When you’re grieving you may no longer have the emotional bandwidth you once had. You may not be excessively happy, but neither are you always sad. What is certain is that you reject small talk and expressions of security, the underlying assumption that things will keep on going as they are and that everything will be okay.” | “Now I know that every story has its gates. If you walk through any one of these gates you’ll fall and hang in the abyss between what you badly wanted and what really happened, what you’d hoped for and how you’d messed up. Somewhere at the very bottom I’ve discovered a jewel that’s hard to describe, only that it has a lot to do with forgiveness.” | “I hurry over as soon as I hear him sitting up in bed. “How did you sleep?” “Fine.” “How do you feel?” “Fine.” But I look at the face, the body, the man, and what I’m really asking is: So today, who are you? Who are you, really?” | “And then one day, when it’s almost too late and fall is just around the corner, the orange dahlia emerges. A human peers closely: Look at that! Did you know that was there? Wasn’t there last summer, right? And not the summer before that, right? But there it is, flashing its colors shyly in the sunlight, waving at the phlox and nearby purple asters, as if to say: I made it; I’m here, even if not for very long.” | “It’s as if the trees are saying: Take your place among us. The small shrubs that struggle for sunlight are saying: Take your place among us. The fallen branches say: Take your place among us. The grass that’s brown for lack of rain tells me: Take your place among us. The only place you stand out is inside your brain; everywhere else you’re just taking your place among everything.”


I walked with Harry and Aussie up a narrow canyon a week ago, hills sloping up on the right, tall gray cliffs on the left. It was still cold, and since the canyon doesn’t get much sun there were spots of snow and ice. No one else walked that morning, people are careful in my neck of the woods.

Suddenly the dogs huddled around a large rock, sniffing. I drew close, bent down, and heard a loud moan. Around me everything was frozen and still. I listened harder, and realized it was the sound of water—a lot of water—spilling and gushing down invisible beneath the hard earth and rocks. There was lots of  movement under all that immovability.

I feel like that in this season of coronavirus. We stay home, we don’t hang out and talk over coffee, we don’t walk or drive much on the streets, you don’t see movement. But that doesn’t mean movement is not there. It doesn’t mean people aren’t opening their eyes and changing their behavior. A lot is happening, even if for now it feels invisible and subterranean.

Zen always talks about life and death. Not the death that happens at the end of life, but the life and death of every moment: every moment a new birth, every moment a new death. If we could see the life and death of each moment then we lose our fear of death, but we have to really pay attention. The challenge is always how to pay attention in the middle of work, raising a family, taking care of self, children, partners, parents, community.

People are paying plenty of attention now. “The theme is right in front of us,” a friend told me today. We don’t have to pull at anybody and say: Hold on a minute, pay attention!, They’re paying attention, all right! They know whose life is on the line.

I went to pick up dog food today and noticed how carefully people walked around each other, masked, clearly understanding the impact they have on the life of strangers. We depend on one another, we need one another, we don’t exist without one another. It’s self-evident. What could be better?

Yesterday I hurried to Turners Falls to meet my friend. I had 10 $50 gift cards from two neighboring supermarkets with me, along with some cash of my own. The latter is to help a family that is losing their apartment and needs to move, which means raising first-month rent, last-month rent, and security (standard for this area), so I donated cash for that. But food is what counts, and food is what I plan to help the families get with these gift cards.

I could have brought more with the money readers have sent me, but I wanted to see how it would go this first time; I was also pretty sure I would be distributing more cards next week, and the week after.

My friend dialed some numbers on her phone, and in two minutes a young woman came, huddled in a jacket. Several minutes later another woman appeared, and then another. They live in small apartments nearby and came out quickly when called.

I started stammering in my Pimsleur Spanish. The conversation was almost always this way:

“Hola, me llamo Eva.”

Their name was Maria, Rosa, Rosita, Anna, Sandra, Marta, etc.

“Esta bien, y su familia?”

Yes, they’re well, and so is the family. They have 2 children, 3 children, 4 children. They are all home.

I tell them in my bad Spanish how my friends (that’s how I think of you, blog readers) have given money to help them get food.

They say gracias in so many ways, not just with words but with their eyes. One starts crying.

I feel self-conscious. They’re human beings, I’m a human being, who needs thanks?

“I want them to meet you,” my friend said. “And I want you to meet them.” The food was important, but so is the meeting.

We all need help right now, I assure them. It’s difficult now.

Yes, they agree, it’s very hard now. Some of the men can still work in farms, but many are cutting back and some farms won’t hire at all right now. Other jobs are nonexistent. Restaurants and cafes where they washed dishes are closed; schools are closed.

The schools continue to provide lunches for their children; for other meals they use food pantries. “Only the children don’t always like the food from food pantries,” one explains, “and we don’t get fruit.” She wants to use the food card to buy fruit for the children.

My friend explains that the families are getting tablets for the kids so they could do online learning, but most don’t have Internet connection, only now Comcast has agreed to provide 2 months’ service for free and then charge $10 a month. “That’s pretty good,” I tell them. Yes, they nod, it’s very important for the children to keep on learning.

I used to drive some of the women with their children to doctor appointments a while ago. “How are they now?” I ask. They shrug. Now is no time to bring anyone to a doctor or to a hospital.

“I’ll be here again next week,” I promise them. I have money for more food cards for about two weeks.  After that, I don’t know. Besides, my friend says she knows 32 families who could use this kind of help; we only helped 10 this time.

Dear reader, there is a challenge here we must meet. It’s easy to push to redistribute the money of multi-billionaires; we have to start with ourselves. People hide out not just because they’re illegal but also because they’re poor. In this country we are ashamed of being poor. I can’t photograph them, I can’t get their personal stories (at least, not yet), I don’t even ask them their last names.

There are terrible things going on down by the Mexican border, people turned back without a hearing, separation of families, etc. It has long been a thorn at my heart, but there’s not much I can do about it right now. What I can do is help put food on the table of families hiding out right here, trying to create a decent life for their children.

My parents were refugees. I look at those women who came out to thank me and I want to thank them, because I feel that I am helping out my own parents who were once in their place.

If you’d like to help me continue to do this, please donate and put on the notation: Food gift cards. I looked into whether one could buy gift cards online. One supermarket doesn’t do that. The other does, but when I tried to do it myself the page didn’t work. I will call them about it tomorrow.



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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.”

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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.

Upcoming Bearing Witness Retreats:

Bosnia, May 2016 (Please email for details)

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Eve Marko

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, is coming 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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