Editor’s note: The Virus Diaries is a series in which Mainers talk about how they are affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

The commute from Peaks Island to Portland took place every weekday for Owen Sanderson, his wife, Kellie, and 2-year-old son Quinn.

Now? Owen hasn’t left the island in nearly three weeks.

Social distancing because of the coronavirus outbreak has meant seclusion. Those already living apart, say, on an island, feel it even more.

“During COVID, it has been quite desolate. You do feel a little trapped out here,” Sanderson said. “But you also feel insulated. … It’s that combination.”

Insulated, as in protected, cared for. Sanderson points to the community’s online chat room, which is filled with offers to help – pick up prescriptions, go grocery shopping, print documents, and more.


“There was one (notice) about a few of the islanders, girls in high school, they’re going to be roving minstrels, going around the island – standing six feet away, of course – singing songs to brighten the mood.

“A crisis tends to amplify the power of community, and it’s definitely true on the island.”

This is the small-town feel he envisioned when he moved his family a year ago to Peaks, which has a year-round population of about 1,000. Sanderson, 33, grew up in Bolton, Massachusetts, a small town 45 miles west of Boston. Since then, Sanderson had lived in large metro areas in the East. He wanted to go smaller and his wife (Portland native Kellie MacDonald) wanted to be back in Maine. Their wish was for a smaller community, near the water, with proximity to the city. It added up to Peaks Island.

The daily routine is different. Before the pandemic, the family took the ferry into Portland. Owen went to his job as design director for Unum, Kellie to hers as an attorney with Pierce Atwood, and Quinn to day care. That routine is gone for now, and Quinn has adjusted.

Two-year-old Quinn Sanderson on an excursion to the beach on Peaks Island. Photo courtesy of Owen Sanderson

“It’s a delight to see how he has no clue to what’s going on,” Owen Sanderson said. “He’s so enamored having a lot of mom and dad time.


“Kellie and I are both able to work from home. It does present challenges. I work a little while and she then works a little while.

“I got outside with Quinn. We go out, no matter the weather. I call it Norwegian style. We bundle up and go out for about an hour. He loves going down to the beach.”

It’s an advantage of having space, in a less populated area, especially at this time.

“I can’t imagine being in our 400 square-foot apartment in Brooklyn,” Sanderson said.

With their current schedule, with no commuting, Sanderson finds time for writing – “it’s my form of therapy. I’ve always been a writer” – and has begun a blog at about his family’s life on the island.

Do you have a story to share about how you are affected by the coronavirus outbreak? Email us at virus@pressherald.com

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