Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘memorial

September Eleven

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Twenty years later, I’m pausing to remember my trauma of that day, witnessing so many other peoples’ trauma over the unimaginable death and destruction unleashed by fanatical terrorists hijacking commercial jets containing passengers to use them as explosive missiles.

I spent the first moments, and then the unfolding hours, trying to grasp the reality that such things could be happening. We didn’t learn of the events after the fact. We witnessed much of it as it was happening. I’ve never really liked hearing the sound of a commercial jet flying overhead after that day twenty years ago.

This morning, I turned on some of the television coverage of memorial events being held at the three locations where the planes crashed. In Minnesota, they read the names of people from the state who were killed that day, as well as Minnesota members of the military who died in the wars since.

Thinking of John Lennon’s lyric “Imagine there’s no countries…,” how many more names would need to be recited if loved ones from Afghanistan were to read the names of all who died in the twenty years since.

Meanwhile, in the idyllic surroundings of our home on this beautifully warm September day, we are living life in peace. The first hints of color continue to slowly transition in the panorama of trees along the edges of our woods.

On this third day of being the only person feeding our animals, they are all settling into my way of doing things. On Thursday evening, the horses demonstrated a fair amount of uncertainty navigating the feeding routine, but as I have adjusted my methods and they’ve responded willingly, this morning was as serene as ever.

Having watched Swings lose as many pellets out of her mouth as she consumes, I’ve started soaking her servings in a little water first and that seems to be making it easier for her. We had hoped having their teeth floated would help her more than it appears to have done.

This morning I decided to try again to use the hay boxes I built. They were powering through a single bale so fast the last time we tried using these that we switched to providing the net feeders from which they were used to eating.

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If they make it through a bale too fast today, I’ll plot a modification to the grate that might slow it down to something comparable to grass-grazing speed, if I can guess what that actually is.

It seems illogical to me that they would prefer dry hay bales over the two large fields of fresh grass that we provide them full access to day and night, but I’m not a horse. I trust they know why they make the choices about what to eat.

As rescued thoroughbreds, they know about memories of trauma.

Today we are soaking up the peacefulness we have been afforded and adding another day of distance from the source of our past traumas.

We will never forget, but we will always seek that world where we all be as one.

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Written by johnwhays

September 11, 2021 at 10:01 am

Goodbye Again

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I’m back in reach of my computer again, but I am not at home yet. After saying goodbye to precious friends riding the Tour of Minnesota this week, I am up at the lake with Cyndie and our kids, and almost all of Cyndie’s family, for a few days of saying goodbye again to Cyndie’s dad. Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of his death.

We are together telling stories, playing games, feasting on incredible meals, and swimming in the lake –all things Fred loved to do– to honor this incredible man, husband, father, patriarch.

As darkness descended on the day, we wrote messages for Fred on the paper petals of flower luminaries, lit candles, and floated the memorials out on the lake where he loved to swim laps.

It wasn’t the first time we’ve said our goodbyes and it won’t be the last, but on the day that marked the first anniversary of his passing, the family as a group lifted up several particularly significant salutations of parting.

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Written by johnwhays

June 25, 2021 at 6:00 am

Remembering Jim Klobuchar

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Among the most influential people in my life, Jim Klobuchar holds one of the top spots. When I learned last night of the news of his passing, my memories instantly jumped to the two treasured connections I enjoyed with Jim: annually participating in his June “Jaunt with Jim” biking and camping adventures around Minnesota for years, and participating in one of his guided treks in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal.

However, the more profound impact Jim had on me was probably his influence as a writer. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword. I read his columns and sports reporting in the Minneapolis Star Tribune for most of my life. My style of wordsmithing is a reflection of how his writing made me feel as a reader. I wanted to write about people and places in the way Jim did. At the same time, it is very intimidating to compare my compositional aspirations with his professional accomplishments.

