While still dark, the Garbage to Garden driver arrives in front of our house; the truck’s rattling wakes me up. Quietly, very quietly, the driver disposes of our sodden, green-plastic bag of compost and leaves a neatly-folded new bag tucked around our compost bucket handle before, slowly and respectfully, pulling away from the curb.
Three-quarters asleep and still under the weight of the existential dread I wake up with these days, I think: “This is why those of us who are warm and cozy and safe in our beds think everything’s okay. We tell ourselves that climate disruption isn’t happening because: look! We’re doing our part and, look! How smoothly, how gracefully that swap-out just happened! Seamless! Efficient! All is well.”
But it isn’t.
Three-quarters asleep I was reminded of that old, old “New Yorker” cartoon of a NYC garbageman who, I all-these-years-later realize, was probably drawn as a man of color, who stands at the end of a dark, Manhattan alley, grinning maniacally, as he prepares to heave the heavy, metal garbage can he clutches across the alley; another warm and cozy and safe in bed’s [purposely loud, evil] version of another unseen worker’s toil in the dark. And a racist depiction—if I’m remembering correctly—the “New Yorker” would abjure today.
Earlier that evening, I’d talked with friends about visiting the Cape Cod Art Museum’s current exhibit featuring Bob Staake, brilliant, whimsical illustrator, sculptor, children’s book author, et al. And “New Yorker” covers artist. Because they’re friends I could share my overwhelming joy to see Staake’s “New Yorker” cover when Obama had been elected. “I remember how incredibly hopeful I’d felt when I pulled that issue out of my mailbox,” I told them. “And,” I sternly instructed, “I do not want to go there about how I feel about this country now, okay? I just want to remember that moment. That joy, hope, sense of possibility. That’s what art does, right?”
Three-quarters asleep, I again remembered that precious moment. That glowing Lincoln memorial; its quiet, watery reflection; that O of YOrker as moon, as Light, as that Light that has never been overcome by the darkness.
Thank you, Bob Staake.