Relative Something

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

Archive for the ‘Chronicle’ Category

He’s Free

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In Loving Memory

Fred R. Friswold

21 Jan 1937 — 24 Jun 2020

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Written by johnwhays

June 25, 2020 at 6:00 am

Return Appearance

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It is challenging to chronicle the uncertain timing of the otherwise inevitable end of the life of a family member. In-person, a question often lingers over whether the latest departure salutation might actually be the last goodbye. Cyndie and her brothers have been rotating days of tending to their father in his hospice-care phase of life for several months. The task is now being transferred to professionals at a nearby hospice facility, unfortunately, under the current constraints of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

It appears we have reached timing now measured in a matter of days, possibly even hours.

A hospice facility is a precious place. I had a great experience at a home where my mother spent her final days and our family was able to gather around her. It breaks my heart that we will be unable to do that for Cyndie’s dad. Visitation is very limited to protect everyone from the coronavirus.

I scanned some of my past “Words on Images” posts to see if something might grab me in this moment and chose “Appearance” from just about a year ago.

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Sending F.R.F. to a higher plane with beams of love and peacefulness…

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Written by johnwhays

June 24, 2020 at 6:00 am

Weathering Nicely

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Now that it’s officially summer, a few days ago I got around to removing the firewood rack from our deck that had been in place all winter. Doing so uncovered deck boards that have been protected from direct sunlight and still show the original coloring of the treated wood.

I am much happier with the weathered look of the exposed boards.

We’ve yet to decide what we will do about finishing the wood. I’m hoping to tap the advice of the professional crew we have contracted to seal the log walls of our house. It would be great if they would actually show up.

It’s a company that we’ve used once before, shortly after we moved here. There was an end piece of a log that was rotting and they replaced it and went around the whole house to caulk any spaces that needed it.

Last year they agreed to do the job of resealing the logs of the entire house but were iffy about whether they could fit it in before days got too cold. When it became obvious they wouldn’t make it before winter, they promised we would be early on the spring schedule this year.

When spring (and a certain pandemic) arrived, we contacted them to confirm they were still able to work. Yes, they said, work would begin as soon as days got warm enough.

When warm days arrived and we hadn’t heard from them, we checked again. Yes, we were next in line after their current job. He teased it might be the next week or the week after, depending on the weather.

A week later, granted after some inclement weather, I decided to start removing all the decorative trim from the outside walls in an almost passive-aggressive attempt to will them to suddenly show up.

We will give them one more week before checking anew to find out how many additional weeks remain before they start on our house, seeing as they were going to do it right away in the spring and we were only second in line on their schedule at the start.

At this rate, by the time they get here the logs of the house will be so faded they will match the weathered boards of the deck.

Maybe we should aim for the antique gray color of dried-out neglected wood for our house.

I do like a weathered look.

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p.s. Happy Birthday, Elysa! (you are weathering nicely, too!) [Oh, Dad…]

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Written by johnwhays

June 22, 2020 at 6:00 am

Officially Summer

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We have reached the longest day of 2020. It’s the latest hour when we tuck the chickens to bed in the coop for the night. Our fraction of a flock who have survived free-ranging among the wildlife that roams our countryside look a little lonesome snuggled up on one end of the roost.

Nonetheless, they seem happy as ever with their lot in life and explore a broad swath around the barn and their coop, heroically controlling the fly and tick population. Their egg production is enough to keep Cyndie’s and my demand covered. We just have less home-laid eggs to share with others.

Cyndie’s garden(s) are growing by leaps and bounds. With her away for the weekend, I fear the leafy things may be a chaos of excess by the time she returns tonight.

Summer would normally mean I am on a bike trip or we were going up to the lake a lot, but this year is anything but normal. At the same time, life at home is about as normal as can be. The weather has been on an amazingly even keel, perfectly balanced between hot and cool days with a mix of sunny, breezy, reasonable thunderstorms, gentle soaking rain, and calm dry days.

At the solstice, we are in the middle of this summer-ness. We can enjoy more of this for a few weeks and then begin the slow slide to earlier minutes when the hens return to the coop.

I’m willing myself to soak this time up in the fullest sense possible, in hopes of storing the memories as complete as possible for reference during the opposite time period six months from now. For those days when we go close the chicken door to the coop around 4:00 p.m.

Those days when they don’t bother laying any eggs.

Here’s to all these hours of summer sunlight!

Happy Father’s Day all you dads and children of dads! And moms who put up with the dads.

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Written by johnwhays

June 21, 2020 at 9:35 am

Coping Skills

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It’s getting hard to miss the memes questioning what the deal is with 2020 so far. There is one showing the frame for a couple of swings installed next to a brick wall. Yeah, it kinda feels like that. I guess with a global pandemic for a backdrop, any other situation which arises can feel like a slap in the face. The clear video of a white police officer slowly and arrogantly suffocating a black man was a serious gut punch with reverberations riling up centuries of prejudicial inequalities.