Reading Jim’s columns describing the bike and camping adventures he led inspired me to sign up the next year to try my first-ever long-distance cycling expedition. It was in 1994, the 20th year of his leading the June event, and I’ve been doing it ever since, minus a few scattered years when I was unable.

After one spectacular week, I wrote out some lyrics to memorialize the annual adventure. I expected it to be a song, but I couldn’t get all the words to fit a consistent rhythm, so I decided it was a poem, instead. I brought it along the next year to share with the group. On the first night, I told Jim about the poem and my desire to read it for everyone. He asked to see it and when I handed the paper over to him, he tucked it in a pocket, then moved on with first-night greetings and leadership duties.

I don’t remember if it was the next day, but some amount of time passed before he finally acknowledged the poem again. He said he liked it and wanted to read it to the group himself.

Here come those mixed feelings again. “Why you controlling SOB...” I thought. “Wait, Jim Klobuchar wants to read my words to a large group of people?” I was more honored than miffed. Of course, I wanted it read as soon as possible, but Jim had his own agenda. One day passed, then two, three, four… I eventually gave up thinking about it. Whatever.

Jim picked post-lunch on the second-to-last day and his timing was impeccable. He called me up to stand next to him while he more than admirably recited the lyrical lines. A couple years on and I was able to forge the poem into a song that tends to get new air-time each successive month of June. Ultimately, I recorded a version and combined it with images from a couple of year’s rides.

At the time, Jim was living close to where I worked, in Plymouth, MN. I burned a copy of the video onto an optical disk (remember those?) and dropped it off in a surprise morning visit. He met me at the door wearing a robe and somewhat dumbfoundedly accepted the mysterious media.

I received the best response in an email a short time later that morning. He implied he wouldn’t have let me leave without joining him in the viewing if he had known what was on that disc.

The year I flew to Nepal for the trek, Jim and I were lone travel companions with a day-long layover in LA. It was a rare treat to have so much uninterrupted attention from this man whom I considered a mentor. I remember thinking how much he and my dad would have enjoyed each other, especially when Jim regaled me with detailed memories of his days covering the Minnesota Vikings football team.

He was a consummate listener and allowed me to tell him more about myself than anyone needed to hear.

Jim turned 81 while we were in Nepal and he was one of only two trekkers who reached the highest elevation planned. Already showing signs of his fading mental acuity, but not a speck of giving in to it, there were some poignant moments on that trip. Our relationship was cemented forever after.

Here’s hoping Jim has already regained his full mental capacities for the remainder of eternity. Those of us he has left behind will cherish our memories of him at his very best.

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Written by johnwhays

May 13, 2021 at 6:00 am

Remembering Cayenne

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Cayenne was a most elegant Arabian mare and a particularly precious member of our initial herd of four horses that christened our new Wintervale property as a horse ranch back in the fall of 2013. Yesterday, she departed this world to join Legacy’s spirit in the world beyond our knowing. 

Cayenne was foaled from Dezirea in 2005 and lived 16 years, which can roughly be translated to the equivalent of 48 human years of age. For the five years she lived with us, she seemed to split her time equally between palling around with geldings Legacy and Hunter, but Hunter was her lifelong buddy.

In the image on the right, the two of them were giving me a wonderful reception upon my return from a week of biking and camping one summer. 

That’s Cayenne on the right.

Last night, Cyndie and I reminisced about the time Cayenne scolded Hunter after he petulantly farted his displeasure toward Legacy for being driven off a preferred grazing spot. She amped up her energy and pushed Hunter twice as far as he wanted to go, making her point very clear and assuring he got the message.

Cayenne always looked well kept. When others had rolled in the mud or tangled their mane into a knot, Cayenne looked ready for show. The aroma of her hide was always sweet. I loved to bury my face in her neck and inhale her healthy horse scent.

The word that often came to mind when thinking of Cayenne was, royalty. 

One other word that came to mind was, magical. As in, magician. One morning we found her calmly grazing all by herself inside the web-fenced arena space despite the gate being closed. She somehow either jumped or high-stepped her way over that webbing without tipping a post or tangling a hoof.

