Today Alisa, Bernie’s daughter, took me to visit the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington, D.C.. “The lotuses are in bloom,” she said, “let’s go see them.” It was a warm, dry day and we took some precious private time to walk together and talk.

There were seed pods everywhere. Having spilled seeds into the water, they were now turning black and drying under the sun.

The beautiful lotuses rooted in mud have always been a symbol I loved for a spiritual life, but the only lotuses I’d seen so far, including in my trip to Vietnam many years ago, were those flowers that seemed to float right on top of the water.

But this is Washington, and these flowers opened wide and floated more than a foot above the water on very strong stalks. I watched them, wondering how such heavy flowers survived on tall stalks that were themselves rooted in  soft, muddy soil. The wetlands were all around us; our feet sank and got muddy. Yet out of this soft, squishy mud rose up firm stalks and rainbow petals, with a yellow center the color of sun.

We talked of challenges at home and at work, we talked of much that is messy and unclear. You’d think that when one gets older (like Alisa) and much older (like me), things would fall into place a lot more. You’re wiser now, you choose your battles and engagements with more care. Tread more carefully; avoid weirdness.

That may well be true for some, but not here. In my life I see wetlands all over, places where you slip and slide, where the ground isn’t super firm, in fact you often can’t see the ground under you.

What can I do if my life gets squishier by the moment? I walk on more paths with unfamiliar destinations, and it’s not uncommon at all for the ground to shift under my feet. Life hasn’t gotten narrower and firmer, it’s gotten more porous. Goals and strategies remain, but peripheral vision has widened. And yet, I slip and slide less.

I also care less about spotlessness. Mud covered my sandals today and I shrugged.  It was a fine price to pay to see lotuses, a black racer snake (the first snake I ever saw climbing a tree), turtles, and a blue heron. Don’t get me wrong, we walked on firm terrain most of the time, including on boardwalks, but the mud lay in ambush around corners, and we went ahead. A brief sensation of sinking into oozing mud, but it was warm and grainy, and would dry on my skin before we got back to the car.

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Eve Marko - The Dogs of the Kiskadee Hills: Hunt for the LynxThe 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.”

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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.

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Eve Marko is a Founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order and head teacher at the Green River Zen Center in Massachusetts. She received dharma transmission and inka from Bernie Glassman. She is also a writer and editor of fiction and nonfiction.

Eve has trained spiritually-based social activists and peacemakers in the US, Europe and the Middle East, and has been a Spiritholder at retreats bearing witness to genocide at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Rwanda, and the Black Hills in South Dakota. Before that she worked at the Greyston Mandala, 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 TricycleShambhala Sun, and Tikkun. Her collection of Zen koans for modern Zen practitioners in collaboration with Roshi Wendy Egyoku Nakao, The Book of Householder Koans: Waking Up In the Land of Attachments, came out in February 2020.

Hunt for the Lynx, the first in her fantasy trilogy, The Dogs of the Kiskadee Hills, was published in 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.”

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