The Dog Days of Summer

The dog days of summer are upon us. During those last dwindling days of heat nothing seems to happen.

When I was a child I used to think the dog days were awful. Boredom plagued me, there was nothing to do except play, no school, less friends around, etc. In hindsight, those were the best of times. Little did I know about the coming travails of work and responsibility.

Now when summer arrives I treasure those moments of doing nothing. You realize how important the down cycle is to your later performance, and you treasure July and August vacations.

Perhaps I reminisce too much this year because I took on publishing Exodus this August. There is little downtime. Don’t get me wrong. I am extremely thrilled, but the fog of exhaustion holds my mind and patience has worn thin.

An opportunity to rest is almost gone. John Lubbock wisely said, “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

We’re going to try to steal some rest with a two week vacation at the end of September. Originally, we were heading to Scandinavia, but due to some mitigating circumstances we have decided to tour the southwest and see the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. When your kids are small and not required to attend school, this is a great time to travel. There are fewer tourists about. Everyone is back to business.

In some ways those missing travelers will be in a better place than me. Consider a marathon runner who suffers a nagging injury, yet decides to finish the race. Crossing the finish line and arriving to rest takes longer and is in greater need. I get that feeling right now. I am a bit envious of others who are enjoying the dog days of summer.

The Golden Light

Sans titre

Instinctually, we understand that the light changes throughout the year. When you learn to shoot a camera, you come to treasure and better understand light. You see how it impacts the world around you in the moment.

Now I pay attention to light with a photographer’s mind, and as a result, I remember things a little differently. The dog days of summer are no different.

August has a yellow quality to the light, a golden tinge. It’s a little softer than the harsh beating sun of July or the direct warming rays of June. There’s an air of preciousness to it, a delicate sense that time is waning. The magic of seasonal change is about to strike again. Live the summer day for soon it will be depart.

In hindsight, I have painted my memories of teenage summers in Provence at my grandmother’s or at the beach in Cape May New Jersey in this same yellow light. They are stuck on a microfiche etched forever in my head. Perhaps they will create a dog days Instagram filter with this effect.

I remember trudging up the white stone mountain trails of Provence, watching a snake lazily run into the underbrush, afraid of it. Around me the vineyards were filled with plants bearing their fruit, ever so slowly winding themselves up towards the sky. The pale blue of the sky seemed almost cloudless in hindsight. All with that slight yellow dog day tinge. After a couple hours, I ran back to Grandma’s and cracked open yet another book, then eventually I fell asleep in the mid-afternoon, another day passed.

The sun beats down on the bleached boards, and the dark blue of the Atlantic waves crash on the yellow white sand. Horseshoe crabs, jellyfish and seaweed litter the south Jersey beach, reminding you that out there much more exists. Yet I ignore it, pursuing the vain trivialities of teen pursuit I’m walking on the boardwalk eating some sort of junk food — probably a cheesesteak that just wasn’t up to par — hanging out with my fellow urchins, looking for innocent trouble in a bottle. Another day passed.

How funny it feels to reflect on those slow moving days now long gone, lost somewhere in the yellow August light of days past. The memories stay with me. Little did I know that those were going to be some of the best days of my life.

Those Moments in Time

Soleil in the Train

If you’re a punk, you love Henry Rollins. The former Black Flag frontman has become quite the sage for my generation with insights that extend into life’s inner workings. He nailed summer’s haunting grasp on us when he said, “We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.”

Last Friday, we took Soleil to a local Montesori school for an interview. The school offers a kind of a fun, non technical creative experience, something we cherish given Soleil’s propensity to gravitate towards electronics.

Outside there was a phenomenal playground with a five car wooden train. She ran from car to car, playing and sticking her head out the windows. Her golden smile beamed, excited and filled with energy even though she clearly needed a nap. To be two, almost three again.

Through the rest of the day she kept asking to go back to school. We even went and saw Planes, and as soon as the movie was over she asked to go back to school.

The good news is she has been admitted to the school (upon completing poddy training).

