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Greek-American Stories: The Fifth Season

We’re all steeped in the ‘dog days of summer’, an expression that comes from the ancient Romans. This hot, stuffy season, often considered unlucky due to droughts, famine, fires, and short tempers, was associated with the rise of Sirius, the ‘Dog Star’.

I can imagine dogs lounging in shady places because it’s too darn hot to chase squirrels or play fetch. It’s the time to grab a spot by a waterway, like the Hudson River, and watch the sailboats drift by. In this torrid weather my walk-around the lake- routine is on hold. I can’t do any walking at this time. But, I try to do some walking in the evening – just around the block. And, I walk slowly home. I like watching little kids in the playground showing off by climbing the monkey bars, looking around to see if anyone is witnessing their ‘daring’ climb or seeing little tots in portable pools, splashing and having a ball in the water while the mothers watch. What’s the usual in my neighborhood is that in this month of August the bakery usually puts up a sign, “Gone Fishin.” And he really does. His wife used to tend to the store while he was off with his rods and reels. Then, she got wise. I don’t know where she goes or what she does but, hey! Good for her.

The Ancient Chinese had five seasons, unlike our four, considering late summer as the fifth season. It was the transitional time between the third week of August to September’s autumn equinox. Nature, they believe, comes to full maturity, the trees and foliage ripen, bearing fruit in preparation for the hibernation that is to come. The landscape changes from vibrant green to more earthy tones, if you’ve ever noticed. August is sometimes described as the ‘Sunday’ of summertime. It should be enjoyed as the ‘winding down’ period, when leisure time is natural. Being relaxed and doing nothing during this time is when being lazy is respectable. Watching the billowy clouds against a blue sky, or lying on the grass under a spreading tree is not a waste of time. Doing a crossword puzzle at a park picnic area is what the doctor ordered for frazzled nerves. And, today’s news on TV can sure frazzle.

You have to admit that there is a subtle awareness of winter hovering in the far horizon. Summer activities start winding down, the garden is showing signs of sleepiness, and watermelon goes off the shelves as do my favorite, cherries. Apples are at full maturity and that’s when my nostalgia starts recalling the apple pies my yiayia used to bake and store in the freezer for September and October holidays.

September once held another dreaded time. It was when schools threatened to open and that’s when my mother took me and my brother to various stores for school supplies. Ugh! Only the fact that I’d be seeing my friends again soothed my agitated soul. It was a long time ago, when teachers were not friendly or showed any particular interest for the students assigned to them, especially those who were Greeks and Italians. What a difference with now!

Remember a few days ago when we had a terrific rain? I love rainy days. I’d dance in it if I could. But, someone will, surreptitiously, be watching and call 911. It was a nice, warm rain with heavy droplets. The curb in front of my house began filling with rushing water, heading towards the corner and down  the wide street ahead. Like a rushing river it rippled along, disappearing into the sewer at the corner. That’s when I realized how parched and anxious I was for that refreshing feeling. I felt the exhilaration of being alive and at peace with nature. But, as quickly as it came, the rain stopped, the clouds parted, and sunbeams lit up the neighborhood once again.

I was left wondering when the next rainfall would arrive. Rain always gives me a sense that everything will be okay. The crops will survive, the streets will cool down, the trees will continue green until the proper season, and we can water our gardens without restrictions.

We’re blessed to live in the north east – so far. We must always remember to connect ourselves with the natural world as it will sustain us through whatever comes our way. Welcome, fifth season.

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