Relative Something

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

Downtown Again

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Once again, we made the easy dash from our beautiful countryside into the metropolitan energy buzzing just 45-minutes away. Last night, it was the precious Palace Theatre in downtown St. Paul for the Iron & Wine concert.

It was another fabulously successful adventure for Cyndie and me. As a soaking rain settled over the land, Cyndie was able to escort the chickens into the coop early, allowing us to venture through fading daylight and blurring road spray to compete for parking with NHL’s Minnesota Wild hockey fans.

My first parking ramp option just happened to be closed for construction, so it was a single trip around the block, barely squeaking through an intersection on the brink of gridlock, to reach an easy and convenient second choice.

We arrived at the theatre early and took some time to explore the layout, as this was our first event at the renovated historic venue. It is a wonderful mashup of new and old. The almost scary looking ceiling made an early impression, but every other sense was extremely positive for a place to enjoy music performance.

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I had chosen to buy reserved seats in the balcony over the main floor standing general admission. Even though I purchased the tickets as early as possible, the best available was half-way up from the front of the balcony. Cyndie captured a shot while I was checking out the view from the first row. Really nice seats, if you can get them.

We aren’t overly familiar with the full career of Sam Beam as Iron & Wine, but being repeatedly struck by the sound every time I hear a cut played on the radio, I wanted to see where it comes from in person. We weren’t disappointed.

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The giant hanging cotton balls were a little funky, but they captured the colored lights nicely. The dancing light on the back curtain was perfect, every song.

Sam Beam was wonderfully social and totally obliterates any concept of a fourth wall separating the performer from the audience. At one point, he graciously interacted with a fan who shouted a knock-knock joke.

Almost every time, just as the interactive banter approached a point of being too much, the imaginary veil would fall and a song would swiftly transport the ambiance to a far away place of Sam’s creation. He does well with plying a craft of sparse quiet guitar work with delicate instrumentation from his supporting musicians, bolstered by moments of full momentum and volume.

Even though the show started around the time we often head for bed, we hung around for the full show, including the perfect encore song, for which the female members of the band returned wearing beards that looked mysteriously similar to Sam’s.

What?

A wonderful time was had by all. We chalk it up as one more good experience heading downtown from the countryside, again.

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Written by johnwhays

October 15, 2017 at 10:37 am

New Backdrop

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We are creating a new back drop for Cyndie’s wildflower perennial garden near the spot where soil from the neighbor’s cornfield has been pouring over our property line. This will obscure the sight of our less attractive silt fence and hay bale barrier installed to stem the flow of hyper-fertilized sandy topsoil that comes our way with every heavy rainfall event.

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We started collecting a wide variety of branches for the project last year, not exactly sure what the method would be, nor what the ideal branch would look like. Though the added character of misshapen gnarly pieces seemed like a good thing, I quickly discovered that the perfectionist in me was more strongly attracted to a precise diameter of very straight young trees.

I also figured out in rather short order, we are going to need to collect a lot more raw material to complete the project.

Off to a fair start, though, and have, at the very least, proved the concept. The vision I had involved a more dense positioning of branches than I am achieving, but given the material I am working with, the result is more open. In the end, I think this will work out well enough.

It’s certainly easier to accomplish.

For all the places around our land where we fight to squelch the growth of vines, I’m thinking we should try to encourage some to climb this. That would fill in the gaps nicely.

My favorite part of yesterday’s effort was actually the successful digging out and moving of a rock that was once again on the outer limits of my ability. With Cyndie’s assistance, we used a pry bar to tip it up and force dirt back underneath.

Alternating back and forth to opposite sides, this raises the rock up to the surface without leaving a hole in the ground. Once at the surface, using the pry bar, we can get it to roll into a desired new position. The rock is visible on the right, in front of the new fence, in the photos above.

I expect there will end up being an additional rock balanced on that one sometime in the future.

It’s a challenge to tip rocks up when they weigh more than me. There are limits to how much leverage advantage I can achieve. There was another rock uphill from this one that was over twice the size. I would have loved to raise that one to the surface, but I wasn’t strong enough to tip it more than a fraction.

Cyndie couldn’t push enough soil beneath it to make any appreciable progress. Given that our primary goal was to build the fence, we left the boulder for a future challenge, should we ever be so inclined.

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Written by johnwhays

October 14, 2017 at 9:19 am

From Nothing

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When I spend my days away from the ranch, not taking pictures, not collecting experiences, the relative somethings get a little thin. Four days a week my hours are tied up with commuting and day-jobbing. By Friday, I have to work a little harder to fill this space with words and pictures. I will often be heard muttering, “I’ve got nothing.”

Thursday nights are what Cyndie and I refer to as my “Friday.”

Last night we celebrated with my bringing home Cyndie’s favorite half-baked deep-dish pizza for dinner. I walked in the door, placed it in the refrigerator and collapsed on our bed, falling into a deep sleep with Pequenita curled up on my legs.

It’s a manifestation of accumulated exhaustion. What a luxury.

One of the things that leaves me feeling like I’ve got nothing to write about, is how incomparable my healthy first-world exhaustion is to the suffering I witness others around me going through. How dare I frame my suffering as particularly arduous, when other’s lives are hovering on the brink, when disasters abound, when life challenges won’t be temporary.

