Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘writing

Meeting Again

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How did you find this blog? Back in 2009 when I started, I emailed family and friends to invite them to check it out. WordPress folks with no previous knowledge of me have slowly grown my followers to over a thousand and I regularly see visiting traffic from countries all around the world. In March of this year, I learned of a regular reader whose name I recognized from high school in 1977.

Patty was in the class behind mine and I think we agree our interactions were somewhat limited. She doesn’t recall the exact path she followed to discovering my blog but the probable route through links from old Eden Prairie people and social media sharing seems logical. Her affinities for log homes, horses, and dogs drew her in but she didn’t exactly remember who I was. Since she was in the same class as Cyndie’s brother, she recognized the Friswold connection.

Honestly, I don’t always know who I am writing for, and learning of people like Patty who resonate with my stories the way she does is a real treat that inspires me to write even more.

When Cyndie’s brother, Steve, sent a text (re)introducing us to Patty with a mention she and her husband, Steve (a different one; don’t get confused) would love to visit Wintervale, we were thrilled. Checking calendars produced a target date for a get-together in April. How many nice weekends do you remember occurring in April this year? We rescheduled twice due to precipitation of the slush variety under cold temperatures and unpleasant winds.

Yesterday, the third time was the charm. The weather was so much better, the wait was easily justified. Plus, there are now leaves on the trees!

Asher couldn’t get enough of Patty and Steve, usually wanting to climb all over them. The horses –mostly Swings– showed more interest than usual in receiving attention.

We enjoyed brunch on our deck and then did a walking tour of the grounds that I hoped would bring all my writing to life for them. It’s hard for me to imagine what sense of the place readers get when they only have my words and pictures to rely on. Patty tells me their real-life visit was very much like the sense they had formed in their minds.

I firmly believe our sanctuary becomes more precious when visitors spend time here. Yesterday, the preciousness was cranked up to 11 with the presence of Patty and Steve’s energies resonating with all that Wintervale has to offer.



Written by johnwhays

May 22, 2023 at 6:00 am

My Reality

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Each day when I describe details of my experiences it is a function of a basic tenet of writing: write what you know. One thing I know about is the perceptions I have of the activities of my days. Yesterday, I turned my back on the NCAA Women’s national championship game when it became obvious to me that Iowa would not beat LSU and I went out to tend to the horses.

A glance at the reading from our outdoor thermometer surprised me with the number 51. Looking for a second source, I opened a weather app to see what it offered for a current temperature. The reading from Red Wing, MN –twenty miles to our south– was 57°F! I did not expect this level of warming yesterday. The new snow remaining on the ground from the blizzard Friday night was quickly being transformed into water. Our drainage ditches were flowing like rivers.

I have no idea how this fits into the entanglement of the quantum mechanics of our physical world, but I do know that this quick melt significantly increased the level of mud in the paddocks. At the same time, I cannot describe how I occasionally get a sense of someone in Nepal practicing an endless recitation of the mantra “om mani padme hum” as I breathe our air and take meandering steps half a planet away.

The horses were giving me the impression of being spectacularly patient about the slow melt we’ve been having this spring while they were also slipping into behaviors of being annoyingly impatient about getting served pans of feed after I showed up. The impatience is easily soothed by the arrival of their food and the quartet of munching sounds conveys a new meditative peacefulness that I gladly absorb.

It is April and there is a reason to think we might be gardening soon. Does this image look like our garden is eager to get going?:

I’m trying to absorb some of the horses’ patience about the uneven transition from the snow season to our growing season.




Written by johnwhays

April 3, 2023 at 6:00 am

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

Thinking Thinks

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Some thinks I was thinking while walking the dog recently.

