The dog days of summer

weeds in the Black River

Some weediness or algae or some such – I think it’s what we kids used to call the “dog days” – mars the view of the Black River a bit these days. But if my childhood experience is anything to go by, it’s a short-lived seasonal phenomenon, and will soon be gone.

Long ago, when I was a kid growing up in Queensborough, a big part of our summer recreation was swimming in the Black River that runs through the village. As I’ve recounted before, the “big kids” swam in the deep water of the dam at the millpond in the centre of town; but since my siblings and I were all quite young, we swam at the swimming-hole equivalent of the bunny hill, a place called the sandbar on the opposite side of the river and a little upstream from what you see in this photo.

It was a great swimming place, with a sandy bottom and a dock leading out into water deep enough to make a dive or jump worthwhile, and a big grassy area to dry off or watch the other kids in the water. But round about the middle of August – like, now – the water was always invaded by long stringy weeds that kind of took the fun out of things. As far as anyone knew the water was still safe to swim in – and swim in it we did – but it was kind of an unpleasant feeling having those long weeds brushing against you in the water.

“It’s the dog days of summer,” people would say, referring to whatever seasonal or climate-related concurrence of events would bring around the weeds. But – I smile at this now – we kids kind of took the phrase literally and began calling the weeds themselves “the dog days.”

The dog days were a sign that the summer, which had looked to be endless when school let out in June, was drawing to a close and that soon enough we’d be back at our classroom desks and doing long division and book reports. Ah, the tristesse of youth!

(Then again, once we were back in school we forgot about swimming and had a perfectly good time doing school stuff, and once the year was over the swimming hole would be waiting for us, back to its pristine pre-dog-days self.)

I hadn’t thought about the dog days of the Black River for a long, long time. But yesterday afternoon, as I was taking a walk through the village, I noticed a fair bit of weediness in the water – and it all came rushing back. Mind you, I have to say the “dog days” in my photo doesn’t look quite like the long stringy weeds I remember. While it’s eminently possible that I’m just misremembering – after all, those days of swimming at the sandbar were a few years back – I also wonder if the nasty blue-green algae that have invaded lakes and waterways in Quebec have also made their way to the Black River.

Then again, while the newly arrived weeds don’t add anything to the overall appearance of the waterfront that is the showplace of “downtown” Queensborough, I have to say that it’s still – as I’ve written before – a very pretty place! Here’s another view also taken yesterday; see if you agree:

Black River in Queensborough

Another view of the Black River in Queensborough, taken at the same time as the photo at top. Still pretty nice, wouldn’t you agree?

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