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?”

A LOCKED UP HOME

My mother, Shoshana Brayer, and her granddaughter, Yardena Bar-Eden Allon

The doves don’t give up.

I sit in the sunny living room of my sister’s apartment in Jerusalem. I flew in here several days ago on account of my mother’s decline.

It’s late morning on Saturday, the Sabbath. There is less street noise, less car noise, mostly the talk of people walking back and forth from the synagogue. Jerusalem, ordinarily a very noisy city, is more quiet today.

But the doves don’t seem to know about Sabbath of any kind, not Muslim (Friday), Jewish (Saturday), or Christian (Sunday). They have long perched on the narrow column of ledges, 4 stories tall, that is on the inside of my sister’s building. The ledges were safe havens for them, inaccessible to humans or Jerusalem’s dangerous predators, cats, a good place to raise a family. But they left terrible messes in the garden and paths below, and finally the building’s human denizens sealed up their homes.

Every morning I hear them flying down, fluttering their heavy wings, eager to settle back on the ledges that were wide and safe enough for nesting, only to find them shut off by a gray tin siding. In vain they flutter and flutter even now, as I write this, against the tin blockage, bewildered and confused, always coming back, a little like Jews wishing to return from the diaspora, carrying their history and dreams with them.

How many generations have perched here, flying in for refuge from rain and wind, raising young, using it to launch them out into the world? In vain they cluck and flutter their wings. Home is cut off, sealed, done with.

I have never called Jerusalem home. I don’t have a geographical home, not even in Montague, Massachusetts, where I live. I lack that sense of rootedness anywhere. But whenever I return to where my parents—and now my mother—reside, there’s a sense of contact with previous generations and ancestors, with a long and deep karma that goes beyond parents, country, and tradition.

You don’t own me, I used to say silently on these trip to see my parents. You don’t control me. You don’t control my voice. I would sit and witness them, listen and observe. I had learned to do that at a very early age. At a time when young children whooped and hollered, I learned to be silent and listen.

Much, much later, and far away from them, that silence exploded into words and outbursts of feelings, scratches that effortlessly filled page after page. The silence would come back only when I returned to Jerusalem.

But now my mother, too, is silent. Full of heroic stories of struggle and survival, still dreaming of a movie to be made of her life, she nevertheless has become quiet. Sometimes, she admitted to me slowly the other day, my mind gets fogged up, and then it clears, and then it gets fogged up again.

Last night she didn’t come for dinner. It was Friday night, the sacred night of the Sabbath when for generations the family always came together. That was the plan this time, too. We gathered in my brother’s home: he and his girlfriend, my sister and brother-in-law and their friend, and myself, and we waited for her to come. Instead the message arrived from Swapna, her Indian caregiver: Mother is not coming. Not doing the 10-minute walk to her son’s home, not doing the wheelchair, not even 3 minutes in a car.

I went to see her, expecting to find her as I have almost every day this visit, in her pajamas. Instead she’d gotten dressed, she even had her hat on. But she sat at the table by the entrance when I arrived and said: I have no strength.

I returned and joined the others in the living room, looking at each other thoughtfully before sitting down to dinner. Ancestorless.

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.”