It’s Time to Head to the Woods

Welcome. Life at home seems about where it was a week ago, in this age where it seems to be Wednesday every day, though where I stay we are heading into the dog pound of summer, fans whirring everywhere against the heat. It’s hard to stay focused, hard to seek pleasure against the pressures of the work day or the day spent looking for work, when so many of us are still at home as summer beats on.

To the mailbag! A reader writes:

I live in Los Angeles and it is becoming more and more clear that we are not going to be back in the office for the rest of this year. Yet at the same time, my boss is encouraging us to take vacation time, even if we just stay home.In my head I have fantasies of trying to find a beach house for a month, but that would be a bunch of money for just a change of scenery.

Do I take a road trip and stay with friends in a different part of the country? But then am I putting them at risk? Do I just go drive out into the woods and camp? I rarely make it home to see family in the Midwest — do I try to spend a month there?

Now, you might well go see your family, though there’s more stress involved in that kind of visit than many people imagine. You introduce risk to their lives. Same deal with visiting friends. I think you go to the woods instead, if you have the gear to camp. Since June, California has reopened 85 state parks for camping, according to the state’s Department of Parks and Recreation. Being outdoors is beneficial after all this lockdown, and the risks of infection are lower than at a bunch of friends’ homes. Leo Carrillo State Park, for one, is just an hour out of Los Angeles, in Malibu. Try that, and I’ll try to do the same on the other side of the country. Let’s all of us try.

More good advice for living a good life at home and near it is below, and At Home. Please let us know what you’d like to know: athome@nytimes.com.


Credit…Michelle Mildenberg
  • Before the pandemic, Anya Kamenetz was a parenting expert who would make bold pronouncements about screentime. The entire situation has forced a dramatic re-evaluation, because, as she said, “Now, like Socrates, I know better. I know that I know nothing.”

  • At 68, Bob Brody has realized that it’s good to be old, even during a pandemic. He’s taking better care of himself, and he’s occasionally stopping to literally smell the flowers. Even if you’re not quite on Brody’s page as far as embracing aging, studies have shown there is some serious value to nostalgia in terms of its ability to combat loneliness — so a mental trip back to the 1990s might be in order.

  • With so many Americans struggling with finances right now, it is time for everyone to get better at talking to their friends about money. It doesn’t have to be awkward.


Credit…Johnny Miller for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Rebecca Jurkevich
  • They key to a fun and inventive meal can be finding unexpected combinations. Crunchy cucumbers and creamy yogurt shine in Yewande Komolafe’s cold-marinated salad. And cherries get a chance to do something other than fill pies when they join up with scallions and pistachios in Angela Dimayuga’s savory salad.

  • While cooking for his family during lockdown, Yotam Ottolenghi found himself trying to please multiple people with differing tastes. That resulted in a skillet berry and brown butter toast crumble, which he says sits happily somewhere between breakfast and dessert.

  • Are you bored with home cooking? Gabrielle Hamilton says a good way to break out of a rut is to make smoky eggplant croquettes.


Credit…Warner Bros., via Everett Collection
  • It was a big week in film, with Universal agreeing to a deal with AMC Entertainment that will dramatically shorten the time it takes for new movies to be streamed at home. Manohla Dargis worked with readers to break down “Love & Basketball,” and Jason Zinoman connected three films through their depictions of the horrors of isolation. And Hollywood said goodbye to Olivia de Havilland (above) — take some time to stream her best work.

  • Traveling right now is fairly complicated. One option is a literary road trip, with novels that are so good they truly take you on a journey. Another is to explore modern ruins through photos and videos of places in our world that have been neglected or abandoned. Some are taking the opportunity to plan elaborate trips for 2021 — or even 2022 — and the rest of us can get our fix by taking a virtual visit to see the moose of Isle Royale.

  • And on Thursday, we’re hosting the award-winning author Curtis Sittenfeld in an interactive conversation about learning to write short fiction in five, easy-to-digest steps.


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