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.”

STILL GOING THAT HARD WAY

Photo by Clemens Breitschaft

“Hey Aussie, can you smell the deer?”

“You bet, Harry.”

“Then where are you going?”

“The Boss wants me back.”

“What’s happened to you, Aussie? We used to disappear for hours together.”

“You didn’t think it was that much fun the one time we ran off and stayed out all night. Did you ever complain!”

“After sleeping for two days everything was fine, Aussie. Anyway, I can feel the end of winter and the animals are calling, so let’s go!”

“Why don’t you go by yourself, Harry?”

“It’s not that much fun without you, Aussie. You’re the leader of the pack.”

“I think the Boss is the leader of the pack, Harry.”

“Boy, have you changed.”

Aussie has changed. In fact, change is in the air. It’s close to 50 degrees today, and while some areas, shrouded by trees, continue to be snowy and icy (like our back yard), others show brown earth covered by brown leaves. Who would have thought we’d welcome so much brown!

Maple leaf buckets have been dangling from the trees for over a week, but even before that the sun returned to New England; I greet it as I would a friend who left to the other side of the country and is now back.

And of course, Aussie doesn’t change alone; the whole pack changes with her. Without his elder sister leading the way, Harry, too, comes back quicker and doesn’t wander very far. I’m more relaxed and happier. There’s no changing alone; the minute you change, the world changes.

I’ve been thinking about love.

When Bernie had his disabling stroke, I often wondered about love and what happens to it when relationship changes from one of equally abled people to one where one of the couple is disabled, both in body and mind. An idea for a film came to me, a story of a couple who’ve worked together for many years, and he’s struck. She continues the work while taking care of him and ends up falling in love with another man. What does she choose? Where does she go?

More general questions came up, too: Where is love in an era of illness and old age? It’s different from when we’re younger, but our culture rarely shows us or promotes examples. What happens to sex? What happens to our self-image? When does one stop being a woman and starts becoming a nurse? How do you reconcile the two?

The lover in question is himself in a relationship with a much younger woman. How necessary is that for men as they grow older? I know what the biologists say, but in my vision the lover actually turns away from his much younger wife and falls in love with a woman his age. How plausible is that?

This idea never appeared to me as a book, always as a movie. So last spring I called an actor friend of mine and suggested that he make a movie about this:

“I know they say that it’s the much younger crowd that makes up the majority of movie theater audiences,” I told him, “but I think there’s an audience for such a movie. I think its explorations of love could be relevant to many people.”

He heard me out and said: “I agree with you. Write the screenplay.”

“I don’t write screenplays,” I told him.

“Write this one,” he said.

I thought about it. I was still very raw from Bernie’s death, unable to pick up other creative projects I’d been working on before he died, but this felt different. It would be my way of working out the many rich challenges we’d faced as a couple.

Adrienne Rich wrote:  “An honorable human relationship—that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word ‘love’—is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.

It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.

It is important to do this because in so doing we do justice to our own complexity.

It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.”

Bernie wasn’t one of the few people ready to go that hard way, but the process didn’t die just because he died; in some ways it’s still left to me. And the only way I know to do that on my own is through story, invention, fantasy.

I’ve been working on this screenplay—something I’ve never written before—since then, returning to it now after a hiatus of some 2-3 months. I’ve made the couple radio astronomers, and the lover a high-tech computer guy. For me, the creative world is no less real than the melting snow outside and chipmunks feeding under birdfeeders. No less real than Harry’s conversation with Aussie:

“Do I have to change just because you’re changing, Aussie?”

“I’m afraid so, Harry.”

“You were once so crazy, so restless, so wild!”

“I changed, Harry.”

“I’m leaving home. Somebody has to.”

On another note, Buddhadharma, the Buddhist magazine, said this about The Book of Householder Koans: At every turn, the authors warmly urge us to reengage with our ordinary circumstances through an extra-ordinary lens. The book provides no pedantic solutions, instead offering itself as an open workbook with which to navigate the problems that come with being human.

I’m so glad they said there were no pedantic solutions. Amazon sends out its orders tomorrow, as do independent bookstores. I deeply encourage you to buy the book, preferably from your neighborhood bookstore so that it survives and thrives.

For those of you living near Chicago, I’ll be doing a workshop based on householder koans with Sensei June Tanoue from March 5 to 8 at Zen Life and Meditation Center.

I keep busy because it’s my nature, and also to provide myself with an income. I don’t have a vision for my blog, other than an effort to peel away veil after veil, come closer and deeper to what’s  inside. If I find nothing that’ll be more than fine. If you enjoy reading these posts, please consider making a donation. Any amount is welcome, monthly or one-time. You can do this using the bottom below, or else, if you prefer not to use PayPal, you can send checks or correspondence to:

Eve Marko

POB 174

Montague, MA 01351

Most important, thank you always for reading.

 

Make A Donation

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.”

Make A Donation

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)

Make A Donation

ABOUT EVE MARKO

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.”

Make A Donation