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?”

One Into Two

With Sami Awad in Palestine

We had our first snow of the season, and I bet it was Dixie Aussie’s first snow of her life, coming as she has from somewhere south of Houston, Texas. She peered out at it, baffled, but after I called to her she charged out, running while looking down at her paws in surprise. I shoveled and sprayed her with snow, tossed snowballs at her till her black back turned white, and voila! Transformation complete. She became a New England dog.

I wish it were this easy with humans.

Countless times Bernie told me that his teacher, Maezumi Roshi, said that the strongest, greatest teachings are the last ones, those given in death.

Right now I am so full of the man it’s hard to explain. He’s everywhere.

I don’t mean in the house, surrounded by photos of wearing a red nose and blowing bubbles at refugee children in Chiapas, or sitting in a large circle on the steps of the Capitol in the deep snow of January 1994 to clarify his next, post-Greyston steps (create the Zen Peacemaker Order!), or even the magnificent photo of him in black-and-ochre robes in a Japanese cemetery, following the Kurodas down the path alongside Peter Matthiessen.

The photographer Peter Cunningham took all those photos over a period of close to 40 years. “I told Bernie, ‘One more adventure,’” Peter said in the crematorium. “’We have to have one more adventure.’ So he gave me one more adventure.”

But no, it’s not those photos or the gorgeous Buddhist art he received as gifts over the years that fill me. It’s the sensation of him inside that’s so strong, that we’re both eating hot soup or petting Aussie and even breathing. I’m gone and it’s just us. It’s hard for me to even experience him as the man who died while I stayed behind and am now in grief. There is that part, too, but what I’m much more aware of is how much he fills me.

A friend who lost his wife over four years ago told me: “Your koan is, how does the one become two?”

The two were one for a long time. Did they fight? Sure. Did they argue? Naturally. Did they see eye-to-eye? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But they were one. They did the getting-up dance day after day, the breakfast dance, the you-want-coffee? dance. Even the you-do-this-I-do-that times, the you-travel-here-I-stay-home occasions, those were the one dancing. Yes, even the Why-do-you-always-talk-about-that? times and the You-never-really-listen-to-me times, those were all dances, too, danced by a couple, danced by one.

Only now the one becomes two, and I can’t fathom it.

People call and talk of the freedom that’s promised now. The freedom to travel, to go out whenever I feel like, eat what I want, see whom I want, not have to coordinate anything or wait for the right time when he’s tired and up in bed, not have to nail down coverage. The freedom to be me.

That ain’t now. Now is when I walk heavily around the empty house, feeling like I copy Bernie’s ponderous walk after his stroke. Now is when I eat tentatively, as Bernie had after his stroke, and get tired after 3, just like him.

The one resists breaking down with all its might.

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.”