Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘writing

Parsed Words

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Every last one. Some with meaning, most with none. Flowing from the consciousness stream, but backing up every so often, words that appear and make their way to the forefront grasp what it takes to make the page. First off, they need to beat the sleep that is busy trying to stake a claim on the eye lids. It’s funny how that same claim so subtly plies its trade during the hour-long drive in the afternoon sun after a full day of mental processing. The closer to home, the more tenacious the pull of gravity on consciousness. With the bonus of an unexpected additional night at home before the weekend away, I groggily made my way from the dented Subaru to the lawn tractor. Foregoing the bad habit of guilty pleasure snacks the moment I walk in the door, I moved directly to navigating the terrain to be mowed. Right from the start there was a hint of an appealing aroma in the air. Smokey. Bold. Then I noticed the cut wasn’t looking right. Sure enough, the belt had moved off the middle spindle pulley and was rubbing away. I thought I had checked that last time I re-mounted the deck. About two-thirds through the mowing, I paused to find out what time it was and think about whether I wanted to complete the whole yard at once, or leave some to be done later. It looked like the scattered showers might hold off, and I received Cyndie’s support to forge ahead, so I got right back on the tractor and mowed. Then the clouds started to drip. The rain never fell dense enough to make anything soaking wet, so I just kept on going, eventually outlasting the precipitation to complete the lawn mowing, all on the same day. It was a nice accomplishment. An unexpected bonus. One less thing to wonder about over the weekend. Mowing in the rain is not something I would usually do. It felt good to not fret over the imperfect conditions. Another manifestation of fluidity. The cut did not turn out ideal, but it wasn’t all that bad, either. The damp clippings led to my wanting to clean the deck immediately upon finishing, overriding the equal other “want” to be inside, showered, and eating dinner. That would come later, at the end of a long day, before a long weekend with Cyndie’s family to celebrate a milestone birthday. Whatever happens, I plan to just go with the flow.

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Written by johnwhays

June 8, 2018 at 6:00 am

Green Gray

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Are you as impressed as me over my deft avoidance yesterday of whining over how we could possibly be in the month of May already? It could be a new me!

Naaaaaah.

I have a tendency to be way too authentic with my online presence. The majority of people’s social media personalities has evolved to look like life is all rainbows and puppies, feet up with a glass of a favored beverage, overflowing with noble opportunities to do good in our worlds.

Who can blame us? No one automatically wants to paint their public portraits showing what they really look like in the moment of walking from the bed upon waking in the morning and seeing the first glimpse of ourselves in the mirror. Aaahhh!

That’s not how we want ourselves to look, so that’s not how we want others to see us. We want to be freshly groomed and all made up before venturing out.

Then why am I so quick to write about many of my stumbles and embarrassments? Maybe I’m too lazy to stop and comb my hair before stepping on the stage. It’s easiest to simply tell it like it is.

Life is filled with a mixture of good and bad. It just feels more worthwhile to share it all. All interesting stories have a conflict to be resolved. It gets darkest just before dawn. If all I wrote about were my triumphs, this blog would develop into a false, hollow representation, and I think that would be boring.

Well, more boring than my creative whining about how fast time flies and how extreme the weather is.

In the last two days, our grass has greened dramatically. Yesterday, we saw the arrival of some gray clouds that added a distinct contrast.

It occurred to me that, in many ways, it was more interesting than a clear sunny day.

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Written by johnwhays

May 2, 2018 at 6:00 am

Idle Distraction

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Some days I would like to ignore everything that I really should be doing and focus unlimited hours of idle attention on a familiar jigsaw puzzle, regardless how gorgeous the weather outside might be, how many home projects are screaming for attention, or all the work responsibilities to which I am duly committed.

I am a master of idle distraction, however, I rarely allow myself to revel in idle passions to a fraction of a degree worthy of being considered mastery. Maybe I should instead state it as being a dreamer of idle distraction.

It would be fair to say that a Monday morning in front of my desk at the day-job, with multiple issues simultaneously calling for immediate attention, happens to be a time when my urge for idleness can be greatest.

In a similar vein to Lewis Carroll’s “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get,” I am more inclined toward “The more I have to do, the less I get done.”

I don’t know whether it would surprise you to read how often this plays out when I would like to compose a daily blog post. The greater my yearning to have a post written and proofed, the more idle my brain seems to get.

