Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘pandemic

Different Tracks

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Our grass is growing fast and the ground is saturated from recent rains so I decided to use the power trimmer to mow areas with standing water to avoid creating muddy tire tracks. While focused on the grass in front of me, I was oblivious to what was happening behind me.

As I shuffled along at a slow pace, I was leaving muddy tracks behind me. Ha ha! Oh well.

I trimmed along the paddock fence from the outside and then stepped inside to clean up around the overhang. With no horses grazing the paddocks, the grass in there is growing pretty tall.

It feels very satisfying to transform the place from looking abandoned to freshly trimmed. It’s only partially abandoned.

This morning we are abandoning the property for a few hours to attend a socially distanced graduation ceremony for Cyndie’s niece, Althea, on her family’s driveway in Edina.

I appreciate the attempt to accomplish some traditions amid the upside-down turmoil of a global pandemic and civil unrest.

In the middle of my afternoon of mowing yesterday, I claimed a block of time to watch coverage of the launch of the manned Dragon capsule as it happened. In the evening, I watched the news broadcasts of police and national guard soldiers arresting violators of the curfew put in place to quell the looting and riots that have unfolded amid the protesters who are fed up with police abuse and unchecked murder of black citizens.

Remember when kneeling during the national anthem was the attempt to express protest over police misconduct?

While I am making different tracks in our wet areas, protesters are seeing a need to use different tactics to bring a change in the unacceptable status quo of equality being professed but not enacted.

We shall overcome, someday.

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Written by johnwhays

May 31, 2020 at 8:00 am

Breakfast Buddy

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It was only a short time ago that Cyndie was visited for a day by a wild roughed grouse while gardening. A couple of days ago, we had a wonderful sighting of a brightly colored oriole in a pine tree outside our window, which is a rare event in the more than seven years we have been here.

Now, we have an iridescent blue-black starling with a very yellow beak who, for the past two days, is showing up to have breakfast with our chickens.

Arriving this morning in a branch overhead, and then making its way down to partake of the grain in the pan on the ground, the chickens only mildly appeared to question the return of this unlikely visitor.

Maybe birds are picking up on these unprecedented extraordinary times of the pandemic and seeking to make an extra connection with others around them.

Wouldn’t surprise me a bit, except for the fact the birds probably aren’t aware the novel coronavirus COVID-19 is infecting humans around the world.

Maybe it has more to do with people slowing down enough to take notice. Who knows? It could be a little bit of both.

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Written by johnwhays

May 24, 2020 at 9:34 am

Changed Plans

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How many times lately have we heard that plans have changed? More than a few, I dare say. It reaches a point where I’m finding myself less inclined to make any future plans of substance. My 6-month dental checkup and cleaning appointment due in March was rescheduled when the shutdowns started occurring.

I LOVE the feeling after having my teeth professional cleared of plaque and asked for the next earliest appointment. They gave me Tuesday, May 19. Last Thursday, the scheduler called me to cancel that appointment and said they can’t even guess when the next possible chance will be.

Yesterday, I had planned to connect the chipper to the diesel tractor PTO to convert those tree branches to woodchips before the coming rain arrived. The weather allowed the whole day as the precipitation didn’t begin until dusk. The tractor did not cooperate. It was rather depressing.

I am not a tractor mechanic, but I am willing to naively explore possible solutions to problems. My best guess is that one of the multiple safety interlocks is keeping the starter from working. It’s actually happened before. The very first time I tried to start the tractor, I couldn’t get it to work. The seller had just changed the battery and assured me he would pay to have a service person look at it.

That technician arrived and immediately put the tractor on his flatbed truck, but decided to try one last time before hauling to the shop. It fired right up. I asked what he did differently than me and he said he didn’t know. We assumed it was making sure the gears and PTO were properly in the off/neutral position.

Last year, this happened to me again, but I persevered and after multiple tries, it fired up. Problem was forgotten.

Until yesterday. I tried the same thing over and over again so many times I surpassed the “insanity” definition ten times over. I finally broke down and called my next-door neighbor for advice. He knows tractors as a guy who collects them, refurbishes them, and buys and sells them. He even owns the exact same New Holland model as mine, among his many International Harvester collection.

