Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dog days

    God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. – Psalm 46:1 (NIV)

Ah, the dog days of summer—the time of the year when hot, muggy weather leaves you sweating, panting, and seeking the coolest spot you can find—and counting your blessings if your home and place of work are air-conditioned.

Since I don’t work outside my home and my house doesn’t have AC, I count my blessings that I live in the country, far from hot pavement and 1,800 feet above sea level (a regional “mountaintop”), and surrounded by trees, which provide shade and coolness. Late afternoon, when the sun comes around and its blistering rays pour through my front windows, I pull down the shades, turn up the fans, and head for the back porch, which faces the wooded hillside; or the hammock, slung between two trees at the edge of the woods; or my son’s swimming pool next door—and sometimes all three.

I even have a “dog days” schedule: Up at 6, daily walk, breakfast and quiet time, then be at my computer by 8. I’ll work until 2, then head for the back porch or the hammock for a couple of hours of reading. I’ve a dozen volumes of both writing books and leisure books. While it may look like I’m not working, I’ll be learning about the craft of writing, analyzing the way other writers write, and when my eyes are closed, thinking about what I’ve read and plotting my next novel. Around five I’ll mosey to the kitchen and fix a quick, light, easy supper, which we’ll enjoy on the back porch. After supper, I’ll stack the dishwasher, then head for the porch again until it’s time to get ready for bed. Lights out at 10 p.m.

That’s how I deal with the dog days of summer.

“Dog days” got its name from the ancient Romans, who believed the hot, muggy weather from July 24 to August 24 was caused by Sirius, the “Dog Star,” the brightest star in the sky. Dog days were believed to be an evil time “when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies,” according Brady’s Clavis Calendarium, (1813). Indeed, my own children experienced mysterious fevers during extended periods of hot, muggy weather. Their fevers, I was told by an experienced mother, was the way their little bodies coped with the heat. I was advised to take them shopping—just walk around an air-conditioned store, dawdling in the frozen food section.

Life, too, has its dog days—times when things beyond your control stifle you and slow you down to a standstill, seeking a refuge. When all your efforts leave you panting and sweating, how do you cope? One way is to take the perspective of Job’s wife, who told the hapless man, “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9).

Or you can adopt the philosophy of David, whose numerous seasons of dog days are painstakingly chronicled in the Old Testament: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).   
      Dear God, remind me when the dog days of life come around again, that they are only for a season, and that You are the best way to cope with them. Amen.

     Special-Tea: Psalm 46

How do you cope with the "dog days" of summer? Leave a comment!


  1. I want your life!!!

    Not really. Our dog days are different with three little boys, but also very satisfying.

    Up early to write while the boys sleep in, then lazy breakfast and outdoor play before the weather gets too hot. Then indoor play, lunch, and a trip to our neighborhood pool. We splash all afternoon, then head back home to our cool house.

    TV time and dinner, games, sometimes a backyard fire. And then the fireflys come out. Hubby and I sit on the front porch and watch our boys race around the yard catching fireflys. This is my favorite part of the day.

    Then it's time for bed for the boys. More reading for me. And connecting with hubby. Then bed. :-)

  2. I've been there. I can do what I can because my kids are grown up and gone--I'm in another season of life. You have your priorities right. God, family, then writing.