Relative Something

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

RS Interview 4

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Picking up where yesterday’s post left off, the Relative Something interview with *The* John W. Hays continues on the topic of love and more…

RS: Love seems like a worthy topic!

JWH: Love is my religion. It is one common theme woven through all world religious beliefs. Love is universal. When situations require a decision, using love as a compass to guide that decision will make the world a better place. No dogma required. Love doesn’t necessarily provide certainty, it accepts mystery. Love is all we need.

RS: Is this a change for you, the focus on love?

JWH: Well, I suppose there has been a transition over the years. I think the primary significance for me was learning to love myself enough to overcome negative self-talk. A secondary shift came about as I grew weary of the abuses and hypocrisies that were being exposed in organized religions. The way political parties wield religious beliefs like weapons. The fact that religious faiths would go to war against other human beings who worship differently.
Humans defining a deity seems like the ultimate hubris to me. And a horrible construct the powerful use to control others and gain wealth. Especially horrible because it is usually masqueraded under a veil of love. Love deserves better. The best response I see to that is to keep the love and leave the rest behind.
I’ve learned to love myself in a more healthy way and use love beyond the confines of organized religion to navigate my interactions with others in the world.

RS: What is something people wouldn’t know about you from reading what you write?

JWH: Not much. I’m embarrassingly transparent. Basically, they won’t know what I don’t write. For some reason, I haven’t been writing about the fact that it’s been so long since I last played guitar that I can’t remember when the last time was. And I probably haven’t written about it because I don’t really know why I stopped. I wonder if it has anything to do with the way I am aging, mentally, and physically, but the influences are too intangible to explain it with one simple pat reason.
Thinking about it, which is what happens when I try to write on the subject –and not writing about it has meant I could avoid thinking about it– I suspect it is related to the amount of time I have been commuting to the day-job four days a week. Exhaustion saps my creative energy. It also leaves less oomph to want to pedal my bikes up hills and into winds. I did not ride a bike at all this summer. When the pandemic canceled the annual June week of biking and camping, I lost that incentive to do conditioning rides. My attention defaulted to property maintenance on our acres. There is always more that can be done than there are hours and days.
The good news is that I have been incredibly happy to do that. I question myself about the health risks of not making music or riding my bikes, but maybe my version of aging is one of working on our property and then nestling inside our gorgeous home to type out my thoughts on a computer.
I have an inkling that a day in the not-so-distant future when that thing called retirement happens, my recreational pursuits could return with a vengeance. I think that would be absolutely lovely.

RS: Amen to that.

Thank you, JWH for agreeing to be the first interviewee in what Relative Something hopes will become an ongoing occasional feature in the years ahead. *This* John W. Hays’ take on things and experiences involves and is influenced by innumerable others. This will provide an opportunity to expand the narrative. Because, why not?

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Written by johnwhays

October 18, 2020 at 8:46 am

RS Interview 3

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Yes, there was more. The Relative Something interview with *The* John W. Hays meandered into the subjects of climate change and mental health. Are they related?…

RS: That’s enough of the namby-pamby rambling about pandemics and pets.

JWH: Uh-oh.

RS: What is it about your fascination with the weather every day?

JWH: You tell me?
I know, I know, I talk about the weather a lot. Doesn’t everybody? I mean, it SNOWED here yesterday! How can you avoid talking about that?

RS: Reading what you write, one might get the sense you are not a climate change denier.

JWH: [sarcastically] Well, it still gets really cold here and snows, so global warming might just be a hoax.
Some things in this world change gradually. I have been witnessing the constant increasing trend of fossil-fuel-emission-induced impact for my entire life. There were predictions made 30 years ago about the calamities the world is experiencing. Melting polar regions, rising seas, high-temperature records increasing, droughts, fires, floods, increasing intensity of storms. Honestly, simply seeing a graphic display of the atmospheric carbon dioxide levels during the industrial age compared to hundreds of thousands of years before should be enough for anyone to comprehend the reality. Human influence is changing the planet earth. What is the motivation to claim otherwise? At the highest levels of governance, corporations, and wealthy investors, I propose the motivation is financial. I can’t get my head around how anyone would be willing to risk our space ship for their greed to have more for themselves.

