Rollie Atkinson Column Photo

Rollie Atkinson

Our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic continues. This is what it’s like: we’re all in this together, six feet apart or “sheltered in place.” Half the time it feels like we are living inside a science fiction movie, and other times it all seems even more surreal than that. We know this will all end, but we don’t know when or what it will look like.

Meanwhile we S.I.P. (Shelter In Place.) Some of us are teaching our children at home, trying to build a rhythm or routine to the days. Others of us are just couples, home indefinitely from work, getting reacquainted with each other’s pet peeves and twitches. We have single seniors living next door that need checking on, and we all have too much time to waste on daytime TV, streaming movies and other internet entertainment. All this might go on for months. (By press time, we’ll have been in S.I.P. for a little more than two weeks.)

If we were secluded on the International Space Station, we could conduct some science experiments and play with zero gravity. Thank goodness we’re not passengers on Jules Verne’s submarine in “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” But wouldn’t it be a blast to be part of the Star Trek’s USS Enterprise crew?

Instead, we are sheltered in our own places, with familiar surroundings, our own habits, depressing world news and too much anxiety. If only S.I.P. came with an instruction manual. If it did, it might be titled, “Keeping Calm while trying to Keep Calm.”

The first chapter in such a manual would emphasize daily exercise, nutrition and getting outdoors. We all have plenty of space in Sonoma County to go for walks, raise our heartbeats a little and clear our minds.

There are plenty of activities — good and bad — to fill our days on the internet. Some of the better undertakings could be “virtual volunteering” and becoming a daily public library patron. Virtual volunteering could include checking in on shut-in seniors, sharing accurate COVID-19 updates and participating in various ZOOM sessions. Several local Rotary clubs are holding weekly meetings via ZOOM, and local nonprofits are holding virtual board meetings by computer.

The Sonoma County Library has a treasure trove of internet-based eResources. These include streaming movies, audiobooks, links to virtual museum and art gallery tours and lots of young learner activities. Sonoma Library is asking the public to submit art, writings and other reflections to create an archive called “Sonoma Responds.” It will serve like a time capsule for how we lived, struggled and survived the 2020 global pandemic. (Visit

Why not grow a “Victory Garden,” like families did during World War II. It doesn’t take much dirt or skill to plant some radish, lettuce and carrot seeds and add some pepper and tomato plants later. (Be sure to plant enough for the gophers, too.)

We hear S.I.P. comes with eating lots of pasta and dried beans. Now’s a good time to look in the pantry for all those forgotten cans of sauces, spices and gourmet ingredients and cook a fabulous casserole or one-pot supper. Bake some bread; you’ll love yourself for it.

Marooned families or couples could have fun planning a big future trip or outing. Just don’t include a cruise ship right now. Don’t use Google; use your own imagination and maybe some old Rand McNally foldout maps.

What else? Whether you believe in “decluttering” or not, now would be a good time to fill some “Goodwill Bags” with extra clothes hiding in the closet. Donations can be dropped off without violating the social distancing rules.

The final chapter of a S.I.P. manual should stress communication. Emails are convenient and almost instant. But now would be a good time to type or write a letter on paper. Better thoughts happen when you type more slowly. We know this to be true.


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