Social Distancing Versus Distant Socializing
It was a very strange start to 2020. On the second day of the new year, my Uncle Gerard, the man that started this magazine and who showed me my first camera and helped create a passion in me for art and photography, passed away.
Shortly after that, the beginnings of the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in China. A few weeks passed and it was here. Suddenly, our lives are all about handwashing and social distancing to try and slow the spread of the disease.
At first blush, this wasn’t a big challenge for me. I have a home office that is full of computers, books, manuals, and all of the things that are sold through the magazine. Though I used to have people helping me here (first Sarah, then Jill, Becky, finally Rowan), that is no longer the case. A few years ago, when Rowan needed to move on to a full-time job, I didn’t replace her.
Taking over fulfillment of orders and updating the database leaves me very little free time, especially when I am putting an issue together. I spend every weekday, pretty much by myself, with an occasional neighbor stopping by for eggs or to borrow a tool. I go to the post office once a day, sometimes twice. Beyond that, I am home.
Given all this, I have been experiencing the opposite of social distancing. My wife (who is a social worker at our local VA hospital) starting working from home in April. My older daughter’s college stopped having in-person classes as did my younger daughter’s high school. What was once a quiet workspace during the week has become a small office with everyone doing their own thing and fighting for bandwidth.
This got me thinking about how tractors naturally work to socially distance us. Generally speaking, when you are out mowing the field, plowing the garden or moving snow, you are alone on the tractor. (And for me, it is a meditative state at times.) Even when working on repairing or maintaining a tractor, there aren’t a bunch of people around, you are probably working alone.
At the same time, the N-News Magazine has, for the past 35 years, offered a type of distant socializing where subscribers get to look into someone else’s shop or hear about someone else’s memories from the printed page. It has acted as a form of cohesion in a world that seems to be tearing itself apart.
So, for the little bit of time that you sit reading this issue, think about all the ways this hobby and our collective memories have helped hold us all together.