One good thing about distraction of an empty brain, it allows plenty of room for imagining creative somethings from nothing. Except, sometimes, nothing is all that comes. It’s distracting.

Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up.

Well, that’s not true. You can make it up, but what good would that do?

I suppose it could serve, in a circular sort of way, as something of an idle distraction, no?

Don’t mind me. I’m just distracted by having too much on my mind that should be getting my constructive attention all at once. And doing nothing.

Maybe I missed my calling as a congressman or senator.

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Getting Started

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Preparations are underway for our trip with Cyndie’s family to the Dominican Republic. I’ve been enjoying creating the early posts in the series I have planned to explore events that led up to this latest adventure, starting way back with the first time I met Cyndie.

To give myself more time for planning and packing, I have decided to begin the series tomorrow. I hope you enjoy my trips down memory lane.

I will take advantage of the early break from daily posting to finish making lists and actually start packing.

Sounds like we will be getting away at a good time, as temperatures are expected to drop precipitously in the days ahead. I’m hoping that it won’t snow enough to require plowing until after we return, but it’s okay with me if the cold snap happens while I’m gone.

There was a little extra excitement around the ranch yesterday as the neighbor on our southwest corner reported he was going to be hunting coyotes and might cross our property.

Early in the morning, Cyndie came upon some lone tracks in the snow that just might have been those of a coyote scout venturing out on its own overnight.

If our neighbor is worried about his cows, I wonder if we should be concerned for our surviving three chickens.

We are really hoping the young woman who has agreed to take care of our animals while we are away won’t have any difficult problems to manage.

It’s just seven days. One week. Is that too much to wish for? An entire week at Christmastime of calm and quiet?

I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

I need to go find my battery charger for the camera. When we get back, I’m going to want to post lots of pictures of the tropical beach, palm trees, sun, and surf.

I hope you’ll be entertained by the stories I have scheduled to post while we are gone.

I intend to return to live, daily posting by the end of the month.

Bon voyage!

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Written by johnwhays

December 20, 2017 at 7:00 am

Simmering Plan

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We’ve got a trip coming up. This Christmas, Cyndie and I, along with our kids, will be joining all of Cyndie’s family for a week of vacation together in the Dominican Republic. It will be a number of firsts for me, most notably, being somewhere tropical for the winter-est of holidays.

It’s been mind-boggling contemplating the possibility. I expect it will be more so actually living it.

Similar to most of my travels over the last decade, I am inclined to take the week off from tending to RelativeSomething.com on a daily basis. Of course, that doesn’t mean I plan to let the site go dormant for a week. Oh, no.

I have an idea to fill the days with stories written in advance and scheduled to post automatically while I am away. All I have to do is write them.

Like, when is that going to happen?

I need to pack! I need to make lists. Find summer clothes. Start gathering necessary things. Where is my passport?

What procrastinator doesn’t know how to get things done at the last-minute? I’ll write the first few and then end up finishing on the plane, if it’s anything like the last time I tried having a week’s worth of posts ready in advance.

The other day I started a possible outline to help facilitate my plan. I’m now thinking that sharing that outline with you all might provide helpful pressure on me to then actually follow through with the idea.

Why are we traveling with Cyndie’s family over Christmas? I will work my way toward answering that question by starting back at the earliest days of our relationship.

1. Our initial connection

  • discover shared experience chatting on beach
  • attended Basic Youth Conflicts Seminar

2. Asking her parents permission to marry

  • after 6 years off and on dating
  • she traveled and went to several schools
  • I stayed home and went to tech school

3. Friswold Family events at Wildwood through the years

4. Friswold Family trip to ’94 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway

5. Family trips with Friswolds to Mexico and Disney

6. Friswold Family trip to Hilton Head in celebration of Fred & Marie’s 50th Anniversary

7. What about the Hays family?

8. Friswold Family trip to Dominican Republic over Christmas, 2017

With some help, research has already been undertaken to procure some supporting photos. Worst case, I just post the pictures with a few captions and let your imagination fill in the rest of the details.

That’s the way our brains work, anyway. Listen to people talk. Very often, sentences hang, unfinished, but the listeners get the gist of the message, filling in the blank space with a sufficient perception in place of absent words.

I was listening to a snippet from the second side of the Beatles’ Abbey Road on my commute to work yesterday and noticed where my brain filled in an extra note of choral “aaaaahs” beyond what was actually recorded. They lead you to that conclusion, but don’t need to sing the added note. It is implied.

