Category Archives: Island Lake

Our Midnight

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Our Midnight.  Midnight was the extended Bates and Gall family pet and everyone’s friend. His vivacious, contagious spirit made you laugh and love life.  Midnight loved his Dean, and the special attention Dean gave him.  He loved people.  He loved our kids and grandkids, “his kids”.  He loved the many friends and family who visited our home. Whined and cried with happiness when any one came to visit “him”, of course.  He loved his Elisabeth, stayed at her side after every chemo treatment until she was back on her feet.  He loved the morning ritual of seeing Libby and Brendan onto the school bus.  He loved crockpot dinner and Chinese carry-out nights.  He loved his evening walks especially those that included a DQ ice cream cup.  He loved going out to “the farm”.  Midnight loved lakes and creeks, and chasing  after all the waterfowl that lived in them.  But he hated thunderstorms.  Major anxiety raced his pounding heart except oddly for those he embraced outside.  One of my fondest memories was being on the boat dock of cabin #2 at Valhalla Resort on Island Lake in Minnesota.  The thunderheads rolled in above the lake so abruptly like the cap-size waves that July evening.  Midnight and I faced the storm together while missing our Dad who passed away too soon to enjoy that evening with us.  We ran together for shelter once the lightning strikes began. And that story reminds me of the time Dean, Midnight, and I ran for the shelter from a tornado overhead while at the farm and greenhouse.  The whirling winds rocked our van just inches from the creek.  I think all three of us had a few more gray hairs after that adventure!

Our Midnight passed away on Monday, June 11.  And yes, this is our Midnight’s eulogy. Our 13-1/2 year old Labrador-flat coat retriever mix was 115 years old in human years.  It came suddenly, the vet said his body gave way to old age.  Midnight lived and loved 5 generations of the Bates/Gall family.  He was given to my Grandpa Earl and Grandma Paula as a Christmas gift in 2004.  Puppy love with huge paws.  Grew into a 90-lb adult dog, too much for my elderly grandparents to handle.  In turn my Dad adopted Midnight, trained him to be an excellent waterfowl retriever.  This pet came to live at the 99 Jane house with Dean and I after my father passed away 5-1/2 years ago.  Sometimes a crowded house, but always had room for our Midnight.  For a few days Midnight lived with Dean’s parents when we all were displaced from our home after the main water line flood.  One night our dog stayed with a kind family after he wandered off through an unlatched gate, no thanks to the contractor during our house addition.  Oddly enough, this family lived one field over from where I grew up on the tree farm in St. Peters.  Our handsome Midnight had been dubbed “Nerm” and “Hercules”, and I cannot explain why.  Our easygoing dog co-existed with 5 different house cats during his time with us.  Beyond tolerable, he was sociable to his feline companions especially during the late evening cat treat time all gathered in Dean and I’s bedroom every night.  He made a few doggy friends … Nasa, Mokie, Jesse, Bleu, Beatrice, Barry, Daisy, Gus, Molly, Parker, Roman, another Molly, Shawnee, Peyton, Ellie, Eddie, Max … learned to accept or avoid the young whipper-snappers as he became an old man dog.

Midnight is greatly missed, our hearts feel an emptiness yet privileged to have known him and feel his love.  Our Midnight.  We will always love you.

 

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Duck Audacity And Boats n Birds Bobbin

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Bird life on Island Lake this summer is very active. Forty-one loons and counting as more were being hatched this week. Two families of ducks frequent the boat dock and lake side looking for handouts. Apparently vacationers were feeding them, and the presence of more people posed the promise of more handouts. Duck audacity was proudly displayed even with our 85-lb labrador, Midnight present. Midnight had a whining fit as we kept him on the porch until the ducks and ducklings were back in water swimming safely onto their next destination. Flies, butterflies, and dragonflies flew with the breeze. Owls by night and chipmunks by day sat on the tree limbs watching the life underneath. Co-existence.
The summer rains followed Dean, my sister, and I to our beloved Minnesota. It rained everyday we were at Island Lake. But each day also included some sunshine and low 80’s. Thunderheads would build up with steam as the day went along. Then, the winds would blow the rain across the lake in sheets, causing ripples and then white caps in the lake. The cool north air would follow. Those storms created some awesome views from the porch of our favorite little red cabin or the boat dock. Dean captured a few awesome photos. Our Midnight embraced the noisy storms outdoors or on the porch with us. The thunder sounds different at Island Lake than in our Missouri home. Momma loon and her baby weathered the white caps in the bay, bobbin with each wave. Dean caught the reflection in the water as a double rainbow arched above the lake. Friendships continue after so many years. And new ones form even amongst the dogs. Another memorable week at Valhalla.

