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.
The sun wants to come out to play, but the gray clouds hold the sunshine back. Glimpses of yellow daffodils appeared a day ago, but today they keep their heads covered as the veil of cold conceals them. At dusk snow flakes mutter winter’s last moan. What happened to yesterday’s rain showers and thunderstorm? Is Spring hiding?
Humidity dominated the air the past two days after a spell of crisp, clear mornings and evenings. The walks have been lovely. The leaves scurry about. Finally raindrops splatter the parched earth here in St. Charles County. The thunder rumbles. A lovely sound. Our Labrador, Midnight does not seem to mind it too much. It has been a long while to hear these stormy sounds. No walk outside tonight for safety sake. If it was just rain, well I would welcome a walk in the rain! I will finish my daily quota of steps indoors while vacuuming the floors.
The wind begun to rock the grass
With threatening tunes and low, —
He flung a menace at the earth,
A menace at the sky.
The leaves unhooked themselves from trees
And started all abroad;
The dust did scoop itself like hands
And throw away the road.
The wagons quickened on the streets,
The thunder hurried slow;
The lightning showed a yellow beak,
And then a livid claw.
The birds put up the bars to nests,
The cattle fled to barns;
There came one drop of giant rain,
And then, as if the hands
That held the dams had parted hold,
The waters wrecked the sky,
But overlooked my father’s house,
Just quartering a tree.
~ Emily Dickinson
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.
I just told Father at church last week, I need to be more present moment. My job requires planning weeks and months ahead, and family life the same sometimes. I miss moments in the planning. Nothing like being present moment with a stomach bug. I came to a screeching stop. Not knowing which end to put on the toilet, and then sleeping most of the day and night the next 36 hours. Every waking moment is a “thank you” for life and sleep. I could hear and see the spring rains come down several times, raindrops rolling off the windowsill. The birds sang to their heart’s content. I went from eating nothing to sipping ginger ale to nippling a couple of saltine crackers, and finally today able to keep a piece of toast and a boiled egg down. I have always felt stock made from the bones can cure many ails, so a couple of chicken breasts went into the crockpot with Deanna Greens and Garden Art fresh herbs and Hannahway Farm’s homemade wine. I will be sipping a cup of homemade chicken soup for tonight’s dinner.
This afternoon I managed to put my jeans and a blouse on, and I believe I lost a couple of pounds. Not my idea of a weight loss program, but I will take the reduction any way. The trees and grass are greener. “You gotta take the thunder with the rain”, I tell our Midnight, our 85 lbs labrador/flat coat retriever mix. He is terrified of thunder, but loves the rain and sleet. He snuggled on the bed yesterday as a couple of thunder showers went through. More violent today, storms. This afternoon tornado watches and warnings have been issued. Midnight and I will keep a watch out. I find that relationships are a bit like storms, too. There is a time to play in the rain, and a time to find shelter from it. Gotta take the thunder with the rain.
Rain water, the necessity of plant and animal life hydrated the Missouri earth on several occasions this past 3-day weekend. Some rains were more like 15-minute storms, others were a steady soaking for an hour or so. “Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head” plays in my head, the beginning lyrics from an contemporary song written by Burt Bacharach in 1969 and played in the movie “Butch Cassidy And Sundance Kid”. It was the number one hit in 1970 with BJ Thomas singing it, and the song recently made Grammy Hall Of Fame status. I continued my gardening and farming chores in the rain, until the lightning brighten the cloudy sky and the thunder clapped with warning. Just 30 minutes ago it was blazing hot with the sunrays and humidity while planting my gourd seedlings. Before the lightning Dean managed to get another trellis tepee designed of repurposed metal poles, and placed in the ground for our gourds. We have luffa gourds on the outside, and bi-color pear gourds on the inside of one trellis tepees. On the other trellis teepee built last year, birdhouse gourds are on the outside with the hand dipper kind on the inside. Jude twine is weaved in between the poles for the runners to grab a hold of while the gourd plants grow. Monday afternoon’s storm came with much wind and heavy rain. Hopefully, the freshly planted gourd seedlings made it okay. We go back out to the Defiance farm on Thursday to observe and water the indoor plants. Fifteen miles from our residence, it is hard to say what it did at Boone Hollow Farm.
