Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)

Life in the Pedestrian Lane: Lessons of social isolation

We went from learning to wash our hands to eye-measuring 6 feet for social distancing.

Well, we’re a month in. (I know. It feels like six.) Let’s hope another couple weeks and things will become normal again, whatever that will be by the time we have all “hunkered down” for several weeks.

It might have been easier had we not been blessed with the winter we have all been missing for the last many, many years. Didn’t hear one old timer say, “I remember the winter of [fill in the year]”? This past one seems to have taken precedent over the good old days for snow, and earlier, for cold. So, no going out to do yard work when the walls started closing in because 3 feet of snow still lingered. Of course if I were a couple of years younger I might have enjoyed some snowmachining, or even cross-country skiing, both able to be done in isolation, but being in the golden years, neither pastime seemed realistic, considering the EMTs might have had to rescue me.

But we survive. On March 14, a Saturday, the kids from Hawaii and up North were here and we went out for dinner. We joined some friends from Nikiski and enjoyed a leisurely time visiting and catching up. We were a big group, and by the time we left the restaurant others were coming in and it seemed a normal Saturday night. By Monday when the kids left for home, the schools were on another week spring break and public gathering places were closed: the library, the senior center and any groups over 25 (later 10) and you know where it went from there.

We went from learning to wash our hands to eye-measuring 6 feet for social distancing. I remembered that during the brief time I taught primary school we taught the kids to properly wash their hands by singing the “Alphabet Song.” This time they suggested “Happy Birthday” twice, but I still whispered “A-B-C-D-E-F-G…” The distance was a little more difficult. They said two arms’ lengths, but it turns out we don’t go out much so it makes little difference.

Luckily the Hawaii kids got home before their state locked down, but they self-isolated for two weeks anyway. Didn’t hear too many complaints about being secluded from that direction as they knew we still had feet of snow to contend with while they had to suffer “closed beaches.” Perspective is all.

Our Peace Corps granddaughter was recalled from Ecuador when all personnel was called home. She then had to spend 14 days in self-isolation in Fairbanks before returning home to Healy. She passed her time learning calligraphy and taking an online computer programming class. I cleaned out the medicine cabinet and sorted old pictures. I’m sure she had more fun. She certainly was more productive, although I did release nearly a whole shelf of space in the cabinet and found some pictures I’d been looking for for 10 years.

So we settled into a whole different routine. Lots of Cribbage. We chase each other around that board relentlessly. I have known how to play Cribbage since I learned how to add. My dad thought it was the perfect game to not only reinforce addition but to teach such things as attention span, sequencing, and sportsmanship (he didn’t believe in letting the kids win). In the “old” days, when hubby and I were both working, we would play Cribbage to see who had to do the dishes or fix dinner. Those games were fierce. These days, they are more easy going and we go for two out of three. No idea who is ahead, as we only keep track for the day.

We shop for groceries before 9 a.m., which is an unexpected pleasure, because there are few people in the store. Some shelves are empty, though, even then. Luckily, being raised on a farm (during WWII rationing, I might add) programmed us to always have a supply of necessities you can’t produce yourself. Living in the Bush only reinforced that, so we normally have a full pantry. Might eat a lot of pancakes and beans if it ever got to that point, but we would survive. Going to the liquor store at 9 a.m., however, is a whole different experience. At least I got carded. That hasn’t happened for a good long time (and I do have a mask!).

And so, here we sit. With luck, by May 1 we can maybe pick up our usual schedules and life patterns. I suspect many of us have learned a few things about ourselves and certainly about daytime television and more than enough about statistics. We will begin to care what day it is again, and will recognize our friends when we see them without their masks. But most of all, we will realize that even a mundane existence is good when we are free to do as we please.

You can contact Virginia at

• By Virginia Walters, for the Peninsula Clarion

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