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The Plague-Ground – SOME HAND-WARMERS FOR YOUR HEART AND MIND

T.S. Eliot called April the cruellest month. But February is the coldest, though only outdoors, unless of course you’re in Texas, which is on the Mexican border, and where parts of Dallas are so cold that water bottles are freezing next to people’s bedsides.

Yet on February 2nd, Wiarton Willie predicted an early spring for Ontarians and I’m ready to ‘trust the science’ when it comes to groundhogs as weather forecasters.

Still, dribs and drabs of heat foretell gobs and gobs of hope for what Spring will bring. So here are some links to other worlds I hope will brighten up your day, your month and your mood.

1. Sign up for this year’s Iceland Writers’ Retreat. One of the world’s great literary festivals naturally happens in a nation where one in 10 people publish a book.

2. Far Away From Far Away. The story of Zita Cobb, the founder of the Fogo Island Inn, one of the top 3 hotels in the world. But this is “an interactive story only on your smartphone” and written by Michael Crummy. Its tech is loving and surprising, and its plot is, ……well, I can’t think of a more entertaining and revealing way to spend half an hour.

3. Hallelujah. You know Leonard Cohen’s version. This is the same tune sung by Pentatonix, the Texas acapella group who’ve won three Grammies and whose Hallelujah has been viewed 603,000,000 times.

4. A Guide to Screen-Time Slang. Now that we’re all living online, best to learn the locals’ language, from nomophobia (fear of being separated from your phone) and doomscrolling (the compulsion to read negative news online), to démerdentiel (disorganized digital interactions) and pansos (one who tries to gain higher status on social media).

5. One Writer on Another. To celebrate the 125th anniversary of the New York Times Book Review, the Times published “25 Great Writers and Thinkers Weigh in on Books That Matter.” So you can read how Nabokov reviewed Sartre’s new book; what James Baldwin said about Alex Haley; and Joan Didion on Norman Mailer. Makes today’s Royal’s gossip read like yesterday’s bagel.

6. Sing, by all means. But not in German. Because singing in German spreads COVID much faster than singing in English or French. According to a new Japanese study, singing in German and Italian generated twice as many particles per minute (1,302 and 1,166) as singing in Japanese.

7. Stop travelling under the social influence. New Zealand, which wins gold for doing so much right in COVID, created a tourism campaign that tells people to stop visiting places in order to take Instagram shots. Specifically, social media clichés like “a hat-wearing woman in a lavender field, a man quietly contemplating on a rock, and a classic one in these parts: the summit spread-eagle”.

8. Worth the drive to Hockley (or to your “Send” button). Far be it from me to recommend you drink more, but if you want to drink more diversely, check out Windrush Estate Winery, just an hour north of Toronto. Or buy online.

9. Women on Mars. Even more amazing than the wondrous news of the landing of Perseverance on Mars on Thursday, was that a female NASA scientist guided the lander in through its ‘seven minutes of terror’ and called the countdown for the world to hear. CBC Radio then had two women scientists commenting on the importance of the landing. Half an hour later, Carol Off from As It Happens interviewed a NASA astrobiologist on the meaning and dangers of the flight. She compared the journey that began seven months ago ending in the landing today with…..childbirth. Now that’s progress – and perseverance.

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