I feel lost within my familiar surroundings, an unsettling perception. It’s an instance when I resort to waiting. That feeling doesn’t last. If I don’t fight against what isn’t really there, balance returns soon enough.

One of the reasons I strive to compose something every day is as a push on my ‘swing’ of daily maintaining my mental health. It’s an interesting conundrum for me when the healthy act of writing meets up with the well-known challenges of writer’s block.

One of my “go to” solutions is to simply post a picture. Sometimes, by the end of the week, I don’t even have that.

Before the point in my life when I identified that I was dealing with depression, a moment like this, with no idea what to write about and feeling lost, would have simply stoked a dangerous fire.

I’m thrilled to be able to report that my perspective and awareness are so completely different after treatment that times like this tend to end up being more of an inspiration than an ominous threat.

It’s so simple, it gets misconstrued as not even possible. It does involve some bigger picture observation, but after that, in each moment, it is simply a matter of thinking differently. The secret is in recognizing what is going on in the moment, and then directing my thoughts in an appropriately healthy way.

Through talk therapy, I learned how to recognize my dysfunctional thinking and perceptions. With practice, I have honed skills in changing my thoughts, which alters my chemistry. Happily, no pun intended, it generates a positive feedback loop that strengthens with each cycle.

One last part of my simple secret to overcoming my depression: trusting it can work.

My healthcare providers were convinced they could help me, and I trusted them.

It worked.

Look at that. When I started writing this post, I thought I had nothing for today.

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Pain Transfered

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Don’t let this image fool you. Delilah is almost completely back to her old self.

Tuesday, when I got home from work, Delilah was so full of energy that she wouldn’t leave Cyndie alone. After they came in from a walk, Delilah grabbed one of her squeaky toys and begged Cyndie to chase her around the house.

When Cyndie laid down on the bed for a moment, Delilah started repeatedly hopping straight into the air for more attention.

If she has any leftover pain, it wasn’t readily apparent.

Last night I gave her a fraction of a walk, keeping the leash short so she would walk beside me, at my pace. She strained to speed me up the whole way.

Every indication is that she is feeling just fine again.

On the other hand, or I could say, hoof… Cayenne seems to have picked up where Delilah’s pain left off. That mare has suddenly become almost incapacitated over an apparent flare-up of laminitis in her front feet again, particularly the side that hadn’t previously been giving her as much trouble.

It is heartbreaking to watch her struggle to move. I immediately isolated her from having access to grazing in the pastures, closing her into the smaller paddock. It seems like too little, too late, to completely turn the tide for this condition which is proving to be rather chronic for her.

Cyndie said Cayenne didn’t show signs of a problem earlier in the day, so maybe by cutting off her grass-grazing right away, this flare-up can be calmed quickly. I fear it is all part of a trend for Cayenne that may be out of our control to alleviate.

We’ve spent the summer watching George shape her hooves in increments to improve the orientation and provide her some relief, but it is a long, slow process because you can’t trim too much at a time. Now, just when we were hoping to have her beyond this problem, she is showing a turn for the worse.

We’re very happy to have Delilah free of pain, but seeing an extreme discomfort move from one of our animals to another puts a damper on our urge to celebrate our dog’s improvement.

When our animals hurt, it tends to inflict a fair amount of sympathetic pain in us, too.

Ouch.

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Written by johnwhays

October 12, 2017 at 6:00 am

Maple Floor

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All that fall color in the trees eventually makes its way to the ground. This time of year we get a beautiful new carpet on our forest floor.

A new maple floor. I like how well it hides stains. Unfortunately though, sometimes it gets slippery when it’s wet.

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Written by johnwhays

October 11, 2017 at 6:00 am

Choose

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Words on Images

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Written by johnwhays

October 10, 2017 at 6:00 am

Uninvited Company

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The weather was spectacular yesterday for walking our woods on the second Sunday of October. Unfortunately, it brought out more than just our invited guests.

I don’t know where they’ve been hiding until now, or whether they just coincidentally arrived from somewhere else on a day when the warm sunshine inspired hoards to congregate on warm surfaces, but the Asian Lady Beetle infestation has begun with a vengeance.

We’ve suffered their invasions in the past, so it’s not a total shock to see them again. Last year their numbers were low, and it was relatively easy to disregard them.

I don’t ever remember such a stark transition in a day, going from seeing none to suddenly having them arrive en masse.

In fact, I didn’t see any of them in the morning, but by afternoon they were everywhere and became an instant nuisance.

Cyndie was using the grill on our deck to cook dinner and the invaders were all over the outer screen door when she opened the inside door. I batted the screen to shoo them off and was surprised to find they were all on the inside of the screen.

As darkness fell and lights came on in the house, the bothersome bugs were already flying around lightbulbs and occasionally landing on us.

The small shop-vac was getting a good workout last night. Something tells me it is going to become a permanent fixture in our living space this winter.

I will also be maintaining my vigilant use of a cover on my ice-water cup, but with a renewed sense of priority for a while.

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Written by johnwhays

October 9, 2017 at 6:00 am