Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘friends

Lovely Ride

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Beautiful weather, wonderful friends, and an old railroad grade paved trail made for an absolutely lovely bike ride yesterday. We even came upon my favorite word carved in stone. Of course, I just had to pose for a portrait. Rich obliged my request.

Eventually, the whole gang got into the act.

Doobie is not pictured because he is the one taking the picture. Gray is not in the picture because he kept riding when we stopped so that he could get back in time to make another event.

We had arrived at the Big Stone Sculpture Garden and Mini Golf course. Truly a worthwhile destination.

Our little jaunt took us from Wayzata to St. Bonifacious and back again on the Dakota Trail. As we rode the first leg, I became aware that we would be riding right past the house where Cyndie’s and my friends, Barb and Mike Wilkus live. On the way back, I asked Rich to pull off the trail with me to take a quick picture in front of their house. I figured they were out of town for the weekend so I was going to send them a text with the photo.

As Rich and I turned off the trail, I saw a car in the driveway so I rang the doorbell and found they were home! After a quick greeting, it was time to catch up with the rest of the group and get to a lunch reservation waiting for us in Wayzata at The Muni. (Wayzata Bar and Grill.  I recommend the Cubano sandwich.)

As I rediscover every time, the riding is always good but the company of friends is ten times better. The next time I will see that group of folks will be in the middle of June for the Tour of Minnesota. I am really looking forward to a week of biking and camping with them once again.

I love these friends.

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Written by johnwhays

May 16, 2022 at 6:00 am

Small Banquet

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Once again, the phrase “dined like royalty” comes to my mind to describe the homemade feast Cyndie served yesterday for a visit from our son, his wife, and their friends. Beyond her classic culinary artwork of two varieties of scones, Cyndie tried her hand at making hummus out of peas and baking naan bread for the first time.

The main dish of curry chicken and roasted vegetables was followed by her version of a turtle cake from a copied recipe of St. Paul’s Cafe Latte.

As often happens, there was so much delicious food consumed, there was little room for dessert. That’s no problem for Cyndie. She had “to go” containers available so slices of the chocolate caramel decadence were sent home to be enjoyed later.

We were blessed with an afternoon of warm sunshine that felt even nicer than the actual temperature, especially compared to our recent extended spell of rainy, snowy days.

The horses had been brushed earlier in the morning but were perfectly covered in mud by the time we all showed up to visit after a stroll in the labyrinth. While Mix showed interest in checking out the new guests, the other three paid little notice, choosing instead to linger in the altered state of almost sleeping, but not really.

The day was a wonderful celebration of sharing the wonders of Wintervale while we are mired in the muddy conditions of early spring.

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Written by johnwhays

April 10, 2022 at 10:19 am

Cosmic Evening

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Our experience last night was indeed cosmic in the colossal sense. Joined by our friends, Mike and Barb, we dined at the ever so fine Capital Grille before catching Neil deGrasse Tyson presenting his “Cosmic Perspective” at the State Theater.

Typically, I was rather lukewarm to the idea when Cyndie purchased tickets last fall. April seemed so forever away and why would I want to drive to downtown Minneapolis to sit and listen to an astrophysicist talk? Now I know why. Neil deGrasse Tyson is hilariously entertaining while expounding on mind-expanding perspectives from an astrophysicist perspective.

The icing on our cake of an evening was the fact that Cyndie included Barb and Mike in our plan and selected a fine dining establishment that shares a wall with the theater. We feasted like royalty and were lucky to be served by a sublime professional who guided our selections and timed our meal with impressive expertise, right down to slipping in a delectable coconut cream pie serving for dessert with just enough time to allow me to run a doggy bag of leftovers to the car in the parking ramp down the block.

Then, it was time for the show. From the moment Neil kicked off his shoes by the podium and addressed the crowd with his good-natured, approachable delivery, I felt myself becoming an instant fan, along with seemingly everyone else in the audience, if they weren’t already.

Almost every detail or relationship of the universe he highlighted was affirming in its scientific simplicity, even when it was equally mind-boggling in complexity. The molecules in the air we breathe and the water we drink have been on this planet for centuries upon centuries and passed through others for eons.

We are built out of the same elements as the stars of the universe. It isn’t our uniqueness that makes us special, it’s our ‘sameness’.

The hubris of thinking we are anything more than we actually are is laid bare by the multitude of examples presented from a cosmic perspective. For me, it resonates with my understanding that the more we come to know, the more we realize how little we actually know.

Neil’s sharp wit provided non-stop chuckles and frequent bursts of laughter throughout the delivery of interesting scientific details about our world and its place in the universe.

When the talk appeared to be going long, he put up a universal permission slip for us all to use, especially kids for whom it was a school night. He said to take out our phones and take a picture, so Cyndie did.

