Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘writing

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!

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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.

Enjoy!

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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