It’s possible to maintain social distance without suffering social isolation. As a writer, I’ve been negotiating the fine line between solitude and loneliness for years, which has come in handy as the coronavirus is keeping us all at home. Finding community while maintaining social distance requires some creative thinking, a touch of technology and a big dose of the out-of-doors.
Rosefire Writers Circle Goes Remote
Last Friday, at the time the Rosefire Writing Circle usually convenes in person, a few of the regulars met via videoconference to test meeting remotely. Zoom allowed us to check in, write together, and read our new work according to our usual format. It was a huge success – in more ways than anticipated. After a week of restricted contact with others, we delighted in seeing and speaking with one another again. We began by checking in. It was a relief both to articulate our own anxieties about the state of the world and to hear others’. This exercise also confirmed that social contact has become an important part of this long-time, on-going writing circle.
Six Feet of Separation Out-of-Doors
After signing off, Leo the Dog walked me up a dirt road that’s turned soft underfoot. Two weeks ago, I grumbled about the short winter; now I’m glad for the early spring and welcome thaw. On my way up the hill, I saw the first robins of the year; on my way down, I met two neighbors starting up. We stopped with six-feet of separation, caught up on our kids’ doings, and conferred on coping mechanisms during this time of plague. We agreed that getting outdoors was critical. Further down the hill, I ran into neighbors walking their dog. The dogs did not maintain social distance, but we humans did.
Limiting News, Reading Helpful Posts
I’m limiting how much news I read, mostly confining myself to the sobering Corvid-19 statistics that the Vermont Department of Health updates at two every afternoon. Knowing that people are stocking up on guns and hoarding toilet paper only makes me despair about humanity. Instead, I read thoughtful posts that arrive by email, like this one from Ezra Fradkin, Program Director at Kroka, the wilderness school I attended last summer, and another from Martina Tyrrell, blogger at Me In Place.
Ezra writes about what the Inuit call “Koviashuvik: living in the present moment with quiet joy and happiness,” by reiterating the Kroka philosophy of cultivating “positive optimism in the face of adversity and appreciation for the resources that sustain us.”
Some Practical Suggestions
Among his practical suggestions are being active outside, where it’s possible to socialize while still avoiding exposure to the virus. He suggests hiking, camping, and splitting and stacking firewood. Tim and I stacked next year’s firewood last weekend; this weekend, we’re going for a hike. See more of Ezra’s ideas here.
For Parents Schooling Children at Home
Martina is an on-line colleague. We met through our blogs and now correspond. She, her husband and their two daughters are currently living in Spain, where the virus is virulent. In response, Martina has started posting advice about homeschooling for those whose kids are expected to continue schoolwork at home. Martina speaks from experience: she spent the first decade of motherhood homeschooling their girls while living aboard and sailing in a 24-foot boat. While I don’t have school-aged children anymore, I can still remember how challenging even snow days were when I had to scramble for childcare. Parents are now expected to help school their kids at home, where they are also trying to maintain their professional lives and income. This sounds really hard. If it also sounds like what you’re up against right now (or you know someone else who is), I highly recommend this post.
A Time for Reflection
As my late father was fond of saying, “It’s difficult to prophesize, especially in regard to the future.” No one knows the arc of this pandemic. My guess is that conditions will get worse for another three to four weeks, and the socio-economic and psychological fallout will last much longer. However, CO2 emissions are also dropping to new lows as people stop commuting and traveling by car and plane. This is a good thing.
If nothing else, this enforced time at home could be a time of contemplation, time to evaluate how we’ve been living our lives, what gives our lives meaning, and time to think about how we might want to change how we will live when this danger has passed.
Wendy Cooper says
Living in a small town has been great. We have decorated our houses with different items so kids can walk around and see and do a scavenger hunt of sorts. I go on the walking trails and see people-but yes we simply keep our distance and wave. Even at the supermarket people have been friendly and helpful. There are paper products on our shelves (not many but a few) and people seem more concerned with others.
Deborah Lee Luskin says
Yes, I think learning how important our small communities are (whether those communities are small towns, like yours, or a floor in a giant apartment building). Thanks for reading and taking the time to respond. Stay well.
Our younger daughter is working from home and back living with us for the duration of this strange new world we’re living in – and we are enjoying family time in the evening. On Mothering Sunday, my son and his fiancée came round the side of the house and sat on the terrace while the rest of us sat in the conservatory, maintaining social distance whilst separately together (if that makes sense!) enjoying lunch with a glass of prosecco. And we’ve been using the Houseparty app to have a family get together with my son and his girlfriend who are in France – you can even play pictionary on the app, which is great fun.
So, it’s certainly making me much more appreciative of family and friends and the simple pleasures of reading, gardening and jigsaws.
Yes, it’s also an anxious time but I fully agree with Deborah on being selective about the news we watch / read. I have been rather addicted to checking the latest news but have realised that doesn’t help – a daily update is more than enough.
Deborah, thank you for another reflective and helpful post – it is a good time to re-evaluate how we live our lives and what’s important.
Deborah Lee Luskin says
Thanks for sharing your method of “separate and together.” Wine with lunch and technological ways of connecting both sound like great coping mechanisms! Thanks for sharing your story here, and how this emergency reminds us what’s most important: time with the people we love. Stay well.
Lucinda Dee says
Deb, as always you share poignant and practical suggestions and support in your writing. 🙏🏼💞Thank you. 💝
I’ve been using this ‘break’ in a busy life, to quiet down, be more mindful of the beauty that surrounds us each day, and appreciate my partner/husband and my furry four legged children.
Please 🙏🏼✨ May you and yours stay safe and healthy. 🥰💞💝