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2020: The Year of the Mask

Split Rock Sweet Water Prayer Camp

September 2020

The Split Rock Sweet Water prayer camp was built in 2016 on the banks of the Ramapo River in Mahwah NJ by the Ramapough Lenape Nation. The camp was built to protest the construction of the proposed Pilgrim Oil Pipeline that is slated to run through the Ramapough's land. It was conceived in solidarity with the the Sioux who were busy with their own pipeline protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline running through sacred Sioux land in both North and South Dakota. Both of these battles would pit large US oil companies against the Native American Indians. From history we know all too well how these fights usually turn out: not good for the Indians. The Sioux's last victory against the encroachment of the US government was almost 150 years ago at the Battle of Little Bighorn, better known as Custer's Last Stand. And although the Sioux won that battle, they eventually lost the war. 

Masks are traditionally full of symbolic meaning. The Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 introduced new symbolic meaning to the wearing of a mask, this time in the form of political ideology. The mask seen here represents the spirit Mesingw, the Lenape "Masked Being", a powerful and sacred medicine spirit who maintains the balance of nature. This spirit will appear to Lenape men in dreams when man is not living in harmony with nature.  It is believed that Mesingw had once petitioned the Creator to halt the creation of man because of fear over his destructive nature. It seems Mesingw's prayers were never answered, as we humans continue on our destructive path against the land, nature, and other living creatures. The Covid-19 virus spread to humans though the continued disharmonies of man's interactions with the natural world (slaughtering wild animals in a public "wet market" is probably not a good idea). Nature has many weapons, the most dangerous of which may be the ones too small for us to see: such as a tiny microbe that can wipe out millions. Man will undoubtedly continue in his battle to bend nature to his will, and he is likely to win many of those battles; but just like the Sioux, he may eventually lose the war.

For the Fallen

May 2020

The tradition of the Battlefield cross dates back to the Civil War and has evolved over time. Variations of this memorial were a common sight on battlefields from World War I through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This sculpture resides at a small Veterans Memorial Park in what could be defined as “Main St, Any Small Town, USA” (actually Main St, Ramsey NJ). The park consists of several humble war memorials in remembrance of the town’s fallen dating back from WWI to the present. The solemn respect we pay in tribute to those who died in war on Memorial Day seems all the more somber this year as we wage a different kind of battle against the unseen enemy of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Cabbage Key

March 2020

Old Florida. That is how they refer to Cabbage Key, a small island off the west coast of Florida. It is shielded from the Gulf of Mexico by a small strip of barrier islands, but more interestingly it appears shielded as well from the typical tourist trade of Disney, Miami Beach and the rest of the attractions Florida is known for. This was my second sailing trip to this area and I've found this island to be one of my favorite spots. There’s not much here except for a small Inn and restaurant and some private docks that can be rented for overnight stays. It is rumored that Jimmy Buffet’s hit song “Cheeseburger in Paradise” was inspired here, and I can see why. The image here looks somewhat ominous, but it was really a beautiful pre-dawn walk that took me past one of the last remaining water towers in the area. I was here in mid-March just days prior to the Covid-19 lockdown, sailing blissfully through the Pine Island Sound unaware of what awaited me when I returned to the mainland. I was lucky to catch my flight back home before things turned really bad. But looking back at it now, if I had to be quarantined on Cabbage Key I probably wouldn’t have complained. Sailing provides an escape, a means of getting off the grid, a sense of freedom from the daily stresses of life. Little did I know my voluntary exile would turn mandatory: and now I long to get back on the grid. I guess I should be careful what I ask for.

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