Robin's egg blue


The only thing in nature, in the Grand River watershed, where we reside, that has that particular colour is a robin’s egg. Our human eyes don’t know that colour well. They don’t have to know much in that end of the colour spectrum. Our human eyes are trained, to see green, and to know green, all shades of green, innately. It is where stone-age survival mostly happened, and that power still pulses in us, as instinct, the power to see and discern, greens. Not baby blue. In Spring though, after the fluffy awkward robin chicks have fledged, you might have been lucky to spy two blue empty halves of an egg on the emerald grass under a tree.

Look up: there's the nest!

But now, in the Spring of 2021, our eyes spy that shade of robin’s eye blue everywhere: wedged into chain-link fencing, half-buried in pea gravel in a recently re-opened playground, in every ditch, on every sidewalk, rolling like a puny sad kite across Super Store parking lots. Drowned in puddles and rivers, still bright and cheery blue, floating face up or face down. A robin’s eye blue accordion bulging out over the chin and nose of the humans who are walking along that chain link, playing in said pea-gravel, emerging from said Super Store, ripping it off and tossingit out the window, into the ditch, muddied underfoot, eventually washing into the Eramosa river, into the veins of the watershed. 

Boxes of 50

9.99$ at Staples

Soft earstraps

Cellulose inner facing

Class 1 Flame spread


Latex? Fibreglass? Woven threads of something definitely not organic.

Discarded disposable baby blue face masks are now a ubiquitous fact of our everyday world. But not just from the perspective of not spreading the virus through respiration, out our noses and mouths, into our noses and mouths. Not just where to buy them, and then how to get them sitting properly on the front of our lower faces: those masks persist long after we have used them and personally “disposed” of them. Our flâneur research has taught us that, once disposed of, these robin's egg blue medical masks join the family of other objects we encounter in our normal-goings-about-town which provoke disgust, fear and total revulsion: maggots in the bottom of the City Green bins: wriggling gag-scented grains of living rice. A used swollen tampon in a pink puddle on the floor of the public swimming pool bathroom. An ankle-high pile of yellowed cigarette butts on either side of the exit to the Canadian Legion or Red Chevron. A pus-coloured translucent used condom where we parkthe car to walk the dog in the daytime. That time I reached up under the Greyhound bus seat during my night cleaning shift for ONR and sinking all four fingers deep into a Pampers diaper absolutely turgid with some stranger’s child’s diarrhea.

That robin’s egg masks rolling in the Guelph General Hospital parking lot is, among these disgusting objects of our lives, uniquely & complexly abject: sometimes it still bears the profile and moistness of the person who just removed it after coming out of an MRI or bed-side visit. But, not always. Sometimes they are flat, folded, perfectly clean: Mr & Mrs' nobody’s little 6 square inches of baby blue paper lined with who knows what to keep microorganisms out while ensuring comfortable wear, even for 20 minutes.

What makes the experience of that flat clean Nobody’s Mask super interesting and super weird is that our brain reacts to it in the same way it reacts to seeing a rattlesnake up on the Bruce Peninsula or a glowing pure white Amanita virosa (aka “The Destroying Angel”): Steer clear because they just might kill mesays our reptile brain. Little baby-blue kites of death fluttering underfoot. The ones that are working 24-7 to save us. Since April of 2020 we have been collecting those used disposable COVID-19 masks from the urban environment we move through. In our case, mostly The Ward and downtown Guelph. Hundreds and hundreds of them were sitting quietly in brown paper bags in our sideyards. Why did we reach for them, carry them away with us, wherever we were going?

Why did we interrupt our motion, or let that blue interrupt our motion?

Why did we take them home and try to have another relation with them rather than pretending we didn’t see them & speeding away from them? Retrieving a mask fromsingle-use disposed abjection is itself a complex, political, ethical, aesthetic, creative gesture deserving our close, careful and critical (self)-examination. Friends, let's call a spade a spade: We can’t not see them. Do we not owe them? They are also front-line workers. Like garbage, like orange snow fencing, like the Pacific plastic gyre, they are both us and not us. They are trying to tell us something; to show us something about ourselves, about our imaginaries, about complicity and about viruses. What are they saying? We need post-humanist ears to hear it. We need new eyes to see that.


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