We just fill in our names and we have a ready made excuse for staying out too late.

I’m not sure it will hold much influence for our horses and Delilah if we don’t serve their morning meals at the expected hour, but it helps in our minds to feel justified in our exceptional evening.

It was truly cosmic.

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Time Ravaged

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More than I can remember in my lifetime, we have been cycling above and below the freezing point this winter, taxing everything exposed to the extremes. As I’ve written many times before, everything moves, including what is often referred to as “solid ground.”

Terra firma is not so firm a.

This is the current state of a base I installed for an outdoor sink on the backside of the barn.

It used to be level.

In some places, the ground sinks. In others, it rises up. And it changes back and forth about as often as the freezing and thawing cycle is playing out. Of course, the base in the image above never happens to return to level. Oh, no.

I have no idea what happened in our pile of limestone screenings. It looks a little like maybe it regurgitated all over itself.

A while back, Cyndie posted a bunch of our furniture for sale on the local neighborhood app. Quite a lot of furniture, actually. The app offered a suggestion that she could also post it on another app to be seen by more than just our neighbors. All it took was the push of a button. So she did.

Soon we had people from far and wide contacting us to ask if everything was okay. Why was she unloading all this furniture?

It’s nice to know concerned friends will check on us if we start showing signs of distress.

The reason Cyndie is looking to jettison our old furniture is that her mother is moving from the family home of many years into a smaller unit in a senior living community. We will be taking some of the precious furnishings that didn’t make the cut for her mom’s new home.

In preparation, we have already started to move things around in our house. We took possession of the old flat-screen TV that had been in her mom’s basement and put it up in our loft, replacing the smaller one we’ve had since it was our main television mounted on the wall in our Eden Prairie home.

Here in Beldenville, the old television was in a stand on a table. In a classic domino effect of one change leading to another, we decided to relocate that TV to the bedroom to replace a smaller one in that room. There, it will be able to be mounted on the wall again. That means I needed to find the old wall mount bracket.

I didn’t know if we’d even kept it, but Cyndie remembered seeing it on the top shelf in our storage room. With her direction, I found two of the three primary pieces. The ravages of time have taken a toll on my memory and I couldn’t recall if we’d detached the base plate from the wall when we moved out of the old house.

I actually started researching online to see if I could replace just the base plate before one last double-check in the storage room, where I was actually checking old packaging for information on the name of the wall mount manufacturer. That’s when I spotted a tiny corner of the base plate on a different shelf.

As far as I can tell, we actually do have everything needed to proceed.

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Written by johnwhays

March 9, 2022 at 7:00 am

Chasing Racers

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There’s an app for that. Family support for race participants becomes a sport in itself. One of the first challenges is interpreting event information provided by the organizers. Then there is the physical exertion of arriving at the correct spot at the precise moment to see specific racers along a 50-kilometer freestyle course. Having an app to show a skier’s progress is a helpful tool, but only part of the information needed in the role of spectator/support people.

Yesterday’s adventure began with the challenge of finding where skiers can be dropped off to catch a shuttle bus with time to spare to reach the starting point of the American Birkebeiner. Oft referred to as “The Birkie,” this is North America’s largest cross-country ski marathon and part of the worldloppet circuit of over 20 international ski marathons and it happens practically in the back yard of our lake place getaway.

When we got to town, taking the back route to dodge a suspected road closure (that turned out to be not closed) there was no obvious sign of where to find a skier drop off for the shuttle. We decided to make the drive to the race start ourselves. Knowing the route to Cable, WI was no problem but reaching the start required a lot of luck and a little bravado. As we got close, we found busses and followed one  past a sign that said “no entry.”

Our heroes, Ella W., and Ellie G. hopped out as the traffic volunteer was instructing us we couldn’t park there. Luckily, we had no intention of parking. We drove back to the house and watched the race progress on a live online feed.

When the time looked right, we drove to an access point somewhere near the middle of the race.

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Our intrepid first-time marathon skiers were in fine spirits and good form which was a wonderful thing to see for those who love them and are cheering from the sidelines. Once again, we headed back to the comfort of the house and some lunch while the athletes were outside pushing their limits in the elements.

With the app offering hints of their progress, we headed out again, this time in two cars so we could give them a ride back after the finish. Our first challenge was to find a place to park in the small town of Hayward where the population had expanded 20-fold for the weekend.

Since our first-timers Ella and Ellie started in the last wave of the race, a good percentage of people were already done and leaving so parking spots were opening up at random. We arrived on Main Street with time to scout out the scene and took up a position that unfortunately offered primarily shadowed views.

Regardless, we hollered excitedly at the sight of the girls taking their finishing strides.

