Relative Something

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

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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

Surprise Visit

with 2 comments

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

Tagged with , ,

Energy Flow

with 2 comments

The intensity of the tug and pull of emotions lately is more drastic because it reflects dramatic extremes playing out, one on top of another. We don’t have time to comprehend the full depth of one calamity before the next arrives to take its place. But with no time between, the issues tend to compound which begins to tip the balance of our energy scales.

I have felt my own energy swaying dramatically from high to low lately, in light of the climate disasters complicating the challenges of coping with the ongoing virus pandemic at a time when repeated white-on-black police violence has brought systemic racism to higher visibility just as the election season revs up the intensity of one-sided fact manipulating.

At the same time, family birthdays and anniversary opportunities have been augmented with measured time among friends, bringing great joy and fulfilling peacefulness.

The glint of familiar eyes; stories of ingenious pandemic-coping accomplishments by strangers who join forces to help others; a slice of incredible lemon meringue pie, served outside after a backyard meal; a playful family cat chasing in circles after a soon-to-be-favorite new toy.

There are always features of good and bad mingling in our everyday lives but not usually with such depth of emotion as we are seeing today. It can become exhausting.

It is more important than ever that we pay attention to that exhaustive impact and put in whatever effort is needed to compensate.

We need to give ourselves permission to not feel our best every minute of every day. Claim some time of your own where you can shut out all news and focus exclusively on yourself and immediate surroundings. Bring some balance back to your energy for coping with the swings in every direction. Refill your own tank by finding a way to give to someone in greater need.

I’ve been thinking about some of the negative news and views of powerful people lately and this occurred to me: Have they not seen “A Christmas Carol? Isn’t it a given by now that selfish and abusive behavior is on the wrong side of all that is right and good?

Where are all our ghosts of past, present, and future when we need them?

There are far too many people in power who need to receive a visit to rebalance their senses of what it is to become one’s best self.

It’s a good day to go find a slice of your favorite pie.

Balance your energy flow!

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Written by johnwhays

September 20, 2020 at 10:36 am

Just Love

with 4 comments

Certainly, there could be worse things to keep coming back to, but my mind has begun to develop a healthy habit of naturally settling on thoughts about sending and receiving LOVE amid the swirl of good and bad circumstances that wash over us with unrelenting regularity.

We learned last night of an unexpected death among our extended family, all too close to the time of Cyndie’s dad’s passing that has everyone already raw with grief. The increasing infection rate of the coronavirus pandemic is pressing firmly against the frustrations of being locked down for months and disrupting dreams of resuming some previous activity.

Plans for the fall are far from settled as to whether schools will be able to open safely and entertainment venues will figure out a way to host events.

It is almost becoming a physically painful thing to not be able to hug people, on top of the ever-awkward absence of a genuine handshake.

Still, we are showered with ongoing blessings that become more precious with each pause for acknowledgment. The gestures of condolence that have arrived in the last two weeks have warmed our hearts.

Last Sunday, Cyndie and I worked on preparing the brooder for the anticipated arrival of 12 new day-old chicks this month. As hard as the loss of birds is on my tender wife, she couldn’t stop herself from ordering more. New life is coming to Wintervale again!

Summer is in full swing in all its glory around our land, regardless of the recent loss of some big trees. We’re preparing to host travelers we’ve not met before from my virtual community, Brainstorms, in the days ahead. We offered a free parking spot for their small RV on their trek home that is taking them right past our neighborhood on the interstate.

I keep imagining how pleasant it would be if the news media took several days off from mentioning anything a certain person says or does and simply focused on news that matters without any distractions or fabricated drama. I do struggle to muster enough love to offset the disturbance that rolls out of the nation’s capital like the irritation of a lingering dead skunk smell.

The high heat and excessively oppressive tropical dewpoint temperatures are hanging around lately even longer than skunk odors, which is definitely exacerbating the angst of those who lack artificial cooling in their homes.

There is good and bad roiling around in a weird mix. What can we do to cope effectively but love?

Just love.

It sure can’t hurt to try.

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— special love goes out to Carlos today for his sorrow and loss —

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Written by johnwhays

July 8, 2020 at 6:00 am

Completely Forgot

with 2 comments

My poor brain can’t keep up. I expect it must be dropping old information out the back each time I try to stash something new in the front. I was just blessed with an opportunity to discover that I had forgotten entirely about a very valuable lesson learned through experience. I even blogged about it at the time for good measure. Granted, this was from 5-and-a-half years ago, but still…

In a humorous message exchange yesterday with my friend, Rich Gordon, I thought he had me mistaken for someone else. He had asked “What’s the best stuff to use to lubricate my garage door springs? I saw you had a repairman over recently.”

