August: Dog Days of Summer

Hot days.  Dry days in the west.  Dog Days are a time of sitting quietly, outdoors when it's cool enough, inside in blessed air conditioning when afternoon heat oppresses.  Every living thing, flora and fauna, slows down, panting, as if a hand on high is pressing us earthward.  Dog Days officially begins July 3rd, extending to Aug 11th, but I've always associated them from the end of July to the end of August.  The days refer to the hottest, sultry days of summer.  For us, you could substitute the word sultry with words like dry, parched, dehydrated, and generally thirsty.  Typing these words makes me want to retire to our back deck with either ice water or lemonade!

Our canal path is dry, despite the shallow water that flows.  Brownish-red dust billows with each footfall, bellow-like puffs that cling to my athletic shoes and sox, staining them a rusty color that barely fades in the washing machine.  Leaves along the trail look gray, evidence of a gathering dust.  Fallen Doug fir needles have been trampled into dusty fragments.  Our Pacific Dogwoods have begun to shed their withered leaves, all of them, every tree and bush and flower, suffering in the prolonged drought.  Foothill temperatures in the 90's have left us gasping.  

My dearest walking companion has been "cleared for take-off," by his knee replacement surgeon.  Jimmy has rejoined me on our walks, which makes me very happy; I've missed him.  Sunday morning we walked roughly two-and-a-half miles, starting fairly early, thankful for partly-cloudy skies.  He had no ill effects, except being tired from exertion after close to two months of forced inactivity.  That problem will right itself as we continue to go Out and About.  Jimmy was released from outpatient physical therapy, too ... he'd already achieved the maximum help they could give him.  Go forth and Have Fun!  

Summer in the west means wildfires, great swaths of horrendous wind-whipped flames burning wildly.  I've lost track of how many fires are burning today, each leaving a blackened landscape behind.  Way too many, from the Mexican border to Alaska.  Is this the "new norm" in the west -- massive fires with erratic behavior that even firefighters can scarcely believe?  I hope not.  Hard to watch the images on TV.  Now in our fourth year of "exceptional" drought, hillsides and meadows and forests are tinder; one spark and ... inferno.  These are the days of irritated, scratchy throats and eyes from smoky skies laced with "particulate matter."  We aren't in the direct path of smoke now, but we can feel it.  Yet, tomorrow or the next day may be our turn to endure smoke.  Hazy days, for sure, but not the lazy, hazy days of summer that Nat King Cold sang about.  What makes this so upside-down is the flooding rains plaguing other areas of the country.  Makes me crazy. 

Most of these guys -- banana slugs -- have disappeared from the trail,  Too dry for them, I guess.

Berries are one of the better things of summer, in my opinion.  This mostly unripe patch is a bit off the beaten path, near water and not covered in dust, and it won't be long till they'll be ripe for picking.  We'll be ready. Ready for a blackberry cobbler!  Our local farmer's markets are filled with summer produce, squashes and cukes, onions and melons and berries and lettuces.  Tomatoes are just beginning to show up.  My garden is a disaster, tho I have picked and enjoyed ONE small tomato off my three plants.  Sweet corn should show up soon.

Nice to read on the deck, and grill chicken and fish and veggies in summer, not hot up the kitchen.

If I pour water on them daily, I'm rewarded with few spots of color. 

Monday thru Thursday mornings, Jimmy and I can be found in Pioneer Park's pool, unless we have a commitment elsewhere.  Wonderfully refreshing.  Jimmy works his knee, while I swim by myself, which I love to do, and others participate in an exercise class.  This morning (Monday, 8/3), the water felt cooler than usual.  I overheard one lady say, "Enjoy it -- it's the coolest you'll feel all day."  Cool beans!  We enjoyed it.

Homer, in The Iliad, had this to say about Dog Days:

Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky
On summer nights, star of stars,
Orion's Dog they call it, brightest
Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat
And fevers to suffering humanity.

Since Jimmy has the green light to go and do whatever he wants (being careful of his new knee, of course), we plan to load up Tergel in the next week, and head north by mid-month.  By what route, we don't know.  Fires and smoke chased us to the coast last year.  And the same thing may happen this summer.  tbc

One more note -- these darned Dog Days have produced a pilfering imp -- a stealer of stuff.  The little devil sneaks in at night while we're asleep.  A cherished coin vanished, last night it lifted my reading glasses from the dining room table, and there was one other item that's gone missing, but I forget what.  Gone into the black hole of elvish space.  What other explanation could there be?


  1. Ah, Nickie, so nice that you have that lovely pool, and your lovely walking partner again at your side! You know...the smoke this way is NOT bad. It comes and goes, and doesn't extend as far as Waldo Lake. A drive north might still be in the works for you by mid month. Hope so. And Dog Days was interesting. I had heard the term but didn't know it had a definition. You described how it feels in the MotherLode during this time of year perfectly. The only thing you missed was the crispy grass. I was always amazed at dry grass that felt like cornflakes.

  2. Hmmm. The same imp lives with us, too. Some things are never found again, and some things are moved to places where we KNOW we didn't put them..... Mysteries.

  3. Sultry ... has a nice ring to it that I simply can't equate with the dog days you're experiencing.


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