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?”

WE ARE SUMUD, or IF YOU IMAGINE IT, IT WILL BE

Photo by Ahmad Bazz/Activestills.org; with permission.

When I met with Sami Awad, head of Bethlehem’s Holy Land Trust, last week he told me that just two days after I was leaving Israel a group of Palestinians, internationals, and Israelis would go to Sarura, a Palestinian village taken over by the Israeli army for military use, its families exiled, that they would put up tents, hook up generators, and create a peace camp to teach about shared values of nonviolence, the rights of people to self-determination and to land and water. The peace camp would be called Sumud, which in Arabic means steadfastness.

It sounds a little like Standing Rock, I said.

Yes, it is like that, he replied, and we both contemplated Standing Rock, the spontaneous gathering of people from so many tribes, the willingness of Anglos from around the world to support them, the checkpoints and guards, the brutal winter, and President Trump’s flourish of the pen to finish the pipeline. But Standing Rock has not ended. It continues in its path to some kind of immortality, as symbol, as myth.

Which is probably why Saturday night, just 24 hours after a group of some 70 (including many American Jews) settled in, did Muslim prayers followed by Jewish Sabbath prayers, the army came in and destroyed the first Sumud camp. They didn’t kill, wound, or arrest anyone, just came into a peace camp with guns, sticks, and helmets, threw a few punches, leveled the makeshift structures and took away the one generator. And as they did that the people said they’ll remain, rebuild, do it again. And again. And again.

What causes perfectly normal people to fly halfway around the world to go to a barren hillside in the heat of summer, put up tents, connect a generator, brave the heat and mosquitoes, and call themselves a peace camp, against major odds that they’ll get torn down very quickly? And then promise they’ll do it again? Are they crazy? Don’t they have something more practical and fruitful to do with their time? How is a small encampment of tents going to upset the enormous machinery of occupation? Who’s even paying attention on the eve of Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle East?

They may be crazy, but they also use their imagination. Sumud, like so many other acts of heartful resistance, begins as an act of the imagination. Someone dares imagine that force, occupation, discrimination, poverty, and violence can end. Someone dares imagine making a stand somewhere—in the freezing steppes of North Dakota, on a segregated city bus down South, aboard a British ship in Boston harbor to throw out caskets of tea, on the grounds of a decimated village on a stony hillside in the Hebron hills.

And here are more private acts of imagination that, in some form or other, you have taken: waking up one day to the chirping of a whippoorwill and knowing this is your last day of mind-numbing, heart-numbing work in the office though you have no idea how you’ll support the family; looking out at hills in the distance and deciding to end a marriage, notwithstanding deep fear of loneliness and poverty; holding an acorn in the palm of one’s hand, a symbol for dreams of love, and burying it in the ground.

These acts of imagination enlist the aid of the sacred furniture of life—the bird, the hills, the acorn, a razed village—which, when seen to their essence, take us beyond ourselves and our parameters of logic, help us shoot for the moon, renew the perpetual revolution. Guns, water cannons, sticks and helmets may seem to win in the short run, but over time they can’t compete with water in the Dakotas, a bus seat in Montgomery, a handful of sand in India, or a parched hillside in Palestine.

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.”