The dog days of summer are upon us. We feel lazy and lethargic. We are all aware of the toll the heat can take especially with the New Jersey humidity. We had wonderful things planned to accomplish and to fill our days but our energy flags and our accomplishments are not what they should be. We think, “I must be getting older: I can’t do that five mile run any more.” Or “I hope I don’t have Lyme Disease” or we chastise ourselves for being lazy. “We must have adrenal problems or chronic fatigue.” Let’s take a lesson from those dogs. First, recognize that in countries that experience this type of heat and humidity all the time, one goes with the rhythm of life and nature. When the heat peaks, rest and quiet activity or a siesta is great fun and rejuvenating. The dog finds the coolest place under a tree, the cool mud, or the cool hard wood floor. Then it stretches out and sleeps until it’s done. Second, don’t set a time limit for these breaks. Let your body tell you when its ready to return to activity. The dog gets those big sloppy drinks and then sits and studies the horizon with all its senses, its nose, ears, and eyes before beginning their stroll back into activity. Third, keep hydrated through drinking and bathing. A quick shower can be very refreshing, or a dip in the pool or a splash at the sink. Why do you think the dog spills as much as it drinks? Then slowly return to life and activity. Check the lay of the land, including family, house, and the land itself. Take it all in before you jump back into activity and your accomplishments will be more, as they should be: appropriate for the needs of your life and the time and tempo of the day.
Carbs are the bad word of the day but recognize that this is the time of year when they make the most sense. Proteins are often more heavy feeling when you eat them and they take more energy to digest and process. Remember that carbs are your grains, fruits, and vegetables, which are the staple of most societies that live in tropical countries. Eat with the season. Salads of grains and greens with a sprinkling of chickpeas, nuts, cheese, or sliced turkey will nourish you better and sit better in your stomach. Remember the lethargy you feel after a big holiday meal is the same lethargy you will feel in the summer if you eat heavy foods. Eat above ground parts of plants. These are the most full of energy, vitamins, and minerals this time of year, as they are the parts that are growing and stimulate all your senses with their color, smell, and texture. Eat them slowly, savoring each bite. This will give you more energy and provide ease to your digestive system. Drinks should be separate from your food especially this time of the year to prevent bloat and improve complete digestion.
Add some borage flowers for their cucumber taste and the energy of courage. Have some rosemary punch to make your hair grow, nourish your nerves, settle your stomach, calm dizziness, and strengthen the sight, memory, and the heart. 2T crushed rosemary leaves with 3T sugar and a pinch of salt- simmer for 2 minutes. Cool and strain this syrup- you can make it ahead and freeze it in ice cubes. Add to this ½ cup water, 2 cups apricot nectar, 1 qt Gingerale, and 1 cup of lime juice (frozen is easy). Serve in tall, chilled glasses over shaved ice with a twist of lime. Have some spicy nasturtium flowers in your salad to add a bit of spark to your energy. Latin Chicheghi Salatassi- Mix 1 cup of flowers with a T of chopped Chervil, sprinkle with 2-3T olive oil and the juice of a lemon. A pinch of salt brings out the flavor (from Turab Effendi, Turkish Cookery Book, 1862). Mints are enlivening in all their forms. Make a sun tea by filling a jar with crushed leaves of all the mints you have: spearmint, peppermint, lemon balm, catnip, and bee balm for example. Use the flowers as well as the leaves. The catnip and lemon balm in particular raise the spirits and thus the energy. If this is too much work, just crush and sniff or rub around your face and neck. It will keep the bugs off (not necessarily the cat). Adding mint to your drinking water makes it more cooling and helps it get in to the cells, as does a squeeze of fresh lemon.
The freedom that summer brings with schools closed and vacations giving us a break from work is part of our fatigue as we try to cram all we can into the long days and free days. Don’t forget the break. Use some of your energy to relax, lie in the hammock, take a nap, listen, smell, and taste the quiet languor of summer. Enjoy the butterflies, the colors of summer, the laughter of children, and the hum of the cicada. It will soon be gone. Take a deep breath, exhale slowly, smile, enjoy.