Almost the entire world is experiencing Social distancing Nowadays due to COVID-19 ( Coronavirus) outbreak. But Billy Barr has been living in Gothic, Colo for almost 50 years and experiencing absolute Social Distancing. Gothic, Colo is a silver mining town that was abandoned more than 100 years ago and Billy Barr is the only resident living there permanently.
He lives in the abandoned silver mine at nearly 10,000 feet in altitude in the Rocky Mountains. “The snow’s going sideways, it’s swirling,” Billy Barr said of the local weather.
Billy has some Pro tips on social distancing!
“When I first got here, it was a relief for me to be on my own, but that’s not necessarily what a healthy person does — isolate themself,” he said. “I mean, I’m good at it and I do it because I like it, but what works for me, it works for me. It quite conceivably wouldn’t work for anybody else.”
While Barr has been called a hermit, he doesn’t consider himself one. He occasionally interacts with skiers who pass through, he talks to his sister on the phone, and he works for the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory nearby, which gets flooded with scientists in the summer.
But the man has been living alone in a cabin in the mountains for many years, and in the winter months, he can go many days without seeing a soul. So staying home during the COVID-19 outbreak?
“Yeah, I mean this is no change for me,” he said. “I come into winter with almost all my food already in.”
So, without further ado, here are five recommendations for the Billy Barr method of social distancing.
1. Keep track of something.
Each day, Barr tracks the weather for a number of groups including the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. He started measuring snow levels in the 1970s, mostly because he was bored.
“Everything depends on the weather,” said Barr, who has skied through that “sideways” and “swirling” snow to talk on the phone from the laboratory. “It controlled what I did and so I would write it all down.”
He would also write down when he saw an animal.
“With the birds, especially the ones that arrive in the spring, it was exciting,” he said. “It was like, ‘Oh my goodness, it’s sunrise and I can hear robins.’ ”
Turns out, monitoring things that were important to his daily life had real value. As The Atlantic has written and the documentary The Snow Guardian has shown, his records have informed dozens of studies on climate change.
In the era of COVID-19, he suggests tracking what you can — or can’t — find at the grocery store. Or, better yet, participating in some citizen science, like a project called CoCoRaHS that tracks rainfall across the country.
“I would definitely recommend people doing that,” he said. “You get a little rain gauge, put it outside and you’re part of a network where there’s thousands of other people doing the same thing as you, the same time of the day as you’re doing it. It’s very interesting.”
2. Keep a routine.
Barr starts early. He wakes up around 3:30 a.m. or 4 a.m. and stays in bed until about 5 a.m.
“Up until a week or two ago, I would listen to the news every morning so that I could start every day either totally depressed or furious. That’s always a good way to start the day,” he said.
“Now with the whole COVID and with politics and stuff,” he said he just can’t anymore. So, he listens to old-time radio instead.
Then it’s time to clear the snow off his solar panels and file weather reports to a bunch of different agencies. The rest of the day involves work and chores interspersed with skiing.
“I kind of follow a set time schedule,” said Barr. “Sometimes I forget what day it is, but I know what time it is.”
Most importantly, he said, is leaving a reward for the end of the day. He’ll read, knit something, watch a movie and then watch a game of cricket.
3. Celebrate the stuff that matters, rather than the stuff you’re supposed to celebrate.
Barr has mostly ditched holidays and birthdays, but he does celebrate Jan. 17 when sunrise goes back to what it was on the solstice.
“To me, that’s a big deal because I get up so early in the morning that the lighter it gets, earlier, makes my day a lot easier,” he said.
He also celebrates when he gets back from skiing 8 miles each way into the town of Crested Butte for supplies.
4. Embrace the grumpiness.
Sometimes, Barr said, it’s kind of satisfying to be grumpy about something.
“I do get sick and tired of snow, but I like kidding about it. I live in an area where people live for snow, but I’m not that carried away with it, so I like being grumpy about it,” Barr said. “You get older and you start saying ‘OK, I’m not going to necessarily be pleasant when I don’t feel pleasant.’ ”
5. Use movies as a mood adjuster.
“If I’m really stressed I might watch an animated movie, something cute and funny that takes my mind off it. If I’m depressed, I can reverse that,” he said.
“My tastes are reasonably fluff-oriented,” he said. Movies like Pandemic or The Shining? Hard pass. “The Princess Bride is my pretty much favorite movie. I like Hugh Grant stuff, like Love Actually, Notting Hill.”
He also recommends Bollywood movies like Om Shanti Om, Bride and Prejudice and English Vinglish.
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This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.