Cayenne also maintained the neatest stall out of all four horses. Despite her penchant for painting the back wall with her poop, the rest of the shavings on her floor basically remained clean. I guess she reserved her mess for the water bucket in that stall. She had a habit of soaking her mouthfull of hay or feed pellets in the water as she ate. Made her bucket a murky disaster by the time we came around to refill them.

Wednesday morning the horse manager discovered Cayenne on the ground and in bad shape from an overnight episode of colic that the equine veterinarian assessed as beyond treatment.

Hunter was already grieving and they gave him an additional moment to come close to pay his respects. He brought his head down to the flank of her lifeless body and took a breath to confirm she was no longer in there. As he picked up his head, he smacked his lips in acknowledgement and turned to look out over the distance beyond.

Cayenne is gone but she will never be forgotten.

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Written by johnwhays

April 1, 2021 at 6:00 am

Looks Wrong

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This just looks wrong for a mid-January landscape in the Northland. When the sun came out for our afternoon walk, I was struck by how uncharacteristic the view was. I have only needed to plow the driveway once this season. It feels very strange.

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When Delilah and I were surveying the pasture for hazardous ice on Saturday, we instead found artistic ice formations.

I love these lines.

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One last thing that looks wrong this year, the white horse is missing from our herd.

In loving memory…

            LEGACY

7/18/1996 – 1/14/2018

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Written by johnwhays

January 14, 2019 at 7:00 am

Partly Smoky

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Cyndie and I drove up to the lake last night. It was a long day in a car for her, because she started the day yesterday up at the lake. She had gone up on Wednesday with Melissa and daughters, in an original plan to have me drive up to join them Thursday night, but that changed when a memorial for Charlie Weller was announced for Friday.

Charlie was the husband of Cyndie’s close high school friend, LuAnn (Miller). The revised plan had Cyndie riding home with Melissa and the girls yesterday afternoon, taking a moment to freshen up from beachwear to something more appropriate, driving us through afternoon traffic to Eden Prairie from our house, and then heading back to the lake from there, after paying our respects.

LuAnn and Charlie were dating in high school, not long after Cyndie and I had begun our relationship, so my memories of Charlie are wrapped in fragments of events that I haven’t thought about in decades. Even driving on roads in Eden Prairie, now approaching only six years distant from when I drove them almost every day, was feeling a little fractured.

I had to ask if we turned right or left at the intersection by the House of Kai restaurant to get to the funeral home.

In our haste to pull off this plan, we left out one pertinent aspect of determining the optimal route back to northwestern Wisconsin. I was tempted to try the old way we always drove when our kids were little and we regularly made the trip on back roads, but construction and traffic made the city portion an unwanted annoyance.

We paused for dinner at Jake’s to give traffic more time to thin out.

In the end, we chose to skirt the metro area on 494 and head up toward Stillwater to cross into Wisconsin on the new bridge. The resulting country roads we picked provided a rich reward of light traffic, gorgeous rolling hills and spectacular scenery.

We chuckled over the MPR radio weather forecast of “partly smoky” from the many fires burning out west, but when changing stations to our old favorite WOJB as we got far enough north, we heard the same phrase used again. Maybe it is an actual authorized weather service term.

It sure made an impact on the setting sun. It was looking dusky a lot earlier than the actual time of sunset. I held up my phone through the open top of Cyndie’s convertible at 7:52 p.m. and experimented with capturing it at 60 miles an hour.

Then I tried zooming in. It looked like a cartoon drawing of the sun.

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The optics of my iPhone seem to have added special effects without my input. Yes, that’s the sun glowing through the smoky sky.

Between the funky looking sun, my grasping at recollections of interactions with LuAnn and Charlie back in the 1970s, and finally, unexpectedly stumbling upon a portion of our old back roads route, but from a different point, my mind was feeling partly smoky.

