Weatherwise, the end of last week was crazy. The first raindrops of the season fell during Thursday’s wave of thundershowers. Temperatures hovered around 90 degrees. Add the light winds and one could imagine we lived in the tropics. Our non-native parrots felt right at home. Sounds almost romantic, but the humidity and heat combined to make for a few very uncomfortable days. My grandma referred to this time of year and weather as “the dog days of summer.”
If you can’t stand the heat, get out of La Crescenta. That is exactly what we did, if only for a few days. A three-hour drive landed us in “Seventy Degree Paradise” – also known as Grover Beach on the Central Coast. Our trip was not intended to be an escape, but a chance to meet our new grand-nephew. The cooler weather was just a coincidental bonus. As they say, “You must have brought the weather with you.” I guess so as we returned to much cooler temperatures in the foothills. Wish they could stay all summer long, but I guarantee that won’t be the case.
Back to “the dog days of summer,” the period of time from early July to late August. Growing up I never gave this expression much thought. Somehow I pictured a lazy brown hound dog stretched out in the shade of a front porch, occasionally snapping at a fly. But every saying or expression has an origin somewhere. Usually it can be tied to a nature-based event. The observation gets told and retold over time. Some bits of truth remain, some embellishments are added until it has a life of its own. For the true meaning, look up into the night sky of summer.
In ancient times, people gazed at the unobscured night sky. By “connecting the dots” of stars they drew images. The subjects often included mythological figures and animals. These star pictures are now called constellations. The brightest of the stars in the constellation is Canis Major (the big dog) and in the night sky is Sirius. In the summertime, Sirius and the Sun are in conjunction, rising and setting together. The early Greeks and Romans believed this star added heat to the sun and caused hot, sultry weather. They called this time “dog days,” after the star. Jump forward a few years and we have “the dog days of summer.”
The week concludes with a slight chance of showers, remnants of Hurricane Fabio. Daytime temperatures will creep back up again with days close to 90 and nights in the upper 60s, continuing into next week. An added attraction, as posted by the meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Oxnard: “Sunday afternoon the monsoon door swings wide open.”
Sue Kilpatrick is a
Crescenta Valley resident and
Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.