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?”

STAY OUT

Honor the Treaties

Stay Out

Apologies Are Useless

Those words were chalked on the crosswalk we crossed before climbing the hill that leads to the mass grave of the Bigfoot Band, killed in Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1890.

How do you stay out?

Maybe through ignorance, or oblivion, looking neither right nor left only straight ahead, maybe even watching lots of TV. On a recent visit to Israel I asked my sister how so many Israelis could be so oblivious to what is going on in Palestinians’ lives day after day, and she answered: “They can’t deal with the cognitive dissonance.”

We want to be good people, we try to be good people. Maybe it was once an evolutionary mechanism to help us survive, to ignore so many of the contradictions in our lives in order to go on, raise our children, go to church, meditate, go about our day calmly.

Showing up at Wounded Knee, and especially bearing witness to testimony and ceremony by descendants of survivors of Wounded Knee, basically means you’re bearing witness to betrayal. And it’s your people who’ve done the betraying.

It doesn’t matter that no one from your family was anywhere near Wounded Knee in 1890. We are members of a society that enriched itself by stealing land from Native Americans and making slaves out of African-Americans, and our culture tops the denial by vapidly admiring rugged individualism and independence, as if everything we have comes from our individual work and achievement.

At the top of the hill we witnessed a ceremony by the descendants of the survivors of Wounded Knee, though for every survivor there were relatives that had been killed there. Some spoke in Lakota, which was good and bad. Good in that the Lakota language is still being spoken (If we lose our language our culture is lost, we heard so often these days), and bad in that I didn’t understand what they were saying except for catching the curious names of those who died: Ghost Horse, Wolf Eagle, Shoots the Bear, Pretty Enemy.

And sometimes we were lucky and heard stories in English, which invariably began this way: “My grandmother told me that her grandmother ran away down to the creek and hid there,” or “My grandfather told me that his grandfather . . .”

They were generous to a fault with us, allowing us to enter that enclosure with them, stand under a 90-degree sun, hear mourning songs and survivors’ songs, listen to the drumbeat. They gave us tobacco to offer the dead.

Down below was written: Stay out. Only I can’t. If I must—because of well-earned suspicion and distrust—then I’ll get as close as possible to the words Stay out, and then withdraw with respect. Always with respect. I will do this again and again and again, withdrawing with respect every time, so that one day one day, not necessarily in my lifetime, I won’t be told to stay out anymore.

But this didn’t happen here. We were invited in, we were permitted to witness their grief. It was a great privilege.

In the end we were also invited to shake hands with all the descendants, which we proceeded to do. A little girl was there who had taken active part in the ceremony, and when I shook hands with her I could feel something in her palm transferred to my palm, and she said quietly to me, “This is for good luck.” It was a small cluster of sage.

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.”