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.
Some Saturdays can be activity-filled and complicated with household chores, shopping, and cleaning, “get up and get going” like a weekday. This crisp November Saturday morning I slept in. The sunny autumn day Dean and I began with chive & cheese scrambled eggs and cinnamon rolls knowing we needed a substantial breakfast to get the autumn leaf and brush cleaning completed. Dean captured some lovely photos while in the yard. And my thoughts drift to a subject at hand to facilitate at an employee enrichment class in a couple of weeks. Simplicity. Some refer to a simple lifestyle as minimalism. Whatever you call it, it is living in the present moment, and enjoying life, love, family, and friends. There are only a few basics to possess … and everything else is just stuff. It is up to you to figure out what you can live with and what you can live without. So what can you give away from that pantry, garden, closet, or garage? What do you need to cling to for substance for your day today? I have confidence you will make a wise choice.
My life is surrounded with people, animals, and plant life. My home is shelter to the wandering soul. “Happy is the house that shelters a friend”, Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted. Midnight, Celine, Joe, and Pennylane … all adopted because someone else could not care for them. Our furry critters are family. Our Midnight wandered the streets of town late evening on Friday. A construction or utility person must have left our gate open. Thank God for the internet, digital photos, good people, and prayers. A group of teenage boys watched him as he paced back and forth near a busy road, contacted one of their parents, and then brought Midnight to the shelter of their home. We were rejoined with our Labrador by early Saturday morning after a series of FB postings. Well-fed and watered, he rather enjoyed is overnight stay at his new friends’ home. The boys renamed him “Hercules”.
Saturday afternoon Dean and I prepared the garage for our potted plants to be brought inside. The first hard frost seems to be delayed, but may come this week. Geraniums, succulents, a lemon tree, bird-of-paradise, ferns, spider plants, and moses-in-the-cradle create a jungle our cats like to prowl in from time to time. Over the coldest months between November through March, my green friends are somewhat dormant under the high power plant lights, and most survive to be brought back outside with the warmer spring days. One green friend gets some special treatment going into 2017. My arrowhead plant grew lushly green and full over the summer. Sensitive to the cold air, the semi-heated garage may not stay warm enough for it to maintain its brilliant green foliage. The arrowhead plant is sheltered near the mantel next to my palm until our room addition is completed.
I love celebrating autumn! At Boone Hollow today Dean and I gave a helping hand to our farming neighbors with planting a field of garlic, over 2,000 cloves. Can you imagine 2,000 bulbs of garlic next June? With this extended autumn season, I picked an abundance of arugula, lettuce, and herbs to share as I am still using what I picked mid-week. We finished this lovely Halloween Eve with a wiener and marshmallow roast with our farming friends. Ghouls and goblins have
visited the house. Halloween is creepy, but the Presidential Election is scarier! Gratitude for the right to vote instead of dread is what I pray for. I am reminding myself this as I write, to practice thankfulness today and everyday… not just reserved for Thanksgiving Day.
The “F” bomb will be coming to our neck of the woods soon enough. I am starting to think about improvisations to ensure a daily diet of greens. My palette has grown accustom to fresh organic arugula and lettuce since May. I think a fresh pot of microgreens seeded every 3 or 4 weeks throughout the colder months will do it. I have the ceramic tile floor in the kitchen to put my pot(s) with the patio door to provide light. My herbs feed me nutrients also. Smaller terracotta pots of herbs will be seated in the kitchen window. The 480 square-foot room addition extending the kitchen into a family room and a small guest bedroom will give a new place for my green friends. There is always a place for green life in my home. How about yours? Where do your green friends stay in your home?
“Co-exist” is a word that became popular a few years ago. It implies people, critters, and plants living harmoniously on this earth despite our differences. A lofty goal, easier said than done, but is wonderful to experience when it happens. I would rather think “co-thriving”. I want to thrive rather than just exist. I know there are other people in my world who feel the same. Even my Labrador, Midnight thrives when people surround, a social animal. My geraniums thrive in the warm and sunny afternoons and a humid Memorial Day rain storm. Rain finally came after many cloud build-ups this 3-day weekend!
I am hitting the age where more of my colleagues are retiring. Dean and I attended a happy hour this past week for one of my friends. More Cardinal ball games and late mornings are in my friend’s new season. I can be entering that season of life in about 4 years and 4 months. That would be 225 more work weeks. Oh, I forgot I have a few vacation weeks in there as well, but who is counting?! I want to thrive, not merely exist during retirement. Good chance I will do just that because that is what I am doing now. Key is, co-thriving with my Dean, family, and friends. I believe green plants and gardening will fill my days, as well as serving with joy the people God places in my life. Much like today. “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music” Friedrich Nietzsche is quoted. I hear the music, and I want to dance every season of my life.
