This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Posts tagged ‘summer’

The Old Paths: Late Summer’s Lament

**This was originally published on Thursday, September 4, 2014, in my newspaper column, “The Old Paths,” in The Stokes News. Due to a website change a few years ago, the publishing company broke all links to our old articles which were archived online. This was a tragic mistake and resulted in the loss of thousands of newspaper articles. Little by little, I am putting my old columns on this blog so that they can be preserved. Each column may be updated to reflect present times when transferred to this blog.**

summer-wiped-out-by-waveIt was the red leaves in late August that got me. All around, the landscape screams, “SUMMER!” but there is something in the atmosphere that whispers, “Fall.” The green leaves that abound can’t quite screen out the occasional reds that are appearing. Golden flowers are flourishing on the roadside—a sure sign of summer’s last hurrah. In my yard, the sweet birdsong of spring and early summer has been replaced by the raucous cawing of crows.

I don’t like it.

Go ahead and tell me how much you love autumn. Try to convince me with the promise of community chicken stews and church Brunswick stews. Tempt me with the lure of vivid blue skies free of summer’s haze and a morning nip to the air. I’ll even agree that I love the fall foliage, football and hot spiced cider.

But I always miss summer once its swan song is sung.

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Perhaps it’s that touch of claustrophobia that sometimes threatens me. It makes my toes cringe to think of surrendering their flip-flop freedom to the confined spaces of boots and tennis shoes. My skin does not want to give up the bareness of shorts and sleeveless shirts for the smothering enclosure of thick jeans and heavy sweaters.

I guess I just don’t like to be confined in any way—not even in my house. Due to my career as a writer, I’m already chained indoors to my computer too much. At least in late spring and summer, I can occasionally retire to the lawn chair on my deck, the trees providing me with shade as summer’s breeze brings relief on all but the hottest d
ays.

Although autumn in the South still provides enough nice weather for outdoor activities, the barefoot early mornings on my deck will soon be a memory. The late nights of lying on the trampoline to stargaze with my little boy will be relegated to the old paths as autumn’s chill gradually sneaks in. I start to see myself searching for a coat to wear even to the mailbox, my warm breath making “smoke” in the frosty air.summer-over-charlie-brown

I suppose one facet of why I hate to say goodbye to summer is that I know autumn is just a brief fling with cooler but still-comfortable weather before the harsh winter cold sets in. It’s hard to enjoy the good magazines in the dental waiting room when you know you’ll soon be called to the back for your root canal. What awaits us often mars the joy of what currently surrounds us.

“But the autumn leaves are so pretty!” you say to me, thinking this will convince me to welcome fall with open arms. Why, yes. Yes, they are. But they last all of two weeks before they litter the ground with what will become winter’s compost pile—their vibrant reds, oranges, yellows subdued into one monotonous brown to be trampled underfoot.

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Then we stare at bare trees for months….and months….and months.

Spare me your speeches and “Lion King” songs about the circle of life. I learned that in Mrs. Mildred Cromer’s first-grade classroom. I get it—I really do….not that there’s anything I could do about it if I didn’t. The cyclic seasons are as muchme-in-snow a part of this life as the gravity that possibly sent an apple hurtling down to Sir Isaac Newton’s head.

I accept that, and I honor my Creator’s marvelous plan. And contrary
to what you may think after reading this column thus far, I DO appreciate the beauty of every season and am thankful for it. My Facebook friends especially know how I love snow; when they are tiring of it, I am hoping for yet another snowstorm.

I realize that sometimes things must change for us to appreciate what we had/have. Even I would tire of a constant spring or an endless summer. “Variety is the spice of life,” they say. Well, THEY are certainly correct.

So I roll with the punches of the ever-fluid calendar and know that I will more richly revel in the resurrection of nature in the spring BECAUSE I have been through the barren winter. I will savor summer’s warmth in June BECAUSE I remember the frigid cold of January. Bare feet in newly-plowed garden soil, green shoots springing up from the ground, new leaves unfurling on hitherto bare branches—these pleasures are more poignant because of their long absence.

summer-where-did-it-goBut for now, please humor me in my lament for the passage of summer. As long as the calendar says August, I can still imagine that I’ll finally make it up to Hanging Rock to swim, that I’ll take that tubing trip down the Dan River, that I’ll head to the beach once more to sunbathe. But as soon as I turn the page to September, I sense the finality of those unmet goals. Summer’s slow, lazy pace lulled me through June, July and August, fooling me into thinking I’d have time to relax and do summertime things once my busy schedule calmed down.