“We’ve been here before…”

Yes, we have.

And now we are up at the lake again this weekend.

Ahhhhh. I remember this.

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Written by johnwhays

August 11, 2018 at 8:44 am

More Memories

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I hope you will understand if I continue our memorial another consecutive day, but I only made it through half of the pictures I had collected when I composed yesterday’s post, and Legacy’s life was just too big to fit into one photo montage.

Actually, the steps of composing these posts is therapeutic for Cyndie and me in processing our grief, so indulge us another day of honoring Legacy’s recent passing.

Despite holding the important position of herd-leader, he sure seemed to have plenty of time for play and/or mischief.

He never missed an opportunity to nibble and disassemble fencing, gate chains, our electric fence charger, wheelbarrow handles, or any other random item left within his reach. Whenever I took on a project that was in or near the paddocks, he was quick to come over to perform an inspection.

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I repeatedly found myself mentioning to Cyndie that I had a supervisor watching over my every move.

If you look back at the first two pictures in yesterday’s post, there is a striking difference between the sleek look of his summer coat and his bushy growth for winter. When it came time to shed that long hair, we struggled to cope with the immensity of the event.

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Of course, no sooner would we get him cleaned up than he would go off to find the messiest possible spot to roll around.

In his role as herd leader, Legacy made a point of being the first to approach whenever I wandered up to the fence to take pictures of the horses together. Most of those pictures ended up being of Legacy with three horses behind him, but not always.

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One of the most precious things Legacy demonstrated was his keen sensitivity for visitors who may not have any horse experience, might be feeling anxious, or were too young to understand safety protocols. Legacy was often the first of our horses to volunteer for exercises with clients.

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He always took steps to assure every person received attention, not just when there happened to be treats being handed out.

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That being said, he was a major treat-hound when it came to that. The presence of treats may have been one situation where the herd’s best interests were dropped down a notch below his own. The day we brought out the bright red frozen treats, shown in yesterday’s montage, he commanded full, exclusive control until he had his fill. The resulting red lips were a real hoot.

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Legacy rarely demonstrated a need to demand respect, basically, because it wasn’t necessary. He was granted full authority by the herd. Delilah naively tested Legs a couple of times, but it was never a fair exchange. Equine smarts held the advantage in all of their interactions that I witnessed.

There were countless occasions when I watched the three chestnuts scrambling with each other to challenge a pecking order, but Legacy was above such shenanigans.

He left them alone as often as possible to work it out themselves, and they were always careful to avoid brushing into him while they skirmished.

There is an uncanny void in our midst which will be incredibly difficult to fill. Legacy can’t be replaced.

With all that he has done for us in our time with him here, Legacy’s wisdom and spirit will remain a permanent fixture, that’s for sure. We are incredibly blessed and so very lucky to have had the honor of him becoming an integral part of our Wintervale Ranch adventures.

For now, though, it’s goodbye physical Legacy, goodbye.

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Written by johnwhays

January 17, 2018 at 7:00 am

Remembering Legacy

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He was a consummate leader, our Legacy. He arrived to our care in September of 2013, master of this group of 3 chestnuts with which he had been matched. We quickly came to recognize his gracious control of the herd as their benevolent dictator.

In the last couple of months we noticed signs something might be up, hints that maybe he was aware the end was near.

Yesterday morning, Cyndie found him in very bad shape out in the pasture. He had been so uncomfortable he had wrangled out of his blanket, and thus ended up matted with balls of iced-up snow.

Whatever was causing him pain, it was now exacerbated by his nearly freezing in the overnight sub-zero cold. Cyndie was able to get him up and walking back into the paddock before coming to get me and contact our vet. Legacy was heroic about letting us attempt to get him warmed up and responding to some meds, but his age, and condition, and the cold all conspired to keep the interventions short of being able to extend his time.

After a couple of hours waiting to see if he would feel better, his behavior was very clear. The vet returned and gently guided us through the process of helping Legacy through this transition.

