Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘Perceptions

Coping Skills

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It’s getting hard to miss the memes questioning what the deal is with 2020 so far. There is one showing the frame for a couple of swings installed next to a brick wall. Yeah, it kinda feels like that. I guess with a global pandemic for a backdrop, any other situation which arises can feel like a slap in the face. The clear video of a white police officer slowly and arrogantly suffocating a black man was a serious gut punch with reverberations riling up centuries of prejudicial inequalities.

It’s getting hard to cope.

I am not surprised to have read somewhere of a trend toward moving from inner cities to the suburbs. I am truly grateful and totally aware of the precious benefit we enjoy in having acres of green space where we can stroll to breathe in the calming balm of all that nature offers.

There was a hint of a break in the cloud cover yesterday that teased of blue sky on the way but in classic 2020 fashion, it disappointed. The sunlight never broke through a gauze of dirty white that mysteriously found a way to hang around.

Our endurance is being tested. I see it as a challenge to how we frame our perceptions. There is no beginning or end when it comes to the span of time. There won’t be a single day which can be measured as the end of the coronavirus pandemic, just as there isn’t an identifiable moment when it began. Same thing for racial prejudice.

We are on a continuum. Life is a big, long ride. Figure out a way to cope for the long haul.

I suggest we mind our manners, take care of ourselves first before helping others, but by all means, seek to help others. Maybe release our urge to so vehemently control outcomes and discover a deeper awareness of what unconscious fears are actually coloring our perceptions.

Put a little extra effort into loving ourselves and in turn, nurturing greater love for others and the world we all share.

What a lovely way to cope with the challenges of life: coping by loving.

Group hug! [after the pandemic, I mean.]

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Written by johnwhays

June 20, 2020 at 7:32 am

Pay Attention

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Attention to what? That’s a good question.

Here are some possibilities:

  • Your posture right now.
  • Who is suffering most among those you know and love.
  • The best return for your investment of time.
  • How long it has been since you voiced appreciation to someone deserving.
  • How you might help someone less deserving.
  • Your most common habitual “tick.”
  • When you sense yourself not acting in your own best interest.
  • How false information is being used for unethical advantage.
  • What it is you are actually afraid of.
  • How long it has been since you laughed and cried at the same time.
  • What you actually ate in one day that was not a healthy choice.
  • How swiftly days become weeks and weeks become months.
  • How much sleep you are getting.
  • Maintaining a healthy social distance from all others.
  • The expression on your face when not actively smiling.
  • How much of our unspoken thinking is inadvertently communicated.
  • When you find yourself unable to ask for what you need or want.
  • The power of love.

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Written by johnwhays

May 27, 2020 at 6:00 am

Living History

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With the onset of this current global COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting financial repercussions underway, it is becoming obvious the incidents and impacts of these days will be noted in historical records for future reference. What is it like to live through national or global newsmaking events as they are happening?

I don’t really know.

And I’ve lived through plenty of them.

Life just seems to go on. People who don’t lose their lives or family members and friends find ways to adjust to temporary impacts on normal routines and employ a wide range of coping mechanisms to get on with doing whatever needs to be done. In the moments, it often doesn’t seem quite so historic on the personal level. It’s the collective impact of large segments of a population and the subsequent mass media accounting of details that tend to provide a bigger significance to things.

Even with that, being alive during historic circumstances never seems to feel as significant in the moment for me as I expect it should.

In my life, the impacts of newsworthy events haven’t been particularly acute. They are often shocking, such as the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster or the terrorist attacks against the United States in September of 2001, but none completely life-altering. Even for Cyndie, who was flying frequently in 2001, the change to her routine was short-lived with respect to the immediate grounding of flights for a time and then only minorly impacted after flights resumed.

I remember the 1973 siege of Wounded Knee by followers of the American Indian Movement and feeling like it was a significant event at the time, but it was really just a story on the news from where I lived.

As the 444 days of the Iran hostage crisis played out between 1979-1981, it felt awful to carry on with my activities as if nothing was amiss, but there really was no noticeable impact on my life beyond seeing a lot of yellow ribbons tied around trees in symbolic support of the hostages.

In 2008, there was what is now referred to as “the Great Recession” which just might end up comparing to the current financial “correction” in the markets. It’s possible we are about to experience the recession of 2020. Maybe it won’t be as “great.” I somehow plodded through the years surrounding the Great Recession with minor suffering. My net worth wasn’t so large that I had all that much value to lose and we were lucky enough to be in a position that our homeownership wasn’t threatened.

