Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘Memories

Hiking Afton

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A hike in the woods along the scenic St. Croix River is always good for what ails, especially on an uncharacteristically summery day in the second half of October in the greater Twin Cities. Even better, doing it with precious friends and sharing a picnic lunch adds a magical essence of energizing endorphins.

We met Pam and John at Afton State Park early enough in the day that a second layer with long sleeves helped to tide us over until the heat of a summer day settled in. Pam and I first connected on a group trek in the Himalayas in 2009, the one that served as inspiration for me to start this blog. The mixture of terrain in the park and the marvelous conversations yesterday sparked remembrances for both of us of the weeks we shared over a decade ago in Nepal.

Driving to the Minnesota side of the St. Croix river from our house, I witnessed a phenomenon in the sky that was a first for me. High winds had pushed some clouds 90° from flat to straight up. On an otherwise unremarkable-weather morning, such an anomaly in the sky seemed incredibly remarkable to me.

I can only wonder what that would have been like for a small plane if one were in the vicinity.

My drive home included a different kind of excitement in the sky in the form of smoke. Actually, I smelled it before I saw it and the instant impression I had was alarm over the possibility of a brush fire on this hot and windy day with the extremely dry conditions our drought has caused.

I had just come through River Falls and finally spotting the thickness and depth of the smoke served to heighten my level of concern. Then I came upon a bright orange temporary road sign indicating a “prescribed burn” in progress.

“In these conditions?!!” I thought to myself.

Cyndie and I had traveled in separate cars as she had overnight plans with a friend in the Cities and drove west from Afton after our picnic and I returned home to take care of the horses and Delilah.

A short distance after the sign, my anxiousness dropped significantly at the sight of an incredible number of strategically parked vehicles and some big equipment, indicating this was not some short-sighted amateur operation. Still, it seemed to me like the weather conditions would have given them reason to pick another time for such a risky endeavor. I have no idea what the purpose was for the burn at that location.

Enquiring minds would like to know.

Good thing for me the residual endorphins from the good time hiking and picnicking in Afton State Park with John and Pam survived that brief, smoky disruption to my serenity on the drive home.

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Written by johnwhays

October 23, 2022 at 9:53 am

Our Day

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A day after we celebrated Julian’s birthday with a family dinner at a Bloomington restaurant, Cyndie and I claimed yesterday for ourselves in honor of our 41st wedding anniversary. Our animal sitter, Grace, was on the calendar to free us up to do whatever we wanted. In the end, we both wanted to stay home and work on our property.

I am thrilled that our first accomplishment involved clearing small stumps, roots, and rocks in our north loop trail that have prevented me from being able to mow that section as low as desired for our walking trails. I’ve been wanting to take care of this nuisance issue for two summers.

In the afternoon, we focused our attention on the labyrinth. I brought down our new favorite tool, the electric push mower to give it a fresh cut.

We rearranged rocks and pulled weeds, addressing only a fraction of the total that is deserving of attention. The progress looks so good it has us both wanting to get back down there again soon to continue the beautification.

Just as we were about worn out for the day, we looked up to find the horses had wandered back to hang out in our proximity. That was all the invitation we needed to stop what we were doing to go hang out with them.

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Throughout the day we reminisced about our wedding day back in 1981, an outdoor service on a day with very similar weather to what we were enjoying yesterday. I remember the trees were starting to turn colors, similar to what is beginning to happen here this week.

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Written by johnwhays

September 20, 2022 at 6:00 am

Gone Again

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Guess where we are now. Here’s a hint:

There is no lake in that photo but the lake place is where we are.

Yesterday morning, while the excavators were picking up where they left off the day before on ripping up the old driveway asphalt, I was rigging up the bike carrier on the back of Cyndie’s car. We drove over the freshly dumped gravel until we reached the backhoe at work and then took to the grass to get around it.

Two and a half hours later, we were up in the north woods.

Wasting no time, we walked our mini labyrinth in the woods, had lunch, went to the beach, swam in the lake, I took a cursory spin on a standup paddleboard, played a card game on the deck (CrossCrib!), and binge-watched the end of season 1 of Clarkson’s Farm on Amazon Prime while eating dinner and later, ice cream for dessert.

