''Life is more normal. . . . People are not nearly so nervous or guarded in conversation on the trams and buses or in the lines at the bus stops or the shops,'' an old acquaintance in Warsaw says.
''You hear open grumbling again. Even the police - the ordinary ones - seem relaxed.''
Returning after a month's absence, one does notice a relaxation of tensions here.
Food prices are unusually high, despite a seasonal bounty of fruits and vegetables. The party newspaper Trybuna Ludu says convoys of fresh produce from central Poland are being ''waylaid'' by speculators, who extract a 25 to 50 percent profit before the goods reach vacationers at the coast.
''The fruit and vegetables which were to lighten our supply troubles and bring variety and vitamins to our diet became for many families items they simply could not afford,'' the paper said. (The newspaper did not indicate, however, whether anything was being done about it.)
But in general the food situation seems to have improved. Although still rationed, meat is available fairly regularly.
The outward paraphernalia and restraints of martial law have disappeared. No longer are troops or riot squads on the street. Nor do they man ''no entry'' traffic checkpoints.
The night curfew has been lifted. Youth clubs and discotheques are open, and young people can dance until 2 a.m. But they still feel strongly about the limits on travel abroad, which means trips to the West.
Formally, travel restrictions were among the martial law restrictions lifted on the national day July 22, when more than 1,200 internees were released. But youths complain that in practice travel abroad is limited to visits to close family members - to parents, adult children, brothers, or sisters already in a Western country.
Vacations will be extremely limited for most Poles this year, but the traditional August break adds to the current impression of normality. Since 1980 , however - when the now-suspended Solidarity union was born - the month has come to mean much, much more.
This weekend saw the start of the pilgrimage to Czestochowa for the jubilee celebration of the Jasna Gora shrine that begins later this month. If it weren't for martial law, Pope John Paul II would have traveled to his homeland for it, but the celebration may be even more massive without him.
The pilgrimage is an annual affair. In the past most participants have been older, even elderly. This year the columns of people that began drifting south from Warsaw Aug. 6 included many young people - even teen-agers and children.
Wearing jeans and brightly colored shirts and blouses, the youths are in a holiday mood. It is a demonstration of continuing public concern for the unresolved social and political discord of the past two years, especially since martial law began last December.
Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski has said martial law can be suspended by the end of the year if opposition activity comes to an end and ''normalization proceeds favorably.''
If martial law were the only unfinished business, that might be relatively simple. But many other issues are unresolved, among them the unions and a controversial local election law.
Solidarity is part of the uncertainty. It has its own rivalries. There are disagreements, for example, between the underground, which contrived clandestine broadcasts, and the moderates of the Gdansk shipyard, who want moderation and an effort to come to terms with the government.
But the government seems to be in no hurry. Its strongest effort at the moment centers on building what General Jaruzelski sees as a national accord of ''of all classes, groups,and communities.''
To many Poles this appears as no more than a front that ignoressuch needs as specifics of the new trade unions. The leadership published its initial ideas for dialogue among all concerned more than six months ago.
It has not yet indicated whether Solidarity is to be a party to the dialogue, or whether a new, politically ''cleansed'' Solidarity will become part of the new union structure. Lech Walesa is still barred from open comment.
General Jaruzelski seems aware the workers are in no mood to be deceived. On a recent visit to the Warsaw steel plant, a worker told him bluntly: ''We hear self-management is resuming its activity, that we have representatives on it, but no one has informed us who had elected them!''
Jaruzelski's reply was candid: ''If you feel there is something wrong, inform us,'' he said. ''We will make amendments so that people do not feel that the independence and self-management of enterprises are curtailed.''
Then he added: ''We are entering a politically difficult period, we must not provoke new tensions. . . .'' He was probably right on both counts.