  • Of all the great things in this world, think about a time when you blinked your eyes and they failed to open again for an awkwardly long time as sleep was trying hard to bring you under its spell. When this happens and you are free to give in without a care, it is just the absolute best. Let sleep win.
  • With the wind blowing rather fiercely as I walk along the slippery, muddy trail, my eyes are fixed on picking a place for each step. High above me, I could hear the dramatic clacking of branches smacking into each other out of my view. Unnerving, to say the least.
  • I have been seeing the tiniest hints of spring growth becoming evident throughout our forest. It seems like it takes a long, long time to reach this point, and then it seems like the growth explodes in a matter of days. That is the point when I wish I had accomplished more pruning in advance.
  • No matter how much control I think I have over managing our landscape, the natural world is infinitely more complicated in its functionings. I cut and prune and sometimes plant things anew, but everywhere trees and plants are growing and dying in innumerable ways beyond my comprehension. We have a variety of new mosses growing on our pathways this year.
  • I estimate we are just days away from being able to give the horses access to the back pasture and front hayfield for grazing. It’s a week later than we opened those gates last year. I wonder if the horses will run like they did that time.
  • I’m contemplating the “No Mow May” campaign to help pollinators coming out of hibernation but I can’t imagine how my mower will cope with how tall and thick the grass will be by June if I participate. I also wonder if I can stand the appearance of neglecting our property. I take pride in keeping things looking well kept.
  • It’s only been one week since Cyndie’s surgery but I’m deeply missing her company when walking Delilah. Cyndie would share her viewpoints on tending to property issues and possible improvements which helped direct our attention to what we should do next. I definitely miss splitting the jobs of feeding and cleaning up after the horses twice a day. I feel bad she doesn’t get to watch from up close the growth explosion of new buds and opening leaves. Our landscape will look so completely different by the time she starts walking outside again.
  • If it wasn’t for Cyndie’s surgery, I probably wouldn’t be having so many solo thinks while walking Delilah. I would have to come up with something else to write about. Hee!



Written by johnwhays

April 25, 2022 at 6:00 am

Little Busy

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I have been asked to prepare waffles for breakfast today. After walking the dog and feeding the horses, cutting melons, and heating up a scone from the freezer to tide Cyndie over while she waits, I’ve used up my time previously claimed for writing.

If you still have an urge to read something possibly relative, I’ll toss in the ol’ wayback machine for you to explore a random post from the archives. May you rediscover a gem from the past that aligns with your immediate present. I always find it a special treasure when that happens for me.




Written by johnwhays

April 23, 2022 at 9:48 am

Life Stories

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I have begun reading some of the stories Nathan Vass has written that describe scenes he has witnessed and exchanges he has had with others as a Metro bus driver in Seattle. From his words, I can immediately sense the love and respect he holds for the people he describes from his encounters. It swiftly pulls me toward loving them, too, more than a thousand miles and multiple years away from the origin of his stories.

Most of my stories lately end up describing the weather, my projects, our horses, or our pets. Occasionally, Cyndie’s or my embarrassing foibles provide fodder for a re-telling. It is hard for me to know if my tales are relative to something for those of you following, but I hope you sense the love I have for the range of subjects chronicled.

Over the holiday, I found myself on multiple occasions sharing descriptions of my experience with depression, the circumstances leading to a diagnosis, and the success of my subsequent treatment. The earnestness of my listeners flushed out more detail than I would normally venture to burden any one person with at a social gathering.

In one case, there was a surprised interest in the concept of depression being curable. I tend to consider myself “depression-free” with the adjunct of practicing a life-long antidote of daily thoughts and actions to maintain good health.

Writing something about my life every day is one component of my regimen, but I don’t write about my experience with depression every day. My stories are more of a reflection of not being depressed. That doesn’t make me forget about what it is like to struggle with depression.

I suppose that is one reason I feel love for the lives depicted in some of Nathan’s stories. When the situation he describes reveals symptoms of depression, I empathize.

There are moments of depression in almost every life at one time or another. We should all empathize.

Similar to the legend of feeding two wolves inside us, good vs. evil, and whichever we feed wins, I posit that bathing our brains in a chemical bath of positive, loving thoughts will produce much more desirable results than generating the chemicals of anxiety and negativity.

Consider this as you lay your head down to sleep for the night. What brain chemistry would you like to have generated as you are fading into dreamland?



Written by johnwhays

January 4, 2022 at 7:00 am

Just Go

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Figuring out where to start when you have no idea where you are going shouldn’t really be a problem. Just go. From wherever you happen to be, just take off. Doesn’t really matter where you start once you are sailing along smoothly into the unknown.

Take my writing of this post… I have no idea where it’s going.

We had no idea our Wintervale had been added to the list of locations on the website of This Old Horse. Click to see.