No. No, I haven’t had anyone here recently. I guessed that he had me confused with someone else. My response was to answer with a smartass quip in jest, figuring he would notice he meant that for someone else.

When he came back to ask in all seriousness, we discovered the miscue. Rich questioned his sanity for thinking he had just read about this in my blog and that triggered my scouring the “Previous Somethings” archive for the time our door spring broke. I confirmed that I did write about it, just not recently.

I’m guessing the old post from November of 2014 probably showed up as an auto-generated link of similar post suggestions that Rich inadvertently clicked without realizing he was delving so far into the archives.

As I reread my old writing, I was embarrassed to see I had clearly pointed out the need to lubricate the garage door spring, but soon after, I completely forgot anything about it. Out of sight, out of mind, even though I use our garage doors almost every day.

The icing on the cake of this whole memory failure appeared in the comments under that original post. Way back then, Rich and I already had this same discussion about what to use for lubricating the spring.

Guess what just moved up near the top of my home maintenance “to-do” list?

Garage door springs are not something that should be included in the category of “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” chores. Somehow, I spaced this one out entirely. It’s nice to have gotten a laugh out of it, but there’s an element of nervous laughter threaded through it. The power of those springs and the amount of weight they are counter-balancing is not something to be trifled with.

Now, if I could somehow figure out what important detail just dropped from my memory after bringing the door spring back to the front, that would be just great.

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Weak Link

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There are many days when the Wintervale connection to the world via the internet is annoyingly flakey. The problem is mysterious and invisible, frequently interrupting progress in the middle…

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Hi, I’m back. That’s the way this works. After a seemingly interminable pause, activity resumes as if nothing is amiss. You wouldn’t notice a thing, unless you were attempting to visit with others via Zoom.

“Your internet connection is unstable.”

 

As soon as that message appears, even as I rush to write a chat message to everyone to explain that I could hear them all even though my image may have frozen to them, my fate is doomed to closing and then immediately reconnecting, minus all the text I had just entered in the chat window.

It’s life in the country. For all the advantages we enjoy living out among farm fields and forests, it comes at the expense of having a reliable internet connection. The industry can’t balance the economics of running fiberoptic cable to handfuls of houses scattered across many wide miles.

We don’t stream. We rent DVDs through the mail.

If we want to accomplish something without interruption, it takes a lucky combination of atmospheric conditions and an absence of too much competition for the limited bandwidth. Oh, and we can’t have already exceeded our cap of monthly allotted usage.

In all of the Zoom meetings I have participated in over the last month, I was the weakest link.

It’s too bad because I love the possibility of connecting with my multiple remote communities, but I love living where we do even more.

Cyndie pointed out that our new openings around the two big oak trees beside the driveway allow for excellent viewing of the rising moon.

Since our internet browsers weren’t having much success loading pages, we were more available to get out and enjoy the lunar view.

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Written by johnwhays

May 6, 2020 at 6:00 am

Wing Wave

with 4 comments

Well, the woods look a lot different now than they did on Saturday.

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It is mind-boggling how much things can change in one day. It is such a dramatic difference to go from walking our trails on a warm, sunny day to tromping through deep snow the next.

Yesterday, while describing my landscaping adventures, I forgot to mention the total highlight of the day Saturday. I was toiling away placing some bales along the property line when a small plane approached and made a banked turn. I pay attention when small planes show up because I know a number of pilots whom I always hope will visit when they’re in the area.

When the plane continued the loop and came around again, my confidence jumped that it could be one of my friends in high places. I was in a tangle of trees at that moment and chose to make a break for the most open space nearby, which turned out to be my neighbor’s field.

I looked up into the sun in hopes my sunglasses might reflect my presence and waved my arms. The plane rocked its wings in response.

It’s such a thrill to receive that acknowledgment. At the time, I still wasn’t clear who it was, but I was confident it was someone I knew.

Then my phone registered a message. It was from Mike Wilkus.

“There is a man outstanding in his field. Or at least the neighbor’s field.”

He sent me some wonderful photos.

From the road at the bottom of the picture you see our driveway climb beside the big hay-field and turn at the hay-shed and barn, rise past the shop garage to the house at top. The paddocks and round pen are clearly visible, as is the labyrinth tucked in trees above the upper pasture that was also cut for hay last year.

And zooming in for a closer view, in the neighbor’s field there is a guy waving.

Thanks, Mike!

That view would sure look a lot different today with all this snow we received.

We had about 8 inches by the time I went to bed last night. I wonder how long it will take to turn it all into water that will keep us in the mud season for an additional week or two.