I fell for it again. And now it’s time to get out the school supplies and put away the bathing suit that I didn’t swim in a single time this summer. Let me revamp Jimmy Buffett’s song and say, “It’s my own dang fault.”

I’m making the transition from Seals and Crofts to Sinatra—from “summer breeze makes me feel fine” to “my fickle friend, the summer wind.” Summer, you have less than three weeks left, so I bid you adieu and hope to see you next June 21. I will console myself with hot chocolate, steaming chicken stew and warm hoodies, but remember, you still have my heart.

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The Old Paths: I Miss Mayberry

**This was originally published on Thursday, July 12, 2012, in my newspaper column, “The Old Paths,” in The Stokes News. Due to a website change a few years ago, the publishing company broke all links to our old articles which were archived online. This was a tragic mistake and resulted in the loss of thousands of newspaper articles. Little by little, I am putting my old columns on this blog so that they can be preserved. Each column is updated to reflect present times when transferred to this blog. I had blogged about this subject in July 2012, using some of the material from this column. However, much had been changed during the transition from the column to the blog, so I am now blogging the original newspaper column to preserve it for history’s sake.**

Andy in HeavenSummer always puts me in a nostalgic mood. (Yes, I know—I’m ALWAYS in a nostalgic mood but even moreso in summer.) I think it’s the fact that summer takes me back to the old paths of my childhood when days were longer, lazier and brighter somehow.

My childhood was the era of “The Andy Griffith Show,” long summer breaks from school, working hard but laughing a lot in the tobacco field, making homemade ice cream down in Grandpa Bray’s yard, listening to Uncle Sam pick the guitar while my daddy and his brothers sang “Uncle Pen” or “Let Me Be Your Salty Dog.”

It was Sunday afternoons under the shady old oaks while relatives sat in lawn chairs and talked about the weather, their ‘baccer, what all they had put up for the winter. It was swimming in the creek to stay cool on hot July days. It was  playing in the woods with the cousins ‘til Mama called us in.

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I’m the littlest girl, wading in the creek….long, long ago…..

Those days are long gone. Summer vacation ends earlier in August now, I haven’t touched a tobacco leaf in a lot of years, Pa Bray is dead and the extended family only gets together down at his old farm a couple of times a year. Nobody has time to sit in the yard on Sundays—too many ballgames or practices. Indoor air conditioning has long replaced creeks as the cooling method of choice, and there are too many crazy people in the world today to let your kids hang out in the woods all day.

There is really only one constant still left from my childhood days—The Andy Griffith Show. I can turn on the TV every day at 5:30 p.m. and see faces from my childhood—Ange, Barn, Thelma Lou, Aunt Bee, Opie. That show aired years before I was even born and probably has been on the air somewhere every year since.andy, barney, gomer.png

When I watch it, modern life ceases for me. I retreat to a black-and-white world where Barney advises me to “Nip it in the bud!”, Andy strums the guitar on the front porch, Opie shares his heart with “Paw” and Aunt Bee keeps them all well-fed.

But it isn’t all sunshine and flowers. Barney sometimes sneaks off to call Juanita down at the diner while poor Thelma Lou sits at home. Opie tells occasional lies and has to confess to Andy. Aunt Bee’s pickles taste like kerosene and sometimes she can’t seem to beat Clara Edwards at anything. Ernest T. Bass is ever chunking rocks through windows while Otis just keeps getting drunk.

Even the paradise of the fictional Mayberry has its occasional thorns—just like real life.

A couple of weeks ago, I watched old clips of Andy Griffith on YouTube and even posted a short one on my Facebook page. It was the familiar scene—Andy with his guitar on the porch with Barney by his side. Andy was singing “The Church in the Wildwood” with Barney adding the harmony.

The episode was called “Man in a Hurry.” The contrast was marked—Andy and Barney peacefully singing, Barney stretching lazily and saying, “Well, I think I’ll go home, take me a nap then head on over to Thelma Lou’s to watch some TV” (emphasis on the “T”), while the man in a hurry paced back and forth.