I repotted several fern planters into moss baskets while at home Monday afternoon. They now rest in the branches of our shade trees in our yard. Baby marigolds were planted to ward off insects. Now nestled inside a huge moss basket with the solar patio lanterns Dean has made near the backyard patio. More marigolds and zinnias await planting at the church rectory. Hail is forecasted with this evening’s storms, so we will continue to let these seedlings get stronger while in shelter on our front porch in their trays. Maybe this line of storms will move away by Thursday evening when time allows for more transplanted flowering plants in their “new home”. There is nothing like a refreshing rain.
Gentle rains sprinkled the Missouri earth early last week. An even soak for our plants that just came outdoors from their winter home of the garage and back bedroom. Yesterday, I finally had a day at home to prune and primp the large moss baskets of wandering jew, Moses-in-cradle, bridal veil, and dragon-wing begonias as well as our several pots of succulents, arrowheads, and ferns. As the day went, the humidity was building up, it looked like rain 2 or 3 times before the dark cloudy skies finally broke loose come early evening. I had my hair pulled up away from my face while I worked, ringlets formed by the steamy air like I had used a curling iron. The native pets became restless as the day went. Heavy raindrops and loud claps of thunder drove Celine, our cat under the furniture. Midnight, the dog panted with nervousness. The pets seemed relieved with Dean’s arrival home from his 8-hour round trip Sunday visit to his youngest son in Springfield. Devastation as tornadoes swept south of us through Arkansas, though violent thunderstorms hit most of Missouri. A long night though the sun shined bright this morning, glistening off of ultra green leaves and grass. Prayers go out to those in Arkansas. The song There’s Got To Be A Morning After by Maureen McGovern …
There’s got to be a morning after
If we can hold on through the night
We have a chance to find the sunshine
Let’s keep on looking for the light
Oh, can’t you see the morning after?
It’s waiting right outside the storm
Why don’t we cross the bridge together
And find a place that’s safe and warm?
It’s not too late, we should be giving
Only with love can we climb
It’s not too late, not while we’re living
Let’s put our hands out in time
There’s got to be a morning after
We’re moving closer to the shore
I know, we’ll be there by tomorrow
And we’ll escape from darkness
We won’t be searching anymore
Some of my biggest stress relief is having a dog and a cat to come home to on any given day. Dean and I’s pets are our fan club. Unconditional love and acceptance. The other day I was greeted with the most pathetic whine from Midnight, like I was his long-lost buddy. Dean arrived home before I, and had the front window open to welcome the late afternoon spring air. I could hear Midnight when I pulled into the driveway. Some days when we unlock the front door we have a big black nose right there with a welcoming, waging tail. Other days, the black nose is resting on Dean and I’s bed. I have written about “Midnight”, our 85 lbs labrador, flat-coat retriever mix a few times, and mentioned our cat, “Celine” once or twice. At the end of our workday Celine usually meanders from the back bedroom stretching from her afternoon slumber trying to focus with her sleepy green eyes. Some days she stretches her front paws onto my leg, wanting to be picked up, hugged, cuddled, loved like a child. In the photo, Celine is awakening from an afternoon nap amongst the seedlings and other plants on the warming mats. My Dean has captured our pets in their most comical, yet common poses during or after their sleep. We have 6 “granddogs”, with the youngest “Bleu” shown in the photo. “Grandcats” are part of the family, too. Here is Pennylane, our youngest grandcat posing so cutely. Last night was another story. Thunderstorms ripped through our local area about 3:00am. Our Celine lowers herself to a crawl on the floor and hides. And our 85 lbs dog becomes a nervous wreck with each clapping thunder. He pants and paces from one room to another, one side of our bed to the other. Dean finally got up to give Midnight an herbal supplement that helps calm him. This morning I awoke to find Dean on the couch and Midnight on our bed. Guess who got more sleep?