Removing the Mask and the “Blindfolds”

“In the Southwest, [Wild Woman] is also known as La Que Sabé, The One Who Knows. I first heard of La Que Sabé when I lived in the Sangre de Cristo mountains in New Mexico, under the heart of Lobo Peak.”

“An old witch from Ranchos told me that La Que Sabé had created women from a wrinkle on the sole of her divine feet. This is why women are knowing creatures; they are made, in essence, of skin of the sole, which feels everything.”

“This idea that the skin of the foot is sentient had the ring of truth, for an acculturated Kiché tribeswoman once told me that she’d worn her first pair of shoes when she was twenty years old and was still not used to walking con los ojos vendados, with blindfolds on her feet.”

—Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D.

As our small group of three adults and one child walked the nature trail in Camarillo a few days ago, a man mentioned to one person in our group as he passed us, “Thank you for wearing your mask.”

I didn’t hear his comment because his voice was obscured with his mask, and because he directed the comment to the one person in our group who was wearing a mask at the time when he passed us.

In the moment, I was irritated to understand the totality of his sentiment.

It was irritating because he said something other than hello.

What need is there for a greeting other than hello when you’re taking a nature walk? We were not there to deeply interact with strangers, right? I thought that was the point of social distancing…but then again, who am I to ask that question anyway?

It left me to ponder all the different reasons we wear masks, shoes, or even sunglasses. We convince ourselves we’re protecting others. We convince others that we’re protecting ourselves. I don’t know if we really know what we’re doing, at all.

But later, when I read the passage above about how shoes serve as blindfolds for our feet, I thought back to the nature walk and I started to ask myself, “Why did I want to feel the bottom of the stream with the soles of my feet? Why did I want to feel it unprotected, so to say?”

I realized that I simply wanted to discover something. I didn’t know what. When I emerged from the stream, I was delighted to learn it was easier to walk on the larger stones than the smaller stones. The smaller stones were a little too sharp. It was TMI, too much information, for my delicate feet to process.

Just like the unnecessary words from the man on the path, nothing was improved by his communication to us. I understood the words and the entire context he shared them in. He may not know it, but for him it was wasted breath. If he had a “larger stone” to share, I might have been receptive. But his “sharp little rock” of a comment was useless.

How often do we protect ourselves from attitudes or information that we don’t want to hear or aren’t ready to hear? And how often do we stop to think that we could get by saying so much less to one another, or say nothing at all?

The next time someone thanks me for wearing my mask, I won’t even say hello. I will simply wave.

Perhaps the best thing is to keep my mouth shut. Or is it? I guess it depends on the context. Words are rarely just words.

Sometimes they mean something. Sometimes they have value. Sometimes.