Detour Ahead

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We will be on the road very soon for our trip to the Minnesota northwoods, a sanctuary of peace and quiet on a picturesque lake. Any lengthy road trip includes a detour sign or two. With the flooding in our region and anywhere in the central states with a river or creek, we suspect to encounter several detour signs. The detours slow us down, keep us on watch for the next arrow sign to give direction, and it just seems to keep us from arriving at that final destination in the time we desire. The word “detour” means “an indirect or roundabout path or procedure”. Isn’t life full of detours? In life, we sometime miss the neon orange detour signs. We simply see our flight delayed, a closed door, a failing relationship, no job offer, a difficult medical diagnosis, storm damaged vehicle, pay freeze, or failed crops. In reality, the detour ahead is a part of the journey. I would rather enjoy the curves, hills, and valleys in life’s journey, as well as “keep my eye on the prize.” What deep yearning or dream is hiding behind the detour signs?

Midsummer Day

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The Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady by Edith HoldenI picked pea pods, lettuces, and herbs galore this past weekend. After a week of rain, the sun shined for a day. Finally, I was able to get to Boone Hollow Farm and Deanna Green And Gardens Art greenhouse without fear of rising creeks and rivers. I found an old saying in my book The Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady “June damp and warm does the farmer no harm,” which I feel the local farmers and folks as far as Texas would disagree. Floods waters have ruined acres of crops. May be too late to try another round of crops this growing season.

Valhalla Sunset & Camp Fire

Valhalla Sunset & Camp Fire

Yesterday was the Midsummer Day in the US, the longest day of the year. A much celebrated day in the Old World and other countries around the world, but especially so amongst farm cultures and country folk. For some it is held on June 23 or 24. There are many rituals, most common is a bonfire. I had not the opportunity to have a bonfire for the summer solstice as we celebrated Father’s Day in Columbia, Missouri with family at a steak house. Does the flame from the grill count? No, I don’t think so. But the company and food was good. And it is not too long until the Minnesota destination of Valhalla on Island Lake. I will be memorized by the flames of many bonfires and the sound of chatter amongst friends.

The Year of The Mattress

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Dean and I along with our labrador-flat coat retriever mix, Midnight arrive at the 60+ year old cabin situated on Island Lake just at sundown. Oranges, pinks, and purples kiss the lake “good night” and welcome us. It’s been a long haul from St. Charles County, Missouri to this Minnesota paradise. But so much worth the road trip. Weekday and weekend warriors cannot stop on vacation either. We had taken the extra long route following the Mississippi River highways. So a 12-hour trip became a 15-hour trip. The meandering scenery had slowed our pace down before arriving at this moment. Midnight climbs out of the SUV from his secure kennel into what I think my father described to him as heaven. Our dog gazed wide-eyed at this expansive beautiful lake recounting the aquatic tales his deceased master had told him, I am sure. Into the lake he went, lapping water and going for his doggy swim in Island Lake. Just 2 minutes to realize heaven was here, and my father’s spirit present.
Our first night at the cabin we unloaded the SUV, then gathered jackets and a flashlight onward bound by foot just up the road with our dog. The little green cabin had folks congregated there near a campfire. We met up with my childhood friends and greeted new ones from as far away as Norway. Midnight gets acquainted with more labradors, the natural breed of our 4-legged friends in the land of 10,000 lakes. Before we know it, the time passes midnight with the campfire still aflame. Embers will be there in the morning to start a skillet breakfast. We head back to our lakeside cabin, choosing the front bedroom of the 2-bedroom pine-lined dwelling. I climb into bed too tired to have a spring from the mattress just about empale me. We’ll sleep in the back bedroom tonight and deal with the mattress issue tomorrow. We discovered the back bedroom mattress was not much better as Dean and I are forced to meet in the middle. This mattress’ sunken center provided cozy quarters for this exhausted yet still honeymooning couple. Our backs ache in the morning begging for more support. Dean flips over the empaling mattress to its other side to discover the year of the mattress … 1971. Why that is the first year my father along with my mother and their 4 children ventured to this heavenly northern destination in a Chevy Impala. Now don’t cast too much judgement on this mattress date. The cabins are only used 3 – 4 months out of the year, so a normal 10-year mattress can go to 30 – 40 years. So at 42-years old, it might be due for replacing.
Electronics, computer and TV are non-existent in the cabins. While on this get away, Dean chose to use his basic cell phone on occasion. I took a vacation from it all. This post was written last week, scrawled onto my paper journal … I awoke this morning before sunrise. Is it night still? No clock to check as we are in a time warp at this northern lake retreat. In just a few minutes I see a tinge of blue in the black sky. I take this moment to observe the day’s beginning. I slip on my jeans and sweatshirt and quietly step onto the screened porch. Those moments of complete silence, no human awake just nature and I welcome the morning in this neck of the woods. Our dog, Midnight stretches on the porch and awaits at the porch door to be let out. He, too embraces morning’s arrival this day. There is something special about living in the present moment. All senses akeen, see the colors change before my eyes recognizing the picturesque treeline before me. The loons cry out as the fog lifts from the lake. Misty vapors keep my skin and clothes damp, I smell and taste the lake, and I remember my father’s love of this place. His planning, mapping, and research of his yearly fishing trip started in January when the tree farming and landscape designing was at a hault. My father was a planner, and I too like him. Yet this present moment reels me back to reality. I would have missed this unforgetable sunrise had I rolled over and slept in another morning of my vacation … ducks, a blue heron, and even a night owl calling it a night show themselves amongst the pines, birches, and cattails. The dragonflies are now flitting about, illuminating more color for this overcast day. The brisk morn may see a rain shower before the warm noon sun. No boat on the lake, that I hear or see, and 2 hours into this day … In 1971 and several years to follow, my father would have been out on the lake by now catching walleye and bass for that evening’s dinner. Way before my siblings or I and definitely my mother opened an eyelid. I miss my father today like everyday. This place called Valhalla is heaven on earth, and was my father’s favorite place while he was alive on earth. Somehow he is with Midnight, Dean, and I. It is called eternal life …
For my siblings and I Valhalla meant playing with friends all day with very little chores. We would play h-o-r-s-e in the barn, swim in the cold lake, boat rides, hide-n-seek with the fireflies lighting the path, and a campfire with songs and roasted marshmallows. Those young teenage years I wanted to be on the receiving end of another kiss from a cute Norwegian boy, my Minnesota friends’ visiting cousin. To me Valhalla is about people, kind-hearted genuine folks. The mild summer and lake fish bring the people. But the people bring life to the vacation. The summer visitors enjoy fish fries, potlucks, smokey breakfast skillets, and campfire tales. This year the fish fry, skillet breakfast, fire grilled pizzas, and lemon rice krispies treats make the food highlights. More Norwegian cousins entertain the family and friends this year. I miss my Norwegian friend from my childhood, and his cousin promises to persuade his return to Valhalla next summer. Initimate moments we share about the death and memory of loved ones. Songs were sung at church and at the campfire. Yes, my Scrabble game had kinder words reflecting my kinder, at peace thoughts this restful week. The year of the mattress did not reflect the oldness of 1971, but the goodness.

