I’d always thought that the dogs days of summer came at the very end of August, when all the moisture’s dried up, the days get noticeably shorter, school and the holidays loom, and the magic is about to end.
Google tells me that the dog days really are the summer’s generally hottest, from July 3 to August 11. Who knew? And, it goes on informatively, the name comes from Sirius, the dog star, the brightest of stars, which appears in the sky along with the sun this time of year. (Or so google says.)
To me, though, every day is a dog day.
But even for me, this summer’s been unusually doggy. One of my beloved old dogs died, and with every intention of adopting a middle-aged small dog — I was going to be sane — instead I have a gorgeous middle-sized nine-month-old puppy with big paws and light brown dots over his dark brown face that give him a look of perpetual astonishment.
So now I walk down the street with a bouncy dog leashed to my right hand, and a small curmudgeonly seen-it-all older one reluctantly trudging to my left, I think about the yetzer harah and the yetzer hatov — the evil inclination and the good one.
Not that either of my dogs is evil. They’re just different.
The puppy is a combination of id and love. Look! A squirrel! Mommy, it’s a squirrel! And I need it! I need it now!!! And he bounds after the poor rodent until I jerk him back, hoping that my arm will remain in its socket. And the squirrel — sometimes it’s a bunny — stands frozen still, and I can feel its fear.
The older dog is jaded. A squirrel? Yeah. That’s nice. Talk to me when it’s a lion. Or maybe a dragon. Or whatever.
It’s all very end-of-summer. All the squirrels. All the children, out playing. All the summer clothes. All the last-minute fun, being packed in, before the serious stuff starts again.
This week, we look at serious issues — the glory that is LifeTown in Livingston, with its focus not only on inclusion and learning and also on fun, on the understanding that when education is leavened with pleasure people can learn better. And also on the understanding that joy is an active good.
We also look at Communities Confronting Substance Abuse, a homegrown nonprofit whose explosive growth is fueled by a family’s passion, and the understanding that understanding itself matters.
The summer is ending. The weekend after this one will be Labor Day, and Rosh Hashanah will be two Shabbatot later. We’re now a full week into Elul, the month that prepares us for the holidays to come.
This is a liminal time; a time of beauty and hope and endings. We hope that our readers can see the beauty, feel the hope, and acknowledge the endings.