The atmosphere seemed hellbent to oppress the Earth. The cloying, warm dampness of the early morning air immediately clung to my body after I stepped from the air conditioned haven of my home into the dark, haziness of the outdoors. I skimmed the surroundings to see if Orange the cat had arrived for his daily dialogue. It was difficult to see, due to the condensation that formed on my eyeglasses. Orange startled me by simultaneously rubbing against my shin and meowing. He did not leap onto my lap as usual. He was content to lay on top of my feet while I massaged the fur between his ears. I remarked to him that he had body odor today. He responded with a trill. When a cat has B.O. you know the dog days of summer have arrived.
We think of the dog days of Summer as the stretch of time between early July and early September in the Northern Hemisphere when the most sultry, hot weather envelopes the environment. Dog days are so named because, in rural areas, where the sky is not obscured by light pollution, we can more clearly observe the night-time sky. It was the same and even more so in ancient times. Among the stars that the ancient Europeans who lived near the Mediterranean observed at this time of year was Sirius, the dog star. Sirius is part of the make-up of the constellation Canis Majoris (greater dog). Sirius’ official name is Alpha Canis Majoris. The Greeks and Romans believed that the star’s appearance in the sky signified bad luck, drought, madness, and social unrest. At the time when Sirius appears at dawn, dogs and men were driven mad by the oppressive weather conditions.
During the dog days of summer, the daytime air is scorching hot, motionless, and quieter than during spring and autumn. The silence is accented by the buzzing of insects as the night time takes over. In towns and cities, the hum of air conditioning compressors play the bass notes of the subtle summer sounds. At times, severe thunderstorms threaten to upset the inertia of summer’s ennui with the exciting threat of catastrophe. However, oftentimes the lightning strobes merely hint at upheaval and merely provide an entertaining light-show on the horizon. These are peculiar times when police forces are kept busy trying to control unruly gangs of adolescents.
I have mixed feelings about the dog days of summer. On the one hand they remind me of boyhood’s carefree, happy days of summer vacation from school. On the other hand, I feel imprisoned by the after-effects of two bouts of heatstroke. These days, my body does not fair well during the summer’s heat and humidity. I sometimes yearn for the younger years when heat was merely, just another slight inconvenience. Yet summer remains an upbeat part of the year for most people. There are car trips, vacations, picnics, water recreation, and numerous festivals and other distractions to fill the days.
These are a few musings that come to mind as we head into hard-core summer here in the Northern Hemisphere.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Yoko Ono. ” “Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.”