We have entered the micro-season of “Damp Earth Humid Heat”. This is the second micro-season of the mini-season of Major Heat. The micro-seasons within Major Heat are:
- The First Paulownia Fruit Ripen (Jul. 22 – Jul. 27)
- Damp Earth Humid Heat (Jul 28 – Aug 01)
- Heavy Rain Showers (Aug 02 – Aug 06)
These seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibuka Shunkai and are specific to Japan. However, just because the calendar focuses on Japan doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable to others. No matter where you live you can use these seasons as a starting point for your personal exploration of the world around you.
As a way to celebrate this season, we will learn about the origins of the phrase “Dog Days of Summer” and then read some dog-inspired haiku by Issa, Basho, and Prondzynski.
“Damp Earth Humid Heat”
The authors of the 72-season app describe “Damp Earth Humid Heat” as the time when the plants are “stretching out their limbs and unfurling their leaves as if to sing the praises of summer”.(1) They also say that around this time people are doing everything possible to avoid the heat. This description reminds me of what I call the “Dog Days of Summer”.
What Are The “Dog Days of Summer”?
In the Northern Hemisphere, the “Dog Days of Summer” refers to the time between early July and mid-August when the days are the hottest and most humid.
Why “Dog Days”?
According to the Farmers’ Almanac “Dog Days” originated in ancient Greece and Rome when people connected the dawn rising of Sirius, the Dog Star, with an increase in daily temperatures.(2)
The Almanac explains:
“In the summer, Sirius rises and sets with the Sun. On July 23rd, specifically, it is in conjunction with the Sun, and because the star is so bright, the ancient Romans believed it actually gave off heat and added to the Sun’s warmth, accounting for the long stretch of sultry weather. They referred to this time as diēs caniculārēs, or ‘dog days.’”(2)
This direct alignment between Sirius and the sun marks the midpoint of the “Dog Days of Summer”. The “Dogs Days” are calculated to start 20 days prior to July 23rd and last 20 days after. This means the “Dog Days” begin on July 03 and continue until August 11 each year.(2)
Sirius And The Constellation Canis Majoris
Sirius, the Dog Star, is one of the brightest stars in the sky other than the sun. Sirius is so bright that you can sometimes see it with the naked eye during the day.
Sirius is a part of the constellation Canis Majoris and its placement marks the neck/collar of the dog.
Canis Majoris, or the Greater Dog, follows the constellation Orion through the sky. Orion is also called The Hunter constellation and Canis Majoris has become one of Orion’s two hunting dogs. The other hunting dog constellation is named Canis Minor or Lesser Dog. Another constellation called Lepus the Hare is located next to Canis Majoris and under the feet of Orion. The location of Lepus adds to the story of Orion and his hunting dogs.(3)
A Few Dog-Themed Haiku
Dr. Gabi Greve writes in World Haiku Topics that dogs are not a seasonal reference or kigo. They are actually listed as non-seasonal topics. However, when a dog is placed in an activity, it will have a seasonal reference.
For example, Kobayashi Issa provides this haiku about a dog participating in a hunt.
dawn at the hunting shack... the dog's bell (Translated by David G. Lanoue)
Dr. Greve states that hunting dogs are a winter kigo.(5)
In order to stay within the season, I searched out a few dog haiku that seemed to have summer references. The following haiku are again from Issa.
heat shimmers-- a field mouse chased by the dog (Translated by David G. Lanoue)
all stretched out the dog naps in the lilies (Translated by David G. Lanoue)
Matsuo Basho provides us our next haiku.
a field of bush clover one night’s lodging for a wild dog (Translated by Jane Reichhold)
This next haiku is also from Basho. However, this may be more of a spring haiku
how serious the cat in love tramples on the dog (Translated by Jane Reichhold)
Finally, Isabelle Prondzynski from Kenya gives us this haiku.
avocado tree -- the dog and I stare in vain at its ripe fruit
As part of the explanation for this haiku, Prondzynski explains how different a modern domesticated dog’s life is from its predecessors in 1600s or 1700s Japan when Basho and Issa were writing. She tells the reader that “Kenyan dogs love lying in the dry shade all year round” so their behavior is quite similar no matter what season. She also tells us that “Kenyan dogs love avocados!”(5)
- 72 Season App
- “Why Are They Called the Dog Days of Summer”; The Farmers’ Almanac
- “Canis Major and Sirius in the New Year”; EarthSky.org
- Bob King:” Astro Bob: Two-dog night — How to find Canis Major and Canis Minor”; Duluth News Tribune
- Dr. Gabi Greve; “Dog (inu) Hund”; World Haiku Topics
- Issa haiku are translated by David G. Lanoue at HaikuGuy.com.
- Basho’s haiku were retrieved from “Matsuo Bashō’s haiku poems in romanized Japanese with English translations” Editor: Gábor Terebess.
- Isabelle Prondzynski’s haiku was retrieved from “Dog (inu) Hund”; World Haiku Topics
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