When we caught up last year with Source mascot Idle, the prognosticating reptile that has graced the Source every year with his wishes and warnings, he seemed to be showing his age.
Naturally, since 2020 has been a very hard year on humans, we crossed our fingers and hoped we would be able to locate our friend as we entered 2021. So, when he popped right out of his usual spot on our first call, looking half his age, we were delighted while a bit baffled.
“Wow, Idle, you look, like 10 years younger,” we couldn’t help but note. We secretly wondered if the mask was hiding some undetectable sins.
“You change your diet or something?” We couldn’t imagine iguana facelifts.
“How much better could my diet be, I am a vegetarian,” he said. “No, I feel like a new lizard now that I can breathe again,” he said, audible through the mask he was wearing.
Breathe again? “But you’re wearing a mask.”
“The mask is nothing compared to how I used to choke on the fumes emanating from all those massive belching bedrooms anchored in the harbor. And since they are gone, so is the parade of fumes-expelling vehicles shuttling the passengers disembarking from those sulfur dioxide-coughing behemoths from place to place.”
Talking through the fabric didn’t seem to slow him down one bit. “The worst thing though, the thing that really baffles me now is why people who live here – even or maybe especially cops – still sit in their empty cars going nowhere with the engine running. Even I know that carbon dioxide emissions are deadly to us whether the cars are moving or not – and I am a lizard for God’s sake.”
We thought we could hear him suck his teeth through the two layers of cloth.
Idle has always been a particularly smart lizard.
So, after a bit more Idle chatter, we did what we had come to do. We asked what he wished for in the coming year and for his lizardly wisdom on how to get there.
“Okay, so last year I lamented the garbage blowing all over the place, including the plastic bags that someone told me were illegal, but I guess that wasn’t true judging by what I see wafting along the roadways and clinging to my trees,” he said. “Anyway, what I didn’t notice then was there was no place for people to actually throw their garbage, except on the ground. Maybe a few trash cans at the beaches and public spaces would help folks do the right thing.”
We calculated the costs in our head while awaiting further reptile rumblings. Doesn’t seem like a major expenditure; a few garbage cans and someone to empty them.
A still silent Idle looked out from the branch he had climbed up to. He sighed. “It’s easy to wish for things,” he mused, pausing again for an even longer time.
“Fixing pot holes; stop signs at crucial and dangerous intersections, like Peter’s Rest and Route 62 East – or that motorists would stop at the ones that already exist.” Idle paused again.
“Hey, I have an idea…how about if those police officers who sit idling (no pun intended) in their emissions-spewing cars at least spewed at those intersections where the red octagonal signs that say STOP are routinely ignored? They could issue tickets… a lot of tickets, while saving lizard lives. We could also use the gobs of money collected to….”
Our friend closes his eyes. Was he asleep, daydreaming, or prophesying?
“I see ADA compliant public spaces, bathroom facilities for homeless people, mental health services for those same people and anyone else who needs help. I see humans caring about the environment and learning about and acting on climate change. Yeah, I can see it: environmentally sound development, elected officials who care more about the community than campaigning, fiscal responsibility by those who have been elected, teachers who act as educators instead of jailers, mentors who care for those children whose parents can’t or won’t, a safety net for all our community members, meaningful reduction in senseless killings instead of pointless rhetoric.” With that he turned and looked us in the eye.
We were impressed. “Wow, Idle, that’s quite a vision.”
He climbed a little higher into the seagrape tree. “It’s easy to have idle wishes,” he said, much of his earlier energy waning, “just like it’s easy to expect someone else, or an amorphous institution — like the government — to make it all happen.” He stopped and looked down. “What is government anyway,” he asked, appearing to be genuinely bewildered.
We waited to see if the question was rhetorical.
No sound but the waves washing the shoreline, a whoosh of palm fronds in the breeze.
“From up here, I can tell you,” Idle finally said, “There’s nothing happening. I can assure you, none of these wishes will be implemented from the top down.”
We were worried that our dear, discerning friend was once again giving up hope.
“But down there, where you guys are, people are really doing something.”
We waited to hear more, wondering what he thinks we are doing.
“Black Lives Matter, the election of a new president, community organizations coming together with one voice, people fighting back against politicization of public spaces, creativity, mutual aid societies coming alive…that’s where it’s all happening – from the ground up. There’s much to hope for.” (As opposed to wishing, we assumed) But we asked anyway.
“How do you know?”
“History. Remember something, we were here long before you were. The stories of your survival have been passed down among us for, well, a long time.”
Idle fell silent as he started down the tree.
He disappeared a few times, but we could hear him crashing through the greenery. Not the most graceful of creatures. Finally, he stuck his head out again from the bush below the tree.
“I hate to leave on a sour note, but I also have to say, the stories of five extinctions were also passed down. A whole group of our distant relatives were wiped out completely before yours even showed up.
“But I am a lizard, you know – fight, flight or freeze. You are the ones with the big brains; you can make it through if you are willing to cooperate; you know, work together – put service and integrity above self interest and greed.”
“Idle, that seems pretty simple,” we smirked just a little.
He whipped his tail sharply as he turned to leave.
“Then, I suggest you try it,” he snapped, disappearing back into the underbrush.
Just as we had given up on seeing Idle for another year, he emerged once again.
“I have one more wish,” he said, head materializing from the bush once more.
“I wish I could hug you, but I never really was able, what with my spikes, short legs and all. But even more, I wish you could hug each other.”
“Be patient; soon come.”