It’s getting hard to cope.

I am not surprised to have read somewhere of a trend toward moving from inner cities to the suburbs. I am truly grateful and totally aware of the precious benefit we enjoy in having acres of green space where we can stroll to breathe in the calming balm of all that nature offers.

There was a hint of a break in the cloud cover yesterday that teased of blue sky on the way but in classic 2020 fashion, it disappointed. The sunlight never broke through a gauze of dirty white that mysteriously found a way to hang around.

Our endurance is being tested. I see it as a challenge to how we frame our perceptions. There is no beginning or end when it comes to the span of time. There won’t be a single day which can be measured as the end of the coronavirus pandemic, just as there isn’t an identifiable moment when it began. Same thing for racial prejudice.

We are on a continuum. Life is a big, long ride. Figure out a way to cope for the long haul.

I suggest we mind our manners, take care of ourselves first before helping others, but by all means, seek to help others. Maybe release our urge to so vehemently control outcomes and discover a deeper awareness of what unconscious fears are actually coloring our perceptions.

Put a little extra effort into loving ourselves and in turn, nurturing greater love for others and the world we all share.

What a lovely way to cope with the challenges of life: coping by loving.

Group hug! [after the pandemic, I mean.]

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Written by johnwhays

June 20, 2020 at 7:32 am

Coop Sprucing

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Yesterday, I finally got around to attaching the summer window awnings on the coop. During the winter we install plexiglass panels over the hardware mesh openings, but in the summer it’s wide open to the weather. For a little protection from wind-blown rain, I add some window-well covers.

Last year, one of the plastic covers was bashed full of holes by a hail storm. Luckily, I had a spare.

While I was tending to the coop, I also added some cross-beams to the chicken ramp because Cyndie felt the chickens needed better footing going up and down.

The Buff Orpington that had been inside laying an egg when I first showed up to work, came out to test the ramp after all the drilling and hammering stopped.

Initially, she seemed hesitant about even coming all the way out the door, but eventually scampered down the ramp without delay. I think she likes it.

After Cyndie came in from tucking the hens in and shutting the chicken door later in the evening, I asked her if she noticed the ramp improvements.

“Nope.”

“Well, did you see the window covers?”

“Nope.”

She had been at her parent’s house while I was sprucing up the coop and I hadn’t mentioned anything about it after she got home.

I guess this demonstrates the changes weren’t overly ostentatious, since she didn’t even notice a thing.

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Written by johnwhays

June 19, 2020 at 6:00 am

Teeth Marks

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Who’s been chewing on our bin? We keep chicken food in a metal garbage can, but Cyndie likes to provide additional scratch grains and dried mealworms that are stored in the plastic bin shown above.

Last weekend we noticed some teeth marks along the edge of the lid. Yesterday afternoon I discovered the tenacious chewer has gotten to the second level.

I suspect it might either be the return of a certain woodchuck that Cyndie and Delilah chased out of the hay shed a couple of days ago or the frequently sighted raccoons, based on the burrowed access hole into the barn that has been dug out several times. I’ve filled it back in twice already, but this time, after I filled and packed the hole, I peed on it for good measure. I want this varmint to know who he/she is messin’ with.

If it is dug out again by this morning, I’m setting the trap.

I don’t know what I’ll do if I trap whoever it is, but will cross that bridge if/when I come to it.

Pests can be such pests.

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Written by johnwhays

June 18, 2020 at 6:00 am

Just Clinging

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We have arrived at the week with the earliest sunrise in our location and the weather is at its most wonderful summer-est. Our doors and windows are open and the ceiling fans are turning, yet the warmth hovers around the edge of too much. Tank tops and loose shorts, bare feet and a tall glass of ice water put things right.

The cut hay in our fields was raked and round-baled on the same afternoon yesterday. If you look close, Cyndie captured a lone deer crossing the image view as the field became draped in the shadow that was replacing the disappearing sunlight.

For as much as we are forbidden to wrap our arms around our fellow friends and family, we are striving to wrap the summer up in a grandiose hug of epic proportions. Despite the chaos of a political circus, a global pandemic continuing its invisible spread, and citizens bellowing for justice against centuries of systemic racism against indigenous peoples, immigrants, and the entire spectrum of non-white human beings, I am just clinging to the precious moment of a few glorious quintessential summer days for their faint distraction of nature at its finest.

We are doing so without a rambunctious picnic of music and food and a hundred of our favorite people. I am doing so without my annual week of biking and camping somewhere around Minnesota with hundreds of friends and brilliant like-minded adventurers. We are doing so without concerts enjoyed among thousands of similar music-loving fans or sports competitions with hoards of supporters cheering on the efforts of athletes at every level of skill.

