Meet the masters of social distancing

Social distancing may be a recent phenomenon for most Americans, but Mariann Hardy and her partner Wendell are long accustomed to the rigors of sheltering-in-place.

A buried shipping container in their yard is stocked like an underground Walmart.

The nearest actual supermarket is a three-hour drive away.

Mariann Hardy: “All this is the stuff we’ve canned over the years. And it goes all the way behind here, and I've got notes that tell me what is back there so if I'm looking for something like flour, I can look on these lists and know exactly what box it is. I’ve gotta get Wendell to help me finish it off and then bottle it, because ... I hope it's still gonna be good.”

Home to Mariann and Wendell is a 25 acre-plot bought for $40,000 in 1986 near a cougar-inhabited gorge called Hogwash Canyon in a remote corner of New Mexico.

They named it “El Medio de Nada” - Spanish for the middle of nowhere.

Wendell Hardy: “You just have to be independent to live out here. You've got to think of things a little more than just go to the store and get some food. Solar power was the only way to make it work. We can go weeks without seeing anybody, especially if the river is up. It goes up two or three times a year, when we have no access to the outside world.”

Mariann Hardy: “You know you live in the city and it's real hard because of the constant pressures, I mean, you're going to the store to shop for your meals everyday. You're doing this. We're not bothered by any of that stuff, we've got a lot of time to reflect, a lot of peace."

Wendell Hardy: "if you're stuck here for a month with no chance of getting out, it probably bothers a lot of people. It really doesn't bother us. You're just kinda on your own."

Mariann was a police officer, and Wendell co-owned a glass-contracting firm. But they have become self-sufficient over the years.

Wendell is the self-taught designer and engineer. Mariann became a skilled electrician, plumber, bricklayer and horticulturist.

They get by on very little: a fixed retirement income and some savings.

Marianne Hardy: “Don’t misunderstand, there were a lot of struggles ... a lot of pain, conflict, and a lot of physical pain.”

Along with daily hardships and dangers like mountain lions and rattlesnakes, the biggest challenge for the couple these days is how to maintain their isolation as they grow older.

Wendell's suffered from a genetic disorder since 2002. For now, it’s under control, but he’s dependent on insulin for diabetes, and already survived liver cancer.

But he’s adamant their days of living among others are behind them.

“We’re lucky and pleased for every day we get to live out here. We just really kind of think it’s heaven.”

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