A Destination, Literary, or Garden Escape – You Pick

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I am counting down the days now to our summer escape to my favorite northern destination in Minnesota. 62 days to be exact. Island Lake between Detroit Lakes and Park Rapids at Valhalla Resort is the place to be. The steady lapping of the water across the sandy shoreline, I long to hear. And the loons with their young calling out to the others, echos in the morning air. The swift tide brings gemmy and shell treasures along the shoreline with mossy driftwood after an afternoon storm. Just the quiet of a summer evening is what I desire. Simple. No city lights, just the northern stars and shining moon to guide my walk along the gravel road to the campfire sparks awaiting for more friends to join.
During those days of rest, a book or two will be at hand to read. Poetry felt. More words to spill onto my journal, eventually onto this blog. Last summer was the genesis of another writing genre, a literary affair with history and romance. Dean and I’s first. Another new adventure for us, probably a several year project with military and history research with 1st and 2nd hand accounts from the Minnesotan locals. Nature walks and shady naps under the birch trees abade.
Of course, the other escape is the garden. Someone’s other than mine, where I do not have to work in it, just be. All the senses awakened. Planted purple lobelia, pink impatiens, and contrasting green native ferns glisten with dewdrops of the crisp mornings. Vignettes of wrought-iron and wooden creations, the ambiance of charm. Fragrant organic tea and delicious strawberry bread shared with my friend while sparrows chirp and chipmunks scurry. I cannot wait to be at Valhalla once again.
Other destinations are on the horizon, I see a place for Dean and I to call “our own”. “Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times its sent away,” poet Sarah Kay writes. “Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So … get on your way,” Dr. Suess encourages us. See where this life leads us …

Time

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“Time, you left me standing there
Like a tree growing all alone
The wind just stripped me bare
Stripped me bare
Time, the past has come and gone, gone
The future’s far away
An hour only lasts for one second, one second

Time without courage, time without fear
Is just wasted, wasted, wasted time
Oh, oh, oh, ooh ooh ooh

Time, why you punish me?”

These lyrics from Hootie and the Blowfish’s song “Time” keep playing in my mind tonight.  This post is continuation of my thoughts in my last post written 5 hours ago.  I cried when I walked upon that boat dock at Island Lake last week.  I felt my father’s spirit with me, though in body he could not be there with me.  Valhalla was Dad’s favorite place to do his favorite thing, fish.  Such an appropriate name. “Valhalla” is the Viking’s heaven after he dies from warfare.  My father has been fighting such a battle.  Dad’s days are running short.  He is dying of brain cancer, and I keep thinking about his life.  Dean & I visited his father, my 96-year old grandfather last evening.  Grandpa Earl tells us stories of his childhood and my father’s childhood.  Yet he is cognitive enough to ask about his oldest son, my father.  A copy of a photo arrived in the mail today from my cousin.  A 1945 family portrait of my Grandpa Earl, Grandma Anna, Dad, and Uncle Earl.  Mom called this evening on the way home from work.  A hospital bed is being delivered to their Bowling Green home.  Yes, the bed my father will be in when he passes from this life.  God, I am so thankful for my father, Martin Kenneth Bates.  He has been strength to this family for many years.  And now we are his strength.  He will be with You soon.  And I will miss him greatly.  I do not want pain for him, just Your peace, comfort, and rest.