“Dog Days of Summer”
When I was a young girl, my sisters and I could hardly wait to go to our grandmother’s house in the country in Tennessee in the summer. There we swam in the creek with our cousins. We laughed and splashed in the cool clear water except during the “dog days” of summer, usually August.
During those hot, dry weeks of August, our mother would usually tell us no when we asked her if we could go swimming, and she stood firmly behind her answer! She would say it was “dog days,” and I sensed that “dog days” must mean something bad, that “dog days” held some ominous threat. My mother would tell us the water in the creek was “too low,” that there had not been enough rain, that the water was not safe.
I was never quite sure why we were not supposed to go swimming during “dog days.” But after a little searching, I believe I have figured out why my mother did not want us swimming in the creek in August.
I found that the polio virus can be carried in infected water, such as swimming pools or stagnant streams. I found out there were about fifty thousand new polio cases in 1952, the peak of the epidemic in the United States. (I would have been ten years old at the time.) No wonder my mother would not let us go swimming!
Many children were left crippled or in “iron lungs” to help them breathe. (Thankfully, now we have polio vaccines, and the disease is almost totally eradicated in the world.)
I found that the term “dog days” originated long before my time, possibly in Greece. The term comes from Sirius, the “dog star,” Canis Major, the brightest star in the night sky during summer. Some of the ancients believe the “dog star” was responsible for the extreme summer heat that could cause dogs to go mad!
I still can remember those Augusts in Tennessee. Even yet, I can remember how hot, sultry, and dry it was. We had no air conditioning, not even electric fans, and it was almost impossible to fall asleep at night due to the heat!
By August, the anticipation and excitement of springtime and summer were past. The blooming flowers of spring were long gone, and vegetable vines in the garden were drying up from lack of rain and the extreme heat.
I remember feeling sad and miserable, with a sense of dread of more hot, oppressive days. I had little energy, and there seemed to be little to look forward to—it was too hot to even play!
After my husband died, I remember experiencing some of those same feelings. Extreme sadness. A sense of dread, a sense of something ominous lurking, that life was unsafe. Life was no longer fun, and there was little reason to laugh.
But as in nature, those hot days of August will pass, and the fall will bring rains to soak the parched ground. The oppressive heat of August will pass, and the air will become cool. The trees will burst into color, and beautiful leaves of red, yellow, and orange will dance softly to the ground. The streams will flow again and the water will be refreshed.
So if you are experiencing sadness of “the dog days” of summer due to your grief, try to hang on. In time, life will get better. By faith, try to look forward to better days with you can jump back into life, into a clear flowing stream where you can splash in the cool water again. In time, your hope and laughter will return, and you will have the energy to push away those “dog days” of summer.
Call about the next "Living Life after Loss" Group at:
Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW, Group Facilitator