That same theme is often on my mind: how can we modern folks with cell phones, social networking, email, video games and more TV channels than you can shake a stick at slow down our lives to savor the simple things we recall from childhood?

…..Like catching lightning bugs and putting them in pop bottles instead of playing the Xbox. Sitting on the porch while the moon rises instead of watching “Criminal Minds.” Playing the piano for the family to gather ’round to sing instead of viewing the latest music videos on YouTube.

Truth be told, I’m too busy to do any of that.

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But “The Andy Griffith Show” reminds me that life was probably better when we had the time, or rather TOOK the time, to do these things. Andy was a busy sheriff on call 24/7, but he managed to take Opie down to the fishing hole. (Whether or not they whistled while they walked is undetermined!) Sometimes he and Helen Crump spread a blanket on the grass and enjoyed a picnic.

There was a sense of community that few of us still experience. Neighbors visited. Men gathered down at Floyd’s to talk. Goober and Gomer were never too busy down at the garage to lend a helping hand.

“Wake up, Leslie! It’s a fictional town on a TV show!” you may say.

Is it? I seem to remember living a similar life when I was a kid. We had a community club where the neighbors had Rook tournaments and potluck dinners. Mama invited ladies over to quilt. The Bray cousins and I would wander through pastures, climb cherry trees, swim in Belews Creek before the lake existed.

So maybe that’s why we still watch a show created in 1960—a show with no real relevance now in many ways, a show that belongs to the days of yesteryear…..because it reminds us of so much that was good and that we wish could be again. And because the true values of the human heart haven’t changed much at all since 1960—love for family and friends, a need to be part of something meaningful, a yearning for simplicity.

i miss mayberry chorus

Imagine my shock when I had been pondering these Mayberry-esque issues of life and then heard that Andy Griffith had passed away. It seemed unreal. How could Sheriff Taylor be gone? Shouldn’t Ange have lived to at least 120?

Before I knew it, I was unexpectedly bawling like a baby. I had had no idea Andy Griffith’s death could possibly make me cry.

But you know why I think it did? Not just because I loved Andy. But also because it seemed to be the end of an era. There had not been a minute of my life that Andy wasn’t figuratively sheriff of Mayberry.

Losing Barney, Aunt Bee and most recently Goober was sad, but losing Andy—the figurehead of the show—is much tougher. It somehow makes the Mayberry world he created retreat even farther into the shrouds of the past. It makes me feel more detached from childhood.

It’s been a long time since I really was a child, but “The Andy Griffith Show” makes me feel that young again. I’ll keep watching it as long as it’s in syndication. And I’ll remember…..and I’ll treasure it…..and I’ll keep wishing I could make my life that simple again.

I miss Mayberry.

andy and opie walking

Staycation #2: My beach retreat at Seahawk Inn and Villas!

DSCN1301I love the beach. No, you don’t understand. I LOVE the beach. Some of you are identifying with me right now. Yeah–VIRTUAL FIST BUMP! Others of you are saying, “I like the beach, but I prefer the mountains.” Well, I blogged on the mountains last time; today I’m going with beach. (Ironically, today I am sitting at my home in the Sauratown Mountains area while dreaming of the beach.)

Yes, I’m dreaming of the beach–particularly the Crystal Coast of North Carolina, my very favorite area. You can have Myrtle Beach and the wall-to-wall people and amusements. Give me the much less crowded and wider beaches of the Crystal Coast.

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The beach area just in front of the Seahawk–spacious and lovely!

For us, the problem is that now that I have given up my salary as a newspaper editor to be home with “da kids,” money can not be as freely spent as in days of yore. So renting the lush beach houses is a rarity these days. Thank God for my brother who “just happened” to mention a place I might want to check out at Atlantic Beach on the northern end of the Crystal Coast.

After checking them out online at http://seahawkinn-villas.com/, I decided to give them a try. After three trips there, I have never regretted it. It has the feel of a “Mom and Pop” place right on the beachfront in a great area. And I must admit that the color scheme grabs me–a vivid turquoise and glowing yellow that cheers the soul somehow.

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Check out that uniquely-shaped pool at the Seahawk! And the part of the building jutting out to the right is a villa for rent. There is a matching one at the other end of the Seahawk.

