At Random: Summer days pretty hard on brain

Foster, my old terrier, lives under the happy assumption that he’s the mayor of our neighborhood, and he loves to walk its sidewalks with me, canvassing with other dogs, inspecting local projects, basking in the admiration of loyal supporters he meets along the way.

Like too many politicians, he’s also something of a lech, intent on ravishing Harper Lee, a golden retriever across the street, every time they see each other.

His leash tangled with Harper’s last Sunday, and there was an awkward moment as I tried to free him from the object of his desire, and perhaps avoid charges of sexual harassment.

Once I’d unsnagged Foster and made the required apologies, I tried to get him thinking about nobler things, although changing a terrier’s mind is a hard job. He tends to clench an idea between his teeth and hold it like a cherished bone — another way, I guess, in which he seems right at home in the world of politics.

I directed Foster’s attention toward the newly landscaped yard that graces our walking path. This summer, in a matter of days, the homeowners had new sod laid and a dozen trees planted, the whole scene falling into place as neatly as a diorama for a model train. Foster offered his critical assessment by trying to anoint a newly mulched shrub.

At another house down the street, the owners extensively remodeled a vintage ranch house this summer and placed it on the market, the “for sale” sign this month sporting a new placard at the top bearing a single message: “Motivated.” That little gesture of an owner’s willingness to bargain is a nice touch, although seeing “motivated” hovering over a summer lawn seems like a contradiction in these hot, still days of August. It’s such a spry and earnest word for a season in which motivation is in scarce supply.

Among the reading on my nightstand these days is a poem by Wallace Stevens, “The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm,” in which he writes of a summer night that is “like a perfection of thought.” I’m not quite sure what he means, perhaps because I see summer as a time not to perfect thought but to escape it.

Our brains don’t work very well when the patio thermometer rises to triple digits, as Maria Konnikova reminded readers in a recent blog post for The New Yorker. She quotes a study showing clear evidence that high humidity “lowered concentration and increased sleepiness among participants.” I doubt that this will be news to anyone in south Louisiana.

Lower concentration and increased sleepiness were both fixtures in our family last week, as our son and daughter returned to school, and the household tried to get itself on an autumn footing.

The perfection of thought isn’t our goal this month. We feel lucky if we can find our sneakers each morning.