In my youth I was a fan of “Gilligan’s Island” reruns. The idea that a bunch of oddball people could survive – for years – on an uncharted, uninhabited island is pretty far-fetched (this was before Google maps, and before ubiquitous satellite imagery). While another fictional character, Cap’n Jack Sparrow (Disney’s Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise) might have survived on rum and sea turtles, I do not believe anybody in the real world could.
However, there have been dogs that bucked this castaway trend. In February 2016, Luna, a German Shepherd, fell from a pleasure boat into the Pacific Ocean a couple miles off San Clemente Island, which is near San Diego, California. For five weeks the dog was feared dead until Navy personnel on the island found her. I have been thinking about that dog and her lesson on how to manage during this viral quarantine. With the ‘shelter in place’ “order”, “advisory”, or whatever they are calling it in the last twenty-four hours, we are all still trying to live our daily lives with minimal contact. I do not know how many of my quarantined fellow bloggers, workers, or kindred are adapting to these possible few weeks in isolation, but I am having difficulty. And I know better.
John Donne, Sixteenth Century English poet wrote about man needing community, that is, people in order to live well. “No man is an island”, he wrote – which is proving to be difficult in the short term. We can catch up on all the books and magazines that were waiting for a good excuse to read. Taking the dogs for a walk does not really involve being in close quarters with people. Dexter and Comet are a study in this. Dexter loves people and interacting with other dogs. Comet tolerates being outdoors – he was a stray for a long time – but prefers the quiet inside. Both absolutely have me trained to give them a dog biscuit when we return from a walk, or cannot go outside because of the rain and mud, or even when simply coming home to them after several hours. Even when I start to run low on dog biscuits, they and I are confident that there will be a supply. As for you, me or others we know, were you ever to consider wanting to be left alone – stranded on an island, like Gilligan, what would I do without most essentials? And then I would be glad that I can go online to have stuff delivered, or go to the drive-thru for coffee, a danish, or some takeout food. If we are going to be stranded in our homes for the near term. I might just binge-watch Netflix, and eat a few Pringles chips.
I am always willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. My faith encourages me to find the best in people. So most of the time, I am not one to voluntarily withdraw into “sheltering in place”. A deserted island is not my choice for a retreat. But if my fellow citizens do not start calming down and cease stripping the store shelves of supplies, I might start acting a little differently. I imagine Luna, after her five weeks on San Clemente Island, in the years since then, has been a bit peculiar about food. She obviously found something to eat – it is used sporadically by US Navy personnel. But I would imagine she will not easily tolerate being left alone nor easily share her food with another. As for me? I may enjoy the community with others, but on a desert island, this “Skipper” might become just a bit testy. (Did you ever notice that the shipwrecked character portrayed by Alan Hale, never seemed to lose any weight?) Especially, when we start to run out of toilet paper.