All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
'Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, no breath no motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean......
Samuel Coleridge, Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner
The colloquial expression was used in Norman Juster's children's book Phantom Tollbooth, in which a place called "The Doldrums" is inhabited by the Lethargarians who follow the same list of activities every day.
"And the KMAland weather forecast...." comes on most days just after the 5 minutes of national news at 6 a.m. This day there is no local sports profile to snooze through, no recap of Corner Conference baseball, no fishing report from local lakes. There's a meteorologist, and when the weather speaks, sleep flees. "High pressure entrenched in the southwest will spread north and east...."
Words to chill the blood and stop the heart. High pressure. Sun day after day, evenings quiet and warm, temperature and dew point exhibiting bracket creep until, like the apocryphal toad in the pan of water, we are parboiled and senseless.
Senseless...but not numb. July's routine: early up, pour the water through the Bunn, out the back door to pull the hydrant up, hear the sprinkler splutter to life and water arc through the morning air for an hour before we leave to spread more water. Breathe in. Gauge the first rays of sun for their sear potential later on: is it a high 80s day? 90-92? The blistering side of 95? On which morning will the last faint vestige of cool be undetectable? It will happen....just like there will be a morning when it reappears....in a month or two...
Weeds still grow where water flows; watering the mums requires stoops and bends to pull crab grass and purslane from the moist circles under the pots. The weeds that grow amongst the mums are often sown by the emitters themselves and sprout just where we dropped the lead topped leader in June. The black ground cloth warms quickly but that doesn't deter a multitude of toads from living in the mum pot jungle...whatever else toads eat, they don't digest cricket shells. The soundtrack of pump motors is punctuated by the killdeer cries as the dog wanders through the corn; too close, too close!
|Top...bugs. Bottom...no bugs|
|What caterpillars hath wrought|
Finally, the doldrums gives us the most carefree, careless, graceful and forgiving denizens of the garden. The coneflowers, balloon flowers, and daylilies shrug off the white bright hot days like they would a passing shower. They stand as fresh in late afternoon as they were at sunrise, the hour I stepped out that back door, after I poured the water through the Bunn, ready to start the sprinkler, after hearing the weatherman give us another day of .....the doldrums.