My first trip was with some of my children, and we requested the first-floor room closest to the lobby due to my need for Wi-fi. (At that time, Wi-fi did not extend hotel-wide; today that is not an issue as it is accessible throughout the entire property.) How convenient it was to simply open my sliding glass door and walk straight out to the beach!

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My babies at the beach!

When my hubster and I went to the Seahawk for my second trip there, we also stayed on the first floor. Every room is oceanfront and has a little concrete patio with plastic table and chairs. I will forever treasure a memory of sitting with the man I love at the outdoor table in the noon sunshine, eating food from my favorite beach joint–Dairy Queen!

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The hubster and Dairy Queen–two of my favorite things!

What my kids loved on their trip there was being so close to the pool which was right outside of our room. It wasn’t the typical small, cheapo-looking, rectangular motel pool. It is oddly-shaped (kidney-shaped maybe?) and pristine. (We moms like the fact that there are plentiful lounging chairs surrounding the pool–kids swim, moms tan!)

Just beyond the pool area–between it and the beach–there is a grilling/picnic area. Although I haven’t taken advantage of it yet (ME?! Cook at the BEACH?! Uh, no.), I have seen many guests availing themselves of it. And we’re not talking cheap grills from your local five-and-dime; we’re talking heavy-duty, high-dollar grills.

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Perhaps I’ll talk the hubster into grilling out for me next trip. Men and grilling go together!

As for us, when we go to the beach, we frequent restaurants for supper and do snacks for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch. So it behooves us to have a refrigerator in the room–something that is standard at the Seahawk. What else would I do with my inevitable takeout boxes from every restaurant I visit?!

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Do you think there’s a partially-eaten DQ Blizzard in the freezer? If you said yes, you would be right!

The location of the Seahawk is also very convenient when it comes to food. There is a DQ close by and then a larger one over the bridge to nearby Morehead City. A very well-stocked Food Lion grocery store is just down the road, too. On our third trip to the Seahawk this past May, the hubster and I tried out a little dive down toward the bridge to Morehead–4 Corner Diner. Incredible food and real local atmosphere.

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The Sound is very close to the Seahawk since the Crystal Coast is a narrow island really. Here I am after we ate at “The Crab Shack.”

There are many other great eating places within a mile or two. And if you want even more variety, the drive down to Emerald Isle is a pleasant one or you can go the couple of miles into Morehead City and find ANY type of food you can imagine!

While we’re out and about, we usually like to check out the typical beach shops of the “Wings” genre. Well, rest assured, there are PLENTY of such shops a short distance from the Seahawk. Your flip-flop/bathing suit/beach towel/hermit crab/salt-water taffy needs will be met. There’s even a movie theater nearby with the latest flicks showing.

But when I’m at the beach, I don’t like to do too much running around. I prefer to stay close to the shore at all times. Lazy? Perhaps, but isn’t that the point of a beach vacation? I don’t get these folks who go to the beach to spend the whole time shopping/golfing/visiting amusement areas. (No offense to you if you’re one of those people!) But I want to REST on vacation.

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Okay, so I DO occasionally get out and enjoy the amusements on the Crystal Coast. There is much to entertain you!

So the Seahawk appeals to my restful side, too. How? By the numerous hammocks and the swings on the edge of the dunes overlooking the ocean. Yes, folks, THIS is one of the big selling points for me–HAMMOCKS! I LOVE these things!

Already I have made lifelong memories there–gently swaying in the hammock with my little boy snuggled up next to me under my NY Yankees blanket (we were there in early October), watching the stars in the clear night sky. Or sitting in the swing with my little girl as the sun set in a gorgeous pink and orange evening sky. Or lying in the hammock late at night smooching (yes, smooching) with the hubster as the nearly full moon cast its ivory moon-trail across the calm seas.

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The sunset view from the hammocks at the Seahawk!

My two adult daughters were so taken with my description of the Seahawk that they went down shortly after the hubster and I did. My Chelsea said that she spent much of her time in the hammocks, reading/writing/meditating. A girl after her mother’s own heart!

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I spent a lot of time in that hammock and that swing! So peaceful. . .

