The Old Farmer’s Almanac lists the traditional period of the Dog Days as the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11, coinciding with the ancient heliacal (at sunrise) rising of the Dog Star, Sirius.
Well, we are certainly in the middle of them now! And they will not be over come August 11. But as I have said before, I have come to appreciate the summer–even the dog days–and enjoy the slower pace. Nobody’s in a hurry around here in August.
Summer is a good time to read old favorites:
“Maycomb was a tired old town, even in 1932 when I first knew it. Somehow, it was hotter then. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon and after their three o’clock naps. And by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frosting from sweating and sweet talcum. The day was twenty-four hours long, but it seemed longer.” (Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird)
It is a good time to read poetry:
Now I will do nothing but listen,To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute toward it.I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat, gossip of flames, clack of sticks cooking my meals,I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice,I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following,Sounds of the city and sounds out of the city, sounds of the day and night,Talkative young ones to those that like them, the loud laugh of work-people at their meals,The angry base of disjointed friendship, the faint tones of the sick,The judge with hands tight to the desk, his pallid lips pronouncing a death-sentence,The heave’e’yo of stevedores unlading ships by the wharves, the refrain of the anchor-lifters,The ring of alarm-bells, the cry of fire, the whirr of swift-streak-
ing engines and hose-carts with premonitory tinkles and color’d lights,The steam-whistle, the solid roll of the train of approaching cars,The slow march play’d at the head of the association marching two and two,(They go to guard some corpse, the flag-tops are draped with black muslin.)I hear the violoncello, (’tis the young man’s heart’s complaint,)I hear the key’d cornet, it glides quickly in through my ears,It shakes mad-sweet pangs through my belly and breast.I hear the chorus, it is a grand opera,Ah this indeed is music—this suits me. (Walt Whitman, Song of Myself, 26)
And it is a good time to read history:
On the receipt of Mr. Dana’s dispatch Mr. Stanton sent for me. Finding that I was out he became nervous and excited, inquiring of every person he met, including guests of the house, whether they knew where I was, and bidding them find me and send me to him at once. About eleven o’clock I returned to the hotel, and on my way, when near the house, every person met was a messenger from the Secretary, apparently partaking of his impatience to see me. I hastened to the room of the Secretary and found him pacing the floor rapidly in his dressing-gown. Saying that the retreat must be prevented, he showed me the dispatch. I immediately wrote an order assuming command of the Military Division of the Mississippi, and telegraphed it to General Rosecrans. I then telegraphed to him the order from Washington assigning Thomas to the command of the Army of the Cumberland; and to Thomas that he must hold Chattanooga at all hazards, informing him at the same time that I would be at the front as soon as possible. A prompt reply was received from Thomas, saying, “We will hold the town till we starve.” I appreciated the force of this dispatch later when I witnessed the condition of affairs which prompted it. It looked, indeed, as if but two courses were open: one to starve, the other to surrender or be captured.
On the morning of the 20th of October I started, with my staff, and proceeded as far as Nashville. At that time it was not prudent to travel beyond that point by night, so I remained in Nashville until the next morning. Here I met for the first time Andrew Johnson, Military Governor of Tennessee. He delivered a speech of welcome. His composure showed that it was by no means his maiden effort. It was long, and I was in torture while he was delivering it, fearing something would be expected from me in response. I was relieved, however, the people assembled having apparently heard enough. At all events they commenced a general hand-shaking, which, although trying where there is so much of it, was a great relief to me in this emergency. (U.S. Grant, Personal Memoirs, Ch 40)
So try to enjoy these dog days of summer. And remember: This is the day which the Lord hath made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!
*The paintings are by Winslow Homer, of course.