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August 26, 2008
Summer draws to a close. The evenings are cool, and even the days are not bad at all. School is starting soon. Most people's lives softened and slowed a bit in the summer: not so many commitments, generally a slower pace. People were away, and so things were not decided at such a clip. That's about to change, now: they're all coming back. Time to get back to work.

Is there anybody who is not saddened by this, just a little bit? Even people like me, who feel their blood quicken a bit in the fall, the learned reflex from years of loving school: even we will miss the sanity of summer's pace. Perhaps we will resolve to bring a little of it into autumn with us: This year, we tell ourselves firmly, I'm not going to run myself ragged.

Italy is famous for not running itself ragged: this is a country that has long enshrined the leisurely noonday meal and the afternoon nap as secular sacraments. There are signs that this is changing, though: more stores and some restaurants seem to be open in the afternoon than I recall, in this city so full of tourists, who don't know about the nap part. People don't work as close to their homes as they used to, someone tells me. They don't go home for lunch. Who wants to endure four rush hours a day?

Ah, me. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Of course, Italy is also famous for its inefficiency. Not always rightly so: there are some thing here that work much better than they do in the USA -- trains and buses, for instance, and cell phones. But, for the most part, a task that takes you an hour at home might take days here. Your initial irritation about this must subside: you'll die of it, otherwise, and what good would that do? You still won't have a checking account.

The long lunch and afternoon nap are honored more out in the countryside, where farming on a family scale and the pursuits related to its products still inform so much of life. This is true all over the world, no matter where you live: farming sets the schedule for the farmer, and its rule is absolute. There is no room for negotiation with the needs of animals and plants.

That's the thing about us -- we've forgotten that we are animals. We've negotiated away our natural rhythms. We find that we can live artificially, and have taught ourselves to prefer it. But our animal selves are still there, beneath the glossy veneer of our modernity. They want to sleep at night and work in the daytime. They want to eat when hungry and rest when weary. They want to live in familiar community. They want time to be who they are.

Are there things you dread picking up again? Consider not doing so. If they are truly important, someone else will do them. If no one does, they may be over now. And even if they are not over, it may be that your participation in them is -- for now at least. If the only way you can continue with an ongoing task is in a spirit of resignation and bitterness, it's probably time for you to stop.

Debbie's back in the HodgePodge at after her vacation, and has posted information about Ben's glamorous Italian cat litter, as mentioned in the eMo of 8 August. She is also collecting a fun list of "distinctive sounds everyone knows" -- maybe you can think of one nobody's mentioned yet. Ways of the World's Carol Stone looks at Tom Vanderbilt's bestselling book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) from an economist's point of view. If you're clergy and are willing to participate in New York writer Holly Bellows' project on clergy spouses, her contact information is in More or Less Church. And you can always light a virtual candle for a prayer request, because the world surely needs it. All at
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