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Sharpening the Saw: The End of Summer and Back to Work

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This tiny village near the Cap Lardier protected coastline in the South of France is the perfect place to spend the last week of summer. These past two months have been draining, more work and less sleep than I had imagined. It is only now, during this final week before we return to Paris, with my daughter back to school, and me back to new projects and demands on our time, that I am finding myself at last discovering a natural rhythm to the days.

For the most part, this summer was too much movement and not enough relaxation. Too many people and too many places and not enough staying still. But somehow a lot was accomplished. The interviews in Seattle, the contacts made in Moscow, the mutating of friendships, the ending of one possible romance, and the beginnings of others...all makes sense somehow.

But it is this final week alone with my daughter, snorkeling along the rocks and coves of the Littoral, returning to the same small café for lunch, the same short walk to collect the newspapers, a tiny bed and breakfast, the lack of a television, landline telephone and Internet has, at last, cut us off from the rest of the world. I actually had trouble remembering which day it was yesterday. All I know is it was the day after the much needed thunderstorm when the sunset was calming and my daughter caught crabs and sea snails with a little Swiss girl who, along with her grandmother, shared the small cove with us for several hours during the afternoon. It was also the day I finally began writing again. But it did not feel like work. It just flowed...

Do I feel guilty during this week of no contact while the world is going through a recession, people are losing their jobs, wealth is disappearing into the sunset, along with the Madoffs and swapping flipping greedy idiots as the prison doors slam behind them? In fact, I not only do not feel guilty about finally having a real break, I know that if I did not have this, the entire year ahead would be shot and full of mediocrity. And there is nothing worse than mediocrity.
We will not drive the 30 minutes into the market in St Tropez and we will not go exploring the hillside villages of Gassin and Grimaud. We won't do anything that calls for more than a reservation for our favorite beachside restaurant, or preparing a beach picnic and we don't want to see anyone we know too often, nor learn any more than which small inlet provides the best chance of seeing an octopus in his natural habitat or a school of brightly-colored fish or perhaps even an eel.

Few choices and much joy fill our days. We wake up late and go to bed early. My Dutch friend calls from Australia and tells me I am "sharpening the saw". This much-needed down time will help the saw work more efficiently come September 1.

I noticed that each day my daughter spends more and more time singing to herself, exploring the coastline and swimming peacefully. I smile and feel deeply contented and join her. I can focus on my daughter and my own dreams, and imagine other possible ways of living. Everything seems possible. That is what summer vacations should be at least partly about: new beginnings.

As Nietzsche wrote, "We never give up. We begin again".

I hope that as many people as possible have sharpened the saw this summer. Because, dear humans, we will need to be at our best in the days ahead.