We are definitely up at the lake.

I gotta say, Clarkson’s Farm has totally swallowed my brain. I think it was really well produced. I only knew Jeremy Clarkson in passing, by way of having spotted him when channel surfing past episodes of the Top Gear or Grand Tour programs he co-hosted. After getting to know him as a bumbling novice farmer with money to burn, I can say my impression is very mixed. Part of me definitely likes him. All of me doesn’t like parts of him that come across in this humorous documentary series.

However, the supporting characters in the adventure are wonderful and the challenges represented are completely relatable. It definitely throws me back to all the firsts we’ve encountered when taking on the care of animals and management of rural property. Our situations are muted in comparison to his dealing with 1000 acres and growing crops using all manner of agricultural machinery, but plenty of the sentiments are familiar.

I think back to my not understanding the terminology of components of a trailer hitch, trying to figure out how to rake hay into windrows using my diesel tractor, or raising chickens with zero previous experience and I feel like Clarkson’s Farm could just have easily been Cyndie and John’s Big Wintervale Adventure.

All we needed was a top-notch camera and sound crew on hand 24/7 to record it all.

Actually, I’m really glad that never happened.

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Written by johnwhays

July 13, 2022 at 6:00 am

Still Works

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I have no recollection of the last time I hooked up my old stereo equipment, but every ten years or so isn’t a bad plan for a trip down memory lane. The old Marantz 2220B that I bought in the late 1970s from Midwest Stereo when I was probably 19 or 20 years old is still functional.

I’m thinking it has been on a storage shelf in the basement since we moved here in 2012. I might have set it up one time shortly after we arrived, but I can’t be certain. Brings back wonderful memories of the years when it was the center of my audio components setup.

I never was able to invest in constant upgrading of components that would have earned me a spot in the “audiophile” club, but treated my equipment like it was worthy for the majority of the time it was in service.

Cyndie authorized use of the dining room table for a temporary setup of the old turntable so I could spin some of the more unique albums she is looking to get rid of soon.

The platter spins, but not exactly at a constant speed. It has a built-in strobe and speed adjustment dials but the control is rather unsteady and the speed never completely holds at the spot it has been set. Oddly, it will randomly stray in either direction, fast or slow.

Regardless, I’m not listening in audiophile mode anymore and close is good enough. After checking out Leon Russell doing a classic “Youngblood/Jumpin’ Jack Flash” medley on the “Concert for Bangladesh” album, I moved directly to the one album from our old collection that I haven’t been able to find in digital form: “The Coyote Sisters” (1984). Leah Kunkel, Marty Gwinn, & Renée Armand.

If I can buy a recordable CD and figure out how I once did this, it would be nice to convert the album to digital so I can add it to my electronic library.

It is rare that I ever listen to full albums these days. I usually set my source to shuffle all the songs in my library and use the skip feature if it picks one I’m not in the mood to hear.

Another treasured LP from my collection is Eric Clapton, “At His Best” (1972) compilation. I found that the double album had two songs that were dinged up enough the needle would get stuck in a loop. That’s okay because I also figured out I just needed to download one album that wasn’t already in my digital library to get all the versions of songs on that “At His Best” album. Then I created a playlist in the exact order, named it, and assigned the album art for the icon.

Honestly, I think it’s a good thing I didn’t end up becoming a particularly picky audiophile.

At this point, I tend to hear most of my favorite songs in my mind even when they aren’t playing through my ears. I hardly use the sound from speakers except to trigger my mental files to play the version stored in the catacombs of my mind anyway.

It will be nice to have a refresher for the Coyote Sisters songs I haven’t heard in many years.

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Written by johnwhays

March 29, 2022 at 6:00 am

Measured Gait

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When I was a kid in school, I noticed there were others who walked with their feet angled toes-in or toes out and it led me to think the same thing could happen to me. It didn’t look right to me. I didn’t want to walk like that. As a result, I tried consciously aligning my feet with the seams of the floor tiles as I walked down hallways in hopes the practice would keep my gait from becoming misaligned.

