The magic of New Orleans in the Dog Days of the Year

Greetings y’all!

Before moving back to New Orleans last year, I was in Minneapolis for thirteen years to be near my son (now grown). Up north, the sense of the seasons is inverted to here (no surprise!) with their long harsh winters. Unlikely as it may seem, though, the parallels between how the seasons affect us here and there are many, many.

Here, as in Minnesota, the weather can cause harm. There in Minnesota, the threat is much more serious usually, with frostbite a real risk for weeks at a time, but there as well as in the deep South, dehydration is a risk shared between our Summer and Minnesota winters (Winter air is dry as a bone!) A main difference between dealing with the heat versus the cold is that with the cold, one can wear more clothes. Here, the best we can do is, as the old song says, “take of your skin and dance around in your bones!”

Of course, dancing does have marvelous curative powers!

The growing season has a contradictory pattern here, where we tend to wait till fall for new planting. Of course, it’s not only the intense heat that we have to think about here, but the weeds, which don’t seem to mind how crazy hot it gets.

One similarity that may get overlooked between northern Winter and southern Summer is seclusion. People tend to stay inside during the long, uncomfortable months between May and October. We read books, binge-watch favorite shows, work on projects, and keep cool with fans and air conditioning. Naturally, there are exceptional people among us who learn to revel in climate extremes—even in Minnesota, there will be people who look forward to ice skating on the lake, cross-country skiing or ice climbing, even just walking the dog—but even for those folks, such activities are solitary usually.

But here in New Orleans, we have an antidote for the seclusion of long Summer, which is that we are sociable! Living up north, I always missed the way strangers back home greet each other. It was always hard to explain to friends in Minneapolis who had never been to New Orleans what that kind and easy way of greeting one another is like. Whereas on Hennepin Avenue, a word to a stranger of “good morning” would almost always elicit only a surprised and silent stare in reply, here we offer a “how ya doin” or “alright” to the person whom we have never before met and may never meet again. Why do we do that? The milk of human kindness is a compelling answer, and true enough. And, on a hot day more than a bitter cold one, there is less of a sense of urgency and survival making us want to hurry back inside.

But there is something deeper going on, I think. When you are walking on a soupy-wet, glaring, hot day, you can feel like you’ll melt out onto the sidewalk, as though you need try to slog along no further, but instead should find the next shady tree or north-facing stoop and take a nap. But that fellow human loping along in the other direction bids you a light, noncommittal greeting, and you manage one in reply. As Louis Armstrong sang, a “how do you do?” really means “I love you.” When we interact like this, we are encouraging one another to take a deep breath, open up our heart, and hold our head up for another mile. This is a precious interaction, and we do well to exercise this custom. Until you’ve experienced the cold remoteness of social habits elsewhere, you may not appreciate how uplifting this is—not just for the body, but the soul.

I am grateful to everyone I meet thus, for being the generous, beautiful souls that you are.

Tree of Life Acupuncture will be holding a Community Acupuncture Pop-up this Saturday September 7, between 3 and 7 pm, at 1040 Saint Ferdinand in New Orleans.

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Come on by, no appointments needed (if we get full, you may have to wait a few minutes, of course). Sit with others in a peaceful shared healing space. Meet a new friend on the way in or out. And hold your head up! Storm season has been kind to us so far, and fall is just around the corner.

Thomas McCartyComment