Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘adventure

Leaning Over

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The heavy rock that took five people to lift into place on the boulders at the center of our labyrinth has survived the worst that winter tossed its way. It didn’t fall out and roll to the ground. However, it did lean over to a significant degree.

I think it might be a metaphor for how Cyndie and I feel after the number of challenges we have faced in the last few months, starting with the unexpected death of our lead horse, Legacy.

Just as we began to think we were coming to terms with one thing, another challenge would blow in on us. It all pretty much tipped us over to a similar degree. It occurred to us, more than once, that one way to avoid falling to earth would be by simply choosing to jump down of our own volition.

It’s funny. In a way, it took a leap of faith in the first place to get where we are today. Now we have wondered about taking a leap right back out of here, to be done with the struggles confounding our original vision.

The thing is, as crucial a part of our dream as Legacy was, I don’t want his dying to linger as the insurmountable disturbance that extinguished the flame of possibility for good. It doesn’t do proper justice to him or his name. Losing Legacy can be a powerful lesson for us to grasp and embrace.

Really, anything we might accomplish going forward, will be in honor of him and all he contributed here.

This past weekend, for the first time since he died, we witnessed the three chestnuts execute a completely unexpected “Emergency Response Drill.” It was a big deal to us. Legacy, as herd leader, used to initiate these surprise escape drills at feeding time as a way to see he could get the herd moving in a moments notice, even if it meant leaving their food.

They all run away with a full-speed urgency that implies all lives are at stake. At about ten paces away, they pull up short, turn around to assess the situation, and then walk back and finish eating.

It’s invigorating to watch, especially when you just so happen to be standing in the vicinity with a manure scoop, at risk of being inadvertently trampled by their frantic departure.

Neither Cyndie nor I spotted who initiated the drill, but simply knowing the herd is resuming their group behaviors was comforting. I don’t know if this will culminate in a clear establishment of a new leader, but I’m pleased to see they are working on some kind of arrangement.

Cyndie reported that the mares initiated another drill yesterday, while Hunter just happened to be rolling on the wet, muddy ground, which forced him to abort his plan and get back to his feet, pronto.

Yes, they are definitely working on something. Poor guy is outnumbered now, so I won’t be surprised if either Cayenne (who has always behaved like a big sister with him) or Dezirea end up filling the role as primary head of their household.

We’ve all been pushed over a little bit since the start of the year, but we haven’t hit the ground.

Knowing the horses are working things out, and having a brood of new chicks to fawn over, helps provide inspiration for us to visualize righting ourselves and doing Legacy proud.

I think we are making strides toward steadying ourselves to lean into whatever might unfold next.

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Written by johnwhays

March 27, 2018 at 6:00 am

Manipulating Neurochemistry

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How are your stress levels today? Don’t think about the answer. Feel it.

Cyndie and I have faced some questions about how we are doing lately. It hasn’t been as easy to answer as usual for us. It was a tough winter, but listing our grievances doesn’t feel good to share. It doesn’t paint the picture as accurately as we know it to be.

Our move to the country and accumulation of animals for which we need to tend has put distance between us and our friends and family. Some connections with people and activities have broken, and only a fraction of new local connections have sprouted in their place.

We have gained a brilliant wealth of new relationships with our animals, and precious though they are, it is not the same.

Yesterday we had an opportunity to drive the suburban roads again that consumed our everyday back when we lived in Eden Prairie. The dramatic contrast to our present-day environment was revealing.

Is it worth it? The struggles to cope with the never-ending challenges of weather and the unrelenting daily routine of required chores to care for our horses, chickens, dog, and cat? Some days, more than others. It’s life. It’s something we chose. (By the way, that’s a luxury –having the choice– that is not lost on us.)

Our challenges can be framed as onerous and laborious; burdens that could be lifted by giving up our animals and moving back to the conveniences and camaraderie of our life-long friends and families in the suburbs.

