I had never been much of a fan of the dog days of summer. It was always too hot, the weather too unpredictable, the days too long, and they always come at a time of the year when throughout human history bad things tended to happen. Wars. Droughts. Floods. Population-crippling disease. Even Homer had a problem with the abundant humidity and heat, writing in the Iliad of Achilles’ march on Troy:
Priam saw him first, with his old man’s eyes,
A single point of light on Troy’s dusty plain.
Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky
On summer nights, star of stars,
Orion’s Dog they call it, brightest
Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat
And fevers to suffering humanity.
Then I met Franca and started to change. I learned to love food, real food, and in learning to love real food I came to appreciate the harvest season—despite humanity’s long suffering—and food, especially, for what it is: a very serious business. One of both spiritual and mortal necessity. Ubiquitous and constant, and of good reason for social occasion. Even in the dog days of Summer.
It felt, it in a strangely fated way, like a bit of a homecoming. As if this was who I was meant to be, this writer, this maker, this lover of food, this father and husband, this man. And is that not the way of deep personal change? It is a thing that awakens inside you, rather than superficially, more profound than self-knowledge or worldly perceptions, and this new thing creates a sort of contract with yourself that says, this is who you are. This is You.
Many years after this transformation began, I wrote a series piece of a special reunion (you can read it here — scroll down to the one titled, Digger). It is a story I reflect on from time to time, as it is one of those “awakening” moments I can point to in my life. The time of year was not August, but January, the dog days of summer had long past, but it was, as I wrote in the piece, “a separation from a comfortable life” and change, as we all know, can be quite suffering. Bad things can and do happen. (Just ask Achilles about his heel).
But we become who we are nonetheless, often despite our own efforts, because change that comes from within takes only time and the eventual courage to accept it for the homecoming that it begs.