I have not found a handwritten letter in my mailbox yet this week, but I did find a wonderful email in my computer inbox. My sister-in-law Jane wrote to tell me she was taking advantage of some of the free viewing being offered during the COVID 19 quarantine. She watched a series of lectures from The Great Courses. Though I have received many mailings from The Great Courses, I have never taken the time to investigate what they have to offer. After perusing their extensive catalog, Jane chose the series “Black Death” and watched 24 half-hour lectures on the horrific plague that struck down a huge swath of population in the middle ages. At this moment in history, it certainly seems eerily prophetic.
In one of the last lectures, the speaker recommended the book Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. The book was inspired by the true story of Eyam, a village in the rugged hill country of England. In 1666, the plague was carried to the isolated village via a bolt of cloth. The villagers quarantined themselves for a year with no one leaving the village and no one entering. Surrounding villages left food and supplies at the border. Two-thirds of the inhabitants died. Though their sacrifice saved the surrounding towns, those who did survive found no reason to celebrate. The story sounded familiar to Jane and she was pretty sure I had recommended the book to her many years ago and her memory was correct. I read Year of Wonders many, many years ago with my old book group, The Book Babes.
Jane researched the author and found Ms. Brooks has written five novels and three non-fiction books including Foreign Correspondence about growing up in Australia, having childhood pen pals all over the globe and her adult quest to find them. So interesting that a lecture course on Black Death led to a book on pen pals, something near and dear to Jane’s heart. I have added it to my reading list.
Mr. Smith and I have been stuck in a rut of watching too much TV. I did branch out to see Stanley Tucci making a Negroni and Ina Garten crafting a massive cosmopolitan. But Jane’s example has convinced me I could take it up a level.
Therefore, this Friday, Mr. Smith and I are going to delve into the creative, generous offerings of The Frick Collection. At 5:00 p.m. we will tune into Cocktails with a Curator. This beautiful museum on East 71st Street in New York City may be closed, but we will bring our own beverage and participate in their virtual event. We are quarantined and making of it what we can.
C’est la vie.