This time of year, one of my small but significant pleasures is the simple act of entering a warm house after a walk in the wintry air. Amid all the turmoil and noise of the holidays, returning from a quiet walk at the nearby Audubon sanctuary—sans Blackberry or cell phone— is an old-fashioned sort of joy.
I think of this now following a discussion with a colleague over a ballot initiative here in Massachusetts that would allow grocery stores to apply for licenses to sell wine. He lamented the elimination some years ago of the old blue laws, which had prohibited most stores from operating on Sundays. Allowing Sundays to become much like any other day has come at a social cost. Previously, when we were all forced to shut down business for a day, we did things like visit family, have large Sunday dinners or take long, leisurely walks—in memory at least. Norman Rockwell's famous illustration, "Freedom from Want," in which grandmother brings out the turkey and granddad prepares to carve for an expectant family, captures those days in a way that today we may consider rife with sentimentality. But for those of us fortunate enough to remember Sunday dinner at Grandma's house, it is evocative.
The modern world's demands on our time—what conference speakers repeatedly call our 24/7 world— occurred to me again after watching our local amateur theatrical group perform "Over the River and Through the Woods," a play in which a young man tells his grandparents, with whom he dines every Sunday, that he is moving from New Jersey to the West Coast for a better job. At once funny and heartwarming, the play captures how wrenching to family the demands of the modern global economy can be.
I'm hardly suggesting we go back to an era that was, in all likelihood, not nearly as happy as memory may suggest. We live in a world that moves fast all the time because consumers, collectively, demand it. We want to shop on Sunday. We want goods delivered quickly. We expect stores to carry the products we want, and at low prices. Supply chain management practices have evolved, and continue to evolve, with an unwavering eye on velocity and cost because businesses have no choice but to do so. This magazine exists in large part to serve that cause, so don't get me wrong and think I pine for the good old days. This field we cover can be pretty rewarding—and demanding. But it is good to get off the train every once in a while, head into the woods and spend a few minutes enjoying, to borrow from Robert Frost, no other sounds but "easy wind and downy flake."