Passing the time while social distancing, Whidbey-style

We Rock Dwellers are of an independent stripe in how we do most things. That holds true, I have discovered, for how we pass time while social distancing to avoid COVID-19. America may be binge-watching “The Tiger King,” watching NFL “greatest games” reruns and eating frozen pizza. But on Whidbey we’re doing other, much more interesting stuff.

For example, this week my spouse and I flipped our California king mattress end-to-end — quite a strenuous cardio effort for aging muscles. The manufacturer recommends doing this once a year. We hadn’t done it in the six years we’ve owned it. From beneath it, we vacuumed an amazing amount of dog hair and what may have been the dust of several generations of my Swedish relatives.

I have also spent hours planting my vegetable garden. It’s especially enjoyable this year because there is no rush; what else have I got to do? I put in the baby plants then I simply sit and watch them grow.

To gather more examples, I assembled a group of some Rock-dwelling friends on a zoom “meeting” for a virtual happy hour. I asked each of them to tell me the most interesting or creative thing they’ve done to pass this hunkered-down time. Here’s some of what I heard.

Janet Burchfield painted her own toenails “for the first time in my life.” But then she quickly amended it “to something that sounds better.” She’s a Lion club member, “so I have been picking up and delivering groceries for people in the Coupeville community.”

Molly Brewer has been making fabric masks and has set up a neighborhood contest to see who can make the best mask. She’s appointed judges and bought restaurant gift certificates for prizes.

Jim Dunn, a computer consultant for Coupeville schools, is busy setting up online accounts for all the teachers and students in the district who begin distance learning on April 20.

Kathy Baxter has sold her house on Ebey’s Prairie and is clearing out the barn before escrow closes. “It required me to find a new home for my two 20-foot church pews. After that, I filled up a Habitat for Humanity truck with stuff on the very last day they were doing pick up.”

Cameron Chandler has spent hours cleaning his office. “That might be more challenging than clearing out Kathy’s barn.”

Judy Lynn got ready for summer by inviting two strong, healthy friends over at a social distance to lug her patio furniture from the garage to her deck. My spouse and I have done that in the past; we are so grateful she found new friends to do it this year.

Michael Ferri, recovering from a serious illness earlier in the year, has rediscovered how much he loves to read by himself, in peace and quiet.

Marsha Vandeford, who worked for the World Health Organization in Geneva before moving to Coupeville, got up at 3:30 a.m. to attend a WHO call about the Ebola crisis in the Congo. “I was grateful that it wasn’t on zoom so people wouldn’t see me getting out of bed.”

Marsha’s husband David Carter, a tenor who sings in choirs, was asked to participate in a “virtual choir” for the church they attended in Geneva. He recorded his part on his cell phone for two hymns during Holy Week. The melded recording of more than a dozen singers went viral on YouTube. “It was a grand experience.”

David also has taken up quilting, something he always wanted to do but never had the time. He completed his first two efforts last week and proudly showed them to us on zoom.

At the end of our virtual happy hour, everybody agreed there was one thing all of us are doing: cleaning out closets, pantries, junk drawers and garages. The result is a rapidly growing pile of really nice stuff that is desperately waiting for the Rock’s thrift stores to reopen and accept donations.

Columnist Harry Anderson is a Coupeville resident.