Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘writing

It Seems

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It seems to me today that I can’t add anything that you don’t already know. What would be the point of describing how oppressive the hatch of mosquitoes has been since the last long ago rainfall? Despite how fast the grass around here grew after that last dosage of water from the sky, I ended up deciding not to cut it, because the days have been nothing but hot and dry ever since. I didn’t want to stress the grass at a time it was again enduring another stretch of hot, dry weather.

Maybe we’ll get another batch of moisture on Friday, but I can only imagine what that will do for the mosquito population. I’m thinking about mowing this afternoon when I get home from work.

As I turned the last corner onto our street coming home from work yesterday, I was passed by a farm tractor coming from the opposite direction. Then another and another. Ten, then twenty, maybe thirty in a row. Every variety of manufacturers, some with a single passenger beside or behind the driver looking almost board, many with flags attached. A few had cute canvas canopies over the top for shade.

I guess that was something you didn’t know about. I certainly didn’t know anything about it. Some sort of parade out in the wide-open countryside on a Wednesday afternoon when few people might be around to notice. I didn’t see any signs to convey a message. Maybe they were headed somewhere to congregate and make a point. Protest at the steps of the county courthouse over the lack of rain?

My positive momentum is fatigued due to the constant waves of angst flowing from Afghanistan / Taliban / Wildfires / Earthquake / Tropical Storms / Delta Variant / Mask Mandates / Booster Shots / Political Blame / Shouting Matches / Criminal Trials / Sick Pets and every other challenge to peace and harmony that is vibrating so strong these days.

A certain feeling of guilt over the blissful beauty of our immediate surroundings needs to be processed before getting on with the beaming of healthy love out into the universe from the heart.

When I walked up to the paddock gate Tuesday evening to see the fallen snag first hand, Light responded to my presence instantly by purposely crossing the length of the small paddock toward me to make a brief connection. She inhaled my scent, paused, and looked around. I extended a hand to offer a scratch but she had stopped out of my reach. She breathed in again with her nose on my hand, then slowly moved on to join the rest of her herd near the overhang.

You probably didn’t know about that exchange, either.

Seems to me, the old adage about writing what I know tends to work out even when I don’t realize there is anything new about which to write.

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Written by johnwhays

August 19, 2021 at 6:00 am

Yep Indeed

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Trying to capture the essence of my adventures of last week on my abbreviated version of the Tour of Minnesota has been difficult due to instantly being transported from one world into another. I am still immersed in the second phase of my vacation, the Friswold family gathering at their lake place, which keeps me distracted from pondering long enough to write about either experience.

I was born on this day back in 1959, and that fact, combined with the focus of this weekend –the one-year anniversary of Cyndie’s dad’s passing– is keeping things spinning faster than my writing brain processes.

And that’s okay. It’s just that I really want to tell my stories and exercise my writing muscles. A lot of life-affirming experiences have occurred for me of late. The occasion of my birthday is the least of them.

Julian has given me another wonderful present in the form of his coding expertise that astute readers may have already noticed this morning. The random wayback feature that I love so much is now a permanent option available on the margin, or trailing the initial posts on mobile devices.

Maybe if the dreary cloud cover that has arrived over Hayward this morning will lend itself toward my finding a quiet corner to collect some words to describe my adventures from the last week. Maybe not.

I’m going to go with the flow. Right now we are in the sunroom with windows all open and family stories and belly laughs are frequent. Breakfast is nigh. I’m sitting here trying to multitask between participating and typing.

Until now. If you want more, click the wayback machine for a random archived post.

Love.

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Written by johnwhays

June 26, 2021 at 8:37 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

Wandering Around

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There are days when I step outside in the morning to walk Delilah without having any idea what will command my attention for the rest of the day, but something always does. There are just as many times, maybe even more, when I set out to write something without having any idea what point I hope to make. Of course, here’s a good idea. Have a point.

