Meditations on Mask Making

I confess.  I was a slow adopter of the practice.  The mask making practice, that is.  When our local hospital first put out the call for cloth masks, it was as back-up.  While others jumped into action, I stalled. I made a couple out of guilt, but mostly worried that as back-up they’d just end up in the trash.  This was early on in the pandemic when I still expected the government, as flawed as it is, to martial the dedication and ingenuity of our people and country to meet the challenge more effectively.  Clearly, I had more optimism than was warranted.

At some point in this deadly game, it became clear that asymptomatic folks could unwittingly infect others and that wearing a mask could protect others from that infection.  Given that, I was surprised that it took so long for the CDC to issue the recommendation that we all wear masks.  But once issued, I set to work and was an avid adopter of this grim task.  And it is a truly grim task.  I simply can find no joy in it.  I try to focus on the level of comfort and safety it will give the wearer and those around them and the relief that has been expressed to me by recipients for having them.  It fails to be up-lifting.  I hear the childrens’ squeals of delight as they receive their personal masks in the color of their choice, but it does not bring a smile to my face, just a hollowness to my stomach.  “How many masks have you made?”, someone asks.  I have no idea.  I refuse to count.  There would be no satisfaction in a number.

Cloth Masks all in a Row

Each mask is 6 pieces + 2 pieces of wire for the bridge of the nose + 2 elastics + 2 layers for an insert for added protection.  You can do the math.  I do more cutting than sewing.

As near as I can figure (aka, I don’t really know) the virus dies at 160 F.  A hot water washing machine cycle is about 135 F.  So is the dryer.  A steam iron on its hottest setting is around 430 F.  Soap further breaks down the virus’ outer layer.  Air movement dries it out, further disabling it.  Four hours in the sun on a breezy day is a nice earth-friendly way for the virus to meet its demise.  I really wish we didn’t need to know these things. Seeing our masks hanging outside our front door just makes me feel marked.  Or wishful as if that signal alone could convince the virus to pass over our home.

Thankfully, where I am the season is changing.  The weather is warming.  The sun is a more regular companion.  Putting in the garden, remarking the bees, and watching the fledglings are all uplifting reminders that while everything has changed, nothing really has.  I’m grateful for the balance with the more maudlin tasks that make up my days.

Bee in the Apple Blossoms


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