North Fork offers self-isolation wisdom
At the risk of this column reading like a journal entry or to even appear that I know what I’m talking about, here it goes. These past few weeks I’ve been reading through the archives of the North Fork re-imagining the abrupt but welcomed interruption of the winter norm of peaceful, snowy solitude, by competitive dogsled racing teams hurling over the Whitefish Divide, skidding to a finish line of cinnamon swirls seeping out of the Merc and a radiant Northern Lights Saloon sure to have the fire stoked, hot food, warm bartenders and jolly bystanders welcoming the teams in from the blizzard and wild moose that linger out beyond and behind.
I wanted to take you with me somewhere new and magical and not talk about the thing that everyone is talking about. The thing that everyone is adapting to. The thing that has severely altered the entire world and thrust an economic halt on society. But, as I read the archives, I realize timeliness helps us understand history. I know Larry will have much wisdom and comforting words to bestow upon us as one of the old-timers up here and I look forward to reading them, but here’s my two cents for now.
The thing about living the reality of self-isolation during a global pandemic is it’s a lot like the off-grid lifestyle in the North Fork, although the entire basis of one being a choice is debatable. Either way, though, you stock up on supplies, plan out your weeks and your menu accordingly, use things sparingly and be sure to have a pile of books at hand just in case it takes a few tries to find the right fit. You arrive home, you unpack and the blank canvas that is self-isolation is sitting there staring at you in the face. An endless, undefined time void. At this point, isolation of any circumstance offers you an opportunity to choose. A big, scary choice that can be as elaborate or as sparse as YOU want it to be.
Folks and families who are out of work, at risk or simply can’t go back to school are finding themselves here for the first time. And from what I’ve heard on the FM radio broadcasting out of Calgary (our main companion in a life of isolation), it’s scary. Adding financial stresses and worries of the unknown to the mix doesn’t calm the concern either.
With my blank canvas this week I’ve been thinking. A lot. Walking and thinking. Painting my front door a new color and thinking. Eating and thinking to digest it all. According to the CBC the Northwest Territories closed all entry points this last weekend to protect their elders to protect their language to prevent the loss of their entire culture. The threat of this virus is proving itself, worldwide, as the numbers globally continue to increase daily. Healthcare workers and grocery store workers keep showing up to work as “the front line.” For so many in the U.S. that live paycheck-to-paycheck and have been laid off with another bill cycle looming, how to pay it has yet to be known, let alone the one after that. The only certainty we have to hold onto right now is that by staying home we can help to avoid spreading the virus to those most vulnerable and that we will get through this together.
It seems that society has been radiating in a sense unity since this whole thing got real. I mean, in between news cycles and grocery shopping, that is. Maybe it’s the fact that we don’t know when things will be normal again, giving us a common, wobbly wavelength to ride together. Perhaps the utter shock to the system of everyday routines and busy schedules or taking for granted the ease with which needs could be met until now jolted us out of ourselves and our own orbit and opened our eyes to others and the world around us. The point is, again, we are in this together. As a final thought, back to self-isolation (we’re doing it together!). A few words of advice from a gal in the woods with a lifelong list of chores. Firstly, when I moved here a decade ago, the unofficial mayor of Polebridge, John Frederick, offered his isolation advice to me and now I to you: break a sweat at least once a day. Chopping wood will do it. If it’s frigid out or you don’t have a woodpile, push-ups or squats until it burns will do it. Secondly, achieve a sense of accomplishment every day. You can set yourself up for success, like brushing your teeth or changing out of your pajamas, or you can go big and tackle an organizing project (de-cluttering does a number on the cabeza) or bake some bread (be sure to start early so it’s done by dinner). Lastly, take a walk, even if you don’t feel like it. Five minutes in and you won’t want to stop. Listen. Birds are practicing their songs right now. Robins and bluebirds should be showing up any day now. Close your eyes and see if you can hear the different songs of different birds. If you see your neighbors be sure to say hello, from 6 feet away. Take of yourselves and each other.
What do you think?
Flannery Coats writes about life in the North Fork.