“He’s got a point there!”

That is a mashup of Steve Martin’s character, Neal Page, ranting at Del Griffith the shower curtain ring salesman in “Planes, Trains, & Automobiles” combined with a line from Harry Nilsson’s animated movie, “The Point.” Both tremendously worthy works of film entertainment.

I would say that my great affection for those two movies reveals something about the way my mind works.

It’s probably a bit of a stretch to say it works when mostly my mind tends to just wander around. It’s like a sticky sponge that gladly picks up whatever happens to reach my eyes and ears.

Last weekend I melodically vocalized that I was getting silverware and it came out sounding like I was singing “Silver Bells.” By the end of the meal, as I was picking up placemats from the table on the deck, I caught myself humming some other Christmas song. I’ve since forgotten which one but at the time it was startling for being such an odd thing to be contemplating.

It would seem likely that the first song could have triggered the second, but still… What the heck?

Cyndie was out overnight last night, on the road for a consulting gig, leaving Delilah and me on our own to keep each other occupied. Delilah did her share by alerting to a raccoon climbing down a tree off the backyard well before yesterday even started to seem dusky outside. I grabbed my newest toy, a slingshot, and hustled out onto the deck to take potshots at the critter. I hope to make it feel completely unwelcome living so close to our house.

It made a hasty return to its apartment high in the upper limbs.

I am encouraged in my harassment efforts by apparent success on the other side of the house. Two days of flinging stones and steelies toward a young raccoon in a tree out our front door have resulted in zero sightings since. That doesn’t necessarily mean it left entirely, but at least it stopped coming out before dark.

The masked bandit would pop its head out and watch the world for a while before climbing out on the big branch to take a tongue-bath in preparation for its night of adventures. I think it didn’t like suddenly becoming the target of my aiming practice.

That was totally the point. I’m hoping he or she received the message I was sending.

It will be very satisfying if they are now off wandering around the woods looking for a quieter neighborhood with friendlier neighbors.

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Not Thinking

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Some people use meditation to clear their minds. Shut out the thoughts. What fun, I thought, …without thinking.

There is a trick that writers can use to stop all thoughts. Here’s how it works. First, sit down at the keyboard. Well, that’s about it. That’s all it takes.

BOOM! The mind is blank.

It’s like magic.

But that didn’t happen to me today. Nope.

Okay, it did. But I got over it. The day is dawning with a zero degree (F) chill, but otherwise quiet. We don’t have a lot going on today, beyond the wonderfully entertaining chicken jigsaw puzzle and keeping a cozy fire burning in the fireplace. Tomorrow we expect it to start snowing and Sunday I plan to shovel and plow.

I saw a news item about conspiracy theorists (paranoid delusionists) seeing “signs” in a variety of ways and places and it has me thinking two things. Part of me laughs over how many signs could be found everywhere we look and a more mischievous part of me wants to start putting out some secret signs of my own for people to discover.

Not sure what I could point them to. Love, I suppose. Maybe I could start a conspiracy that everything is about love and there are signs supporting it everywhere! You just have to look for them.

Think about it.

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Written by johnwhays

January 22, 2021 at 7:00 am

Evading Capture

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The mind moves so much faster than words. Thoughts are like delicate athletic dances as compared to the awkward stumbling of sentences and paragraphs. In the blink of my right eye, indescribable realizations swirl through my head, launching emotions and chemical responses throughout my body in immeasurable doses before a single word begins to form in my mind.

Conversely, at the times when my busy brain is babbling on with endless mindless verbiage, the words appear from an absence of actual thought. There are no images playing. The screen is simply blank. Words are heard, not seen.

As I write this, there are delectable aromas of home-baked apple crisp wafting from the kitchen. It’s distracting. The scrumptiousness defies description, but my mind knows how to interpret it and launches into one of those delicate dances. It’s a joyful dance.

It’s a dance my sugar addiction is very fond of.

