I Am Essential
10:45 AM. Metro North? Uh uh. I drive. ICON parking. Gloves, homemade mask around my neck, red polka dots. I take the ticket, walk three blocks to work. A few pedestrians. We nod, acknowledging the war. It’s important to get news on the air. I risk my life, my family’s health, for Lester and Rachel and Stephanie, who all get to work remotely. I don’t. I’m essential. Home, it’s midnight. I stand outside, have a smoke, remove my clothes. They go in the basket marked radioactive. Then shower, pajamas, bourbon, ice. I don’t feel it. I can’t, or I’ll cry.
— Rick Dettwyler (Amawalk, New York)
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My Ninety-one-year-old Mom
My mother is ninety-one years old and completely deaf. When one of her five daughters calls her, she can’t hear the phone ring, even if she’s sitting right next to it. Her fellow assisted living residents must be six feet apart, so she can’t converse with them either. My mother doesn’t email or text, so my older sister bought her a phone that displays our conversations on a screen. Now that her gift of gab has been restored, she can rant about politics, gossip, and give unsolicited advice extravagantly, for which my sisters and I are extraordinarily grateful.
— Gina Caruso (Baltimore, Maryland)
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I stand in front of our old refrigerator. The door is open, and I’m aware that whatever cold air was left is now leaking out. Still, I can’t help but stare. The previously empty shelves are weighted down with almond milk and wine and tortillas. These days, with two adult children home, we are suddenly a family of four. Steve tries not to shop too often and yesterday found a stocked grocery store. I have asthma and am grateful he shops. But our refrigerator feels as if it’s gasping for air. Once again, I think, please don’t die.
— Suzanne Greenberg (Long Beach, California)
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In my most recent work, Wanderings, I include a broad range of photographic approaches, including digital capture and output, photo-encaustic on paper, and historical processes such as wet plate collodion. Wanderings began in 2015 as an investigation into place and family, and now amidst the COVID lockdown, I have found myself and my daughter isolated for days on end with nowhere to go but to walk on our six acres. In this space, new worlds have been created, ideas fostered, and photographic collaboration between mother and child has developed.
— Brooke C. White (Oxford, Mississippi)
This series is edited by Thomas Peterson. One of the editors of Artists & Climate Change, he is also a theatre director and researcher whose work focuses on the climate crisis.