It is strange to be voluntarily stuck in one’s own home; and if it wasn’t for cell phones, Facebook, and FaceTime, this would be a lonely experience for sure. The cats and I have some Interesting, albeit one sided, conversations. The key word in this paragraph is “voluntary.”

Having worked in a lock down environment for 20 plus years, I can attest to the fact that involuntary is much harder time. What we are faced with here people is how to live a temporary solitary experience.

The toughest part of this so far is that I can’t go to the gym and do CrossFit and Yoga, or shoot pool with a friend. One friend that I have shot pool with since 1999 has wisely decided to remain home and not travel to Alaska to work this year. There is the also the matter of sports and Odoul’s on the weekends at the Breeze Inn. It seems my appreciation for certain aspects of my life have deepened since those aspects have become unobtainable. So, what about replacements?

We are fortunate to live in Alaska. Mother Nature is at our doorsteps, nestled between mountains at the edge of the sea which in a couple months will be full of fish. A good brisk walk while breathing clean fresh air is just a matter of walking out the driveway. There are no crowds and social distancing is easily accomplished by passing on the opposite sides of the road. A cheerful hello, a big smile, brief conversation across 10 foot of space, and it is off to see Mt. Alice, the old culvert area, and maybe a sea otter or two playing in the bay.

The alternative is depressing, looking at four walls, watching a litany of fear on the TV, and waiting for calls from friends or family. I remember the time as a 13-year-old, before driver’s license, waiting on Friday night for someone to come and pick me up to go to a dance or to just ride to downtown for a shake and burger. The nights it didn’t happen were excruciating. I didn’t like waiting then and I don’t like it now.

Apex gym dropped me off a weight so I can continue to exercise at home. This is not as good as CrossFit, but I feel less guilty about the dish of ice cream if I have worked out for an hour. The lifestyle of moderation applies to all parts of my life now; it is a small dish of ice cream.

A friend caught a nasty bug that came with a deep wet cough and a high fever. She had to stay home from work, and after drinking a small bottle of fortified cough medicine, had a provider subscribe an economy size supply which she promptly drank while sitting up in bed watching one of those TV channels that sell everything from jewelry to bass boats. Her credit card was too close to hand and her husband was a bit annoyed when boxes upon boxes were delivered at their doorstep. It seems in her delirium that she had a ordered a year’s supply of designer pocketbooks, a different color for every week of the year. 

My sister works long hours and then volunteers at her church and for Methodist Women. She wears herself to a frazzle every week. Now she is working from home and there are no social gatherings. She related to me that she now has a lot of energy and is cleaning closets, floors, rugs, and throwing out things she had collected over the years.

My son is a bartender and is unemployed. He is studying to be a sommelier so when life gets back to normal, he can improve his lot.

My daughter’s position is considered critical, so she is off to work while the rest of the family is home wrapped in a cocoon of togetherness of love peppered by sibling rivalry and competitiveness. The children are home until May 1 and they miss their school. Times have changed. When I was their age, I lived in a paradise complete with trout streams and small lakes full of fish. School was viewed as compulsory confinement and to have off a month or more in the spring would have been joyful beyond measure.

So here we are, half the world away from a special friend, alone in a house except for cats, surrounded by forests, streams, and Resurrection Bay. Considered a part of a high-risk category which is hilarious after living a good portion of my life at high risk - racing cars while drinking alcohol, drugs, Vietnam service, etc. Now I have to be concerned about something I cannot see and have to hope others are responsible enough to slow down the spread of the virus. Not an easy thing to put faith in others.

Please reach out to the first responders and their families, the people in the service industry who enhanced our lives and are now unemployed due to social distancing – I would like to know what is social about distancing – the health care, dental, and community service people who are committed to making our lives better and oftentimes are not thought of until we need them. We can do this. It is a time to become closer with our families and to remember our humanity.

We are all affected by this in some measure, some more than others, leave no one totally alone. A phone call, text, or dropping off a rose on someone’s doorstep can make all the difference.

I hope this finds you all in good health and able to get in a good walk. I will be writing a series of articles loosely associated to fishing in the coming weeks as the cats and I learn how to get along. They believe in social distancing and no longer respond to threats of pound kitty.

Bob Shafer is the former owner and publisher of the Seward Journal. An avid fisherman, he will be contributing columns about fishing and dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and its social impact.