Diagnosing remotely, he worried about the battery, since I admitted I hadn’t ever cleaned the connections. Well, his concern was well placed, as the neglect was evident and cleaning was warranted. But it wasn’t the problem.

I tracked wires and disconnected and reconnected junctions. While rummaging around beneath the belly of the beast, I found how much corrosion resulted from the mess after the valve stem broke on the liquid-filled tire last year. I spent hours tinkering cluelessly, interspersed with the repeated insanity of positioning and repositioning the PTO lever that I think is the problem. Nothing changed.

Eventually, I gave in to a change of plan and moved on to something else to salvage some glimmer of accomplishment for the day. I removed 24 blocks from six pallets that got added as eight rows to our boardwalk in the woods on our main perimeter trail.

That will be valuable since we’ve already received 1.5″ of rain overnight and it’s still falling.

I plan to call a professional to service the tractor.

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Big Little

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Amid all the big issues swirling around the pandemic, like federal government response, different state government responses, economic doom and gloom, employment insecurities, and uncertain futures, there are still a lot of typical everyday little things that continue to play out.

I find that I keep putting off making a call to address a need to replace the windshield on my Crosstrek. For months I have ignored a chip from a rock impact that only showed up in my view when the light was hitting it just right. More recently, a second stone strike, low on the passenger side, began to form a crack. Now that crack is slowly growing evermore toward the midpoint.

Last night, we enjoyed lo mein and sesame chicken take-out from King House restaurant in Ellsworth. It tasted divine. It was almost a religious experience to open the classic white box of lo mein and dish out a generous portion of noodles and goodies onto my plate, then spoon the dangling noodles back into the box to discover it was still filled to the top. If I hadn’t just served it myself, I would have argued that it couldn’t be true.

I’m already looking forward to enjoying the leftovers in the next few days. There looks to be enough remaining to feed an army.

While we were up in the loft eating, there was a very loud bang on one of our windows. We get a lot of bird strikes against our glass portals to the forest views, but this one was loud enough that I struggled to imagine what could have made that impact. A small deer? When the dog and I finally reached the front of the sunroom, a very large bird leaped up into the air and flew to the closest giant oak tree. It was a pileated woodpecker!

Cyndie noted the feathers and a panic-induced s-shape of excrement stuck to one of the crank-out windows beside me.

Little distractions from the historical pandemic drama playing out in the agonizingly slow motion of months threatening to drag into years are a welcome diversion.

Even if they have to do with two grossly decaying mice that were discovered in the long-stored chicken waterer that Cyndie pulled out for use now that freezing temperatures appear to be behind us for another year. Apparently, they figured out a way to squeeze inside the egg-shaped plastic dome, but not how to get out again.

I’m told it didn’t smell pleasant.

I have no new news to report on the friendly feathered visiting grouse that was keeping Cyndie company on Wednesday as she worked around her garden plots. Maybe it was just passing through. Just like the woodpecker and so many of the other wild travelers who traverse our terrain.

The two worlds of big things and small things coexist, but rarely seem to show any particular concern for one another.

Gladly, we have free choice to decide which of the two will have the focus of our attention at any given moment in time.

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Not Knowing

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If only we knew. Have I been infected? Do I have antibodies? Will illness strike someone I know? Will the economic depression last very long? Will the food supply chain normalize? Will hospitals near me become overrun? When I get the virus will I have no symptoms, or will I need to be hospitalized? Will there be a second wave?

Thus far, the COVID-19 pandemic has barely impacted my life. I could avoid contributing to the oversaturation of media information on the topic and only write about home projects and the weather as if there is no life-altering virus outbreak disrupting the world all the while. I’d prefer that, actually. But the reality is, there is an undulating ripple that is disturbing the universal foundation of how everything used to work, which makes pretending there isn’t seem conspicuously disingenuous.

Of greater distress to me than not knowing the answers to all the questions in my first paragraph is the growing reality that I no longer have plans on the calendar for going out with friends or family for dinner to celebrate events, or for going to see live music performances, or to go to the lake this summer, or take a week off work to go biking and camping with friends.

