When it comes to isolation, I’m something of an expert. (Someone – maybe Dizzy Dean? – once said: it ain’t bragging if it’s true.) Though I enjoy the company of a wide range of friends and loved ones, I’m quite content spending time alone. In fact, whenever there are times I must engage socially, it’s not long before I must grab time alone to replenish my sociability reserves.
Unlike the social “deprivation” others are enduring, I’ve suffered no hardship from enforced social distancing. If I’ve needed to go out (grocery shopping, the post office, etc.), I’ve gone. In the beginning of March (as things first started closing down), I went to the post office where one of the counter clerks wore a surgical mask. It surprised me, but if that’s what she felt she needed to feel safe, I had no objections. Individuals should have the freedom to make those decisions for themselves.
Then, last week, I entered a hardware/appliance store in the “funky” part of our region. Everyone (except me) was wearing a mask, gloves, even body suits (and other various getups, some quite absurd). Again, I’m okay with whatever people wish to do to feel safe. Thankfully, no one berated me for not wearing a mask. Sadly, I noticed the busybody nature of some folks expressing itself on social media! Some FB friends were reprimanded by other FB friends because they posted group selfies sans masks!
Certain government officials around the country have imposed strict (and unreasonable, in my opinion) guidelines, to the point of punishing and jailing people for acting in ways they consider disruptive. Walking alone on a beach? Playing basketball alone in the park? Fishing alone on a peer? How dare you!! You should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law!
We should all grieve for the liberty we’ve allowed to slip through our hands! I’m amazed and puzzled at how quickly it happened … and we should be concerned our freedoms may not be entirely retrieved.
A poem I recall from grade school was written by Arthur Guiterman. The poem memorialized the life of Daniel Boone and in its four 20-line stanzas, the poet provided snapshots from the long life of this legendary American explorer, businessman and statesman. Most memorable for me has always been the final line of each stanza: “Elbow room!” sighed Daniel Boone.
Elbow room: having enough space in an area to comfortably move around and the freedom and ability to act as one chooses.
As a child, I pictured the scene of Boone sitting with his family inside their just-completed log cabin. I supposed the minute anyone came knocking at the front door, Boone would begin making preparations to move further west. Even if they were miles away, the “neighbors” would always be too close for comfort!
Of course, Guiterman’s poem begs the question: Did the poet capture the essence of Daniel Boone, or alternatively, did the poet create a sentimental fiction to explain Boone’s frequent wanderings? Though it’s only an opinion, I suspect both possiblities are true.
Born in 1734 in Pennsylvania, Boone mostly lived on wilderness lands at the edge of the frontier. With each westward press of the frontier, Boone blazed an early trail. Comporting with the idea of elbow room, Boone lived (after Pennsylvania) in various locales in present-day North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky and eventually in Missouri. In each transition, he initially enjoyed elbow room, until civilization repeatedly eased its way closer to his space.
But ever he dreamed of new domains
With vaster woods and wider plains;
Ever he dreamed of a world-to-be
Where there are no bounds and the soul is free.
– from Daniel Boone by Arthur Guiterman
Remarkably, Daniel Boone embraced the concept of social distancing centuries before it became today’s status quo. His preference would have been for miles instead of today’s COVID-19 six feet requisite.
Boone’s quest for elbow room took him to unexplored corners of our vast country. Today, living in our imposed isolation, we have an electronic portal into those corners (thanks to National Geographic, YouTube, History Channel and others). East of the sun and west of the moon, Daniel Boone would probably say such videos (magnificent as they are) offer only the palest of comparisons to what he experienced along his journey. Would anyone argue otherwise?