Another thing that means much to me on a beach trip is a good view of the ocean. As much as I enjoyed the convenience of the first-floor room, I must admit that I believe I liked the second-floor room best. Last month, I got to experience that for the first time and LOVED it! Each room has a private balcony with table and chairs and a TERRIFIC view of the mighty Atlantic rolling endlessly onshore.

Oh, the time I spent sitting/standing out on that balcony simply watching the ocean in its various hues of blue and green! It was worth having to walk down steps to access the beach just to have the constant view of the sea.

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Nightfall at the Seahawk. . .

As much as I loved the balcony experience, I did occasionally come inside the room to watch TV with the hubster. (Yes, there is a nice flat-screen TV with many channels available–a crucial amenity for my hubster!) I like the bright and cheerful decor of the rooms–simple yet pleasing. And the beds and pillows are comfy, which is a crucial amenity for ME!

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Our room each time had two double beds. Here is one of them nearest my favorite spot–the balcony!

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The bathroom is rather small, but who needs a big bathroom anyway? It was cheerful and clean.

One day I’d like to check out the cottage in the front of the Seahawk and the two villas at either end. But for now, I’m content to go down a couple of times a year and simply get a room. The prices are very reasonable, especially when winter rates go into effect. And lest you think, “Brrr! Who wants to go in winter?”–remember that winter rates begin on Oct. 1 and run through March 31. We’re talking lots of warm weather at those times!

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The cottage in the background is available for rent at the Seahawk.

So if you’re looking for a place to take a great “staycation” this summer, consider my favorite beach retreat–Seahawk Inn and Villas. You’ll find the people who run it to be super in every way–professional, courteous, ever-ready to help. They even offer some pet-friendly rooms now for the pet-lovers!

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The classy lobby at the Seahawk has a microwave for your use, as well as other nice amenities. And Kim, Christy, Tabitha and other staff members have been ultra-helpful and friendly to us!

On my first trip when I had just spent nearly three years as a divorced single mom trying to eke out a living on the tiny salary of a small-town newspaper editor, I was supremely upset when I got all the way to the beach and realized I had forgotten my beach chair. I happened to mention this in passing to Kim, the manager of the Seahawk. Before long, a nice beach chair showed up at my door, with a note telling me to enjoy it. Talk about touching my heart!

I still have that beach chair. It reminds me constantly of the kindness that still exists in this world, how God takes care of His people no matter what (no detail is too small!) and that there is a blue and gold retreat down on the Crystal Coast where the hammocks swing in the salty breeze, the sand is warm on the spacious beach and the white-capped waves continually caress the shore. Can’t you hear it calling my name? I do. . .

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The lovely view from the Seahawk lawn. . .

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Looking back toward the Seahawk from the beach. . .

The Old Paths: Kenny Loggins was right–the heat is on!

Photo taken by my friend Billy Payne of Sandy Ridge (Buffalo Ridge Imaging on Facebook)

Yep, Kenny Loggins could’ve been singing about us here in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina this week. No, I don’t believe he was talking about record-breaking July weather when he sang “The Heat Is On,” but nonetheless, if the song fits, sing it.

It officially hit only 96 today (the “only” is in reference to the 100+ degree heat we had a few weeks back for a string of days). My friend Ben just posted on Facebook that the heat index in Raleigh where he works is 107 degrees. Tomorrow, it should be about the same–“Same song, second verse, a little bit louder and a whole lot worse.”

When I walked outside a while ago to talk to my friend Lori on the phone, the sultry summer atmosphere assaulted my senses. When I re-entered the house, the cool air felt like a Colorado mountaintop.

For a few minutes.

Then my body acclimated itself to this inside air that is not cool enough despite the AC system that runs incessantly outside my window, ensuring that Duke Energy will feast on many of our hard-earned dollars next month. Now I feel uncomfortably warm even inside my house. Another friend of mine complained that her thermostat is set on 72 but that the temperature inside her house is 83.

Photo taken by my friend Michael Mullins of King

I personally love the heat of summer, but is that because I don’t work outdoors? My father-in-law fights this heat while working outside building houses, putting on roofs, etc. I feel guilty about daring to complain about the heat when I think about him or those I’ve seen recently doing highway work on freshly poured, steaming asphalt. Makes even my tobacco priming days seem tame.