The difficulties of the last few months, and the years of owning and caring for our animals can also be framed as invigorating, rejuvenating, inspiring, and fulfilling. It is adventure of a very high order.

When we choose to frame the ups and downs of life in the positive, we manipulate our neurochemistry in healthy ways. That is a choice we have power to control. I spent an unfortunate number of years manipulating my biochemistry in the opposite direction by mentally framing my life in the negative.

We won’t prevent harsh realities from challenging our decisions by simply thinking positive all the time, but we will be better served to meet those challenges when we give our brains the healthiest balance of on-going positive neurochemical support possible.

Life here is challenging, but we are doing well. Really well. Thanks for asking.

It feels right.

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Different Bad

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We thought Sunday morning was bad, what with its dose of a slippery ice-glaze over every surface turning navigation from the house to the barn into a risky balance-testing feat.

Yesterday’s winter storm was very different. School districts around the region started announcing closures before bedtime on Sunday night! Since we were watching the Academy Awards show, it was impossible to miss the added drama of concern about the weather, as it constantly rolled across the bottom of the screen.

The number of school districts grew with each pass of the alphabetically sorted scroll. When the names of the biggest districts in the state showed up, it lent significant credence toward the probability I should plan to avoid trying to travel to work.

I hemmed and hawed over my options, ultimately making the decision before going to sleep. I would stay home.

After sleeping past my normal alarm time for a work day, I woke to discover I could have made the drive in if I’d gotten up like usual. I knew that was a possible result when I decided the night before to stay home, so I wasn’t too frustrated with myself at that point. The real concern was going to be the drive home.

Since I didn’t drive in, the plan was that I wouldn’t need to worry about the drive home.

Except, the real onset of the accumulating snow ended up happening late enough in the day that I could have worked a full shift, after all. I would have been home before things really began to get hazardous.

It was odd having stayed home from work all day when the view out the window looked so harmless. Postings on the local Live Weather Updates site of our public radio network kept warning that the onset was still coming, just delayed a bit from original guesses.

Their warnings ultimately proved totally justified.

Before the precipitation, the wind was gusting to startling degrees. Cyndie reported hearing a tree falling, but wasn’t sure about the location. I was a little nervous about venturing through the woods to look for it while the gusts were still raging.

The snow finally showed up for us around 3:30, and by 4:00, it was already hard to see beyond our property borders. We were suddenly isolated from the world, and being battered by unrelenting swarms of stabbing snowflake blades.

I succeeded in making it to the mailbox and back with Delilah, but she looked like she thought the expedition was a ridiculous idea, gladly retreating indoors when we made it back to the house. Cyndie was tending to the horses and chickens, and I figured she would be in shortly behind us.

Ten minutes later, I looked up from what I was doing and realized the visibility outside had dropped down to almost zero. The snow was coming so thick and wind-blown, I became concerned about how Cyndie was coping. I decided to gear up and go check. This wasn’t just bad weather, this was wicked!

Careful not to blindly pass her, in case she came up a different route than I went down, I squinted for signs of her outline. She was at the chicken coop. The hens had jumped one of the half doors into the barn and didn’t want to return to the coop. Who could blame them? She was hand carrying them back.

I helped to get the last two and we closed up the coop and then the barn doors.

Had I driven to work, I was planning to stay overnight at her parent’s house. Given how crazy, and sometimes even a bit scary it got yesterday afternoon and evening, I’m glad I stayed home.

Regardless how bad it wasn’t earlier in the day, it was worth it so that Cyndie didn’t have to face all this bad weather drama alone.

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Drifted Driveway

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My system of plowing in the middle of big snowstorms to avoid dealing with too many inches at one time doesn’t work so well when you are out-of-town during the snowfall events.

There were two storms while we were in Florida over the weekend.

Mid-morning yesterday, I received a phone call from McKenna. First, she explained that her boyfriend got his truck stuck trying to get out of the driveway. Second, she got her truck stuck trying to pull him out.

It turned out that the assessments she gave us in response to our queries over the weekend from Florida about whether the driveway needed to be plowed, or not, were based on how things looked out on the back deck, not the actual driveway.