Cyndie described quite a scene last night about her challenges to split the four horses into two pairs. With Mix’s pattern of sometimes being excessively “bossy” over the two chestnuts, Mia and Light, Cyndie likes to close gates to separate them during rainy weather so everyone has equal access to the space beneath the overhang.

Otherwise, we have noticed Mix posturing to leave Mia out in the cold rain because Mia is too timid to make her way to the other open side.

While Cyndie was working to isolate the chestnuts, Mix undid a chain and made her way into the barn uninvited. Inside, she found Delilah tethered and Delilah quickly shepherded the startled mare back to where she belonged. Or, at least, back in the direction from which she had come.

Mix came out and took a position on the wrong side from where Cyndie wanted her. No surprise there. Eventually, Cyndie succeeded in reaching the goal of having everyone where she wanted them.

The horses seem happier every day with their situation and surroundings, but they still have moments of dissatisfaction. Don’t we all?

Around dinnertime, the rain started to fall, just as predicted.

We settled inside and took in a couple episodes of “Longmire” to distract ourselves from reality for a little while. We are enamored with the modern-day (2012) western crime drama set in Wyoming, even after stumbling on the lead actor, Robert Taylor’s Australian accent when he spoke out of character for one of the “special features.”

He had us fooled. We had no clue the words he speaks as “Walt Longmire” were with an “acted” dialect. Bravo to his performance.

Too bad I’ve found myself hyper-critical of plot holes and incongruities in my movie and television viewing lately. It has me fully understanding why reading books is better than watching movie versions of stories.

When the storyline involves a ferocious winter storm, I can visualize that precisely in my mind, along with all it would entail, during, and after the weather passes. I would set a fantastic scene in my brain as I read.

When the video-recorded version is produced and doesn’t come close to depicting the visuals of the storm they meant to convey, my suspended disbelief collapses.

“Why is he wearing snowshoes when the snow isn’t deep enough there?”

“Why is there no snow clinging to the branches of those evergreen trees?”

“I thought they said this was the worst winter storm in years. Doesn’t look like one”

Brings to mind the epic Armistice Day blizzard of 1940. Just because it’s warm in the morning during November doesn’t mean it won’t be freezing by nightfall. That was what a winter storm looks like.

Sometimes, I just have to let things go.



Written by johnwhays

November 11, 2021 at 7:00 am

No Story

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There is no story here. No beginning, middle, or end. No dramatic challenge or rewarding resolution. It’s the first Wednesday in November of 2021. November 3rd, in fact. Happy Birthday, Elliott. I’m commuting to the day-job another time. The same challenges that have been burdening us at work for the last two years will be waiting anew.

Weather is stable for the time being. Past, present, and future are all where they need to be. Everything just is, from where I am sitting.

Every time this happens, I am struck by the thought of how many others are enjoying no such luck at this same moment. The people who are refugees stuck where no country wants them. People caught in endless cycles of poverty. People struggling against terminal illnesses.

I’ve got it easy.

Even when it feels hard to me, I have it embarrassingly easy compared to the trials and tribulations others face.

My response is to send thoughts of love out into the world, confident in the power it wields.

I practice gratitude. I accept there are things I don’t understand.

We tend to our animals with attention to their needs and appreciation for their wisdom.

We marvel over the natural world living and growing around us.

I strive to be in the moment. Where is the story in that?

Okay, never mind. The story I’m not telling is my pending retirement from the day-job. My goal of ending the need to drive 65 miles away from our home for work. I’m not writing about the angst of trying to successfully transfer the details of my primary daily tasks to others before my end date arrives.

The challenge of figuring out Cyndie’s and my health insurance options before my employment ends.

Since it has been my intent to maintain a healthy distance between details of the day-job and this blog, the command of my headspace by work issues often leaves a gap in my blogspace. It can tend to leave me with no story available to tell.

I will admit to longingly looking forward to soon having that headspace released from the responsibilities of employment with hopes of replacing it with pursuits more aligned with my creative interests.

The story is, I will be retiring from my day-job in December.

There. I wrote it.

I gotta say, it gets a lot easier to write when there isn’t a great big something I’m busy trying to not write about in my personal blog. Otherwise, it makes me feel like I’ve got no story to tell.

And that’s just unlike me.



Written by johnwhays

November 3, 2021 at 6:00 am

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.



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.




Written by johnwhays

June 26, 2021 at 8:37 am