What is Your Relationship to Masks?

Throughout my childhood, my father was a ship captain in the Merchant Marines. He sailed the world and brought home many fascinating items, one of which was a carved wooden mask about three feet tall.

Masks, pandemic, 2020, identity, transition coaching

Its image is so deeply etched into my memories that I feel certain I could, even now, some 50 years later, draw a life size replica capturing all the fine details. I remember running my young hands

over the rich dark wood and wondering who could have created this art, and why? On a technical level, I marveled at how the mask was formed given the incorporation of the grain of the unknown wood into the elements that comprised the design of the mask.

It was masterful and mysterious.

When I grew slightly older, I was delighted as a student in art class, to be given instructions on how to make a mask by layering gauze dipped in liquid Plaster Of Paris across my face. While I desperately wanted to fashion a mask of my own making, I was reticent to engage in the process required to achieve a haunting replica of myself. You see, even then I was a bit claustrophobic.

Would I be able to breathe with the straws in my nose as my assigned peer smoothed the wet gauze over my face? I remember the sheer panic. Could I trust them to keep me alive during the process? Could I quickly rip the half finished creation off my face if I thought it vital to my welfare?

I clearly remember the conflict of emotion as I weighed the dream of creating my own mask like the unknown masters from another continent against the potential for physical peril. It turned out, like so many things in life, that it was not worth the angst. I made the mask and painted it and felt so disappointed upon completion. The mask from Africa breathed vitality and deep emotion and my dinky effort paled in comparison and complexity.

Masks, pandemic, 2020, identity, transition coaching

I have over the years remained fascinated by masks. I have studied art history and learned that humans were wearing masks as early as the Stone Age.