Physical* Distancing Activities, Staff Picks: Tips and suggestions for abiding the tide of isolation.

By Emily Spacek

Enforcing distance between one another is a proven way to slow pandemics. But the time spent in isolation can also be lonely, demotivating and, without some decent reading, listening and cooking inspiration, straight up boring.

*As our friend Joe Pitti notes, “Let’s start calling it physical distancing instead of social distancing. We need to be socially active with each other through the various platforms available in order to spread information, but more importantly provide support, love, patience and understanding during this difficult time.”

Below, CATALYST board members and staffers offer some of our personal favorite physical distancing activities that we’ve been implementing for our time at home not working.

What we’re listening to:

“Neil Young is streaming live concerts from his website as a diversion. Read the news story from CNN here and listen on Neil’s website here.” — Barry Scholl, CATALYST Board.

The Daily by New York Times. To stay informed yet hopeful!
Real Life Ghost Stories podcast: hosts are partners Emma and Dan who give hilarious spins on scary film reviews and real life horror stories. Their banter and excellent storytelling make you feel like they are your own close friends getting together for a beer.” — Shannon Crockett, CATALYST intern.

“I’ve been exploring the music (and live performances via YouTube) of 3hattrio, the Virgin, Utah-based threesome who call their sound American desert music. On standup bass, violin and banjo, they make sounds that range from old-timey to other-worldly . Check out this one.” — Greta deJong, CATALYST’s editor and founder.

What we’re watching:

The Great British Bake-Off is an awesome low-stress show to binge if all of this has got people a little freaked out. Youtube is always full of tutorials on how to do anything, whether it’s crafty or handy.”     — Katie Rogers, CATALYST writer.

What we’re reading:

“I’m just finishing Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (1989). I found this on the staff picks shelf in a Caldwell, Idaho bookshop about a month ago. Part romance novel, part cookbook and home-remedy handbook, it’s a soothing mid-pandemic read that will inspire your home cooking for the next few weeks.” — Emily Spacek, CATALYST distribution manager and writer.

“I am reading The Overstory by Richard Powers. A story about nine Americans who share unique experiences with trees but ultimately come together to address destruction of forests. Also, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, which is a collection of nature essays. Kimmerer, who is a botanist and indigenous author, relates her experience with plants as our teachers.” — Shannon Crockett.

“Gotta stay useful in this weird time, I’m trying to learn as much as I can about Ayurvedic Medicine, to stay useful in health epidemics! I’ve begun reading The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies by Vasant Lad. His quote in the introduction I found most poignant for this moment is, ‘illness provides us with an invitation for self-transformation, an opportunity to change our way of thinking, feeling, eating and in general caring for ourselves and our lives.'” — Sophie Silverstone, CATALYST community outreach director.

“I almost always listen to books these days. But over the weekend sat down in my most comfortable chair with a copy of Wallace Stegner’s Recapitulation (1979) and a glass of wine. The autobiographical novel is vividly set in Salt Lake City in the 1920s and ‘30s and then the ‘70s, as a 65-year-old man reflects on his SLC youth. An intimate look at what our town was like back in the days, written beautifully.” — Greta deJong.

What we’re learning:

“Saltgrass Printmakers is printing poetry postcards. I’m learning how to write a Lune poem, an adaptation of the Haiku. You can send your Lune poem to Stefanie Dykes at and it will be printed on a set of postcards available for pickup in April. This is a great way to keep writing and participate in National Poetry Month from home! Learn more here.” — Emily Spacek.

Duolingo is a free app where you can learn several different languages. Plus, you get harassed by a demon owl, so that’s fun.” — Katie Rogers.

Khan Academy has a website and an app that teaches everything from personal finance, career advice, to the arts. I’m currently digging into the videos from podcaster, Misha Euceph, on how much she makes, budgeting and planning, and other advice.” — Sophie Silverstone.

“Practicing banjo and hoping to soon get into embroidery!” — Shannon Crockett. (Yousician, for Android, iOS, Windows and MacOS, uses videos, animations and performance feedback to teach guitar, bass, piano, ukulele or voice).

This article was originally published on March 18, 2020.