I have to say, my time on Rusty Metal Farm really prepared me for this whole physical distancing thing. Six feet? Heck, the closest neighbor to the farm is a quarter mile — or 1,320 feet — away. As far as self isolating and essential trips? There were times I went for days without seeing another human being. Essential travel? As long as there was coffee, pet food, chicken feed and birdseed on hand, there was no need to ever head to town.
I think my personal record for consecutive days on the farm was 15, at which point I was going to apply for my hermit-in-residence card.
But here’s the thing — while I may have gone for days without seeing another person, I rarely went more than 24 hours without communicating with someone in some manner. By telephone, by email, by texting or even by sitting down, writing and mailing a letter. I have a need to reach out and touch someone on a daily basis.
As far as I’m concerned, communication is basic for us as humans. We have nonstop ideas, feelings, information, opinions, suggestions, thoughts, stories and so much more that we want to share with another person. In turn, we want to hear all of that from others.
This has perhaps never been more true than it is now as we enter the third week of Maine’s stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Janet Mills at the end of March. Yeah I know — only three weeks? It seems like three years, right? Loss of time, no idea what day of the week it is, general anxiety, lack of focus and straight loneliness are just a few of things many in Maine are experiencing right now as they shelter in place.
With all of our normal socialization spots like restaurants, state parks, farmers markets and pubs off limits for now, keeping communication open is crucial. Luckily, we have some really great communications technology at our fingertips.
We can actually see our friends, family and coworkers through video chatting. We can text them, email them, Facetime them. We can send random photos of our pets and kids who have suddenly become our home office mates. Thanks to the magic of the internet, anyone with a shred of talent or skills is posting how-do vidoes for the rest of us who want to increase our own skill sets.
Musicians, authors, singers and poets are producing their own videos showcasing their talents for us to enjoy. Among them, my dear friend Lisa who is the lead singer in the Calgary, Alberta based band The Groove Demons. Every Saturday evening she is putting on a one-woman concert from her home via Facebook live. I’ve taken to calling these concerts “Lisa: The Living Room Sessions,” and I look forward to them all week long. She even takes online requests and last week indulged mine for “Zombie” by The Cranberries.
Much of this would have been impossible even a decade or so ago when cellular phones were more of a novelty than a necessity, and the internet had not yet exploded with the sheer numbers and variety of search and social media options we take for granted today.
Thank goodness we have all of it now. I’ve not seen my co-workers on the BDN Features’ Desk in person for weeks. But that does not mean we don’t see each other. We meet every morning via the online video platform Zoom.
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Moreover, while we are dealing with some pretty serious issues, we try to bring a bit of levity each morning by appearing in some sort of costume. On my end, I have been dipping into my vast collection of travel photos to use as virtual backgrounds, so it looks like I am joining the meeting from points around the world. So far my favorite is the morning I rigged up my computer camera so it showed me standing on the runners of my dogsled, dressed in mushing garb and with a snowy virtual background.
That’s the kind of communication we all need right now. It will never replace one-on-one time in person, but it’s going to get us through this until that time we can all gather again at our favorite haunts.
And when that day does come, I’m turning in my hermit card and I will never, ever let myself go 15-days without physical human contact again.