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Remember beach reads? Mindless box-office blockbusters at the movies? Outdoor concerts?

A lot has changed since the halcyon days of summer 2019, before the terms “COVID-19″ and “social distancing” became lodged into our vernacular. And while I know the world was far from perfect a year ago, I can’t help but long for the simple pleasure of entering a grocery store without a mask or being among a giant, heaving crowd at a summer street fair. (Note to self: Never complain about sweaty throngs of people again.)

Instead, I’ll remember our current summer for its seemingly endless stream of chaos and the unknown. As an editor at The Globe, it’s impossible for me to completely tune out the drumbeat of Very Serious and Scary News, but I’m also making space for the inspiring reads. There is still so much to be glad about, and thankful for. To that end, I bring you these stories that have enlightened, inspired and made me laugh. I hope they offer you some reprieve as well. -Lara Pingue

The Globe and Mail

Treading water: a simple comfort during a global pandemic

I’m not brave enough to venture into a public pool just yet, but lucky for me The Globe’s Ian Brown is. As part of his pandemic summer series, Ian makes it his personal mission to seek out pools around Toronto, and is fortunate enough to score an invitation to a private watering hole in the city. His description is so vivid I feel like I’m there with him, basking in relief from the sweltering Toronto heat: “Being in the pool is like swimming within a green formal garden. It is impossible to feel hot or anxious there. The water is cold, but not as cold as your correspondent thinks it will be as he hovers daintily, arms high, on tiptoe, before plunging. He swims some lengths, climbs out, towels off, warms up until he is just fractionally hot and dives in again. He stays cool for hours afterward, even back at his own house as he launches Google Maps to try to count the turquoise pool jewels set across the top of the city. He wants to visit every one of them.” Read the full story


The summer of envy

I recently learned that a woman in my neighbourhood sends her children to daycare all day so she can focus on her garden for the summer. I was furious about this until I realized that what I was really feeling was total envy: Imagine being free of childcare and work to lovingly tend to your tomatoes all day? This weekend, Jana Pruden examines our summer of envy, and how the pandemic has turned so many of us into green-eyed monsters. She writes, “While envy typically gets a bad rap (you don’t get to be a Deadly Sin without a pretty bad reputation), certain forms of envy can actually be very productive and positive, including by spurring people to work toward something in their own life through emulative or admiring envy, or bringing goals and priorities into focus.” Wise words, but I still don’t want to hear about your summer cottage. Read full story here

Globe and Mail's Wency Leung, seen here on June 24, 2020, writes about her experience of donating a kidney, and about a friend who died of kidney failure.Fred Lum/the Globe and Mail

I donated my kidney to help a stranger. But what about the person I couldn’t help?

What separates those who give generously from those who don’t? I was riveted by this powerful essay by Globe health reporter Wency Leung, who reflects on generosity and giving through her own act of donating a kidney. This is not a saviour story, or a hero story. Rather, it’s about a person like you and me who is haunted by the regret of not always being able – or willing – to give. Read the full story

A man wearing a face mask browses books at Vancouver Public Library's central branch after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on July 14, 2020.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Overdue: Throwing the book at libraries

Going to the library is one of the things I’ve missed most during the pandemic, so I was immediately disgruntled by the idea of this column by Kenneth Whyte, who argues that libraries are actually harming booksellers, authors and literature itself. I’ve always considered library-going a hallmark of my civic duty, a sign of my engaged citizenry and community-mindedness – but Kenneth’s argument offered a stunning new perspective. Could I be part of the problem? He writes: “The dirty secret of public libraries is that their stock-in-trade is neither education nor edification. It’s entertainment. The top three reasons people patronize libraries, according to a massive Booknet survey, are to ‘relax,’ for ‘enjoyment’ and ‘for entertainment.’ That is why the TPL system has 90 copies of Fifty Shades of Grey and six copies of Stendhal’s The Red and the Black. These entertainment readers are not a benighted underclass for whom Tom Clancy is a stepping stone to literacy and employment. They are people who can afford books: disproportionately middle-class, upper middle-class and well-educated.” Read the full story

Alanis Morissette speaks on the release of her new album, Such Pretty Forks in the Road.Shelby Duncan/Handout

Alanis Morissette is not okay. And that’s good for her new album

I will never be able to listen to an Alanis Morissette song without instantly being transported to my angsty-for-no-good-reason teenage years. So Brad Wheeler’s interview with the Canadian songstress was a nostalgic read, and heartening one, too: this is the same Alanis who screeched vengeful anthems about her exes, but a perhaps mellower, wiser version. Here, she opens up about aging, postpartum depression and her optimism for out post-pandemic world. You live, you learn. Read full article

What else we’re thinking about:

One way to forget about your worries: immerse yourself in someone else’s. I was a long-time fan of Ann Landers’ advice column, and now I can’t help myself from devouring a modern day (and slightly more cringey) podcast equivalent, Dear Prudence. You think you have problems? Try being married to a guy who makes you take an IQ test (and then gets mad when your score is higher!); and then there’s the conundrum of whether or not you should urinate in your friend’s shower (answer: no, never, not under any circumstances). Yep, these are first-world problems and that’s exactly the point. Consider it a fascinating study of the human condition.

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