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?”


Ninety percent of what’s wrong with you
    could be cured with a hot bath,
says God through the manhole covers,
    but you want magic, to win
the lottery you never bought a ticket for.

I thought of this poem by Mary Karr (who also wrote Liars Club) last night after taking a bath and immediately getting sick. A combination of blood pressure issues and asthma cause nausea every time I get out of a hot bath. I therefore take very few baths, but last night I was tempted by that tall tub with 9 jets that I got Bernie for his birthday months after we moved here. He used it morning after morning, usually around 4 or 5 o’clock, and credited his daily hot Jacuzzi bath with saving his arthritic knees, and saving Medicare money for knee-replacement surgery. All this stopped with his stroke because he simply can’t get into a tub anymore.

I was fine in the tub, but when I got out the room spun around. It was the worst it had been, barely managed to get a towel around me and sat down on the toilet bowl, hoping the room will stabilize, I will stabilize, breath will come back, and I’d get strong enough to get on my legs, walk to the bedroom, and collapse in bed.

This happened after 10 minutes, and I knew that this would probably be my last bath in that wonderful tub. Bernie is no longer able to get in, and now neither can I, for different reasons. I could almost hear Aussie saying: Leave it!

The voice never
    panders, offers no five-year plan,
no long-term solution, no edicts from a cloudy
    white beard hooked over ears.
It is small and fond and local.

That’s God’s voice Karr is talking about. The God that doesn’t talk about ultimate things, some grand panacea for the ills of being human and mortal. Once I thought I’d like to meet that God. Once I thought that at the end of this retreat or this workshop, I will finally know the five-year plan. I mean, if you can’t end suffering once and for all, why sit?

Instead, the poet says, things are small and fond and local. Sometimes love is too big a word, so I am getting fond of fond. A small tug-of-war over a branch with Aussie in the back yard. The mushroom soup we’re making from large porcini mushrooms given us by Leeann-Rhymes-With-Aussie. Very local.

Today I will walk on the Montague Plains with Aussie and my friend, Mary Rose, of whom I blogged a few years ago. Now there’s a hero for you, a mother whose daughter disappeared, who suspected her son-in-law, Felix Vail, of killing her, and went on a 20-year campaign of tracking down other victims, other families, and finally putting enough evidence together to put him behind bars.

Articles and TV interviews were written about Mary. We met when I helped out at the Stone Soup Café, which serves fabulous lunches to the Greenfield community. She was the tall, stately volunteer coordinator, pointing a homeless man to this table, pulling more chairs over there, reminding folks of seconds and also food to take home. So gracious and attentive, no one would have guessed at the shadow she lived with day in, day out, of her only child dying.

There are big people out there. I am not one of them. Nor am I looking anymore for grand pronouncements or prescriptions, for some voice from heaven that ends vulnerability once and for all. The great voices I do know and trust are those murmuring How was your night? Did you sleep well? We’re going to Turners Falls to the Shea Theater, do you want to come? I can come walk Aussie if you’re busy and you don’t have to pay me, I just like walking that dog, and Here are some big porcini mushrooms for you. The voices that sign up to have dinner with Bernie on the days I’m gone. Small, fond, local voices that help dig out the dahlia bulbs because the dahlias have finally given up the ghost for this season.

Don’t look for
    your initials in the geese honking
overhead or to see through the glass even
    darkly. It says the most obvious shit,
i.e. Put down that gun, you need a sandwich.


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.”


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)


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.”