Our mind completes the progression unconsciously.

I will try to complete as much of my planned storyline as possible, but it will not happen unconsciously. Most likely, it will require a fair amount of sacrificed sleep.

If I’m not entirely thorough in my detail, it will become your opportunity to imagine what fills the gaps my tales imply.

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Written by johnwhays

December 14, 2017 at 7:00 am

From Nothing

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When I spend my days away from the ranch, not taking pictures, not collecting experiences, the relative somethings get a little thin. Four days a week my hours are tied up with commuting and day-jobbing. By Friday, I have to work a little harder to fill this space with words and pictures. I will often be heard muttering, “I’ve got nothing.”

Thursday nights are what Cyndie and I refer to as my “Friday.”

Last night we celebrated with my bringing home Cyndie’s favorite half-baked deep-dish pizza for dinner. I walked in the door, placed it in the refrigerator and collapsed on our bed, falling into a deep sleep with Pequenita curled up on my legs.

It’s a manifestation of accumulated exhaustion. What a luxury.

One of the things that leaves me feeling like I’ve got nothing to write about, is how incomparable my healthy first-world exhaustion is to the suffering I witness others around me going through. How dare I frame my suffering as particularly arduous, when other’s lives are hovering on the brink, when disasters abound, when life challenges won’t be temporary.

I feel lost within my familiar surroundings, an unsettling perception. It’s an instance when I resort to waiting. That feeling doesn’t last. If I don’t fight against what isn’t really there, balance returns soon enough.

One of the reasons I strive to compose something every day is as a push on my ‘swing’ of daily maintaining my mental health. It’s an interesting conundrum for me when the healthy act of writing meets up with the well-known challenges of writer’s block.

One of my “go to” solutions is to simply post a picture. Sometimes, by the end of the week, I don’t even have that.

Before the point in my life when I identified that I was dealing with depression, a moment like this, with no idea what to write about and feeling lost, would have simply stoked a dangerous fire.

I’m thrilled to be able to report that my perspective and awareness are so completely different after treatment that times like this tend to end up being more of an inspiration than an ominous threat.

It’s so simple, it gets misconstrued as not even possible. It does involve some bigger picture observation, but after that, in each moment, it is simply a matter of thinking differently. The secret is in recognizing what is going on in the moment, and then directing my thoughts in an appropriately healthy way.

Through talk therapy, I learned how to recognize my dysfunctional thinking and perceptions. With practice, I have honed skills in changing my thoughts, which alters my chemistry. Happily, no pun intended, it generates a positive feedback loop that strengthens with each cycle.

One last part of my simple secret to overcoming my depression: trusting it can work.

My healthcare providers were convinced they could help me, and I trusted them.

It worked.

Look at that. When I started writing this post, I thought I had nothing for today.

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Looking, Listening

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The morning light coming over the eastern horizon bathes our property with such picturesque hues. Yesterday, Cyndie captured how the smooth, freshly mowed hay-field looked as she and Delilah made their way around to open the chicken coop and tend to the horses.

Was it a coincidence that while I was processing this image, John Hartford’s “Gentle On My Mind” was playing and took over my brain with its lyrics?

“…in back roads by the rivers of my memory
Keeps you ever gentle on my mind.”

Maybe. Maybe not.

That’s the kind of song I wish I had written.

I’m probably in this mindset after reading Rickie Lee Jones’ tribute to Walter Becker on RollingStone.com. Just put me deeper in songwriting envy, revisiting the Steely Dan catalog and some of Rickie Lee’s best.

“done up in blue print blue. It sure looks good on you…”

She writes, in answer to her query about the “blue” meaning, that Walter told her he didn’t know; just felt like writing it.

I understand exactly.

Rickie Lee’s big breakout self-titled debut album was released when I was working full-time in a record store. Her phrasing and lyrical story telling captured me immediately.

“you never know when you’re makin’ a memory…”

My memories are flowing over the rolling hill of the hay-field toward the rising sun that is sculpting the popcorn clouds hanging low under the high blue sky. I am thinking of lives and loves who have come and gone with whispers and kisses, dipping toes in unknown oceans of improbable possibilities that did or didn’t actually play out, but undoubtedly shaped everything that has happened since.

Luckily, love grows, unbounded by physical limitations, and it continues to pave the rivers of my memories.

Ever gentle on my mind, indeed.

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