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They had enough skiing for the day, that’s for sure. Gauging their assessment in the immediate moment of fatigue leaves room for interpretation. No matter what, it was a heck of an accomplishment for them. Endurance sports are not for everyone, but it is an honor to witness their achievements in person and live vicariously through their impressive efforts.

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Tree Dwelling

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Near the edge of the woods at the bottom of the hill behind our house, there is a large tree with three distinct critter access points. I noticed them the other day because Delilah stopped to look up at the tree with excited interest. That almost always means a squirrel was moving around in the branches.

I didn’t see any life in the branches but I very much noticed the three holes in the tree.

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Do you think those are three separate “apartments” or is that a deluxe three-story home with a door on each floor?

Cyndie, Delilah, and I are waking up at the lake place this morning on the weekend of the American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race. Our friends, the Williams family will be joining us, and their daughter, Ella will be skiing it on Saturday for the first time.

It is estimated the event brings 40-thousand people to Hayward for the weekend. That changes things dramatically around here. For reference, the population of Hayward is a little over 2000. It messes up our navigation because they close roads and strive to move everyone by shuttle bus. Foils our desire to sneak down a fire lane road to catch a glimpse of racers in the middle of the woods.

Organizers want all spectators to watch the beginning or the end, or both, traveling by shuttle bus. I’d prefer to not be constrained to standing among the masses. I’m not tall enough to expect I will be able to see anything in a crowd, anyway.

Before we left home yesterday, I needed to finish clearing snow from in front of the big barn doors so I could move bales of hay in for the person tending to the horses while we are away. I also needed to pull snow off the eaves above the front door of the house and then shovel that into a giant mound by the front steps.

Arriving up here hours later, the first order of business was to shovel access paths to the doors. The driveway was plowed and caretakers had pulled some snow off the roof but no good attention had been paid toward clearing snow from in front of the doors.

Ski racing might be an Olympic sport, but I feel like the shoveling I’ve been doing lately is medal-worthy.

In case you didn’t form an opinion about the tree pictured above, I’d say it’s one palatial three-story home based on the noticeable lack of tracks in the snow at the base. I may be wrong, but I’m guessing it’s some fat-cat of a squirrel luxuriating up there with no reason to come out and get his feet wet.

I think Delilah could smell him.

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Written by johnwhays

February 25, 2022 at 7:00 am

Painful Loss

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I knew Jennifer to be a precious, congenial, and amiable person, despite the experiences she lived through that drove her to multiple treatments for mental health concerns. Every time I saw her again after long absences, that remarkable dose of her true spark and desire to gain full command of her wellness glowed anew.

My idealistic goal of loving everyone on this earth is not always effortlessly achieved. Jenny was not one of the difficult ones. I loved her as easily as anyone.

It is devastating to have learned that she took her own life this week.

Those of us who knew and loved Jenny are experiencing the pain of losing the sound of her laughter, for good this time. It is we who must now reconcile the mental turmoil of the various roles we played in her life, of opportunities now vanished, hopes tarnished, with the burdens of sudden grief pressing down upon us.

As a person who has enjoyed great success in breaking free of the oppressive mental weight of depression, with all of its distortions of perception and its focus on imagined perils, I suffer deep heartbreak over instances where the interruption and amelioration of the affliction are unsuccessful.

There is debate about whether depression is curable or not, but there is general agreement that it is treatable. Good health requires maintenance, and being treated by professionals for depression can be a project of a lifetime.

In a way, good health habits are a self-directed form of treatment that keeps my depression at bay. It doesn’t feel focused on depression prevention for me because my healthy practices bring so many other rewards beyond just keeping my mind free from the dark dysfunctions that define the affliction.

Put simply, living healthy serves as a vaccination against the ills of depression for me.

It feels important to me to accentuate the time component of dealing with depression and frankly, all other aspects of a journey toward optimal health. I am profoundly moved by the length of time and variety of avenues Jenny navigated in her efforts toward health and well-being.

Good health does not happen in an instant as a result of a momentary desire to be healthy. It is a process that requires firm determination to stay on task for days that become weeks, then months, and ultimately, years. I often point out that a goal of getting healthy should be referenced against the number of months or years we allowed bad habits to weaken our muscles, add excess fat, compromise our livers, overtax our hearts, rob us of needed sleep, and ignore or misinterpret our full range of emotions.

May we always remember the best about loved ones who are no longer with us and seek inspiration from those fond memories for a determination to strive for our own optimal health in a journey that we renew every morning for the rest of our days.

Amen.

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For any occasion involving thoughts of suicide, free 24/7, confidential services are available:

call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741).