And I also must question if I’d love this heat in the absence of air conditioning. What did we do in the pre-AC days?

I asked that question in the Danbury Public Library one day. A lady I didn’t know, Sharon Brown Craddock, said that growing up, she went swimming in the river nearly every day up in Sandy Ridge off Amostown Road when the heat was on. Nora Lankford, the Danbury librarian, chimed in that they swam in the river, too, on hot days but only after the day’s work was done.

I don’t even like heating up the oven on days like this due to the intense heat it generates. If I had been raised with my friend Mable Booth of Westfield and her nine siblings, I wouldn’t have gotten hot food on a sizzling summer’s day. Booth recalls how her mother would get up at 4:30 a.m. each morning to fire up the old woodstove and cook a big meal.

The large family would work all morning in the fields before returning to the house to eat whatever their mother had cooked in the early dawn hours, even though it was usually cold by then. Supper would consist of lunch leftovers, with perhaps a new pone of cornbread added.

You see, using the woodstove in the middle of an oppressively hot summer’s day created entirely too much heat in a house with no AC other than occasional breezes through open windows and doors. Sharon remembers that her family often cooked out at the river for this very reason.

As I chatted with the local folks one day about the old paths of summertime, a lady I didn’t know joined our conversation. Linda Gallagher of Brooklyn, NY, interjected that when she was growing up in a row house in the big city, her mother wouldn’t dare use the stove on midsummer days. She would make salads, often with fruit, to feed her family and preserve what little coolness they had in their house.

Photo taken by my friend Eric Barr of King

I remember working in tobacco on these kinds of days–the sheer exhaustion that would result after hours of pouring sweat like running faucets while suckering or topping the ‘baccer. Mable told me that on such days, her older relatives would pick oak leaves and layer them inside of their hats to provide further insulation from the heat. Once the day’s work was complete, they would sit out under the shade trees in the yard.

Photo taken by my friend Michael Mullins of King

Nora, too, recalled that everyone simply hunted for whatever shade they could find. That might explain why most old homeplaces have stately trees in the yard–unlike these suburban wasteland lawns with merely grass. Indeed my most vivid memories of Grandpa and Grandma Bray involve them sitting out under the massive oaks, shelling peas, shucking corn, talking to neighbors. Sometimes, they even sat out there after the blessed darkness dropped a veil of relief over the heat-oppressed land.

Back in the day, not only yards were different due to heat, but also houses which were sometimes built differently. Nora remembers reading and/or hearing how very old houses often had a hallway running through the middle of them, from the front door to the back. This would ensure that, with both doors open, a draft would pull moving air from front to back to provide a natural AC system for our ancestors.

On stiflingly hot days now, I notice that, as a rule, houses are shut up tightly with all windows and doors closed. We wouldn’t have seen this 50 years ago. Windows and doors were thrown wide open on hot summer days to allow for a current of air. Shutting up a house in those days could mean certain misery, and even danger, for indoor inhabitants.

Some still walk those old paths today. My neighbors Steve and Olivia Shelton of Danbury live in an older home that they have remodeled and which has no central AC. An attic fan and ceiling fans help to keep the rooms cool, while a gazebo graces their lawn to provide a more comfortable place to spend summer evenings.

Still, Olivia says, there are summer days when she has to take a fan even to the gazebo.

Photo taken by my friend Peggy Woody of McLeansville

We’re talking electric fans–not those funeral home fans that we used during summer church services when I was a youngster. Nora recalls making her own accordion-pleated fans out of paper when all else failed–anything to get the air moving when the heat was on. But the problem with all of these manually-operated fans was that it took energy to wave them back and forth–energy which created more body heat and sweat.

“Can somebody please turn off the heat?” you plead.

Perhaps I’ll remind you of our complaints when December’s cold is bold, January’s gales assail and February’s chill is shrill.

Photo taken by my friend Denise Coe of Walnut Cove

For now, I’m going to enjoy the sizzle from inside my somewhat air-conditioned house, wishing I was shucking corn under the old oak trees with Grandma Bray once more. . .when the heat is on.

The Old Paths: Mired up in “Dog Days”

It may not be midsummer by the calendar (that would come about August 5), but it’s midsummer nonetheless to those who must get back into the school routine in just a month or so. And at this climax point of the season, we talk about being in the “dog days.” What exactly does that mean?

