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?”

IS THIS THE TIME TO BLOG?

Tell me, is this the time to blog?

I’m not blogging. What I’m doing is taking Bernie’s clothes out of his dresser and closet, all part of a big inside-the-house move. People are coming in and I’m completely overhauling three and a half rooms, not to mention cleaning out the basement.

But you are blogging. You had a big memorial for your husband 5 days ago in New York, and before that several days of meetings. Now this move. Aren’t you tired?

Exhausted.

So why are you blogging?

Because I have to blog. I have to write. I have to let people know about all the stuff coming out of the closet. Like that good-looking bathing suit my mom bought him when we took her to Maui.

Looks like new.

Bernie wasn’t much of a swimmer. That tuxedo? He only wore it once, for his son’s wedding. And that one pair of dress slacks? Part of the outfit he bought for the pre-wedding weekend celebration, which included a good white shirt, his one and only sports jacket, one and only tie, and one and only pair of dress slacks, only when we got there he discovered he’d left the slacks behind and had to wear that dress-up stuff with his faded old blue jeans.

So give yourself time, relax, have a hot bath. Stop writing!

Carhardt flannel shirts that we got from the Greenfield outlet. The ragged lined jeans shirt he wore day in day out in winter. Hawaiian shirts of all colors that he wore the rest of the year.

Go downstairs and make yourself a cup of tea, play with the dogs. Don’t rush off to the computer to write things down, you’re too obsessive.

See the yellowing white shirts? He wouldn’t wear them, he hated white shirts. One belt, two ties, 334 pairs of suspenders. I bought the t-shirts after his stroke, spending all day in the hospital and then stopping at Holyoke Mall on the way home to pick up the pants and shirts he needed for rehab. He’d always bought his own clothes till then, I never had to wonder what size pants, what size shirts.

What’s that red plastic tub you put everything in?

A well-meaning friend told me to put the clothes in large garbage bags and bring them to the Salvation Army. Garbage bags? Forget that. Instead I put all his clothes in this great red tub that Bernie’s friend, Chuck Lief, once brought us, filled with Jewish deli food like pastrami, corn beef, rye, sour pickles, lots and lots of stuff. What better place in which to put his clothes?

So go and sit a bit. Take a walk. Go into the woods you love so much. Call up a friend and go out to—why are you blogging?

Because I have to. I have to write about this.

You think you’re the only one who’s ever lost someone? You think this hasn’t been written about before?

Lots of times, but not by me.

And what makes your experience so different? What makes it so important?

It’s not important at all. Only it sends my fingers flying on the keyboard, don’t know why.

Nothing as mundane as death. As mundane as that dead mouse in the bottom of your birdfeed bucket that you found this morning.

I’m dismantling a life. Shirt by shirt, sock by sock, pillow by pillow. I don’t have much control, life continues to go on, using me and trillions of others for its purpose. There’s just one thing I want, one thing I need: witnesses.

 

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.”