Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘storytelling

Writing Words

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Relative Something is a blog. The word blog is short for weblog, as in, world wide web + log [regular record of incidents]. Blogs are written in an informal conversational style. I write about my experiences like I would describe them if we were just hanging out, minus the pauses when I can’t think of the word I want to use. A thesaurus is my friend.

It would embarrass me greatly if the frequency of my error in using a word were prominently displayed on my posts. I am forever grateful for the intuition to double-check a dictionary and thesaurus. I don’t write exactly like I talk but I do write the way thoughts and ideas come into my head. Another thing I am forever grateful for is the dialogue I was surrounded by growing up. My vocabulary came from hearing the words my mom and dad used while WCCO radio and television broadcasts ran as a background soundtrack.

It is not rare that a sentence will come into my head with a word that I don’t recognize as coming from my own common usage but feels connected to something my mother would say.

Yesterday, as I steeled myself against a biting wind chill, I caught myself doing the classic “air whistle” that is an obvious habit my mom displayed. I have tried to grow out of that natural tendency, with little success beyond increased awareness of occasions when I am doing it. At the same time, it’s a habit that always draws memories of my mom from deep in my soul and brings a feeling of pride over being one of her kids.

Why would I try to get myself to stop this behavior? Maybe it’s a remnant of the urge to grow up and become my own person.

I am unabashedly a product of my upbringing and my ancestral heritage but I have the desire to grow well beyond simply being like my parents. Striving to be healthier in mind, body, and spirit has helped me to interrupt a pattern of familial depression and the use of alcohol as (an ineffective –even detrimental) treatment.

I don’t have a memory of my parents writing poetry but I have read the poems of another of my ancestral relatives. My inclination is to assemble words in a rhythmic pattern that appeals to my senses. That often drives the selection of a word more than the meaning of the word itself. When the collection of words is stacked up, the variety of possible intentions often surprises me. I don’t always know what the poems are saying about me but I have learned that readers often come to their own conclusions.

Helping Cyndie to shape and reshape a story she hopes to tell in a week and a half has been a fun experience for me. It is blurring the differences between verbal stories and written chronicles. Either way, readers or listeners are forming their own interpretations in their minds, conjuring mental images and feeling whatever emotions the words inspire.

I have a feeling her project could help me to become a better writer of stories about the experiences of *this* John W. Hays.



Written by johnwhays

March 19, 2023 at 10:50 am

Grand Slam

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One of the things Cyndie decided to do to occupy herself during the months she was laid up with a broken ankle was to explore storytelling. “The Moth” level of storytelling. She bought their book about storytelling and started writing down details of stories from her life experiences that seemed worthy of telling. She picked the date of a local Moth story slam at the end of this month and has been working on honing one of her stories down to an effective 5-minute version.

Last night, we drove to St. Paul to get an in-person taste of Moth storytelling at the Fitzgerald Theater. It was their GrandSLAM Championship where nine winners of previous story slams competed against each other with 5-minute stories based on a common theme of “Crash Course.”

At the end of the night, my first question to her was, “Did that change your mind about throwing your name in the hat?”

It didn’t. I find it difficult to understand that she won’t even know if she will have a chance to try until the night of the event because they pull 10 names out of a hat to determine whose stories will be told. I don’t know how many people show up hoping to be selected to stand on stage in front of a microphone under a bright light in front of a large audience, but I’d guess it will be more than ten.

Last night we got the chance to see what aspects of the storytelling worked well and what Cyndie might want to keep in mind if she gets the chance to tell her story of baking and assembling a wedding cake for our niece’s wedding. The versions Cyndie has been trying out have changed a lot from when she started. The Moth asks that stories be “known by heart but not rote memorization.”

Whittling down the entire experience of a compelling story into a 5-minute version forces you to figure out what details are essential and which ones don’t contribute to the main point. Moving from reading it to “telling” it by memory gets tricky with multiple versions floating around in her mind.

Only one storyteller last night had a moment of visibly losing their train of thought. The emcee did a great job of rallying the crowd to support all storytellers with a lot of love and we cheered the person with encouragement and her story resumed flawlessly in short order.

“The Moth’s mission is to promote the art and craft of storytelling and to honor and celebrate the diversity and commonality of human experience.”

Cyndie has countless stories worth telling. I’m thrilled she has chosen to develop greater mastery of the art of telling them well and doing so in larger venues.

It’s a bonus for me because I LOVE listening to well-told stories. That is… when I’m not too busy trying to tell one of my own. Why don’t I try getting on a Moth stage? I think it comes down to the part about knowing the story by heart and telling it in 5-minutes. On a stage.

I’d rather write my stories in a blog.



Written by johnwhays

March 16, 2023 at 6:00 am

Next Act?

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Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat. Nothin’ up my sleeve… Presto! It’s definitely time to get a new hat.

I’m back at the day-job today, after a week of vacation. It’s both soothing in its normalcy, and dreadful for… well, returning to work after vacation. Despite the excitement of a couple more birthday celebrations this week and the coming Independence Day holiday, I’m feeling as though there is a certain lack of the next big thing planned on our horizon.

During last week’s cycling and camping adventures, I had an opportunity to meet and greet a lot of first-timers to the Tour of Minnesota. Never being one to make a long story short, I found myself frequently offering a wide range of the tales which have provided most of Relative Something’s content over the last nine years.

What is this blog about?

I started it when my big trek in the Himalayas was about to occur. Shortly after that, Cyndie and I set out to visit Ian in Portugal. That seeded everything that eventually led to where we are today, providing stories about Cyndie working in Boston for a year, my getting the Eden Prairie house ready to sell, moving to Beldenville, WI, getting a dog, connecting with our friends, the Morales family in Guatemala, bringing horses onto the property, starting up Wintervale operations, building a labyrinth garden, and most recently, our antics with raising free-range chickens.

The cast of characters in my stories evolves, but the basic storyline of what makes the “pages” here rarely strays very far from what is going on in my mind at any given moment. It energizes my mental health to share my experiences with discovering and treating my depression, as well as my tales of identifying my addiction to sugar and the challenges of working that ongoing recovery program.

Currently, my health is good, both mentally and physically (despite an ongoing angst over the fiasco that is the US Government), my car is back from the body shop and looks brand new again, the horses look noticeably thinner after my week away from them, all twelve chickens appear to be thriving, and both dog and cat welcomed me home with loads of sweet attention.

Actually, the horses were pretty affectionate, as well. Elysa captured this shot of me giving Hunter a good scratch around his ears. All three horses lingered for some uncharacteristic extended face-time with me as I offered to scratch whatever itches they presented.

So, what’s next? What do I have up my sleeve for the next act?

I don’t know.

But trust me, you’ll find out as soon as I do.

What else would I do but write about it here?

The next adventure is out there somewhere down the trail. Until then, I expect our animals will continue to provide their usual fodder for lessons in life on the ranch.



Written by johnwhays

June 25, 2018 at 6:00 am