Author and teacher Ruth Senter says, “When you are truly joined in spirit, another woman’s good is your good too. You work for the good of each other.” How often do you feel joined to or work for the good of another? Do you feel joined at the hip, inseparable, much like conjoined twins with a friend, sibling, or spouse? When the other is happy, you are and not feeling skated. When the other grieves, you as well yet hopeful for the other. Goodness is the goal not self-gain. To witness or live this kind of friendship, it is a gift.
During the Lenten Friday dinner at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Ferguson, Missouri, my Dean and I saw some lovely bonding between this community. The whole church celebration of Latino song and dance as well as fish dinner punctuated the beginning of our weekend. A multi-cultural band of musicians from Mexico, Ecuador, Aruba, and Kenya beautifully entertained the congregation with a Latino instrumental rendition of “Hotel California”. Later women and children danced in festive colored costume. Such a memorable evening.
Dean and I are joined at the hip for life. Besides commuting together during our work week, we work and play together on weekend projects. This weekend we secured our plants as the cold set in for 36 hours despite the spring equinox. We unpacked and sorted more household items. Pictures, photos, and trinkets are going up, which is the fun part about making a house a home. We crafted a bathroom towel rack made from scraps of recycled barn wood belonging to my paternal great-grandfather and clearance curtain tie back holders. Our Sunday date to Hermann’s WurstFest included the hunt for an antique shelf or table to house our bathroom towels. It had to be no wider than 11″ and no higher than 44″, but the length was open since our lone bathroom is long and narrow. We saw a few new furniture pieces at Pier One Imports and Home Goods, but the prices were not attractive. At one of our favorite Hermann antique shops we were greeted by a special lady friend. We perused the shop’s goods, and she finally pointed us in the right direction. A repurposed oak bucket bench made into a floor shelf unit. Perfect. On the way home from our Sunday excursion we stopped at Home Goods to buy some totes, a big basket, and a metal caddy for storage. The total price 65% less than what we saw earlier. Satisfied local shoppers we are!
God, we each need You to make us “as pure, as white as snow”. None of us are without sin. People throw the stones, yet the person doing the casting have a few secrets they would like no one to know. No one is exempt from the stinky secrets. And if you think you are, then help and support the person who is not perfect rather than casting the stones. If the truth be told, the stories go like this … your married colleague had an emotional affair with the boss, the brother-in-law, the postman … or did it go further? God knows. Or how about the man whose wife caught him having an internet affair on a porn site? Or the real live children and women exploited on the web, many unknowingly, secretly photographed by perverts? Guarantee there is a story behind how these photo subjects got there. One could hear the gossip of that neighbor or co-worker, yet never ask for the truth. The gossip just spreads until the truth is marred. How about the assaults that happen on campus, at work, or even in homes with more threats to follow? Bullying can happen among families as well. What about the unloved wife, what the Bible labels an abomination? Her husband wants to have an “open marriage” despite their marital vows to purity. Or the spouse who cleverly justifies their spending addictions? How about your battle with a spouse’s drinking problem, or yours? Or the woman whose husband refuses to provide for his family, sits at home in depression, poor and pitiful? Or the relative battling with an addiction to prescription pain killers, or the person living with constant pain because they cannot afford a doctor’s care? A secret eating disorder or gambling problem? The stories go on … Don’t have to look far for the faults of your brother, but how about fixing your own? If you still think you are exempt, then pray for the rest of us, please. God, through Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit make us “as pure, as white as snow” in 2016.
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.
Weekend before last the arctic cold blew in, causing our feathered friends to feed on seeds in and under the bird feeder hanging from the dogwood tree to stay warm. Our three feline friends, posted themselves on the back of the couch fixated on the birds just outside the living room window on several occasions throughout the day. Birds, and birds only. Dean captured Celine’s, Pennylane’s, and Jonas’ gaze out the window.
Do you remember the movie “City Slickers”? Do you remember what Jack Palance said to Billy Crystal about the secret of life while riding under the western sky?
“Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
[holds up one finger]
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit.
Mitch: But, what is the “one thing?”
Curly: [smiles] That’s what YOU have to find out.”
At different seasons of my life, I find myself in Billy Crystal’s city slicker cowboy boots. And I am in one of those seasons now. I need to find out that “one thing”.