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For the first three weeks of my time at the Strawbale Studio I wore a mask and denied myself entry to the house that could supply me water, showers, and electricity. I wore a mask and learned to forage, build, and (most of all) be curious. I wore a mask and refrained from petting Brrrindle the Magnificent (a cat worthy of an epithet). But why did I wear a mask?
A mask is a thing that makes private a bit of our most public selves. I certainly did not wear a mask for this purpose, but this characteristic cannot be neglected. One day when we were outdoors and far enough that we could take off our masks, Deanne remarked, “Wow! Your face! I’m not used to seeing your face.” Perhaps that covering was facilitating an openness of ourselves because we had a little shield to hide behind. Deanne and I jumped into the deepest of conversations within our first two days of the internship. Whenever we were too close and had forgotten to put on our masks, we would jump back so suddenly it might have been a true, electric-blue shock. ‘Twas not for separation that I wore a mask.
It seems clear to me that wearing a mask does little to protect oneself but does much to protect others. That Deanne had scarcely left her home since the Ides of March had me feeling worry that I might be the source of contagion that brings suffering to her. I traveled across five state lines (Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan) to intern here, and the final three of those states are considered “high-risk.” Thus, it seemed clear to me that I must always be the one to take initiative in wearing a mask, for I was confident that I had nothing to fear from Deanne.
So what does that make it? Respect or fear? Why does it appear to me to be such a fine line? I certainly revere Deanne for all that she accomplishes and has accomplished, and I equally feared that I would be her ruin. Every day that we became closer was a day that I felt more tied to my mask. I would not be the wielder of Our Lady Corona to the serene grasses of the Strawbale Studio.
Ultimately, I think I wore that mask because it made Deanne and I comfortable. It allowed us to more readily be our unique selves. It allowed us to interact up close and work on the hands-on projects for which Deanne is renowned. It allowed us to feel like our hands (and faces) were the Atlas against the world’s negative energy. The masks are off now. We’ve passed our COVID examinations. It turns out that showers are pretty nice.