In the middle of my mask there is a tree – specifically the Elm tree in the garden of the house where I grew up in Cambridge. This elm tree is over 200 years old. There used to many of these trees all along the street, but a disease came along that killed almost all of them, except for the one in my yard. It is a survivor.

In America, we are no longer an agrarian society. Most people do not grow crops, as in Kenya, but we might have gardens with flowers and plants and trees. We also move around a lot, so our families often do not have the same connection to and continuity with the land anymore. I am the third generation of my family to live in the house with the elm tree, which feels different from many Americans.

I have traveled and lived in many places in America – there are the orange and pink colors of California and the west coast and the green mountains of Vermont in the background of the mask. The elm tree sits in the middle. Its branches reach up from the thinking forehead ready for new growth while the roots grow down like wise anchors. That survivor tree serves as an origin point from which to measure all life’s travels and a touchstone to remind me where I am from.

Clementine Knight

Einstein MSII