When old timers used to talk about the Dog Days of August I used to picture sad looking hounds lolling under a rickety porch on a blistering hot day. It seemed like as good an explanation as any for the term. Of course I was wrong. Blame the Greeks and astrologers for this one. It describes the period when the Sun occupies the same region of the sky as Sirius, the brightest star visible from any part of Earth and part of the constellation Canis Major—the Greater Dog from whence Sirius got popularly dubbed the Dog Star.
|Sirius is the bright star on the nose of the constellation Canis Major.|
That corresponds to the hottest and muggiest time of the year across most of the Northern Hemisphere. For old mariners it also often meant a time of being becalmed sometimes for weeks as water and supplies dwindled as described in They Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. Farmers, on the other hand, fretted about either their crops being scorched by drought or destroyed in powerful thunderstorms or tornados. For city folk it represented sweltering on front stoops to escape stifling homes and apartments.
This year in the northwest boonies of the Chicago metroplex August has actually been a bit cooler than July and on the whole, dryer. It might even tempt outdoor adventures and the pleasures of festivals, fairs, and concerts. But all of that has been erased by the Coronavirus pandemic. This has become the Summer of our Discontent.
|Every bit as ominous as it looks the leading edge of a deracho closes in on a shopping center. Time to post those shopping cart warnings....|
Monday evening a derecho—a rare so-called land hurricane with straight winds of up to 100 miles per hour over a broad front—moved through the Midwest downing trees, creating power outages, and spawning embedded tornadoes. At the Murfin Estate in Crystal Lake we lost power for six hours and then experienced an encore yesterday afternoon for five more. We can’t complain, however. We sustained no damage. Some friends in the county were not so lucky losing mature trees and big branches with some damage to homes and cars. Some are not expected to regain electrical service until Saturday.
Back in 2012 and even more powerful derecho swept through McHenry County from north to south wrecking more widespread damage. We lost a majestic 40 foot blue spruce which luckily missed our garage and cars by falling conveniently into the funeral home parking lot next to us. Instead of the relatively cooler and less humid weather that followed this year’s storm, temperatures that year hovered in the upper 90°s with tropical humidity. Power was out for five and a half days and we had to shelter like refugees in a hotel.
Back then I was moved to write my anti-paean to this month.
Nobody Writes Poetry About August
Oh sure, gush about your May mornings,
your dazzling June, even your soggy April.
Haul out your Roget’s for September ripening grain,
October umber and amber, November crisp air.
Let crystal December dazzle your eyes,
and wallow in some January bleak mid-winter.
Maybe if it weren’t for lovers February, short and wretched,
might fare worse—who can rhyme it anyway?
But who writes paeans and odes to August?
Long days have lost their charm amid the swelter,
birds gasp on telephone wires,
stray cats dance on asphalt,
sweating lovers can’t be bothered,
children crank and whine,
strangers snap like match sticks
and fill each other full of holes,
the fucking lawn needs mowing—again.
Write about that, you damn poets.
Go ahead—I dare you.