How I place my feet as I walk hasn’t been something I constantly think about, but stepping straight ahead in line with those tiles did become a permanent memory that I’ve returned to thinking about many times over the years.

Fifty-some years and too-many-ankle-sprains-to-count later, I’m beginning to notice my right foot “toes out” a little bit in the prints I leave behind in the snow.

What I found interesting yesterday after I noticed my old footprints on the trail was that when I put conscious effort into paying attention to place my right foot straight, it felt like I was toeing it way too far in.

I’m not talking extremes here. The amount of difference is very small. A fraction of an inch. It’s fascinating to me that such a small percentage of change would feel so much larger than it really is.

This kind of correction reminds me of my never-ending quest to achieve an even pedal stroke on my bicycle. I’m decidedly right-side dominant in my pedaling which contributes to a “wobble” of the bike as I unconsciously push stronger with my right leg.

I dream of expending equal power with the push-pull of each leg, but if I’m not specifically thinking about it or I start to get fatigued, I can sense my effort becomes lopsided.

At least I never have to worry about the position of my feet when I’m clipped into the bike pedals. While I wobble down the road on my bike, my toes on both feet are always pointed straight ahead!

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Written by johnwhays

March 8, 2022 at 7:00 am

Fan Mail

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It is with great tenacity that Cyndie has undertaken a deep purge of items we have been holding onto for many years. In her case, for more than the years of her life. In addition to things she has from her own lifetime, she has recently processed collections of items and documents from her deceased father and aunt.

Frequently, a question arises about the monetary value of old items. Looking through dozens of old, old books, she found one with a comparable detail that is listed for over $1000.00 in an online rare book site.

The other night, Cyndie opened a box of things she saved that held letters I wrote when we were dating, including when we were contemplating marriage. She saved a great letter I had written when she was away at college. I had found some paper with the classic alternating solid and dashed lines for learning to write the letters of the alphabet. Using a crayon, I precisely shaped each individual letter to write out, “Dear Cyndie, How are you? I am fine.”

In my best infantile handwriting using the crayon, I wrote her name and address on the envelope in too-large, slanting lines.

One of my best efforts.

She found practically ALL of her k-12 report cards. Pretty good grades, but a first-grade teacher lamented that Cyndie falls asleep a lot. Cyndie remembers they were told to put their heads down on their desks after misbehaving and she fell asleep. The rest of the class got up for recess and she missed out, having slept right through it. (For the record, as an adult, Cyndie did a sleep study test and was diagnosed with an uncommon sleep disorder “idiopathic hypersomnolence.”)

The most fun find was mail she had received from TV stars she adored.

The Monkees photo was autographed! I told her it was probably worth money. She looked it up and found the exact image on eBay for $16-17.00. Maybe she should save it a little longer.

If you don’t recognize the black and white headshot, think, “Danger! Danger! Will Robinson!”

That’s Bill Mumy from “Lost in Space.” Cyndie saved the letter and it is such a hoot, I scanned it to share.

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I suggested Cyndie find a current address for him and cut off the bottom portion, fill it out and add the dollar-fifty to give him a laugh of his own.

Finding all this stuff has been entertaining, but keeping it any longer is hard to justify, especially while Cyndie is in the mood to part with it. It has me thinking about people who lose everything in an unexpected fire and suffer such emotional loss of a life’s worth of saved memorabilia. Here we are, voluntarily choosing to purge saved treasures.

Here’s to living in the moment.

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Written by johnwhays

February 5, 2022 at 11:46 am

Big Purge

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There has been a heroic level of de-cluttering going on around here lately. The credit goes to a burst of energy Cyndie experienced after doing some clean out of her mom’s house in preparation for a pending move. First, she inspired me to jettison a bunch of clothes I haven’t worn for years. Then, she brought me the contents of file cabinets that haven’t been cleaned out in a very long time.

I’d like to know who saved all this stuff in the first place.