Somewhere in my collection of family history, I have the original “Quarantine” sign that was attached to my father’s home when he was [I believe] 12-years-old and contracted polio. That seems like a significant event for my father and his family, yet I don’t recall him ever mentioning it. The amount of subsequent paralysis he experienced from that was virtually imperceptible. Without my mother having mentioned it and giving me the sign the family had saved from his door, I wouldn’t have known.

I don’t really know what it’s like to live through historic events, even though that’s what I’m doing right now.

Maybe it’s simply like living the life that I’m living.

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Written by johnwhays

March 10, 2020 at 6:00 am

Ground Moves

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The snow melting continued with full momentum yesterday, exposing a lot more ground than the day before. We walked the property to survey the progress up close and witnessed more evidence of how much the ground moves this time of year.

The free-standing angel statue is once again a “lying-prone” angel. Poor thing takes a lot of abuse left on its own to deal with the elements. It’s not really alone in that predicament, though, as the peace pole beside it that is only anchored by an 8-inch stake will also tip over as soon as the frozen dirt around it melts enough to let the slightest breeze put pressure on any side.

Happens every year.

One thing that hasn’t happened until now is the arrival of an aggressive digging gopher within the confines of the labyrinth, but we can now add that to the ongoing saga of nuisances.

There were three or four additional locations of similar soil disruption messing up almost a quarter of the circuitous paths. I’m not looking forward to the struggle to redirect that beast’s attention elsewhere this summer.

When we reached the paddocks, I discovered it is very easy to see the distance two of the posts have been pushed up by the freezing and thawing of the ground. The telltale stain at the base is a clear gauge of how far they have come up in the last few days. There is an additional faded line that is a record of a previous, or possibly the original depth to which the posts were set.

We are just a week into March, so I am readying myself for a few more rounds of freezing and thawing cycles and probably one or a few snow accumulations before this kind of havoc changes to thunderstorms and tornado threats that will be grabbing our attention. It’s always something, you know.

Luckily, between all that calamity we will enjoy some glorious weather, too.

We’ve never been denied interludes of luxuriously blissful weather days, but have you ever noticed how the nice weather never ends up being as earth-shaking and attention-getting as the troublesome days?

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Written by johnwhays

March 9, 2020 at 6:00 am

Not Level

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This isn’t the first year I’ve had the impression that the chicken coop is leaning away from level, but it’s now become more obvious than I am able to ignore. Every time I walk past it, I fight an urge to walk over and push it back to level, but I’m the one who buried those six posts 3-feet deep each. A little push on the side of the structure won’t do anything to press the far posts back down to where they started.

Part of me wants to think it’s just an optical illusion given the relative reference of the surrounding ground. The view from the other side doesn’t look all that bad.

If I’d bother to walk up to the shop to get the level there would be no questioning it, but the issue is an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” level concern and has yet to warrant the intentional hike in order to verify my instinct. Wouldn’t really make any difference, anyway. There is nothing I would do about it either way.

Actually, I don’t need the level. If you didn’t already spot it, go back and look at that first image. There is an easy reference line –two actually– revealing a straight verticle in the items hanging on the outside wall. Based on those lines being straight up and down, the horizontal boards are definitely not square to that.

The frost heave that occurs in the ground is in charge of the angle of this structure. The legs of the coop were not installed like footings for structures that must meet building codes.

Luckily, our hens don’t seem to give a cluck about it.

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Written by johnwhays

March 5, 2020 at 7:00 am

Brain Freeze

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Yesterday was a very inviting glorious blue-sky sunny day for a walk. There were just two primary hazards to trekking our trails to walk the dog. The first was slippery footing on the packed and polished snow tracks we were precariously perambulating. [Sorry, couldn’t help myself.] The footing is really risky on the inclines, especially going downhill. The repeating cycles of melting and refreezing we have endured this winter have turned the oft traveled packed paths into uneven glass-like surfaces.

One alternative is to walk just off to the side of the glossy path, but that becomes its own adventure of struggling to soft-shoe your way on top of the occasionally stable crust, faltering frequently as a boot collapses 6-to-10 inches into the loose old snow below.

