I read that half of all Republican voters in this country support a pre-emptive strike at North Korea. This, of course, would mean war and the probable use of nuclear weapons. How do we avoid that, I wonder. How do we prevent the vitriol from rising to a persuasive pitch as it did before Bush went into Iraq for no good reason? Start demonstrations now. Start Facebook organizing now. Get European partners—
And then I hear getting up noises across the hall. I leave my computer and head out to the bedroom for the morning ritual.
How are you doing, Bernie? Did you sleep well? I ask.
I didn’t get to sleep for a long time. And you?
I slept great, Bernie, only I had a dream that you were trying to kill me.
And I must have been half awake because I heard you getting up to go to the bathroom while dreaming this. I heard you putting on your shoes and picking up your cane, and suddenly I was sure you were going to smash that cane on my skull.
And did I? he wonders. That’s not nice of me. Is Stanley on the rug blocking the way? Can I get to the bathroom?
Stanley’s not in the way, he’s been sleeping on the couch since breakfast. Do you ever want to kill me? I ask.
No. I think there were times you’ve wanted to kill me, he says. In the past.
Not kill, but close, I admit.
When he gets downstairs he sits down at the table. OK, say I, taking my seat close to him, time for the daily stabbing. Where are those little knives?
You mean prickers, he asks with a grin.
We’re talking about a glucose test because Bernie has Diabetes 2. I take out the little lancet, put in the device, prick his finger, get the blood onto the test strip, insert in the meter and check: 118, I tell him. Good. That’s because you didn’t have any dessert last night.
Soon I’ll get rid of my diabetes drugs.
That depends on whether you could let go of vanilla ice cream with Herrell’s chocolate fudge sauce. We start to negotiate. How about just vanilla ice cream?
How about just chocolate fudge sauce? he offers.
Medicine and illness subdue each other, I say, remembering the koan while I next examine the cancerous sore on his nose which will be removed in November, ponder what ointment it needs, what Band-Aid (Only the nose knows, Bernie says).
He’s ready to make his own breakfast, but not only has time passed since I wondered what I or Zen Peacemakers can do about the rhetoric surrounding North Korea, the energy has changed, too. It shifted from going out there to focusing in here, from creative thought to brushing the dog, from compiling a list of strategic options to compiling a list of to-dos, from saving the planet to hanging laundry, from loving everyone to loving one man (and a dog).
Like the photo of the back of our home above, on my way to plunging into the exquisite leaves of fall I bump into the barbecue grill and the satellite dish.
The Zen koan goes: Yunmen, teaching his community, said: “Medicine and sickness subdue each other. The whole earth is medicine. What is yourself?”
They say that it’ll be women who’ll save the world. Instead, Bernie and I argue about why I find white crumbs of used tissues in the pockets of his gray pants after they come out of the washing machine. Why do I worry about what he’s going to wear to Greyston? Why do I have to try to remember if the car has gas?
Why why why, he used to shake his head when I did formal study with him. Because at that time why was my favorite word in the English language.
Yes, if we had a less fragmented life, if our attention didn’t go from writing to laundry to sweeping leaves to taking out the trash and recyclables (Is it plastic/glass or paper today?) to returning books to the library and DVDs to the mailbox to making family phone calls to emptying the dehumidifier in the basement to taking out the spider on the floor to sewing buttons to shopping lists and what’s for dinner, etc., etc., etc., yes, if that happened we women would save the world.
Till then we’re saving it one human at a time, one home at a time, one spider, one button on a sweater, one undocumented family needing a ride to the courthouse, one man, one marriage, and one beer can thrown on the road, picked up and put into a blue recyclable bin.
In our spare time we try to address other issues.
Sometimes I think it’s enough, and sometimes I don’t.