The folder of long-term saved receipts was the most entertaining. I really need to remember to take the time to write what the receipt is for whenever that is not obvious. I was finding sales slips that had no clear identification of what the store or items purchased were. Why did we save those?

There were receipt slips with no date on them. Receipts for Apple products were printed with disappearing ink.

The types of purchases we intend to save records for a long time would be big-ticket items like furniture, appliances, or items of a high dollar amount. That’s why I would find Apple receipts. They’re not much good long-term if the print fades after two years.

Mixed into valid items in that file, I found silly, incidental low-dollar receipts. Better safe than sorry, we must be thinking at the time. Eight or ten years later, it makes for a laugh that we thought that way, originally.

We found our original marriage certificate tucked inside a folder of financial documents. Glad we haven’t needed to locate that document for decades. We never would have found it there.

After dinner last night, Cyndie sprung a surprise on me of some DVDs she discovered. Neither of us remembers getting old VHS tapes of home movies we’d recorded converted to digital, but there they were.

It went all the way back to 1986 when we made an attempt at recording movies that would chronicle the growth of our children, starting with 18-days-old Elysa up at the lake place. There were movies that neither of us remembers having watched back when they were originally recorded.

With a slice of warm from the oven blueberry/lemon pie for dessert last night, we viewed the first disc of three with Elysa’s name on it and then the first one of two with Julian’s. It was the obvious over-documentation of a firstborn and under-documentation of any child after the first one.

In classic kid form, at two years older than her little brother, Elysa was often seeking to be the center of focus when Mom and Dad were trying to record the boy.

We relived our kids’ first feedings of solid foods, first steps, and first birthdays. It had a significant ’80s vibe. There was a segment recorded at my mom’s small place for a Thanksgiving turkey dinner that included a glimpse of my vibrant (now-deceased) sister, Linda that amped up the already heavily nostalgic rush we were enjoying.

While in the middle of purging a lot of unneeded accumulation, we uncovered a treasure trove of memories we didn’t even know we had.

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Written by johnwhays

January 27, 2022 at 7:00 am

Why Wordle

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I have been contemplating the rapidly expanding popularity of the online word game, Wordle, and wondering what it is about it that appeals so. Since you can only play one word per day, that seems like it would be a detriment to the ever-expanding popularity. At the same time, it just might be one of the plusses.

The urge to play another round cannot be easily satisfied, so the attraction is maintained?

It seems to me, although individual interpretation will certainly vary widely, the game is rather simple without being too easy. The obvious target audience would be people who are fond of words and playing with words and solving puzzles.

The clues provided and the limitation of 5-letter words offer just enough support to keep the solution within reach of the six guesses available.

The randomness of letter options chosen for each turn creates an exciting mystery that determines the odds for solving on subsequent turns.

What a wonderful surprise it must be for the founder, John Wardle, to see how popular his creation has become.

Something about this game has triggered memories of an old favorite word game our family played in the car when trying to kill time during our frequent 3-hour drives to the lake place when the kids were young. Each player can select a word to be guessed and the first word Julian selected became the name of our made-up game ever after: “labelye” (La [soft A] • bull • yee).

What made the game difficult was that it was played completely in our minds. We had to visualize the letters in our heads to scramble and descramble them. Julian chose the word eyeball and had to scramble them into a pronounceable word clue for us to work with.

We could ask him to spell it, so we had the right letters to decode, but sounding out the scrambled word was one way to keep all the letters in our minds while trying to rearrange them into a solution. It was a trick to do without writing anything down and that probably made it too hard to catch on as a game that we kept playing as time went by, but it worked pretty slick for a while to occupy our attention and distract each of us from the doldrums of being trapped in a vehicle for longer than desired.

None of us were able to solve Julian’s scramble, so he won the round by stumping us and that helped nudge his word to become the name of the game from then on.

I suppose it wouldn’t be too complicated for a skilled game developer to build an app for that old car game so word puzzlers will have something new to play with after Wordle has faded out of the viral game-of-the-moment moment.