I first remember hearing the phrase “dog days” when I was six years old and cut my foot at a little creek off Highway 65 on the way from Walnut Cove to Germanton in Stokes County, North Carolina. I can remember that accident as if it were yestiddy (as Andy Griffith would say).

When Mama told me I couldn’t have another cookie, I walked backwards into the creek, still begging her to give me just one more sweet treat. Suddenly my foot touched something smooth and rounded in the creek bed. As I ran my toes over that lovely-feeling, glassy object, I was quickly shocked by the abrupt slicing and dicing my foot got from the jagged edge of that broken bottle.

I bear the scar from the stitches to this day. But I also bear something else—the memory that this bad thing happened to me because it was “dog days,” so said either Mama or Aunt Audrey.

From then on, the phrase “dog days” sounded foreboding to me. I had this mental picture of beginning each summer as a resident of a joyful universe which somehow slithered slowly and purposefully toward the ominous pit of dog days. . .a time when things go wrong and midsummer’s haze makes faraway things shimmer, mirage-like.

For me, dog days meant an atmosphere laden with the potential for trouble–that oppressive feeling just before a storm, the “something wicked this way comes” premonition. I don’t remember anyone ever explaining to me what dog days really were. I only knew that some time in August they ended, and life was able to move at its regular pace and in harmony once again.

A couple of years ago, I decided I had been in the dark about dog days long enough. I went to that most modern source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, which told me that dog days are the “hottest, most sultry days of the summer. . .a time period. . . that is very hot or stagnant or marked by a dull lack of progress.”

The name comes from Sirius, the Dog Star, and dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. To appease the wrath of Sirius, ancient cultures often sacrificed a brown dog during this time. In 1813, a writer penned these words about dog days: “[It is a time] when the seas boiled, wine soured, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies [sic].”

But dog days are not universal. They do not occur in the southern hemisphere because Sirius is seen much of the year there. However, in the northern hemisphere, the Dog Star is invisible most of the year, surfacing in early July to mark the beginning of the days of foreboding. During dog days in ancient times, Sirius rose and set with the sun. But no more–the universe has changed since then.

How long must we suffer through these sultry dog days? Traditionally, they last around 40 days, but the dates vary according to the source. The Old Farmer’s Almanac says they run from July 3 through August 11. The Common Book of Prayer (1552) says July 6-August 17. Some European countries call this approximately 40-day period “the rotting month.”

As an impressionable child, for me, the distasteful phrase dog days conjured up the image of rabid dogs. I still connect dog days to that scene in “To Kill A Mockingbird” when the mad dog comes stumbling down the dirt road in that sleepy, stifling, summer atmosphere where Boo Radley lurks out of sight just down the street. But what a disservice this idea does to dogs, which have absolutely nothing to do with the term dog days. (Many people, however, connect the two because dogs indeed seem to be lazier in the oppressive heat, but hey, who doesn’t?!)

Myths connected with dog days are abundant. Supposedly, dogs can go mad for no reason, hunting dogs won’t hunt, fish won’t bite, sores and wounds won’t heal, snakes go blind and strike at anything that comes near, etc. Women, be prepared; supposedly men are too burnt out at this time of year to want anything to do with you. Men, beware; traditionally women, being cooler by nature, crave more of your attention during dog days.

My hubster–born on July 6, the first official day of “dog days”–gathers in his harvest during this misunderstood season.

Even though I know that all of this has no foundation in the Word of God, due to my upbringing and cultural biases, dog days DO seem to be a period of holding my breath, feeling the need to whisper or sleep or simply wait until dog days are over and life resumes its rhythm and color. But things aren’t what they seem, are they? Strip away the old wives’ tales and this midsummer period can be a fruitful time of gathering in the garden harvest, enjoying the beauty of nature and using our leisure time to seek the Lord and do His work.

And if truth be told, my dog is perfectly sane and doesn’t hunt anyway, fish rarely bite for me regardless, the sore on my leg is healing nicely, I plan to avoid all snakes anyhow, and my hubster is paying me loads of attention–thus disproving those old wives’ tales of dog days. So I’ll go on with life as dog days creep by and soon are gone, and I’ll enjoy these lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer before they too are all gone. . .

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