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Written by johnwhays

April 13, 2020 at 6:00 am

Look Ahead

with 3 comments

Take a break from the growing fear and uncertainty embedded in the crest of this pandemic wave rolling across the globe and look ahead to the day when it will be a block of time in history. Turn off the news. There will be updated reports awaiting you in the morning. Check those and then get on with your day.

There will be a day when you once again get to hug those you love. Look forward to those moments.

My friend, David Keiski wrote a song about it and performs in this video he created for us all to enjoy at a safe distance. Let his words ring across the world!

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Don’t be embarrassed about deciding to set it on “repeat.”

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Written by johnwhays

March 22, 2020 at 8:50 am

Doin’ Lowertown

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Last weekend was all about the Lowertown district on the edge of downtown St. Paul for us. We attended a concert at the Palace Theatre for a Valentine’s date on Friday night and met our friends, Barb and Mike on Saturday for dinner at the Handsome Hog restaurant that overlooks Mears Park. The drive from home feels quicker than the 35-40 minutes it takes when we exit directly onto 6th street and instantly find ourselves at our destinations, with no other turns required.

The highlight was by far the food and company on Saturday night. The contemporary Southern pig-centric menu is incredibly well-executed, based on the variety of delicious selections we all shared family-style. The location worked as an exact half-way point between our two homes, with the Wilkuses coming from the west and us from the east/southeast. They are the bestest of friends!

The concert on Friday was a meld of Calexico (Joey Burns and John Convertino) and the endearing Sam Beam who performs under the moniker Iron & Wine. They are a good match and clearly enjoy each other and performing together for an audience. I am a fan of Sam Beam’s songwriting and performance and generally can appreciate the Americana Tex-Mex indie rock of Calexico.

Unfortunately, I’ve reached an age where I too easily let the peripheral aspects of going out to see live performances tarnish the ultimate impression of events. The music was good, and the performers wonderfully engaging, so I was happily entertained in that regard.

We were impressed that the opening entertainer, 22-year-old Madison Cunningham, started exactly at the time the show was billed to begin, regardless the many unfilled seats. The first thing I noticed when I sat down in the balcony was that the rows were so tight I would be breathing into the hair of the person sitting in front of me. Luckily, there was no one there for the opening set.

Cyndie and I were unfamiliar with Madison and were pleasantly surprised. It would be fair to compare her singing and guitar skills to Joni Mitchell. No wonder we both liked her.

When the headliners took the stage, the seats in front of us filled and the fog machine pumped a mist to better show off the lights. I’m not sure where the director of the light show was sitting, but it’s a good guess it wasn’t in the balcony. They kept turning the fog machine on so often it was getting difficult to see the performers through the constantly thickening haze.

To make matters worse, they too frequently turned bright lights on behind the musicians, shining the beam up into our line of sight.

While I was fighting to see through all that, my eyes started to water from the essential oil or exotic shampoo aroma the woman in front of me (right beneath my nose) was radiating into the atmosphere. Maybe she had just pulled her coat out of moth-ball storage. It was hard to tell. It evoked a blend of rancid spices rubbed into an old dirty rug.

Much as I appreciate Lowertown, and as fun as it was to hear Iron & Wine music live again, I’m afraid the return to comforts of home with tunes playing through my speakers seems just as good, or even better.

Definitely a sign of aging.

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Plowing Challenge

with 2 comments

Last Sunday, when we left home in Beldenville to drive to Edina for a few days, it was raining outside.

On Monday, the precipitation turned to snow. In Edina, the accumulation was about four or five inches. On Tuesday, Cyndie texted our current animal sitter and asked if she would stop by our place to check on the chickens and Pequenita. The answer was yes, but after she arrived we received a report that there was too much snow for her to drive up the driveway. She walked the quarter-mile up to the house.

That triggered me into action and I drove home to plow.

There was 6.5 inches of snow up by the house, maybe an inch more farther out in the open. It was the most snow at one time that I have needed to plow so far this year. Between the large amount of snow and the icy coating beneath it, I needed to get a little creative about plowing angles. There was a fair amount of time spent sliding sideways as the wheels spun when I attempted to back up after pushing snow all the way off the edge of the paved surface.

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It was a beautiful day to be outside working in the snow, but I needed to get cleaned up and drive right back to Edina so Cyndie and I could attend a New Year’s Eve party with friends who invited us at the last minute when they learned we were in town.

I had successfully managed to drive my Crosstrek all the way from the road to the house without getting stuck, but I didn’t think to clean the snow out of the wheels after I pulled into the garage.

The return trip to Cyndie’s parent’s house was like driving on a washboard because of vibration from the wheels being a little out of balance. On the plus side, it gave my voice a great vibrato when singing along with my music the whole way back to Edina.

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Written by johnwhays

January 2, 2020 at 7:00 am