Dog Days

Definition: These are the hottest and most unhealthy days of the year. Also known as Canicular Days, the name derives from the Dog Star, Sirius. The traditional timing of Dog Days is the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11, coinciding with the heliacal (at sunrise) rising of Sirius.

From the Farmer’s Almanac (

Last week while walking to the grocery store to restock on orange juice and ice cream, Noah and I noticed the tar used to repair the spider’s web of cracks in the street was darker than usual as it softened in the sun. I stuck my finger into it to show him how it gave. He tried it, too, marveling that the street was actually melting before our eyes.

The dog days are here.

The ice in my iced tea vanishes before I can finish the glass. Unless June’s been bathed in the past two hours, her hair smells vinegary with sweat. Today’s high is 98 degrees. Has it been like this a week? Two weeks? Surely not, but it feels like it. It doesn’t get much below the high 70s at night any more so by 7:30 one recent morning as we were sitting at the breakfast table, I realized it was already too hot. For days and days now it’s never not been too hot. Beth escaped for several days on a business trip to Chicago, where she reports it’s just as hot, but not nearly as humid.

All Noah’s play dates this summer have ended with Noah and his guest spraying each other with the garden hose, but when Maxine came over last Friday, this activity went on and on until the whole parched yard, the prickly grass, the patio furniture, the silver maple’s trunk and the rough unpainted fence planks were all dripping.

Last night it was too hot to do anything but retreat to our bedroom, the only air-conditioned room in the house. Beth read Noah the Tweedledee and Tweedledum chapter of Through the Looking Glass and I read June about a dozen picture books, some of them multiple times. It was hard to focus on the words I was reading as the words Beth was reading intertwined with them in my head. It got especially bad as I read a Robert Louis Stevenson poem about rain while Alice, Tweedledee and Tweedledum discussed the possibility of rain in the Looking Glass world. It sounded something like this:

The rain is raining all around,

“At any rate I’d better be getting out of the wood, for really it’s coming on very dark. Do you think it’s going to rain?”

It falls on field and tree,

Tweedledee spread a large umbrella over himself and his brother and looked up into it. “No, I don’t think it is,” he said. “At least– not under here. Nohow.”

It rains on the umbrellas here,

“But may it rain outside?”

And on the ships at sea.

“It may– if it chooses,” said Tweedledee. “We’ve no objection. Contrariwise.”

Why doesn’t it rain here, I thought, a good hard rain that would clean out this awful, heavy, sticky air? I’ve no objection. Contrariwise.

We are just past the midpoint of summer meteorologically speaking. Still, I can the see the end of summer from here. It gets dark earlier in the evenings and stays dark later in the mornings. The pink day lilies, the last flowers in our front yard’s procession that starts with crocuses in February or March, are in bloom, and some of them are already wilted. Noah started his last camp (drama) yesterday. School starts in less than three weeks. And as if to drive in the point, we received a catalog of Halloween costumes in the mail today.

It’s been a good summer so far. June is talking up a storm, sometimes stringing together two word phrases such as “No apple!” “Mo dis” (More of this please) or “Go walk” (Let’s go for a walk!). And she recently started sleeping apart from us in a toddler bed for naps and for the first few hours of the night. Noah started swimming lessons at the Y a couple weeks ago and is doing well in them. His tantrums, which surprised us so much this spring, ended abruptly a week or two after school let out. We haven’t had a single complaint about his behavior at any of the camps he’s attended, only warm words from the counselors about how funny, smart, sweet and enthusiastic he is. It makes me hopeful about first grade.

Meanwhile we still have a few weeks before the school bus stops at our corner, a few more weeks to splash in the wading pool in the afternoons and eat popsicles on the porch in the evenings. A few more weeks to cajole Noah into finishing the mounds of summer homework he still has to complete. (And what’s up with that? I didn’t have summer homework until middle school.) We’ll spend the last week of his summer vacation at the beach. And according to the weather page in today’s paper, it’s ten degrees cooler there.