A whole year and three season changes since the COVID-19 pandemic hold of the north country, “normal” is different. “Normal” is scary.

The region’s snow-based fun remains, but on days when Adirondack and north country snow is uninviting, what can “normal” living look like inside? No crowded bars, no lengthy guest lists for indoor parties, no movie theater dates.

To engage your mind, body and spirit, here are a few ideas to persevere at home.

The Mind

Partnered reading:

At times in the last 10 months, I’ve felt like I needed to disengage from social media, television shows and the constant work and personal screen time resulting from the need to communicate virtually. To spur some disengagement from virtualness, I started reading books with a partner. Once you decide on a book to read together — but separately — you each obtain a copy of that book and formulate a reasonable timeframe for completing it.

What I’ve liked about this is the two parties are not beholden to a larger book club group or a teacher that might quiz you on what you’ve read. You can adjust your timeframe when schedules get busy and talk about the book when it’s convenient.

To find a pair of the same book, the North Country Library System is a great place to start. Checking out books is always free, and can now be done curbside at most of the system’s more than 60 locations in Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Lewis and Oswego counties. To browse the system’s virtual library, visit www.web.ncls.org.

For books you’d like to keep, try a local or online purchasing option.

Birch Bark Bookshop in St. Lawrence County houses more than 75,000 used volumes in a series of tunneled rooms tucked in the woods between Whiskey Flats and High Flats state forests. Most books are a few dollars, and the shop only accepts cash. Birch Bark is open 1 to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. You can stop by, 40 Ashton Road, Potsdam, or call proprietor Tim Strong at 315-265-3875.

Online, Better World Books has thousands of new and used options, and the company donates books and funds to literacy organizations and libraries around the world. Search for titles at www.betterworldbooks.com.

Virtual therapy

Mental health counseling isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve been thinking about trying it or want to switch providers, ask your employer about an Employee Assistance Program or search counselors with different licensures and specialties in your area. Many offer treatment at adjusted costs on a sliding scale for those without health insurance, and most offices now have the technological framework to facilitate remote therapy if you don’t want to leave home.

The Body


That cookbook your sister-in-law bought you three years ago? Or the family dessert you love but don’t know how to make? Get out the mixing bowl or preheat the oven, because it’s time. Your recipe could be a disaster, or it could be delicious, but you’ll never know if you don’t try.

This is my favorite chocolate cake recipe — eggless, and easily adaptable for vegan and gluten-free needs.

1. Mix dry ingredients together: 2 cups flour (all-purpose works well; almond flour or other gluten-free alternatives are fine too), ¾ cup cocoa powder, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt.

2. Mix wet ingredients together: 1 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy), ½ cup vegetable oil, ⅔ cup unsweetened applesauce and 1 tablespoon vanilla.

3. Incorporate wet and dry ingredients: Lastly, add 1 cup of boiling water to the batter and mix until smooth. Use batter in two round cake pans, rectangle pan or cupcake tins. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

You can make your own chocolate frosting by mixing together 1 cup cocoa powder, 4 to 5 cups powdered sugar, 1 ½ cups butter (dairy or plant-based works), 2 teaspoons vanilla and ½ cup milk (dairy or non-dairy).

Virtual yoga or exercise

North country yoga studios have adopted mask-wearing policies and continue to offer in-person classes. But for those not wanting to attend a studio class, virtual yoga or live-streamed sessions still allow you to practice mindful movement and breathing. For detailed information about in-person and virtual sessions, get in touch with a yoga studio in your area.

• Vigilante Yoga, Watertown, Jefferson County: 315-222-8908

• Satyana Yoga Studio, Watertown, Jefferson County: 315-783-0588

• River Yoga, Clayton, Jefferson County: 315-523-0627

• Kripalu Yoga & Wellness Center, Adams Center, Jefferson County: 315-583-5500

• Flying Lotus Yoga Center and Juice Bar, Canton, St. Lawrence County: 315-854-1699

• The Yoga Loft, Canton, St. Lawrence County: 315-605-8637

• Massena Yoga Studio, Massena, St. Lawrence County: 315-842-0284

• Soul Road Yoga and Wellness, Boonville, Oneida County: 315-942-9000

• Malone Yoga and Wellness, Malone, Franklin County: 518-480-1786

The Spirit

Connect (or reconnect)

Limited travel since March 2020 may have shaped how some of your relationships with friends and family are evolving. If you feel comfortable, reach out to someone you’ve been thinking about but haven’t been as connected to in recent months. You don’t even have to start with a phone conversation. A simple text or social media message might energize you and your lost connection to think about how you’d like to care for one another moving forward. If anything, a kind note may make both of you smile.

If you’re looking for a whole new connection or want to learn more about an endless list of spiritual practices from around the world, try attending a virtual service or program. The north country is home to hundreds of religious tools, support groups and community organizations. Most churches and community programs have taken their work online, so participation remains safe and convenient.


Perhaps more than ever, volunteers are needed to assist with critical community work. Community issues — food insecurity, economic distress, climate change, racial injustice and so much more — are still here, and the global health crisis has only added to such stressors. In small ways, you can help.

Volunteer at COVID vaccine sites. County public health officials have previously called for volunteers, medical and non-medical, to assist at future county-run coronavirus vaccination sites. Contact your public health department for more information.

• Jefferson County Public Health Service: 315-786-3720

• St. Lawrence County Public Health Department: 315-386-2325

• Lewis County Public Health Department: 315-376-5453

• Franklin County Public Health Department: 518-481-1709

Donate blood. The American Red Cross is always accepting blood. To search for a donation clinic near you and to schedule an appointment, visit www.redcrossblood.org.

Attend public meetings. Your local municipal website is a great resource to bookmark on your phone or computer. Most public meetings are being live-streamed or are accessible to the public via videoconferencing platforms like Zoom Video Communications, Cisco Webex or Google Meet.

Join a community group. The north country is home to several local and regional chapters of national service and advocacy organizations, including the Lions Club, Kiwanis Club, Zonta Club and Poor People’s Campaign. Canton and Watertown are major hubs for regional chapters of these organizations.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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