”Dog Days” (Latin: diēs caniculārēs) are the hottest, most sultry days of summer. In the northern hemisphere, they usually fall between early July and early September. The actual dates vary greatly from region to region, depending on latitude and climate. Dog Days can also define a time period or event that is very hot or stagnant, or marked by dull lack of progress. The name comes from the ancient belief that Sirius, also called the Dog Star, in close proximity to the sun was responsible for the hot weather. – from Wikipedia
Does that sound familiar to anyone?
Lately, that the definition is pretty well fitting and how I feel. I wonder why I am noticing it so much this year. Could it be that it is because I have had such a busy year and there is such a contrast in things?
It seems as if everything around me has come to a near standstill. All the companies that I deal with are quiet. The forums I belong to are quiet. Even the magazine misses a month in the summer season. No wonder this is my least favorite time of year.
I have kept myself quite busy, but it certainly wasn’t the pace that I have come to view as ‘routine’ that I had last winter and spring. I suppose that you get yourself used to pushing hard and then when you go back to the speed that you once considered ‘normal’, it seems like you are slowed down to a crawl. Yet, it somehow doesn’t feel as if you are doing enough, even though you are busy all day, every day.
Many of you have read that one of my favorite children’s stories is “The Grasshopper and the Ant.” The story is used to teach the virtues of hard work and saving, and the perils of improvidence.
In the story, the grasshopper plays the fiddle and whiles away the hot summer days with dancing and merriment while the ant works throughout the hot summer preparing for the cold winter ahead. In the end, of course, when winter arrives, the ant is prepared and comfortable while the grasshopper is cold and destitute. The moral of this story is “To work today is to eat tomorrow” and I find it interesting how it depicts some of the current aspects of my life.
In the publishing and design industry, there is no such thing as ‘instant gratification.’ Everything is done months in advance from catalogs to magazines. After working in this industry for so many years, one tends to train themselves to live in this kind of time warp.
I remember when my first article was published. I was so excited at the thought of seeing something that I designed actually be in print and sold on a news stand in my own neighborhood. After creating and writing and shipping the materials to the publisher, I began the agonizing process of waiting to see it in print. I couldn’t wait to hold the magazine in my hand and leaf through it and – oh my! – there was a project by ME! The excitement was incredible.
But after so many years of doing so, I think that we retrain ourselves to look at it differently. Closure on a project is usually half a year down the line when it finally debuts in public and usually by that time I have created at least 20 other new things and sometimes have actually forgotten about it. It isn’t that we don’t like the project or consider it of value – it is just that it is kind of a defense mechanism within ourselves which allows us to move on to other projects and not look back. Otherwise we would accomplish little.
During these slow, warm days of summer, it is sometimes hard to focus. Besides the call of the beach and the other activities we see others around us partaking in, there is the definite lull in activity in the industry all around us. Human nature would tell us to join in the festivities and cast responsibility to the wind and become the grasshopper – even for a little while to enjoy the season. But there is always the thought of winter looming in the future that wants to hold us back. After living through lean winters, it is difficult to forget the possibility that more will follow if we don’t prepare.
The key here is balance. Neither the grasshopper nor the ant had it. While most who read that fable come to the conclusion that the ant was the winner in that story, certainly he lacked things in his life that are necessary for his well-being – JOY! In this brief instant of writing this, the movie ‘Citizen Kane” comes to mind. I remember the final scene that panned around Xanadu. The bleak, hallow yet opulent vastness of space and the piles upon piles of material things, some priceless and some worthless was all that was left of an empty life.
Many times I am advised here by you to take time for myself and smell the roses of life. I usually do take heed and I feel that in the past year or so, I have taught myself that these breaks are both welcome and necessary as part of the health and survival of my business. I still however, am watchful of things and I do admit I worry about what the next proverbial winter will bring. The economy is not out of the woods yet and this is not time for me to rest on my achievements and coast.
We haven’t had a day trip yet this summer and perhaps it is time to plan one. They tend to be impromptu because there needs to be not only the proper time to head out due to deadlines and such, but in order for them to be completely pleasurable, we need a nice sunny day. Getting those things all aligned isn’t always an easy task. But I feel that my partner also needs some time away – even if it is only for a day – to remind us what we are doing all of this work for. Usually when we return from one of these little trips, we feel refreshed and ready to take on the world. I can see a day out in the near future and feel it will benefit us both tremendously.
But for now, I am continuing to complete what is in front of me. I spent the day yesterday writing the instructions for the 12 witch’s hat ornaments. I decided that I didn’t like one of the hats and repainted it. The new one is similar, but I feel much better. Sometimes what I see in my mind doesn’t come to life properly the first time. I am nearly done with the writing though and today I will do the final cover photography, along with some other photographs of projects that needed to be done. And then on to my next set of patterns that I plan to do and my next class entry.
It is a good thing that things are a bit slow in the industry. It gives me time to catch up and get a bit ahead of things. Like the ant, we are preparing for the long winter ahead. Even though these dog days of summer are sometimes sluggish and slow, we need to be a little more like the grasshopper some days, and allow ourselves to dance.
Have a great day.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"