My taste buds have no complaints about it, either.

Before I finished writing this post, Cyndie presented a sample, hot out of the oven. `A la mode.

This batch tasted even better than it smelled. I’d describe it to you, but, well… you know.

Think about love. Let that ethereal concept dance through your mind and you will have a vague sense of my apple crisp and ice cream experience.

Mmmm. See if that evades your capture.

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Written by johnwhays

September 25, 2020 at 6:00 am

Incredible Person

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There are some things I find difficult to write about, even though writing my thoughts is what I am most often inclined to do. It’s been on my mind for some time that I should consider writing something to honor my father-in-law, Fred Friswold, but the task seemed too daunting. How could I do justice to such a heroic specimen of a human being? Especially when I know some of his flaws.

Well, in the end, I understand that attempting to do justice counts about as much as actually achieving it. And, his flaws are few and rather frivolous.

I’ve already written about the fact I won the jackpot in the in-law lottery. That tells much about the way I feel to have had the privilege of being granted the highest honor of becoming a member of the Friswold family.

Fred Friswold was an incredible person. Often, the first thing people think of about Fred is the robustness of his greetings and the reverberating heartiness of his laugh. It seemed an incredible injustice that his voice was taken from him in the last months of his life. However, not once did I witness him give in to self-pity or anger over the loss.

Suddenly we found ourselves needing to quiet down and look to him in order to hear what he had to say. It became an endearing thing to process the sound of his whispers. It has made the sound of his raucous pronouncements and booming guffaws all the more precious in our memories.

In the absence of my own father, who died shortly after I married Cyndie at my ripe old age of 22, it was Fred who became my reference for figuring out how to be a husband and a dad. It didn’t make things easy for me. When I struggled to navigate challenges that required repair around the house, realizing I didn’t know how to fix things the way my dad did, Cyndie would suggest we do what her dad did. Look in the Yellow Pages.

The man knew his limitations. Not that he didn’t tackle a few of his own do-it-yourself projects. He painted their house once. And, accidentally, a little of the neighbor’s house next door, too, using a sprayer. He must have liked spray painting. Late in life, he enlisted my labor to do a quick job of painting a new baseboard around their deck. Wouldn’t take long. He had all the stuff necessary for the job.

A can of spray paint. I spent 90-minutes taping up newspaper to protect the light-colored siding from the dark brown deck for the 10-minute job of painting.

One thing Fred never did was make me feel like I didn’t belong or wasn’t meeting his expectations, despite his high regard for academic achievement and career accomplishments. I didn’t receive the frequent queries seeking to hear what the 5-year plan was. Maybe a few “What did you do for your country today?” queries, but if my answer was that I rode my bike a respectable distance, he found a way to work with that.

Of course, we are absolutely heartbroken that his life has reached its end, but it pains us even more that it has happened at a time of the pandemic when we are unable to gather the throngs who also knew and loved him in order to process our shared grief.

Fred Ravndal Friswold was a truly incredible person for whom my words are insufficient to adequately describe.

He was an endearingly loud person who went out in a whisper.

We will, and do already, miss him in the extreme.

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Written by johnwhays

June 26, 2020 at 7:36 am

Slowing Down

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I’m going to try something new. With apologies to those of you who have told me how much you enjoy checking in every morning to read or view my daily “relative somethings,” I have decided to readjust my energies to free up time that I have been holding in reserve every day for over a decade.

I am not going to commit to how this change will play out, other than to announce that I am moving away from my old priority of striving to assure a new post every single day. This isn’t the first time I have considered making this sort of change, so I already have some ideas I may try out going forward.

One possibility I have favored in the past would be to post a single picture. That seems like it wouldn’t take much time. However, I have learned from experience that my picture-taking often goes in spurts and days can pass when I don’t get out with the camera. If I committed to posting a daily picture, I would still be in the mode of reserving some time every day to achieve that.

