Photo by Peter Cunningham

I love to see how a leaf quivers in dead air. You walk down a path and everything is still: no air moving, no breeze, it’s hot, humid, and heavy. And then the tip of one leaf, just the tip, starts quivering , and then shakes. You look around. Don’t see anything, don’t feel anything, nothing else moves.

Why are you moving? you ask the leaf.

What can’t you see? IWhat aren’t your senses showing you?


Bernie did a lot of big things, but often I think of how he was in the last years before his stroke, after he turned 70, when the small things of life absorbed him. He loved to take three drives every day and smoke a stogie with the dogs in the back seat. He didn’t go to the ballet, he didn’t want to do theater, and with a few exceptions he didn’t want to travel to see the world.

He enjoyed small things: watching TV, following the New England Patriots on their annual, irrevocable march to the playoffs (That Brady!), making a tuna fish sandwich or going out for a small Subway sandwich, and of course, taking his daily bath.

Those are the invisible things in one’s life that no one else sees, only the person living with you. His getting up at 4 am when you still have your eyes tightly shut, walking over to the closet to get his kimono, going to the office to check news and emails. Sometime around 6, just when you get up, you hear the bathtub water come on. If you walk in there 10 minutes later, he’ll look up from his bath at you, as relaxed as could be, at peace with the world.

Then it’s time for the morning ride, whatever pretext he could find: I need to fill up the car with gas; Don’t you feel like having a donut? And when he returns 40 minutes later you greet him with: Did you go to Dunkin Donuts via Vermont? Because, of course, he really went to smoke a  cigar.

Have I thought how much that cigar smoking may have contributed to his stroke? I have. And Bernie may have thought of it, too, but my guess is he didn’t give it much attention. It was past, so that was that. After the stroke, the only thing he really missed, I think, was his morning bath.

Which reminds me of a recent item on the Montage Police Log, as reported by the Montague Reporter:

6:34 pm. Red and white Chihuahua missing on L Street. No collar on because of just having had a bath this morning. Unable to locate.

It was amazing how full and at ease he was in those years. There were still debts to repay, but something basic had shifted inside. In his mind, he had given Zen Peacemakers over to life. The man who’d held and carried so much, daily scanning hundreds of emails coming in from different teachers and peacemakers in different countries, all with their respective stories and challenges, not to mention the projects he still had his fingers in, not to mention the many ideas that constantly popped up in that creative head—little by little he gave it away. Some he would delegate to others; a lot he shrugged away, as if to say: life will take care of it; they’ll find the way, they’ll find an answer. Or they won’t.

Of course, he kept on teaching.

“What are you going to do?” I’d ask him before he flew.

“Oh, you know,” and he’d quote a Yiddish proverb to me, which I’ll reproduce in English: The same shit with a new decoration. Same old same old. But how Bernie loved creating new, more fantastic decorations! He’d come home and say: “You know what happened? Someone asked me a question about so-and-so, and you know what I told them?” He’d repeat it to me, and muse: “I don’t think I ever talked like that before.” He loved that constant bubbling of his own creativity.

But when he was at home he took things easy, which discomfited me a bit. “Bernie, don’t you want to do something?” I’d say.

“Like what?”

“I don’t know,” I’d mumble.

“The dogs need a ride,” he’d inform me. “And I need a cigar. Do you want a slice of pizza?”

Unable to locate.