Have you ever wondered where we got the term “the Dogs-Days of Summer?” As a kid growing up, it was a baseball term used to describe the period of miserable hot, humid weather after the All-Star break until the fall run into the playoffs. For many, it’s that time of summer where you just don’t want to do anything; when people become lethargic, bored and grumpy, and kids become restless and unmanageable. Those summer days so devastatingly hot that even dogs just lie around motionless. I think there’s been several movies and a bunch of books written using the name “Dogs-Days of Summer.”
Originally, the phrase actually had nothing to do with dogs or even with the lazy days of summer. Instead, it turns out, the “dog days” refer to the Dog Star, Sirius, and its position in the heavens. To the Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” occurred around the day when Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun, in late July. They referred to these days as the hottest time of the year, a period that could bring illness or even catastrophe.
The Dog-Days of Summer serves as an interesting metaphor: periods of time which are unpleasant and unavoidable, when we all experience the “heat” of our circumstances or the boredom of routine, characterized by lethargy, inactivity or indolence. It’s the doldrums affect which is a normal attribute of life. But, the “Dog-Days of Summer” can also represent a time of intense growth and fruition.
Some of you may know that I am a passionate, even obsessive gardener. I spend untold hours during the year orchestrating and tending to a marvelous, eye-popping display of colors and textures, creating botanical design and foliage extraordinaire. For me, gardening is like painting a masterpiece with plants! But guess what – it takes the most intense heat of the summer to produce the most magnificent, glorious presentation. So, I welcome the heat because I know what it will produce! Not that we don’t have beautiful color displayed in every season, we do; but the most intense colors only come in the Dog-Days of Summer.
I have three takeaways from the Dog-Days of Summer. First, anticipate them; second, plan for them; and third, grow from them.
It’s inevitable--you’re going to get into a funk. You’ll experience the doldrums, and feel kind of miserable or even sorry for yourself. For some, there’s a quick turnaround from these feelings, but for others, it’s a long, drawn out event. Mind you, I’m not talking about clinical depression or a serious, prolonged emotional disorder; this type of condition requires professional help. But outside of these clinical issues, each of us goes through seasons such as the Dog-Days of Summer. Accept these experiences, and know that they are a normal human thing!
Using my gardening analogy, planning is the key to real success. For instance, I have 12 fruit trees which have to be pruned, fed, sprayed and thinned at just the right time so that when the heat comes they will be the most productive and fruitful. Similarly, we need to look at our own routines, commitments and over indulgences, and prune out the stuff which can lead to exhaustion or feelings of being overwhelmed. It’s about good self- management! Every parent of a school-age child knows how extraordinarily critical it is to map out every step of “summer vacation.” Planning is an essential ingredient to preventing or minimizing the doldrums. Planning makes the difference between reacting to circumstances in a panic or funk, and making things happen through thoughtful strategizing. Finally, plan for change and variety. There are no two years in a row where my flower garden looks the same. I pull stuff out, experiment with new varieties, and change color schemes, textures, plant height and the like. It is true, we are creatures of habit – but we must break old habits, change routines, add variety and have fun doing it!
As I stated earlier, the Dog-Days of Summer should be a time of intense growth and fruitfulness, just like it is in gardening. But each of us needs to help this process. When we’re feeling the heat of our circumstances or the boredom of our humdrum routines, it doesn’t do us any good to complain or make others miserable as well. This is the time to get introspective, conduct a self-analysis and make positive changes. Even though my garden may look incredible to most people, I see the flaws and mistakes. Consequently, I am ever challenged to prevent a reoccurrence, to make improvements, to make it even better the next time around. True too, this should be the modus operandi for each of us. We need to leverage our “Dog-Days of Summer” into a learning, growing experience; ever striving to improve our character, our performance, our public persona and self-contentment. Just like the heat of summer is absolutely necessary for fruit, vegetables and flowers to grow and be enjoyed, the Dog-Days of Summer is our opportunity to flourish, become more productive and appreciated as well!