Sarah’s slice of life: Summer’s wave goodbye
College and kindergarten may be on opposite ends of the academic spectrum, but they actually share a few commonalities. For one, students in both enjoy naps. They’re both immersive educational experiences that made me feel like a fish out of water. And they both commit the distinct crime of beginning when it is still officially summer.
The start of the school year has always felt strange to me. It feels wrong to begin classes and do homework when the August humidity is still shimmering over the asphalt. Summer equates to freedom and sunlight, so the first few weeks of sitting inside for class create quite the dissonance.
In the scheme of things, though, this is only a small pocket of time — a little season between the heart of summer and the beginning of fall. There’s no official name for this time, but I’ve always grouped these last few weeks before fall as the “dog days of summer.”
Technically speaking, the dog days of summer have historically been associated with the time of summer’s peak temperatures and humidity, not summer’s waning weeks.
The term originates from the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, contained in the constellation Canis Major. The dog days begin when Sirius rises with the dawn, and for the entire period, it occupies the same region of the sky as the sun. Sirius is only visible in the Northern Hemisphere sky during this time, and because of its connection to a canine-shaped constellation, the term “dog days” was born.
The whole thing sounds quite poetic, but ancient empires actually believed Sirius’ rising ushered in a time of “evil” when seas would boil and dogs would go mad. People in ancient Greece, Egypt and Rome also believed that Sirius’ dawn rising directly contributed to summer weather and its scorching heat.
I knew none of this when I initially came upon the term during the first week of fifth grade. We had to incorporate “dog days of summer” into a paragraph for our writing exercise. I had no idea what the nickname actually meant, so I just associated it with the present time — the first few weeks of school, the last days of actual summer. I was a few weeks off according to the technical definition, but the name made sense for the time, so it stuck.
Now, my dog days might be one of my favorite times of the year. They’re defined by several important characteristics, including preseason football and that edge of autumn in the evening air. Many important things happen during them — a new semester, a fresh start to the school year and new classes with professors and friends.
Despite their importance, however, they go by like a whisper. They’re here and then gone, but we’re so invested in the changing leaves and our pumpkin-flavored coffee to even realize they’ve passed at all.
Like most ordinary things, we often overlook these last weeks of summer. Vacations to the beach have ended. Labor Day is approaching to close our public pools. Students are knee-deep into their class syllabi. Starbucks is already selling its pumpkin spice lattes, and yellow has begun to speckle the leaves.
But we shouldn’t plunge head-first into fall without taking a moment to appreciate how God has given us these last few weeks of summer. Even though the break has ended, the dog days still have a lot to offer, reminding us that our summer memories aren’t as far away as we think they are.
After all, it is still officially summer, even though I’ve already spotted pumpkin-shaped Reese’s candy and Thanksgiving decorations in store aisles.
Nevertheless, September is summer’s final wave goodbye, but it’s only when we pay attention that we have the chance to wave back.
TATE is the Editor-in-Chief. Follow her on Twitter.