“Do you want to take this with you?” the esthetician offers.
I pause mid-shuffle, and look down at her outstretched hand. “Whatever would I do with a plaster-cast-like impression of my face?” I wonder, never imagining The Mask will end up starring in a homemade micro version of a horror movie trailer.
“Sure, why not?” I reply aloud.
She of the double-barreled-French-name-I-no-longer-recall surrenders The Mask to me and slides into step at my side. One hand on the small of my back, she ushers me out of the dimly lit room into an equally dimly lit corridor. I marvel (as I always do) at the dysfunctionality of the paper slippers in which I scrape through the spa’s inner maze, the unexpected souvenir clutched somewhat self-consciously in my right hand, the left holding my kimono closed.
“What,” I ask myself again, “am I going to do with this?” I feel a little silly carrying it through the lobby and up the stairs to my room.
The Mask is the hardened result of a “rejuvenating” facial comprising (in part) several layers of potion-soaked gauze strips crisscrossed over my aging visage.
Blind, Mute, & Contained
The “bandages” cover my mouth and eyes, leaving only a blowhole at the nose through which I’m able to breathe. I don’t know – as I lay there speechless, sightless and slightly claustrophobic – the gelatinous goop will solidify into a mummy-like replica of my face. But it does. And thus begins a foray into my own private Fellini land.
Surprisingly (or perhaps not given my penchant for quirky creativity), it only takes a few hours for me to find a use for The Mask: as a prop in a slightly tipsy decision-making plea to AmazingWomenRock Facebook fans. As it turns out, this modest debut will become a steppingstone to potential YouTube stardom. (Tongue firmly planted in cheek.)
When my self-organized spa retreat ends, I cart The Mask back to Pinkie Patti’s where it collects dust on top of a dresser in my bedroom. Until two weeks ago. For no particular reason, I move it one morning to the antique highchair that stands adjacent to the dresser. And, again for no particular reason, I photograph it sitting there, looking a bit forlorn.
Last week, I realize (hopefully not too late) that I need help dealing with all the shit (literal, proverbial, and psychological) surrounding my caregiving role with Pinkie Patti. So I do what any soon-to-be-insane sane person would: I track (on the Internet of course) down my therapist of 25 years ago.
YES!!! Shannon (that’s her gorgeous name, the one I renamed myself for about two weeks in university, before switching back to Susan) still practices, and EVEN BETTER, she has time to counsel me via Skype (she’s in western Canada, I’m in the East; thank you universe for modern technology!)
Anyone who has ever been “in therapy” knows it causes the smallest cracks to become Grand Canyons into which one must bravely base jump. It is (at least in my experience) immediately painful and distressing, then profoundly healing, de-stressing and liberating (phew!).
In the soul-wrenching aftermath of my first session with Shannon, I decide (among other things which I may later share) to re-photograph The Mask, but this time suspended within the confines of the highchair instead of sitting in it.
The setup requires 1) a trip to Canadian Tire for transparent fishing line, 2) a reachable tree limb from which to hang The Mask, and 3) a calm day. Easy peasy double squeezy it’s done! Almost. My intention is to snap a couple of pics for posterity, and leave it at that.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on what you think of the result below (beautiful, creepy or, as my friend Jennifer Marriott describes it: “creepiful’), the gentlest of breezes blows through the treeses on the afternoon of my photo shoot.
Being lighter than it looks, The Mask responds to the wind with tiny twists. The twists prompt me in turn to click madly at the supposed-to-be-still life as I try to capture it at just the right angle. Before I know it I have dozens, nay, scores of images from which to choose. But then I can’t. Choose I mean. That’s when the idea of an iMovie montage occurs to me….
Hickory Dickory Dock
The images get uploaded and laid out lickety-split, but what about sound?
Hmmmmm. Let me see. Somehow music doesn’t seem right…. Tic tock tic tock tic tock, Pinkie Patti’s antique kitchen clock is relentless as I consider potential solutions. Hey. Wait a minute (pun definitely intended)! The eternal ticking is perfect. I speed it up in places with Audacity, add a few effects and voila: a work of video art is born!
I use the term “work of art” in the widest possible sense.
To be honest, I don’t really like The Mask: 1 once it’s done, even though it’s my own creation. (Or is it? Do the fruits of creativity belong to the creator? Or are they the inevitable progeny of the creative process? A theme beautifully explored by Liz in this provocative TED talk, and one perhaps worth exploring further in the future.)
On the plus side, in addition to the creepiful clip, I’ve walked away from the process with a handful gems worth remembering:
- Accepting unusual gifts from complete strangers can be a good thing
- Almost anything can catalyze creativity
- Once initiated, the creative process takes on a life of its own
- Even the mundane has a surreal side
- Combining ordinary things may produce extraordinary results
- Obstacles are often opportunities in disguise
- Disabling some senses may enable others
- The subconscious manifests whether we like it or not
- A gentle breeze makes a big difference
- Creativity is a window to the soul
Gee. Maybe it wasn’t such a waste of time after all. And after the third or fourth view, well, it kinda’ grows on ya.’ Don’t you think?
Right. Maybe not LOL 😛