Dog days: (origin in or around 1538)--signifies the hottest time of the year, early [July] to [mid] August…coincides with the rising and falling of the Sirius or “dog star” at sunrise and sunset. --etymonline.com
It is time to coin a better phrase than “dog days” to describe this peculiar and singular time of the year in New England. Summer is going along now at full speed, no turning back. If summer stretches from about the last Sunday in June to the first Monday in September, we’re more than halfway past the mid-point of the season, 47 days in, 25 days to go. The BBQ grill is well broken in. For six weeks watermelons have been slurped, drippy ice cream cones licked, and ice cold beers sipped. That first hot dog of the summer is now but a distant memory. Our first sunburn has faded into a tan. The Red Sox are once again dwelling in the basement of the standings, so at least we need not fear a September swoon. Their swan dive happened weeks ago but hey: no problem getting tickets, right?
So how about we call this time of year “Deep-Summer”?
These are the days we are either on vacation, missing vacation or packing for vacation, anticipating or remembering some sweet time away from routines and the office and the sweaty suburbs. The garden is well along and if it isn’t, it is too late to salvage that summer salad harvest. There’s always next year. This is a sweltering time when tomato plants reach up to the sky, soaking up heat and sun, tantalizing us with fruit about to burst. Corn is higher than an elephant’s eye in July and sweet ears finally grace the picnic table. The promises of our May plantings are finally beginning to pay off.
Maybe we should name mid-August “Tomato Time”? “Chapter Corn”? Too corny.
Summer sounds are in full volume. Hot bugs buzzing in an eerie symphony on a deserted town street. The rumble of thunder in the distant, the pitter patter of an afternoon rainstorm on the back porch roof. There’s the lack of sound too and people, the emptiness of many cities and towns. Where is everybody? Away. So quiet. Short lines at Starbucks. Sparsely populated pews at church.
Maybe “An August Ahhhhh…”? “Halfway Hotness”?
It is tempting in the midst of our current heat wave to curse the temperatures, complain about the burning hot beach sand or the muggy sleepless nights, and maybe even wish for cooler weather. Don’t tempt fate! Only six months ago we were out in the driveway, struggling to hoist and toss away another &^%$# shovel full of snow. Remember? Four months ago it was cloudy and muddy and mucky. No—now is the time to embrace the heat, strip down to the least covering possible and then sit back in a lounge chair or on a breezy back porch and revel in the sun blast. Long days and lots of sunlight. Lazy mornings at the pond and precious naps in the afternoon. Breezy bike rides at dusk and windswept journeys on the bright blue ocean.
OK: try this…”Awesome August”. “Sweet Summer Soiree”?
Too fancy. We need a moniker that simply captures where we are at right now calendar-wise: far away from the winter blues, way beyond spring blossoms, yet still loving some God blessed time before fall reemerges and life gets back to “normal”.
I guess it has just got to be this: “summer”. There really is no other way to name it. As the writer Ada Louise Huxtable concluded, “Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all's right with the world. “
It is still summer in New England. Sweet. Brief. Soft. Delicious. Languid. Fiery sunsets. Misty mornings. And hot, yes, there are still some dog days left, that’s for sure. Hot enough to sustain us through next winter; short enough to remind us what a gift from God these precious months and weeks and days really are.
Labor Day? Still 26 days or 3 weeks and five days or 624 hours off into the future.
Now? It is still summer. Enjoy it. I know I will!