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Today, Birdland is blusterous but warmish, for March, anyway. The sun shines brightly, but the wind blows away any warmth before it can really soak in. Still, it’s hard to believe it’s only been two weeks since we drove up to the edge of a frozen Great Lake. Michael skied while I sat in a yurt and graded papers. WFH (the techie abbreviation for working from home) really means working from anywhere I can plug into the internet. My husband is the skier in the family, but I enjoyed for a brief time the novelty of building course materials from a ski resort. It was like a little village.

Our first stop was a log cabin built around a tree trunk. It was shaved of its bark and stood with its toes of spreading roots stretched out under the floor. It looked like the cabin had been built around a tree — or the ghost of a tree — blonde and rubbed smooth in the center of the room. Inside the cabin were nests of couches and love seats around low tables covered with photographic books. A free-standing fireplace sent smoke up a stovepipe and out the roof, the bright fire crackling and warming us. A bartender stood behind an ornate bar of dark wood ready to quench our thirst.

Michael registered, and then we went across the way to a warren of connected yurts. In one was a cafeteria like a camp kitchen, skillets, giant ladles and cookie sheets hanging from a wire rack. Past this was a snug dining room, where I would spend most of the next two days. Adjacent was another bar, larger and more ornate than the one in the cabin. I had brought my own lunch and was reassured to find a sign proclaiming picnics OK, but Crock-Pots were not allowed. I set up camp at a table near the door near an outlet. The curved space of the room felt homey to me. In the center of the structure was a steel support with a round window to the sky, covered by what looked like clear vinyl. It reminded me of a Bucky Fuller house we once visited — a geodesic dome as big as our barn in Ontario, where we went to see a friend 30 years ago.

I got into a nice rhythm of grading a few papers and then stretching my legs. Outside the collection of yurts was a hot tub and a swimming pool, closed until later in the day, when it began to fill with tired skiers. Michael came to check on me between runs, and he got into a rhythm, too. I could get used to WFHAFH (working from home away from home). But the real reason I am teaching online is more sobering — the coronavirus put to bed my plans to teach for a semester in China, so I meet with my students online and in the middle of my night (daytime for them), and they, in turn, are SFH (studying from home). I told them that we are in an impossible situation, but together we will get through it. In the meantime, I am trying to keep good hygiene — washing my hands, coughing or sneezing into my elbow or a tissue, washing my hands, staying away from people if I feel sick (and I’ve had two false alarms where I think I might be getting sick but was actually fine) and washing my hands.

All this hygiene has my hands drying out, and so I’ve invested in some nice lotion as well, and I’m reminded of a little boy’s trick to make sure his 20-second hand-washing was really long enough. When Ellis, our youngest, was three, he learned somewhere that a 20-second hand-washing was important, and to time yourself, you could sing the alphabet song. Our Ellis, always earnest, took everything to heart. Once, when I went to pick him up at day care, he was in the bathroom. I chatted with Miss Ronda while we waited for him to finish his job. And then we heard the water go on as he dutifully washed his hands, and up came his little voice, singing the ABCs at the top of his lungs. We chuckled, and Miss Ronda told me that the kids always laughed indulgently, listening to him. “There he goes,” one would say. Another might join in, and soon they would all be singing the ABCs to help him keep time. Now, away at school in California, Ellis assures me that he is washing his hands often and thoroughly. I told him to floss, too, for good measure, and he laughed and said he would.

Indulge Beauty; Prepare for Peace; Blessed Be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. You can follow Birdland on Instagram (@BirdlandLetters) and Twitter (@BirdlandLetters). Mary can be reached at or via snail mail care of this newspaper.