Once on the flat of our paths out of the woods, the second hazard became the greater of the two challenges. The old snowpack covering our land no longer holds much air. It’s like one giant iceberg that radiates cold that would make a walk-in freezer jealous. The face-freezing chill was made even more emphatic by the warm sunshine from above offering an opposing reference sensation. The relatively warm air was dramatically losing the battle for dominance.

With the slightest hint of a breeze moving that radiating cold-cold-cold from the massive surface surrounding us and pushing away the comparatively weaker not-as-cold air in the warm sunshine, we both noticed the increasing sensation of a brain freeze.

“Ice cream headache!” Cyndie exclaimed.

Yes, it was that kind of cold.

The thermometers were displaying the mid-to-upper 20s(F), but our brains were registering something much more Arctic.

Happy Leap Day, 2020!

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Written by johnwhays

February 29, 2020 at 7:00 am

Baking Adventure

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Both Cyndie and I have noticed how the lighter color of the new deck boards catches our eye with a false perception of snow covering the deck, especially at night. It happened to me last night, on a trip to the bathroom, except on the way back to bed, the view out the window revealed a white covering over everything.

This morning there is a light frosting on the landscape. Sure is nice to have the deck project completed.

We’ve adjusted by moving our adventures indoors. Cyndie’s favorite bakery in Hastings, Emily’s, prepares an almond danish coffeecake that has inspired Cyndie to try making one herself. My contribution was to build her a fire in the fireplace and standby to test taste.

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I am happy to report her first try of enacting a combination of old recipes uncovered online turned out delicious. Cyndie said one she found was posted by a very old-looking grandma who wrote the recipe had come from her grandmother.

It felt like olde-time baked goods. It tasted like historical goodness. Almost made me want to have coffee with it.

But I don’t like the taste of coffee. That would have been a real adventure for me.

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Written by johnwhays

November 2, 2019 at 9:47 am

Duly Moved

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Last night I watched the award-winning documentary, Free Solo about Alex Honnold’s epic climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. What a masterpiece of a film! I highly recommend it. I was duly moved by the intimate glimpse into Alex’s life, and the inclusion of the emotional challenges of those around him coping with the immensity of the monumental risk he was facing in his quest to climb that granite monolith without ropes.

Alex points out that any of us could die at any moment, whether doing something risky, or not. I tend to avoid things with a high risk of death whenever possible, but it is true that my life could end at any time. One way I interpret his thinking is to frame myself as “free soloing” all the time.

It made my walk with Delilah a little more exciting than normal after the movie.

She suffered a bit of a panic inside her overnight safe-space crate yesterday morning when a rowdy thunderstorm rumbled over top of us at oh-dark-thirty. I didn’t have much success trying to assure her we weren’t in jeopardy as I prepared to leave for work, which made it rather stressful for me to walk out the door and leave her alone until Maddie was due to show up an hour or two later.

I soothed myself by considering how she would greet me when I got home at the end of the day, as if clueless that anything out of the ordinary had happened earlier, which turned out to be true. She did.

We then made the rounds on the property, hiking the perimeter trails and surveying the results of the wild weather. There were 2.5 inches of rain in the gauge and the ground is fully saturated, but no new-fallen trees or limbs, thank goodness. That much rain, or more, is expected to fall before this weather event is done and gone.

We will carry on and survive to the best of our ability, even though I now have this new sense that I am doing it all without the benefit of any ropes.

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Written by johnwhays

September 12, 2019 at 6:00 am

Stop

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Words on Images

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Written by johnwhays

August 22, 2019 at 6:00 am

Plenty Tall

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When we were on the road to the lake for the Independence Day weekend earlier this summer, we found the farm fields to be shockingly underdeveloped. Many didn’t show any sign that a crop had even been planted. Where corn was visible, it was barely six inches tall.

The classic rhyme of “knee-high by the 4th of July” was far from being met this year.

On the way home from work on Monday, as we approach the middle of August, I suddenly became aware of the dramatic growth finally achieved by local farmers of field corn.

It’s well over a head taller than me.

That picture shows the field immediately to the south of our property.

Having 8-foot walls of corn stalks arise along our rural roads really changes the ambiance of those portions of my commute.

I once read that genetic engineering of corn plants has changed them to be more tolerant of crowding. An acre of land can produce higher yields of corn if you can plant seeds closer together.

The stalks are now planted so tight with one another that I can’t even fit between them.

They’re also so tall that I can’t see over them.

A cornfield would make for a really fine maze, wouldn’t it?

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Written by johnwhays

August 14, 2019 at 6:00 am