RS: Almost sounds like a mental health problem.

JWH: You brought it up. Dysfunctions of mental health could probably be viewed as the root cause of the majority of world problems. Wait… is stupidity classified as a mental illness? Sorry. Although, for me, education was a huge part of my success in dealing with my depression. My years of dysfunctional thinking were turned around in months after learning what was going on in my mind. Obviously, mental health issues are complex. In terms of addictions, we can educate someone about the harmful effects of smoking, but how many times has that knowledge been useless in getting someone to quit? Same challenge for every other mental affliction, I suppose. There are factors that go much deeper than just knowing. Maybe, more than simply having knowledge, there is an aspect of enlightenment involved.
Our thinking is intertwined with our physical chemistry. Our bodies are manufacturing and distributing mood-altering drugs. Our physical bodies are influenced by invisible forces around us. Moods are contagious. A well-educated person can be intelligent about a lot of subjects, yet be oblivious to how their anger is triggering chemicals in their body and how their angst is triggering people around them. That gap in perception can be narrowed by becoming more enlightened. More self-aware.
Increased self-awareness helps to open up the capacity to become more globally aware. An enlightened view would encompass equal cognizance of both self and others.
I don’t know if it’s obvious where I am going with this, but it has to do with love.

RS: Love seems like a worthy topic!

to be continued…

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Written by johnwhays

October 17, 2020 at 10:26 am

RS Interview 2

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The Relative Something interview with *The* John W. Hays ventured onto the subject of animals…

RS: Have you appreciated living out in the country during the virus outbreak?

JWH: Immensely!

RS: Why wouldn’t you!

JWH: This month marks 8-years that we’ve been here. The time passes in a blink, yet feels like ancient history when we dredge up memories of our first days back in 2012. We recently looked through pictures of what it was like when we first arrived before we made changes to the landscape and had the paddock fencing installed. The differences seem rather dramatic. We’d totally forgotten how it looked back then.

RS: You prepared the place for horses and now there are none.

JWH: You noticed. We have yet to finish reconciling that. We’ve teased with the idea of hosting rescues during the summer months but so far it’s been just talk. We remain hopeful that it still could happen in the future. I keep imagining the time will come. This place is made for horses. Nothing can replace the precious years we had with our herd of four.

RS: Your place is also made for chickens.

JWH: Well, yeah, them too.

RS: How’s the flock merge progressing?

JWH: Pretty good, I think. We may take the step of removing the barrier dividing the coop this weekend. Cyndie has been letting the pullets and Rocky roam free all day long to deal with the three hens whenever they show up to establish their dominance. As I have pulled in the driveway after work all week, I have spotted the white feathers of the Light Bintrahmas from a distance, moving farther from the coop each day. The rest of them blend in too well with the background to be visible from far away.
Cyndie reported the trespassing pale orange cat was again lingering menacingly close the other day. We are contemplating setting a trap to catch the prowler and turn him or her in to our neighbors, in case any of them want to claim responsibility. Not sure what we’d do if nobody recognizes the troublemaker.

RS: Have you seen any evidence of other predators snooping around?

JWH: Not during daylight. The motion light outside the bedroom comes on a lot at night, so we know the raccoons and deer are wandering around, but our chickens are locked up tight in the safety of the coop at that point. Every day we make it without the free-ranging flock being attacked becomes a little victory. We know the fox, possums, and coyotes are out there. Cyndie also heard the noticeable sound of a hawk the other morning. She left them under the netting with their breakfast for a little longer than usual that day.

RS: Where is your dog all this time?