The wind blowing across the driveway from the open field at the top of the first hill took the roughly 10-inches that fell in two separate events on Thursday and Saturday and firmly packed it into about a 36-inch deep drift. The deck on the back of the house benefitted from wind clearing a lot of the snow off and sunshine melting what was left.

It didn’t look very intimidating.

The driveway, however, looked pretty darn intimidating, but they didn’t realize that until they had both tried driving into it.

By the time I got home, they had successfully dug through the worst part of the deep snow and were able to get their trucks out. I spotted their tracks and decided to see what my Crosstrek could do.

About two-thirds of the way up the first slope, I could see that the undercarriage of their trucks had pressed on the snow significantly. I knew then I was in trouble. I’m pretty sure my car has less clearance than their trucks.

Luckily, Cyndie was there with a shovel. She had smartly parked her car on the roadside, having arrived when the trucks hadn’t been completely extricated yet. I dug out enough of the snow from beneath the car that I was able to move forward and keep going toward the house.

Being cocky, I forged ahead and tried to back the car into the garage like I usually do. I got stuck again, now spinning on glare ice beneath all the snow.

After a little more shoveling, I got the car into the garage. Then it was time to change clothes and jump on the Grizzly, to see if I would be able to plow all the heavy, wet snow.

It was a trick, and the driveway didn’t give in without a fight. The drift was too much for the ATV. Every time I made a pass, the firmly packed snow would push the Griz out and around. It looked like I was plowing an “S” curve.

I dug out a section to find where the pavement ended, which revealed how much snow was left to move. Much of that volume was moved by hand, with a scoop shovel, instead of with the plow.

While I was plowing down by the road, I paused to pick up the pieces of our mailbox, which pops apart when blasted by snow flying off the county plow. It was easily repairable.

Once the driveway was wide enough to easily fit vehicles, I was able to move on to cleaning snow off the roof near the front door, and then shoveling the heavy, wet snow again, to clear the steps and walkway.

We are definitely not in Florida anymore.

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Written by johnwhays

February 27, 2018 at 7:00 am

Gulf Coast

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Our day at the beach…

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Written by johnwhays

February 26, 2018 at 7:00 am

No Snow

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No snow here.

We hear that’s not the case back home.

Our return flight leaves tonight. We expect to be back to the Edina house late, where we will spend the night before facing our Monday responsibilities and then each driving home at separate times to witness the final weekend accumulation first hand.

I’ll remember this Gulf view while I’m plowing.

Truth be told, I’m actually looking forward to the task. You can take the fool away from the cold and snow, but you can’t change his love of returning to it.

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Written by johnwhays

February 25, 2018 at 7:53 am

Making Do

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It’s a struggle down here in Florida, coping with all this convenient weather for strolls in the sun and nights out on the town, but we are making do.

Cyndie was behind the wheel with Mike holding on for dear life. It looks like they were coming in hot and she stopped just in time, but she was actually about to back out for an excursion down to the bocce courts.

Cyndie’s mom added a little adventure to that outing by taking a tumble, and somehow, which even she can’t explain, cut her leg severely on a metal rake used to maintain the courts. Expert response by bystanders, including some nurses, offered immediate treatment and Cyndie, Fred, and Marie got to spend the afternoon at the clinic where a doctor stitched the deep gash.

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Walking the grounds we saw some remaining toppled tree stumps from hurricane Irma last summer.

Fred and Marie took us out for a night of music and food, keeping the genre a secret to surprise us with the perfectly suited personifications of Simon & Garfunkel, James Taylor, and CSN&Y.

The fact that there are snowstorms battering the ranch at home while we are gone is making this all the sweeter, and only slightly causing me to fret over how things are going for Mckenna.

I didn’t leave instructions on how to start the Grizzly to plow. It’s not in her job description.

She’ll just have to make do.

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Written by johnwhays

February 24, 2018 at 8:34 am