Writing the Distance: Sean Ulman

The Covid 19 pandemic is isolating Alaskan writers. We can no longer attend workshops or public readings. The coffee bars where we met with other writers are closed. To bridge these physical gaps, 49 Writers is providing this on-line forum for Alaskans writing the distance. Today’s offerings are from Sean Unman.


My wife exits the bedroom work desk at 5:09 p.m., scoops our 18-month-old boy and dodges our daughter (age 4) sprinting wall-to-wall in a pink skirt and paper crown like a pro wrestler off the ropes.

I have online Yoga class at 6, she rejoices. If you want to go bird.

I do, so I move to.

I am reminding myself more often to be grateful to have a family. Staying busy is not an issue.

Cycle out of shed, tires inflated. I roll out (5:16), recalling a quote my runner friend said when the pandemic hit.

Not a bad time to be a writer.


Extra time must be spawning Coronavirus novels. Perhaps material, certainly the impetus to start or finish a book.

Silver linings crease the rain-cloudy sky above. My mind scans for more.

Mt. Marathon Race here in Seward was recently postponed. But it’s never a bad time to be a runner. And I have a race right now (5:22). I shift into the big ring, stand, pump.

Migration is the best time to be a birder.

Riding smooth, I sense flight as I picture prized peeps.

The mudflats at the head of Resurrection Bay are a critical stopover site for thousands of migrating shorebirds and waterfowl. The show changes daily as birds feed hard and rest for a couple days, then continue north.

A new airplane runway, filling in the pond, has been proposed and debated. I rejoice at that project’s possible pandemic-induced postponement.

I wonder what the arriving birds might have noticed about the altered air along their way?

How else were climate change scientists ever going to get such a clean window of study time?

I hit the mud at 5:30. Gulls wheel. Ducks boat a lead in the slush-lidded pond. I binocular my first northern pintail of the season, relearn the drake’s dapper neck line and periwinkle bill. Panning, I fill in yellowlegs and plovers among the pond-dappled marsh. But the joy of not seeing any perhaps exceeds experiencing them. I haven’t missed their arrival.

In the blooming big pond, I discern two angelic floats – trumpeter swans. Then glassing again, this visit’s trophy birds crystallize. Six Canada geese! Heads down, feeding like their lives depend on it.

5:42. Bike time. Race pace.

In the door at 5:54.

Geese! I report as she passes into the bedroom/office space/yoga studio.


Sean Ulman’s debut novel Seward Soundboard will be published by Cirque Press this summer. He lives in Seward.

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