There are also fewer daily stories to tell about our adventures here since we returned the horses and Wintervale activity has dwindled, so, to spare you repeating versions of ‘me walking Delilah’ or ‘me plowing snow’ (two things that have commanded my time and energy recently), allowing some quiet time between tales will hopefully germinate new content of more intriguing substance.

One can hope.

Of course, one other option I considered was to just cease blogging altogether, but being so “all-or-none” extreme was an older trait of mine that has softened with time. There is no reason I can’t keep this blog space open for use as more of a periodical. Weekly? Monthly?

Who knows?

That sort of mystery is one of the fun aspects of creativity. I will be creative about slowing down my rate of publishing posts.

Before I step away for my initial pause from daily posting, I’ll leave you with two images that made their way onto the SD memory card late yesterday afternoon…

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No critters were harmed in the recording of that adventure (but not for lack of intent).

I’ll be back before long. In the meantime, send your precious love out into the world during the minutes you would have been perusing new Relative Somethings in the days ahead.

Namaste.

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Written by johnwhays

January 24, 2020 at 7:00 am

Ferocious Feline

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Settling into an upright seated recline on my side of the bed, I positioned my laptop across my legs as Pequenita jumped up to join me. It was time to do some writing, but not before the obligatory routine of granting our feline her daily intense head-to-toe scratching. If I don’t grant her my full attention right away, she begins a pattern of looping around my computer screen over and over again until I change my mind and adjust my priority.

Of course, eventually, I give in. Soon, Pequenita is in a trance of purring while I grind my fingernails across the loose folds of the back of her neck and drag them over her eyes and down her nose. She seems completely willing to stay and receive this attention indefinitely, but my alternative agenda usually brings the lovefest to an end.

As I reach for the keyboard, ‘Nita will stroll away to the end of the bed and give me back my space. Often, after I have entered my own trance of typing and thinking, the calm will be broken by the sudden appearance of “Attack-Cat!” Either it will be my toes under a blanket or a fabric project on Cyndie’s lap that becomes the target of our ferocious feline’s wide-eyed aggression, so we are quickly forced to take evasive action in avoidance of an incidental over-application of a sharp claw in her zeal.

Occasionally, our defense involves a scramble for the laser pointer to give Pequenita an alternative target.

Sometimes, I get back to what I had intended to write about. Other times, I just tell the story that happened instead.

rrrrrreeooOOWWW!

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Written by johnwhays

December 20, 2019 at 7:00 am

Beyond Mowing

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The time of mowing is upon us in multiple ways. Beyond the usual routine of cutting our lawn grass, the big tractors are finally hitting the local fields to cut hay. The neighbors who are renting our fields knocked down the tall grass in opposite corners of our property recently, leaving a very noticeable line of uncut growth along the fenceline that Cyndie tackled with our power trimmer.

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Despite all the mowing going on, Cyndie continues to pull off a heroic amount of raspberry picking which naturally led to canning jam. Since she was going to be in that canning mode, she also made a trip to a local strawberry grower to pick a bulk of that jam favorite, as well as a stop at the grocery store for a couple of bags of cherries.

Even though canning jam deserves to be a single focus task, Cyndie chose to merge it with preparations to drive to Northfield, MN, for a mini-reunion with visiting Hays relatives. There, we uncovered a treasure trove in my sister Mary’s files of family newsletters from the days before the internet took over communication.

I don’t remember writing all those annual reports detailing our children’s school years, but reading back over those missives now gives me the impression I have been writing the equivalent of this daily blog for longer than just the ten years I’ve been posting here on Relative Something. In fact, the old family newsletter was called, “Relatively Speakin’.”

Seems to be a certain congruency there, no?

Who knows what lies ahead for this relative crew? It won’t surprise me if it ends up involving less mowing, but I doubt I will ever stop writing about whatever is happening in all of our lives.

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Written by johnwhays

July 14, 2019 at 9:55 am