Smile, Australia. Look at What’s Flourishing Despite the Pandemic.

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I was going to write this week about what the world should take away from Melbourne’s resurgent outbreak and Stage 4 lockdown, but then I thought: Maybe we need an escape?

The pandemic’s grinding repetition is enough to make anyone feel like Sisyphus. We wash our hands only to dirty them again, stand too close together then remember to step apart, open up our businesses and social lives only to be told, no, sorry, wear a mask or go back to isolation.

No wonder one of the women I interviewed for my story on the situation in Melbourne posted an event on Facebook called “stand on your front porch and scream.

But as a group, we’re not just screaming. Here are three of life’s (and Australia’s) great joys that are flourishing alongside the virus.

Diving Into Nature

There are more surfers and swimmers in the cold winter waters these days — and spearfishers too. I recently had a chance to write about spearfishing’s surging popularity in a Dispatch that brought me lobstering with the Gamay Rangers in La Perouse, and spearing off the coast of Manly.

Michaela Skovranova, a talented Sydney photographer, joined me. That image above? That’s me, thanks to Michaela. Looks peaceful, right?

Dive shops report record interest in spearfishing since the coronavirus emerged as people are won over by the meditative aspect of freediving and the sense of control that comes with sustainable fishing — selecting what you shoot, not just casting a line into the deep.

National parks in New South Wales are also reporting up to a 60 percent rise in visitors. Nature, it seems, is what many of us turn to in times of trouble.

Reading for Resilience

Earlier this week, I called Mark Rubbo — the owner of Readings, Melbourne’s most popular independent bookstore — and I expected him to be downbeat and stressed as the lockdown commenced. But he was just as observant and jovial as usual. I asked him what the city felt like. He looked out the shop’s window and said it felt like a Sunday in the 1950s.

He also said book sales online have been surging, a sign of people shut up at home, finding calm in imaginary worlds and in the resilience of others.

The most popular book of the week: “The Happiest Man on Earth,” a hopeful memoir from a Holocaust survivor who argues that contentment can found even in the darkest of times.

Food for Local Thought

The farmers market in Mullumbimby, north of Byron Bay, is always a lively place, but when I visited last month for a soon-to-be-written story on localism, several farmers told me that the pandemic had created a new pool of customers.

“There are a lot of faces here I’m not used to seeing,” said Andrew Cameron, 38, a bearded cattle farmer selling cuts of grass-fed beef. “Right now a lot of people are realizing we need to really look at how our food systems work.”

Like many others, he told me he wasn’t sure how long the interest would last. But for now, more and more Australians seem to want food grown closer to home, keeping people employed. Add to that all the home-cooking that’s going on, with more family meals, and you have to figure that our eating lives are more thoughtful than usual.

There’s a sense of solace, in fact, that comes from all of these activities: eating healthier food, reading more, exercising in nature. Maybe some of these habits will stick around.

What are you doing to stay calm and happy that you hope to hold on to after the pandemic fades? Tell us at

Now here are our stories of the week.

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