Before the vet arrived, we had walked Legacy out of the paddock to open space in front of the barn. He was pawing the ground in response to pain and so Cyndie walked him to pass the time. He did really well for a brief span, but then picked a perfect spot to stop and calmly lay down.

He curled his legs underneath him and sat quietly, no longer needing to paw in pain. He accepted our hugs and condolences and patiently awaited what was to come.

When the truck pulled up, Legacy laid his head down, as if fully aware of what came next.

His amazing spirit is threaded indelibly throughout every single aspect of Wintervale Ranch, right down to the outline of his face in our logo. There are so many amazing, beautiful memories we have and hold of his time with us. He is irreplaceable and we will be challenged to figure out how to manage the days ahead, guiding Dezirea, Cayenne, and Hunter through their grief, while struggling to cope with our own.

Thank you to all of you who are supporting us with your love and kind condolences. Send our horses love. They are visibly disturbed by his departure, yet they mustered strength to provide some loving equine understanding to Cyndie as the vet drove away.

Legacy, (7/18/1996-1/14/2018), we send you off with all the love you fostered here, and more. May your spirit soar!

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Written by johnwhays

January 15, 2018 at 7:00 am

Goodbye Prince

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RIP Prince

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Written by johnwhays

April 22, 2016 at 6:00 am

March 11th

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I had forgotten the significance of March 11, until one of my sisters emailed a note that our sister, Linda, would have turned 64 this year if she were still alive.

JohnHSGraduationLindaI have a precious picture of Linda standing with me at my high school graduation. The event was not a significant achievement in my family, and as such, treated as more of a formality. I was the 5th of 6 kids. By the time I reached the milestone which marks the completion of high school, it had already been done enough times in my family that it was old hat.
It surprised and thrilled me that Linda chose to attend. I think I recall my mom being there, but have no memory of anyone else from my family. Or, if they were there, they apparently didn’t hang around long enough to pose for a picture at the brief social mixing after the ceremony, and prior to us graduates being whisked off to a YMCA for an all-night party.
I had no idea back then that global climate would begin to change significantly in my life time, or that the processed food industry would discover a “bliss point” of added sweetener which they could use to alter virtually EVERYTHING they sell in order to increase consumption of their products.
I knew I didn’t want to go to college, because I had no idea what I wanted to study and was far too frugal to find a way to spend so much money on something so many others were doing “just because.”
I got a job in a record store, working full-time while living at home with my parents, saving my money for what might come next. Eventually, I chose a technical education, focusing on the electronics of the recording industry, because I didn’t have confidence in my ability to make a starving artist’s living off my songwriting or performing.
The focused education of the electronics tech school aligned surprising well with my way of thinking and opened up a new avenue for living wage earning potential in the manufacturing industry.
Many years down that road, I saw some similarities in the experiences of my sister, Linda, and her work at that time in the paper industry. We developed some common language of industrial production operations.
Then she developed leukemia. As a direct blood-type match, I became a stem cell donor for a brand new exploration into stem cells instead of bone marrow transplant. Days before the procedure, I got shots of a bone growth hormone to boost my production of cells to be harvested. That was weird.
Doctors told me it might make me feel achy, like having the flu. It was unlike any achiness I had experienced before. Instead of pain in my joints, it was the center mass of my largest bones that gnawed at me. I had never in my life felt sensations from my sternum, but that happens to be a significant bone mass, and mine hurt very noticeably.
Linda lived almost a year after the transplant, growing hair back that was more wavy than before. Everyone decided it came from me. When her white-cell count skyrocketed again, she chose to let nature take its course and we all supported her journey to an end.
I would love to have had her presence on Cyndie’s and my journey to the rural country with our horses, dog, and cat. I know how much she would have reveled in it, and that would have thrilled me like the day she came to my graduation ceremony.
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Written by johnwhays

March 12, 2016 at 7:00 am