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Musings on masks

A while ago, just before the wearing of masks became compulsory, I thought that while I have lots of fabric scraps and more than enough time, I could just as well make some masks for friends and colleagues. Very soon my dining room table became a small mask factory.

How I enjoyed it! I played around with colours and combinations and had enough time to reflect on various subjects (some may call it “thinking up nonsense”) …

It hit me that, just like little scraps of fabric, many people are often not noticed, or they are easily written off as useless or outdated. Maybe they should just be offered the opportunity to serve an essential purpose. Vastly different little scraps of cotton (or human) that ordinarily would never have ended up together, make up the perfect combination under the right circumstances – and that may be exactly what is needed at that specific moment in time.

The repetitive nature of my self-assigned task renewed my gratitude for the work I did for so many years, and the fact that no two days were ever the same – even though the work did not change much, the altering moods and preferences of the children (and the teacher!) together with the changing circumstances ensured that I was never bored. (Also, I never had painful neck spasms because of sitting in one position for hours!)

Another truth that dawned on me anew, is the privilege and necessity of starting over. I cleaned my work space every evening and put everything away, even though I knew that I was just going to start again tomorrow morning. Still, it was good to see everything as if through new eyes in the morning, and to start with new-found energy. This is something that I should do more often in my daily life and especially in my thought processes and mindset. Put away. Throw out. Clean up. Start again. Repeat as many times as needed.

The miracle of perspective was also revealed to me once again. As adults we moan and groan about the inconvenience of wearing masks. Some masks are suffocating us, spoiling our hairstyles (or what is left of them at this stage of lockdown), others irritate our ears, fog up our glasses and are just a general bother. But this little sweetheart, who just received one because he is so adorable and because I knew that he’d want one when he saw his parents wearing theirs, refuses to remove his!

Photo: Karin Herbst

Oh, if only each of us could learn the sense of wonder that children have, and realise that there is an adventure hidden in every new experience!

And then, every task, no matter how glamorous, also involves some less glamorous routines. I could not believe how many little pieces of thread, snippets and general mess these masks generated. Even less how stubbornly those pieces and snippets clung to the carpet when the cleaning-up stage arrived every evening! It’s a bit like people: each one grabbing and clinging desperately onto his little bit of the world, his argument or dream and refusing to let go. I hope we will also cling onto one another, hope and positivity during these strange times!

At last, with the table cleared, the carpet cleaned and the chaos tidied up, only the inside of my overlocking machine had to be cleaned. Minuscule remnants of each piece of fabric that passed through the cutter and needles were stuck there. I had to remove the residue patiently, using a little brush, cloth and small vacuum cleaner. Once the lockdown ends, I will take it to the technician who knows every detail and mood swing of my machine. How I wish that there was an instrument I could use to get rid of all the useless and negative bits in my head as well!

Actually, it dawns on me, I can – I only have to replace them continually with positive bits!

By Christa

Writing about ordinary things that inspire me ...

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