JWH: Delilah has become accustomed to life on a leash and seems all too happy to spend the majority of her days indoors where she can harass the cat, Pequenita and get underfoot in the kitchen when Cyndie is baking. She displays an untrustworthy curiosity in the chickens and is rarely given an opportunity to be near them. Delilah tends to redirect her Belgian Tervuren Shepherd energy into trying to claw her way through glass windows to get after the taunting squirrels out in the yard acting as if they own the place.
She does welcome any excursion outside for projects where she can pretend to be helping while we work. When the jobs don’t involve gas-powered engines or proximity to chickens, we gladly include her.
In our house, dog and cat are pretty much like rival political parties. They aren’t buyin’ what the other is selling and they tend to profess a different version of reality. We’re never sure who is more guilty of instigating when differences of opinion flare up and hissing ensues.

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Written by johnwhays

October 16, 2020 at 6:00 am

RS Interview

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Relative Something just landed a scoop interview with *the* John W. Hays delving into a variety of topics he was willing to discuss with us. Out of respect for his personal privacy, we are leaving out the questions he declined to answer. Here are some selected excerpts where we talked about the pandemic…

RS: How are you holding up under the stresses brought on by the coronavirus pandemic?

JWH: Hanging on by a thread? I say that as a question because, even though I am coping rather well, it feels a bit shaky much of the time. I am acutely aware of a diminished buffer between my sensible self and my flip-my-lid self as I go about my days. A total meltdown looms large on the fringes of every day. It’s just grace that has allowed me to keep from blowing a gasket over the simplest of foibles, like a napkin slipping from my lap or inadvertently catching my toe on a perfectly flat floor surface and suffering that universal “D’oh!” feeling.

RS: Have you heard of anyone in your immediate circle of friends and acquaintances who have tested positive for COVID-19 since the virus began impacting the United States?

JWH: Not at the closest level, despite several reported situations and symptoms that triggered reasons to be tested. None of those have become known positives that caused me concern about a need I should self-quarantine as a precaution. There have been some reports of second-person or third-person cases, and just recently dear friends in another part of the world who have the virus, so it doesn’t feel very far away from me. I still take my temperature every morning and log how I’m feeling on the COVID Near You site. So far, so lucky, is the way I interpret my days of being spared.

John & Mike socially distanced in the great outdoors, autumn forest bathing.

RS: Do you ever think about how the last seven months might have been different if there hadn’t been this global pandemic?

JWH: Maybe in a few fleeting retrospective moments, but really, that’s a luxury that serves no purpose. The harsh realities we are coping with every day leave little space in my head to go there. Equally, it has sapped much of my energy toward looking ahead to plan anything in the future. Despite my attempts to remain as positive as possible, I all too easily fall into a “what’s the point” despondency about making any plans until the virus is under control.
Luckily, I have Cyndie’s precious energies enriching my life with her willingness to make some things happen. With masks on our faces, we have achieved several socially distanced get-togethers with some key people who have helped to keep me from becoming a complete shut-in hermit on days I’m not at the day-job.

RS: Will the pandemic affect how you vote this year?

JWH: We already voted! So, no. For the previous election, Cyndie was going to be out of town, so she requested an absentee ballot. It was so flippin’ convenient that I ordered one for myself. It was a no-brainer for us to go that route again for this election, except, with the very noticeable disruptions in our Postal Service recently –including delaying the delivery of our chicks, which cost the life of one of them– Cyndie chose to drive to the home of our township clerk to hand-deliver our ballots.
I don’t know that they’ll be properly counted, but I’m satisfied that we did our part to get them there. We’ve been reciting a mantra of “Fifty-Blue-States” to envision a landslide so obvious that a certain person finally gets the message he has to accept the results. However, just last night it occurred to me that 50 blue states would be so unbelievable it would serve as a justifiable reason to question the results.
I just hope the popular vote is what determines the outcome and not an electoral college or the Supreme Court.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the Supreme Court could put an end to the pandemic? Declare the coronavirus unconstitutional!

