Summer has become intolerable for me. It is just too damn hot and I am miserable, sweaty and cranky most of the time. But when my little pooch, Poppy, starts panting in the heat -- her little pink tongue hanging out of her open mouth -- I know the dog days of summer have arrived.
For those of us in the northern hemisphere, summer is sizzling at its most intense right now. This is the horrid weather when, according to Noel Coward, only "mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun."
The term "dog days" was coined by the ancient Romans, who called these hot and humid days caniculares dies or "days of the dogs" after the star Sirius -- Canis Majoris, the "Greater Dog," which is one of the hunting dogs of Orion. The ancient Egyptians named Sirius the "dog star" after their god Osiris, who was often depicted as having the head of a dog.
Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. In fact, it is so bright that it was once thought that it produced heat. In the summer, Sirius rises and sets with the sun, and beginning in July, the two stars are in conjunction. In the latitude of the Mediterranean region, this period coincided with sweltering days that were plagued with disease and discomfort.
The dog days are officially counted as starting 20 days before the conjunction, and continuing to 20 days afterward, which spans July and August -- the hottest and muggiest part of the season. The ancients believed that the heat from Sirius added to the heat of the sun during this period of conjunction, creating a stretch of especially hot and sultry weather. Hence, dog days.
The conjunction of Sirius with the sun varies somewhat with latitude. And the "precession of the equinoxes" (a gradual drifting of the constellations over time) means that the constellations today are not in exactly the same place in the sky as they were in ancient Egypt and Rome. Today, the dog days occur during the period between July 3 and August 11.
Although the dog days are certainly the warmest period of the summer, the heat is not due to the added radiation from a far-away star, regardless of its brightness. Nor is summer's heat in the northern hemisphere caused by our proximity to the sun. Earth is actually furthest away from the solar heat lamp in summer. But, because of the tilt of its axis in relation to the sun, we are blasted by a direct hit of fiery heat.
The entire planet is heating up right now. Literally. Global warming is playing havoc with weather patterns, which in turn affects all plant and animal life. The debate about the greenhouse effect is also revved up to high.
Our tempers are on boil and even the most innocuous disturbance is enough to send us over the emotional edge. In fact, all disagreements are reaching a boiling point, as is evidenced by the ever increasing and escalating geo-religious-cultural-political-economic conflicts around the globe. The world seems to be populated by a pack of wild rabid dogs fighting over scraps.
Let us turn our attention to positive solutions and focus our thoughts and actions toward creating peace. Peace of Mind. Peace of Heart. Peace on Earth. There is still a chance for peace.
Please join me in person or in spirit from wherever you are for my
10th annual CHANTS FOR PEACE * CHANCE FOR PEACE
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Mama Donna Plaza (A.K.A. Grand Army Plaza)
Exotic Brooklyn, NY
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