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'Hush now, baby, don't you cry'

I'm not usually a George Gershwin fan, but lately I find myself humming "Summertime." The lyrics are like the season itself - sweet, with just a touch of tang. Lemonade, if you will, for the ear.

Summertime, an' the livin' is easy. Fish are jumpin', an' the cotton is high....

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The fish may be leaping, but everyone else seems to have shifted into slow gear.

Here in the city, that means people stroll about, rather than darting around in overdrive. And each little patch of green becomes an impromptu beach, minus the water.

A similar effect happens in the country. I was at a friend's house in New Hampshire recently, and we spent the evening out on her deck, feeding the resident chipmunks. Normally these animals make quite a show of scampering around, as if that were the price of dinner.

Not that night. The temperature was above 90, and the chipmunks simply walked over and waited for their peanuts. Then they turned and left, still in slow motion.

Perhaps summer's biggest gift is the fact that, like lemonade, it tastes best when savored. Big gulps empty the glass, but don't quench the thirst. That gives you license to be not just slow, but lazy.

A type-A friend of mine takes advantage of the heat to go down by the Charles River and stare at the water. Normally he is working on a new book he's writing. But during the sticky months, he just sits, watching, for hours.

At first, I find it hard to sit with him. Shouldn't we be watching the people at least? But then he starts humming Gershwin, and I'm reminded that summer's easy pace is the reward for months of cold. .As August nears we realize that summer, like lemonade, has a certain piquancy - all too soon it will end.