Isolation is difficult, but you can still explore the world

  • Susan Anderson-Khleif and her late husband, Baheej, bought a kuksa cup on one of their trips to Lapland in Scandinavia.

    Susan Anderson-Khleif and her late husband, Baheej, bought a kuksa cup on one of their trips to Lapland in Scandinavia. Courtesy of Susan Anderson-Khleif

Posted5/30/2020 6:00 AM

Years ago, Baheej and I brought back a wooden drinking cup from one of our trips to Lapland. The Sami (Lapp) people carry one on their belts for drinking water when out in nature, which is most of the time. They call themselves Sami, not Lapp, which is the name given to them by non-Sami Scandinavians.

The Sami are a different ethnic group than other present-day Scandinavians. They were nomadic across the far north of Norway, Sweden, Finland and up into the Arctic Circle, but are now citizens of those respective countries.


The wooden cup is called a kuksa in Finnish, kasa in Swedish and guksi in Sami, the Lapp language. I was so pleased to recently learn the name kuksa from my friend Bob; I worked with him for many years at Motorola. He sent me a photo of some wooden cups and referred to them as kuksa cups. I didn't know this type of wooden cup had a special name, meaning forest cup. This goes way back to the Viking era.

There is a lot being said and written about home learning and online learning for children and college students during these days of "stay at home." But this time is also an opportunity for parents and all adults to learn -- new ideas, about new places, languages, music, everything.

I have lots of books I've not yet read, and there is a wealth of exploration and learning available on TV, on video and CDs, and online. It is as easy as typing in and asking for any topic or question under the sun (on the search bar). Wallah! If you are not in the habit of googling, try it, or have someone show you how. It's very easy. No tech expertise required!

As we know, social isolation is the enemy of the bereaved. Our best way to deal with loss is to be with friends and family and going to community activities. This is not possible these days. And facing a summer of no meetings, no restaurants, no going out to lunch with friends, no festivals, we must be inventive.

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A simple example: When my friend mentioned the kuksa cups, I spent a very pleasant hour learning more about the history of kuksa cups online just by googling ( i.e. searching) "kuksa cups." It was fun and enlightening.

You could even partner up with a friend by phone or email to explore some new topic and then share the information you find and discuss. We must make our own entertainment these days to keep engaged and fight social isolation.

Think about it. Even book clubs are going online. You could read a book and then discuss by online video chats (e.g. using the Zoom app) with the group or simply by the phone with a friend.

Recently my P.E.O. women's group did just that. After reading "The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek," there was a group discussion online with Zoom. Two big learnings for me: I knew nothing about the Blue People of the Kentucky Hills or the Books on Horseback Program created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Depression era of the 1930s. I could not join the online discussion, but I read the book. It is fascinating.


We can also look up recent articles or interviews we missed on TV or in newspapers via And of course lots of entertainment is also there on almost any topic.

Now is a good time to get yourself more online. Start using online sources even though you may not have bothered or cared to do so in the past. Most of the content is very easy to find and access. And most of us certainly have more time home alone these days!

As we know, learning keeps our minds sharp and can certainly be a great tool in our personal "tool box" to fight social isolation and keep alert in these strange times.

I watch a lot of animal shows on TV because I love animals. Through a zoo show I learned about the concept of "enrichment" for animals. The idea is to make sure animals have lots of new experiences, interactions with other animal friends and zoo caretakers, and variations in their days and food. It keeps them active, engaged and happier.

Well, the point is: People need "enrichment" too. Many of our usual enriching activities are cut off for now, but learning is available to all of us. It could be something small like the history of the kuksa cup, or something big like a new language. Such learning is available to all. And it's especially vital if one is in grief and living alone.

Now is a good time to spent some daily time learning more about ourselves and our world.

• Susan Anderson-Khleif of Sleepy Hollow has a doctorate in family sociology from Harvard, taught at Wellesley College and is a retired Motorola executive. Contact her at or see her blog See previous columns at

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