thin coating of snow on the driveway last weekend was a good idea? Wishful thinking, I guess.

The accumulation had only amounted to a whopping quarter to maybe half-inch of snow across our pavement. It didn’t seem near enough worthy of plowing. Additionally, the days following were predicted to have some sunshine with high temperatures well above the freezing point.

I visualized the tire tracks would move the snow aside and the melty days would then bring out the pavement simply by letting nature take its course. Nature had a different plan.

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Yesterday was the warmer of the two days but all that accomplished was enough melting to turn the snow to ice where the tire tracks packed it down and we’ve run out of warm days. Not only will the temperature drop, today it is expected we will receive between 4 to 8 inches of snow that will cover the icy mess on the driveway.

That’s pretty much a worst outcome in my mind. It will be harder to clear the new snow and the frozen tire tracks will likely linger long into the snow season. The opposite of what I wanted.

🎶 Slip sliding away…

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Written by johnwhays

December 23, 2020 at 7:00 am

Customer Serviced

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It was my mistake. The website was precise in clarifying the quantity was “1 bracket” and I knew I needed two, so I ordered two. When my package arrived, the box revealed it was “One kit.”

I didn’t need to order two.

These weren’t cheap. Despite my preference to simply ignore the whole dilemma and have it fade away as if it never happened, I figured my time was easily worth recouping the otherwise wasted money.

There was no information about returns included in the package and the emailed receipt was incredibly oversimplified and devoid of any helpful detail. I pulled up the site online. While I was hunting for links hinting about support or customer service, an invitation to chat materialized in the lower right-hand corner of the window.

I always prefer chat sessions over waiting in the queue after navigating a phone maze to speak to a customer representative. The chat window launched with a well-labeled “automated response” offering me an opportunity to see the latest sale promotions.

Discounting that opening gambit, I typed out my initial query asking how to proceed with a return.

A notice appeared indicating there was one person in queue. No problem for me. The chat window was off to the side and I was simultaneously multitasking on actual work.

After a reasonable wait, a second “automated response” popped up asking for my email which would allow them to contact me at the next opportunity. I willingly complied.

Minutes passed. Eventually, many minutes passed. I watched my email and that notice indicating “one person in queue” for any hint of activity.

In hope of priming the pump again, I typed into the chat window asking if communication would move exclusively to email.

Do you know that scene in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” where principal Ed Rooney is at the front door and finally hears the taped dialogue start over again? That was my experience when it was confirmed for me that I was talking to a bot.

The chat window responded to my latest question with an opportunity to see the latest sale promotions.

After a pause, a second “automated response” popped up asking for my email which would allow them to contact me at the next opportunity.

Later in the evening, I spotted a new message in my email from the company. Subject line: “Hot Exclusive Prices That Won’t Last Till 2021!”

I’m pretty sure they have me right where they want me, and it has nothing to do with providing information on returns.

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Written by johnwhays

December 22, 2020 at 7:00 am