Two hard things happened after Bernie’s major stroke. The first was coming to grips with the fact that our life won’t be what it was. The second was bearing witness to the things my husband wanted or needed, and that I could not provide. In face of suffering and disappointment, my big challenge is not to react. There are unfulfilled wants and needs, curves no one expected. Cultivating curiosity about what’s around that bend has never been easy for me.” | “I have walked dogs while leaves are falling over many years. Stanley will be 13 shortly and I find myself wondering if this is his last fall, just as I wondered a few months ago if that was his last summer and I will probably ask the same question about winter when we walk on the snow. And I wonder what it would be like one day for both of us to lie down in the woods because we’re tired or our legs hurt, and never get up again.” | “Years ago I took a course on how to raise money. I was told that, when meeting a potential donor, the hardest thing isn’t to ask for a specific donation, the hardest thing is to ask and THEN SHUT UP. I can apply that lesson to the most mundane of circumstances: “How are you?” I ask someone. And now, Eve, shut up and listen.” | “Bernie’s physical therapist doesn’t want Bernie to favor the left leg, which he feels, over the right, which he can’t feel after the stroke: “Don’t stand on the leg you know can hold you,” he tells him. “Stand on the leg you don’t know can hold you.” Let go of what you know, the working limb that gives you confidence, and lean on the other side, the side you don’t trust, that you can barely make out is there.” | “I didn’t grow up on Mother Goose rhymes, I grew up on my mother’s stories of the Shoah and what she had had to do to survive. These were tales of death but also grit and courage, and they’ve influenced me from the time I was a girl.” | “Bernie was about to go out on an errand yesterday when I saw him standing at the door, his funny hat framing a sweet and happy face. I tried to capture the image right there, not a great photo by any means, just a casual, intimate moment that I may go back to years hence to remember how happy we were.” | “Nothing deters Stanley and me from our daily expeditions to the woods, not even shooting and the occasional glimpses of men in hunting gear with guns.” | “I am an immigrant, having come to the US at the age of 7. I remember tiptoeing silently down the hallway back then and listening to my parents talk in their bedroom about money, about how to pay bills and afford schoolbooks and clothes. Often the words they repeated were: What will happen?”

IT GAVE ME EVERYTHING

“How are you, Chavale?” asks my mother on the phone.

“It’s gorgeous outside,” I tell her. It’s so much easier to talk to my 90 year-old mother about the New England fall than about me. The leaves are better–and prettier–at spilling their guts out than I am.

“A treat to the eyes,” my mother says.

“Grace,” I say back.

She makes no reply. I’m not sure how grace translates to an old orthodox Jewish woman.

I’m writing a novel about an 87 year-old woman driving from Florida to California in her much-loved car whom she calls Abe, after Abe Lincoln, to meet up with the love of her life whom she hasn’t seen in 70 years. Abe breaks down in a trailer town in Texas, west of Houston, and there she encounters another woman who has had bad luck with love, only this woman always wears T-shirts with giraffes on them.

“Why do you always wear giraffes?” she asks the Giraffe Lady.

And Giraffe Lady tells her this story, which is my story, too.

“Once I visited a park west of here, a conservation place for animals that have been hurt and wounded. They have antelopes and zebras, wolves and hyenas, ibex and hippos, and even rhinos. Some of the animals roam free, though not the rhinos.

“A guide drove our large van of people and I sat next to him on the passenger side. We rounded the bend and there was an enormous giraffe at the side of the road: white with brown and yellow spots, and the tenderest eyes in creation.

“‘Put your hand out and open your palm,’ the guide instructed me.

“‘I don’t have any food to give,’ I said.

“‘Put out your hand and open your palm,’ said the guide again.

“‘Are you sure it’s safe?’

“But I did as I was told. The giraffe seemed as tall as the clouds, but slowly and elegantly it started to bend its long, long neck. Many seconds seemed to pass till its head came down to my hand. It put out its tongue and licked my open palm, the softest touch I’ve felt anywhere on my body. It licked that empty palm again and again even though there was nothing there except my skin, eyes rimmed black behind long eyelashes, looking at me like they’ve known me my entire life. The oldest look in the world. Then, with great delicacy, the long neck rose again till eventually the head was back in the clouds, and it walked away.

“I gave it nothing. It gave me everything.“

THE DOGS OF THE KISKADEE HILLS

The Dogs of the Kiskadee Hills: Hunt for the Lynx begins a trilogy about a society of dogs after humans have destroyed themselves and much of the world. Living with their families and clans in the Kiskadee Hills, they’ve developed over generations a rich tradition and way of life, and have prospered. But now, an unknown killer is butchering the Kisdees of the Hills.

Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges says: “You will never look at dogs the same again. Eve Marko gives us a story that explores the path that life on our planet has taken, and asks what your role in that course might be.”

BEARING WITNESS

Eve Marko - Bearing Witness

To bear witness to anything is to be as close to it as possible.

It’s not to read books or see movies about it, it’s not to have an opinion or tell a story. It’s to let go of all ideas about it—be in the space of not-knowing—and simply be there, up close and deeply personal.

Eve has been involved with the Zen Peacemaker Order’s Bearing Witness Retreats—in places of suffering and conflict since her first visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

There have been 20 retreats at the site of those concentration camps since, along with retreats in Bosnia, Rwanda and the Black Hills of South Dakota, near the Pine Ridge Reservation.

Upcoming Bearing Witness Retreats:

Bosnia, May 2016 (Please email for details)

ABOUT EVE MARKO

Eve Marko

Eve Marko is a writer of fiction and nonfiction, head teacher at the Green River Zen Center in Massachusetts, and a Founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order.

She has trained spiritually-based social activists and peacemakers in the US, Europe and the Middle East alongside her husband, Bernie Glassman, and has been a Spiritholder at retreats bearing witness to genocide at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Rwanda, the Black Hills in South Dakota, and Bosnia. Before that she worked at the Greyston Mandala for a decade, which provides housing, child care, jobs, and AIDS-related medical services in Yonkers, New York.

Eve’s articles on social activists have appeared in the magazines Tikkun and Shambhala Sun, and her collection for lay Zen practitoners, The Book of Householder Koans, will come out in late 2016. Her great love, Hunt for the Lynx, the first in her fantasy trilogy, The Dogs of the Kiskadee Hills, will come out in early 2016.

“When I was a young girl my dream was to be a hermit, live alone, and write serious literature. That’s not how things turned out. I got involved with people. I got involved in the world.

Two things matter to me right now: the creative spark and the aliveness of personal connection. In some way, they both come down to the same thing.”