“Hey, Alexa! Give me a Labelye word to descramble while I wait for tomorrow’s next Wordle game.”

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Written by johnwhays

January 17, 2022 at 7:00 am

Date Night

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Cyndie and I were out last night in Excelsior with friends, Eapen and Barb for dinner and some live music in support of singer/songwriter, John Magnuson, from our association of families up at the lake place.

I worked late in Plymouth until the appointed hour of our dinner reservation and Cyndie drove from home after feeding animals and walking Delilah. Then, like ships passing, I drove home and Cyndie went to her mom’s house for the night.

It proved to be one of those days when I left home in morning darkness and returned during the dark of night. Makes it seem downright wintery already.

I did actually see some daylight during the intermediate drive from Plymouth to Excelsior. I arrived with time to spare which allowed for a stroll down memory lane from my days twenty-some years ago when I worked to co-publish “City’s Tone” from a basement office just off Water Street.

It was a beautiful night for the walk. As for a “date,” it could have used a lot more “we” time.

Now, I’m on morning chore duty before logging in remotely to the day-job tasks and waiting for an appliance repair person to show up and assess the leak in our washing machine.

Nothing like the duties of daily life to all too quickly muddy the memories of being out on the town the night before. Guess we’ll just have to schedule another event. Oh! Look at this! We have another dinner date with friends already on the calendar for tonight.

Pretty good planning, eh?

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Written by johnwhays

October 15, 2021 at 6:00 am

Outliving Dad

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The reason I easily remember the last time I saw my father alive is that it was my wedding day on September 19, 1981. Forty years ago, October 2nd was a Friday. Just out of college with a degree in education, Cyndie had unexpectedly nabbed a job with the Edina Police Department and I had yet to find employment. That Friday, on our first week home after our honeymoon, she was on a ride-along with a patrol officer.

I was home alone for the first time since we’d been married and the guys at the station found it humorous at first when I needed to contact her in the middle of the shift.

“Is it an emergency?”

“Well, sort of.” I was in a state of shock over having received the news in a phone call from my younger brother. “My dad died.”

Cyndie came home early from that ride-along shift.

Myocardial Infarction. My dad was 62.

On October 2nd, 2021, I am 62, a fact that seems to mean more to my doctor than me when it comes to my ultimate longevity. But I can’t deny a certain level of awareness about reaching this milestone.

I’ve spent the last forty years navigating being married, working a technical career, and raising children without my dad available for advice or guidance. Now I will embark on the rest of my life journey without having had his example of being an old Hays man.

After Cyndie and I returned from honeymooning up in the woods on the North Shore of Lake Superior, with a stop in Hayward for a couple of nights on the way home, we were taking our very first steps navigating life together in an unfamiliar rented duplex on Cedar Avenue near Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis.

A few days into our first week, it occurred to me that I should pay a visit to my parents before my dad took off for his weekend jaunt “to the lake.” The little fishing cottage on the north shore of Lake Mille Lacs was his version of heaven, I think, or simply a place he could go to be away from, well, the rest of what he found depressing at home.

It was Thursday afternoon and Mom said, “You just missed him.” He got a jump ahead of weekend traffic leaving on a Thursday. I would never see my dad again.

The story I was told is that it appeared as if he had pulled the bedcovers back, sat down on the edge of the bed, and fell back, dead.

This was six months after an initial heart attack that he described to me from his hospital bed as being “a pain I would never wish upon my worst enemy.”

That description helped inspire me beyond merely not wanting to be a depressed alcoholic like him, but not wanting to develop that classic beer belly and clog my arteries with an unhealthy diet. My doctor thinks that still might not be enough. He worries about my genes.

Other than having my older brother, Elliott for a sibling reference, I am now in uncharted territory.

I hope you are taking good care of your ticker, E.

Mine is just a little uneasy today over all the remembering. I expect its got plenty of mileage left, though. I work to keep my heart filled with plenty of love, both coming in and going out.

Thanks, Ralph, for everything you have taught me, in life and in your sudden death forty years ago today.

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Written by johnwhays

October 2, 2021 at 6:58 am