There will be no county fairs and ultimately, no Minnesota State Fair. Graduations have already been morphed into sometimes blessedly shorter shadows of the usual pomp and circumstance, and weddings and funerals constrained to unrecognizable whispers of the emotional extravagance they deserve.

Navigating the days that turn to weeks and then months of the COVID-19 pandemic is dragging us all into a marathon of paying heed to the best-practice precautions of constraining the spread to manageable levels despite our preference that it just be a short duration fast-walk competition among friends.

My dentist’s office called and left a message that they are now accepting cleaning and checkup appointments scheduled for the fall. My rather feeble home plaque-scraping exercise since my appointment in March was canceled is now going to need to suffice until autumn. Thank goodness I won’t need to waste a beautiful summer afternoon splayed back in the reclined chair getting my teeth cleaned and inspected.

The best medicine I have right now for the pandemonium of current events is the natural summer surroundings of our little paradise. I love it. We love it.

It helps fuel our ability to nurture and grow that love for beaming out into the great big world.

Here is Wintervale LOVE to all who are willing and able to receive it… <muwah>

Cling to that.

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Written by johnwhays

June 17, 2020 at 6:00 am

Music Memory

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As a latter-baby-boom fan of record albums, I have a number of milestone music memories from my coming-of-age years moving between middle school to high school in the 1970s. Admittedly, having four older siblings as in-home influencers contributed greatly to my exposure to music that was older than my years. The burgeoning rock scene of the Woodstock era was a little beyond my 10-year-old self, but the allure of the music was well-established by the time I reached my mid-teens.

Cyndie and I were recently gifted with access to Apple Music by our kids. The welcome message from Apple points out my song collection is now 60-million strong. This is a gift the kids will have a very difficult time surpassing in the future. Maybe a fiber-optic line of unlimited data access to our home in the rural countryside could top this, but that’s pretty far beyond the ability of individuals to achieve.

As it is, we are able to sip new downloads through a tiny straw on our current data plan.

However, my connection at work offers an alternate avenue for adding songs to the library on my phone. Yesterday, I downloaded the America album, “Holiday.” That record was released on my 15th birthday at a time when my interest in their acoustic guitar sounds and vocal harmonies was very strong.

It was to be my time. New music that was current to my adolescence. However, reality didn’t quite match my expectations. The band was evolving and I was disappointed.

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I liked the way they looked on their first album. I am embarrassingly influenced by album cover art. (Duly noting the incredible insensitivity of the somber indigenous tribesmen behind the gleeful white trio under the dual-meaning “America.”) The old-timey photo on “Holiday” didn’t appeal to me one bit.

The new album had less strumming acoustic guitars and more theatrical clarinet.

I tried to like “Holiday.” There were a couple of songs that wowed me, but the majority didn’t, despite listening to it over and over again. When I moved from LPs to CDs, “Holiday” didn’t get replaced. I haven’t heard most of these songs in 40-some years. Now, with the convenience of digital access, I get to revisit my youth.

Listening to the album again triggered a lot of memories. Riding in the back of a station wagon packed with teens and someone turning up the radio for the song, “Tin Man” and shooshing everyone because “John’s song” was on.

But, I wanted “Horse with No Name” and “Riverside” not “Sister Golden Hair” and “Muskrat Love.”

Luckily, at the time, I also had “461 Ocean Boulevard,” the return of Eric Clapton to recording after recovering from a 3-year addiction to heroin.

I’m looking forward to mining more lost gems and their associated memories of my youth among the other 60-million songs that hopefully include a wide variety from the 70s.

Thank you, Elysa and Julian! This was a brilliant choice for a gift for us both.

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Written by johnwhays

June 16, 2020 at 6:00 am

Focus Shift

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I started the day yesterday with our Stihl power trimmer working primarily along the hay-field fence line out by the road. With the field freshly cut, the strip of tall grass along the fence stood out in obvious need of attention. It looks so nice when that is cleaned up.

After the first tank of gas was used up, I walked back to the shop to stretch my legs out and refill the tank. While there, I took a little break to answer nature’s call at the base of a pine tree and noticed a vine growing up from deep inside the tangle of branches. Thinking I should tend to the situation in the moment instead of waiting until it was out of sight/out of mind, I fetched a saw from the shop and braved the thick web of poking limbs, slithering into the shadow world beneath the tree.

From that vantage point, I discovered there were many more than just the one obvious vine growing into the heights. As I worked my way around the circumference of that tree, I came to another right beside it with even more unwelcome intruders climbing up its branches.

After the second tree, I moved on to a third, and a fourth, soon recognizing that this side project could consume the rest of my day if I let it.

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The remaining trees can wait. I went back to trimming the tall grass along the edges of the hay-field.

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Written by johnwhays

June 15, 2020 at 6:00 am