RS: Hard to object to that.

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Written by johnwhays

October 15, 2020 at 6:00 am

Close Call

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For once, this time I was on the right side of a backup. On my way home from the day-job yesterday, my car was the last one to traverse the overpass from 394 to east-bound 94 before a big rig temporarily blocked progress. My position was coincidental but hinged on a split-second decision I made.

As east-bound 394 approaches Minneapolis from the west, the right lane becomes the exit onto 94. Since it is an ‘exit only’ single lane and involves a curving overpass, there is usually a backup of vehicles during times of heavy traffic. It is common for drivers to make their way over as early as possible to avoid the difficulty of needing to merge over later when the lane is filled, bumper to bumper.

I was in the right lane yesterday, early enough in the day that there wasn’t a backup of traffic. We were moving along pretty well when an 18-wheel tractor-trailer rig moved past me in the lane to my left. I was a little surprised by his speed (you know: anyone slower than me is an idiot and anyone faster is a maniac [ala a George Carlin routine]) and wondered if he wanted to be in that lane to take 94 west or would need to move into my lane before time ran out.

I was centered beside the big rig when the turn signal came on. In that second, I could’ve braked hard to get out of his way or sped up to get ahead of him. I chose the latter.

He tucked in behind me with little distance remaining before the exit makes that turn to the right. At about that same time, traffic ahead of us began braking to make the turn. I was splitting my attention between the rig in my rearview mirror and the slowing vehicles in front of me in order to maintain safe space between both.

Then the traffic ahead of us slowed quickly to just short of a full stop. Without time to divert my eyes to the mirror, I consciously figured the stop wouldn’t be a surprise to the trucker because the high vantage point in that cab would provide a full view of the many braking taillights.

As quickly as everyone stopped, the cars started rolling again and I joined without delay, staying as close as possible to the car in front of me to assure the truck behind me would have the best chance to avoid losing all his momentum.

When I glanced back to see how he was doing, something didn’t look right. The hood over his engine was popped open. It was tipped forward, blocking my view into the cab. The truck wasn’t moving. Nobody was moving.

I was the last car to traverse that ramp in front of a truck that was now blocking everyone behind it.

I’m guessing maybe he stomped his brakes so hard that the hood opened, but I never heard any indication of such. Hopefully, he just needed to hop out and close it so everyone could get going again.

When I got home, I checked traffic maps and didn’t see any indication of residual disruption.

As I rounded the completion of the bend in that ramp with no other cars following me, I mentally recorded this as one of the lucky days of my many workday commutes.

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Written by johnwhays

October 14, 2020 at 6:00 am

Swept

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swept from our feet
by too many things
coming at us all at once
over and over again
in a riptide of situations
spasms of inclinations
untethered infestations
of allegoric absolutes

the wind carries colors
novel varieties of spectacular shades
that just happen
after so many days
and we watch with fascination
every year
around the same time
to get that feeling
of being swept
off our feet
again

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Written by johnwhays

October 13, 2020 at 6:00 am

Surprise Visit

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It wasn’t until we were on the road yesterday, driving to Mound for a visit with Barb and Mike Wilkus, that I mentioned we would be in the vicinity of our horses. The plan was to go for a hike and then have lunch on their deck.

Mike offered to drive us all to do our hiking in nearby Carver Park. While navigating the back roads from their house to the park, we circled a roundabout that Cyndie recognized as being a short distance from where the horses now live. Since we were that close…

The herd was on the upper portion of their pasture and spotted us as we drove up. The only trick of greeting them inside the fence would be the need to manage several other horses in the group who were as curious about us, as we were eager to be with our three.

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Even though less experienced with horses, Barb and Mike met the challenge of occupying much of the attention from the others, while also taking photos for us, as we snuck in brief greetings with our old friends. Dezirea was less able to open much distance away from one possessive companion, so our time with her was even shorter than our moments with Hunter and Cayenne.

