The Dog Days of summer are almost over and yesterday I saw my first flock of yellow butterflies, harbingers of Autumn.
Although I love the South, I hate the heat. Especially the muggy, suffocating heat we have down here in Dixie Land. New records are being broken every year for the hottest day in recorded history. In the usual way of things, breaking records is a good thing. But HOT isn’t an Olympic sport or horse race and making history with new highs on the thermometer is bad. Very bad.
Let’s talk about Dog Days. Do you know how these hotter than h-e-double hockey sticks came to be called that? Is it about dogs?
In a nutshell, as the story goes, ancient civilizations used to gaze up at the night sky and sort of connect the dots in stars. The image they came up with for the constellations depended largely on who they were and where they lived. For instance, Native Americans might see one image while Europeans or Asians saw something different.
That being said, the constellations wound up being mapped out according to what Europeans saw in the stars. Ursa Major and Ursa Minor are bears. Taurus is a bull. Canis Major and Canis Minor are dogs.
Sirius, the big dog, is the brightest star in the Canis Major constellation. In fact, it’s the brightest star in the sky, period. In the summertime, Sirius rises and sets with the sun. Around about the last days of July, Sirius is in conjunction with the sun. Ancient people believed that the heat of Sirius added to the heat of the sun, which created a loooong stretch of miserably hot weather lasting from 20 days before the conjunction of Sirius and the sun to 20 days after it. So, these folks named this time Dog Days, after the Canis Major constellation.
When this stage of hot weather is finally over, many people in the South and everywhere else with high temps during the summer breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Here’s mine: sigh…….
I have survived another summer of blistering, muggy heat and this is cause for celebration. How will I celebrate? Probably by pretending it’s already officially Autumn and making a big pot of soup or chili, homemade yeast rolls and apple pie for dessert. Nom nom.
Now, about the yellow butterflies.
There is a certain type of yellow butterfly that travels in a “flock” of other yellow butterflies and are only seen in very late summer or early fall. What are they? According to lepidopterists, they’re cloudless sulphur butterflies or if you want to get scientific—Phoebis sennae.
Actually, these pretty yellow butterflies are here all year, but not really evident unless you’re looking for them. The reason we see them in bunches during the fall is because they’re migrating. They don’t migrate as far as, say—Monarchs—but they do migrate in small groups.
To anyone suffering from the heat and tired of huddling inside under the AC, seeing a flock of these pretty, cheerful looking butterflies is a sign of better days to come. Better meaning cooler.
What does this have to do with my books?
Nothing, really, except that relief from the heat lifts my spirits and everything seems to be just a little bit easier. So, on that note, I will now turn to my manuscript of the book in progress: Dr. Divine’s Bedside Manner.
To express my fondness for the yellow butterflies and end of Dog Days, I might give them an honorable mention in the book somewhere.
Happy Almost Autumn!