We don’t know what we are going to be doing next week, next month, all summer, or next year. That puts a real crimp in the realm of feeling hopeful and inspired.

It’s just not very sexy to replace that kind of hope with the more realistic desires of hoping we all get through this alive and with some semblance of our incomes, assets, and health still intact.

I struggle with a little guilt over feeling like I would prefer to just get the virus and be forced to stay home and do nothing for two weeks just so I could have a few days of certainty and also a little justification for allowing myself to lay in bed until I honestly didn’t want to anymore.

I’m tired. I don’t want to simply appreciate the sunlight shining on the newly blossoming flowers. Dewdrops on the grass. Pond frogs starting to sing again.

I don’t want to meditate on the zen of not knowing.

Well, maybe I do want a little of that meditation, especially in place of hearing one more government briefing about how they are going to ramp up testing or whether or not it is wise to speculate about injecting disinfectant that works on hard surfaces into human bodies.

Is it possible to inhale UV light? That might work.

I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be sarcastic.

I feel for those who suffer every day with the fear of getting infected and for the people who are already suffering significant financial disruptions. As well, for those who are needing to work long hours for days and weeks on end at higher risk of infection to care for seriously ill patients.

Here’s to achieving the art of finding peace with not always knowing.

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Written by johnwhays

April 28, 2020 at 6:00 am

Now This

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Last night, I received notification that the single organized group-bike-tour that I participate in every June has been canceled for 2020 due to some virus pandemic. The Tour of Minnesota will take this summer off. My intuition tells me there is a good chance my pedals and spokes won’t get much of a workout this year.

That tour was the incentive to get me spinning those wheels as early as possible every spring, oftentimes against my preference to rather not.

“I’m too tired today.”

“There are too many other chores I should be doing.”

“The weather isn’t ideal.”

“I don’t feel like riding right now.”

Despite those and other excuses, whenever I overcome the resistance and get myself out on the bike, I am always incredibly happy to be riding.

Without the incentive of the impending week-long trip of high daily mileage to drive my actions, I fear my endless collection of excuses will override my pleasure of gliding along country roads, especially during times of social distancing. Riding alone is nowhere near as fun as riding with a group.

On the bright side, now I won’t be thinking about a risk of becoming symptomatic with a virus that compromises lungs while needing to pedal for multiple 70-mile days and sleep overnights on the ground in a tent.

I picture myself choosing some less-taxing adventures close to home in the months ahead. For some reason, I keep seeing tree-shaded hammocks swinging in this vision.

That must mean Cyndie will be doing the lawn mowing.

“Don’t forget to wear a mask, hon!”

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Written by johnwhays

April 9, 2020 at 6:00 am

Flippin’ Cool

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Yesterday, we received the April issue of National Geographic magazine marking the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and it’s flippin’ cool! I mean, literally!

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From Editor, Susan Goldberg:

“For the occasion, we’ve created the first ever “flip” issue of National Geographic—essentially two magazines in one—to revisit environmental milestones of the past half century and to look ahead at the world our descendants will inhabit in 2070, on Earth Day’s 100th anniversary.”

I figured it was just a cool cover and the inside would be all one orientation, but no, the contents literally reflect opposing views.

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A quick turning of the pages revealed a wealth of information that will take me a while to consume, but I’m already enjoying the creative presentation.

I’m open to both ways of framing the status of our planet and undecided as to which perspective I will read first. I’ll probably start with the bad and then finish with the good to leave me with a more optimistic mindset.

I didn’t notice if either view includes a reference to dealing with pandemic flu events. Reports have surfaced pointing out the massive shutdown of activity across the planet has quickly resulted in decreases in atmospheric pollution.

There is a meme going around depicting the pandemic as the Earth sending us all to our rooms to think about what we’ve done. While people are stuck at home, the planet is getting a little reprieve from the previous levels of industrial abuse.

Here’s to the possibility of humans permanently changing behaviors for the better after the current pandemic passes into history. I’m sure the Earth would welcome a correction of the current trajectory.

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Written by johnwhays

March 31, 2020 at 6:00 am