I was teary with emotion at the opportunity to share breaths again and give deep neck scratches like days gone by.

Having lunch and catching up with Barb and Mike was a wonderful treat, but my unexpected visit with our horses after such a long time since I’d last had that opportunity, …that really made my day.

It was a fresh reminder of how much I’ve missed them. Chickens don’t quite compare.

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Written by johnwhays

October 12, 2020 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Split Seconds

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Who knows what’s going to happen in any given second? In this case, my phone decided to capture an image of falling from my hands.

I like it.

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Written by johnwhays

October 11, 2020 at 8:20 am

Partial Freedom

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When the time arrived to open the fence for our young pullets and Rocky, allowing them their first taste of free-ranging, we had already changed our mind about how we would do it. Soon after, we also altered our thinking toward making the transition in shorter stages.

Originally, based on reading the experiences of others, our plan was to keep the three adults inside in the morning for longer than normal while we let out the youngsters. We actually did the opposite. For our own convenience, it just worked better to proceed normally in the morning, letting the big girls out as usual and opening the coop door so the young ones could have time inside their fenced run.

After our breakfast and walking Delilah, we could put her back in the house and give the chickens our undivided attention. We opened the fence and with very little excitement, Rocky slowly led his brood a few steps outside the fence where they immediately busied themselves pecking at the green grass blades.

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Two of the big hens were in the vicinity and took in the activity with only brief interest. Then they wandered off through the trees. The Buff Orpington was in a nest box laying an egg at the time.

After the pullets made their way to the far side of the outer edge of their fenced courtyard, Cyndie decided to show them the way back to the entrance. Once back inside their familiar stomping grounds, we decided to secure them for the day while we tended to other pursuits.

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In the afternoon, I was walking through the tall grass in the paddocks with Delilah when she suddenly scared up a stray cat that had been hiding a short distance away from the coop. Was that intruder eyeing our birds? Hmmm.

During the morning session, I was multitasking with some day-job remote communications while being physically present for the chickens.

Late in the day, we opened the fence again and gave the chickens our full attention for their second session out. There was only one confrontation in which one of the adults doled out some aggression to establish her dominance over a brazen Light Brahma that dared to stride up with a bit too much confidence.

When opportunity arose that the young ones all found their way back inside their protective fencing again, we took advantage to close them in.

We will transition them to full freedom over a period of days, increasing their autonomy a little each day.

Based on what we’ve witnessed thus far, it doesn’t appear that Rocky the Roo will be much of a protector if predators show up this soon in the process of orienting the new brood to the great outdoors. We will exercise moderate caution for however long we are able to muster the extra attention to the detail.

Ultimately, we acknowledge the risks of free-ranging birds in our environs. It’s a natural contest of the cycle of life.

Meanwhile, we are enjoying them to the fullest. Chickens are wonderfully fun to have around.

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Written by johnwhays

October 10, 2020 at 9:42 am

Main Topics

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There are two primary topics dominating life around Wintervale lately: chickens and baking. Each having nothing to do with the other.

Last night it was all baking.

Super-sized apple cider oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and strawberry hand-pies custom ordered by the berry farm.

I contributed to the best of my ability. They both tasted delicious.

This morning, the chickens will get our main attention.

I suppose the dog and cat are feeling a little left out of things. Pequenita has been relentless at seeking attention whenever I venture near the bedroom –our bed being her preferred domain. Delilah will get some extra adventure later today when I take her exploring off-trails in our woods looking for evidence related to the raucous coyote howling we endured Wednesday night/Thursday morning.

I’m hoping that pack of predators are all well-fed now and won’t have any reason to hang around our property on the very day we plan to let our chickens get their first taste of free-ranging.

It all serves as a reminder we are living the country life.

I guess the two main topics could better be labeled, baking and pets.

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Written by johnwhays

October 9, 2020 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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