With this news comes the ends the baby/toddler years in my mind, which seemed to have passed us by with a blink of an eye. I know I was present for all of this times, sans the weekly business travel during her second year for Marketing in the Round.

I can’t stop thinking about this. And every time I do, I think of her running through the train, her last days of toddlerdom, of staying at home. The memory is awash in that dog day golden sunlight breaking through the shadows, illuminating spots of the playground around the tree. Sometimes the memory brings tears. I can’t help that.

In a few weeks, she will put a uniform on, just like all the other kids. A new chapter begins, and at the end of October she will turn three. I will have likely changed my last diaper. She will have playdates, and the shepherding of kid from activity to activity will begin in earnest.

In five weeks, we will travel together, perhaps a final encore of those precious first years, and at the same time a fine line, marking this new beginning.

One thing is for sure, though I am working, I am paying attention. The moment pierced through my haze, and I realized that even in moments of work, there are still golden moments left within 2013’s dog days.

I may not have spent a ton of leisure time this summer, but some time remains. Now I am forcing myself to read Kim Robinson’s 2312, a magnificent piece of science fiction. I will go to a couple more baseball games even if the Nationals suck. And when I look back at this August, there will be this golden moment of time with Soleil, and yes, just a little leisure.

How are you enjoying these last moments of summer?

Featured image by Marta.

15 Replies to “The Dog Days of Summer”

  1. Groovy. I have 2312 queued up right after Exodus.

    I also read RedShirts – which was awesome, but the end seemed weirdly detached.

    I also read Prophet of Bones which I strongly considered not finishing because it was maddeningly bad.

    1. Well, I’ll avoid the Bones. Yeah, when Redshirts went into the blog/author conversation mode, I stopped reading. I figured the part of the book I wanted to read ended right there. Guess we’re alike in tastes!

  2. What a beautiful post, Geoff. August and I have always had a weird relationship. I hated August when I was a kid because I did NOT want to go back to school. Nowadays, August begins planning season, aka busy season. But then August also begins my second favorite season, autumn. Well, sometimes. This year Northeast Ohio might see winter at the rate we’re going :) Yay for Soleil getting to go to school – I am fully expecting her to graduate college by age 7.

    1. I definitely feel the heat right now, that’s for sure. INBOUND is just next week, dear God. Autumn is my favorite season personally. I thoroughly enjoy it, and really would like to do more traveling during that time of year than any. Good luck on winter!

  3. This is one of my favourite posts of yours ever. The days aren’t dog here. It’s like we really never had a summer here in Ontario, save but for two weeks of excruciating heat. The leaves are already turning. The nip is already in the air. And although Fall is my favourite time of year, I prefer it in Fall, not in July and August!

    You paint vivid pictures that stir up my own memories of summers past, and the freedom of carefree days. I do believe I’ll head outside, lie on the grass and watch the clouds pass by. Cheers! Kaarina

    1. Hmm, I hope you had great day dreams. I sure could use some today, myself. Hope you are doing well, my friend.

  4. I will visit my elementary school classmates in PA. Talk to me about AZ tourism..it is much cheaper than Sweden, for one thing.

    1. Exactly. And we had a rental property come on the market unexpectedly, so double the rent, 1/2 the vacation cost. ;)

  5. My kids and I sure are wishing we had more summer left. It seems like the days are so long until it’s almost time for all of the busyness to start again. Then we all wish we could just rewind and enjoy those lazy days some more. Here’s to a productive fall!

  6. After writing that wedding toast blog…based upon actually DOING it for my oldest daughter…I can see you are truly appreciating the moments (just at a different end of the spectrum from me).

    Now I’m enjoying those same moments with a 6-mo old grandson. Amazing how the smiles come easier the second time around when you have more life experience (and hopefully, more stability and confidence).

    1. There is no question that I know each day is precious, and passing. I know I will be grateful that I paid attention.

      Congrats on the grandpa gig. They say that is the very best thing in the world. You must be thrilled!

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