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Cold Start

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In the purest definition of my life memories of what “up north” during a Minnesota winter entails, we have been enjoying gorgeous deep snow scenes and seriously cold temperatures. It stays below zero all day long for days at a time and there is no sign anywhere of the fallen snow melting on the ground. No slush on the rural roads. Just hard-packed snow with occasional areas of sand dropped at higher traffic intersections.

The first day of January offered clear skies and plenty of sun, the common denominator for extremely cold temperatures. With no cloud cover to hold a little of the earth’s heat, the air feels like it is aligning with the temperatures of deep space above.

Delilah’s thick fur coat keeps her comfortable all but the bottoms of her paws. She isn’t a big fan of standing around in the cold. In fact, even if we are walking along with her, she wants to pick up the pace and hustle to get wherever the heck it is we intend on going.

After multiple snowshoeing adventures this weekend, I think she has figured out that the initial extra time she is made to wait at the beginning while we are strapping on the odd contraptions to our boots, comes with a payoff of opportunities to romp in the deep stuff shortly after.

We bushwhacked right from the driveway into the wooded contours of the southern edge of the Chippewa National Forest yesterday and I guided Delilah to select a navigable route atop a ridge, every so often aligned with the tracks revealing deer had already done the same.

It is a treat to watch the glee of Delilah’s leaping through the deep snow. She has no choice but to leap, actually, since it is deeper than her legs are long.

The only setback she experiences is the need to pause once in a while to chew away the snow that balls up between her toes. I can imagine that feels just as annoying as the snow that collects under the cleat of my snowshoes in certain conditions. We didn’t have that problem with the cold powder snow this weekend.

It was a cold start of the year 2022, but a grand one for us. Here’s hoping it proves to be a hint of greater times to come.

It was truly precious to kick off the new year in such a special place with our even more special friends and hosts, Barb and Mike Wilkus.

We will spend the rest of today on the road, heading home to see how the horses are doing in this coldest weather since they arrived with us last April. Having dreamt about horses this morning, I’m feeling a heightened urge to get home to see ours.

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Written by johnwhays

January 2, 2022 at 10:14 am

Hello 2022

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Happy New Year! Good Riddance, Old Year! Let’s hope the coming year will bring the ultimate demise of the current global pandemic so we can better focus on dealing with the growing weather calamities caused by the ever-warming planet. We find ourselves under the spell of a deep freeze of -31°(F) this morning here just north of Grand Rapids, MN.

We celebrated the last day of 2021 yesterday with a hearty snowshoe hike in the woods on nearby Wilkus’ property before the temperatures plummeted well below zero.

They have christened the property with an acronym’d designation garnered from Barb and Mike’s grandchildren: Maggie, Allie, Jackson, Jack, and Caleb.

It is a perfect name for the magical plot of varying elevations with thick tree growth and a pond nestled in a bowl surrounded by a prominent ridge.

With almost two feet of relatively fresh snow accumulation creating iconic winter landscape views, we let Delilah bounce ahead to break a trail that we widened with our snowshoes.

For some reason, I kept noticing a mental image of a steamy cup of hot cocoa forming while we clomped through the powder. Barb made my dream come true after we got back to the cabin.

As you might imagine, Delilah was in her glory, pouncing about like “T-i-double guh-er” of Winnie the Pooh fame in the deep snow.

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It took extra effort to dissuade her from a fixation on a tree in which she spied a nut-weilding squirrel energetically climb. So many new sights and smells for her to explore.

She didn’t seem all that fired up about our staying up late to hoot and holler over the Times Square ball dropping in New York at 11:00 p.m. our time. As long as it was midnight somewhere, it was good enough for us to call it a night.

May the new year treat you all with big love in all the best of forms that can be manifest!

Peace!

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Written by johnwhays

January 1, 2022 at 10:36 am

Different Lake

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We are up at the lake again, but not our lake place. Last night we met our friends, Barb and Mike Wilkus at Marie’s house in Edina and they drove us, with Delilah, up to their cabin near Grand Rapids, Minnesota. We all agree that it is more fun to wake at the lake.

Very quickly, we recognized there was plenty of snow up here.

Maybe all that snow will provide insulation against the predicted deep freeze. We have a warm fire to keep us comfortable indoors, so we may be playing more cards than trekking in the woods as we mark the end of one calendar year and the beginning of the next.

Delilah traveled well for the drive that lasted an hour longer than our usual trips to Hayward and was thrilled over the new environments’ sights, sounds, mounds of snow, and exciting smells. She quickly gained a new friend in Mike, who likes to serve dog treats to good dogs.

There was a lot more sitting politely and offering of a paw in a shake happening last night than I usually see at home in a month.

Hope you have a wonderful last day of this year wherever you are!

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Written by johnwhays

December 31, 2021 at 7:00 am