“Aussie, what’s wrong? Here we are at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and you’re flipping out!”

“Of course I’m flipping out. You took me to a Covid testing site! Am I supposed to thank you?”

“I thought you’d enjoy getting out of the car, Auss. And now a nice young man from the cafeteria wanted to play with you and what did you do? You growled.”

“Get me out of here! And don’t even think of getting those swabs into my nostrils, I’ll bite the technician.”

“Aussie, you’re going way too crazy.”

“There’s a new venereant in town, haven’t you heard?”

“Variant, Aussie. Venereant sounds like a sexually-transmitted disease.”

“And maybe it is. I mean, look at all these college students! Do you know what they do night and day?”

“Aussie, that’s not necessarily how Covid gets transmitted.”

“Get me out of this Campus Center! You’re endangering my life, I’m calling the ASPCA.”

“Relax, Auss.”

“I want to go home!”

“I know, Auss. Lori and Henry are coming back, too. They’ve been gone for several days and you were glum the entire weekend, except when you romped with Florence the Border Collie.”

“Don’t remind me! I should never have gotten near her! What was I thinking?”

“You’ll be happy to see Henry—”

“No, I won’t. He’s coming back from Boston, the home of all venereants. Don’t let them come in! Lock those doors! It’s just you and me now, you and me against the world!”

I feel sick to my stomach when I see airport photos of all those flights in and out of Africa cancelled. Not just south Africa, that was the first day, but now it’s all of Africa. Social media gets busy pumping out innuendoes catering to our worst xenophobias about the Dark Continent, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Even as we keep millions of vaccines reserved for those Americans who refuse to get vaccinated, we send very little to a continent where less than 5% of the population has been vaccinated. Not out of choice, out of lack.

Fear and hysteria rear up their heads all over again.

Not for me. I’m going to teach at a Zen retreat with my two friends, Roshis Genro Gauntt and Fleet Maull, starting Wednesday (hence the covid test I did earlier today). Mostly, we’ll sit. It’s the retreat celebrating Gautama Buddha’s enlightenment 2-1/2 millennia ago. When he sat under that tree all night, vowing not to get up till he saw the basic truth of life, was there fear all around him as there is now?

The stories tell us that Mara, the Lord of Delusions, sent one delusion after another to intimidate him, including delusions of disaster, catastrophe, and monstrous terror. It’s said that the Buddha sat through them all, not shrinking away in panic, not turning passive or resistant, just completely engaged and alive. Ready for anything.

That’s how I’d like to sit starting Wednesday evening. With openness and curiosity, giving no-fear. A small group will be there, too, with others coming in via Zoom. The place is big enough to maintain distance and I imagine we’ll spend some time outdoors (though tonight it’s supposed to go down to 18 degrees Fahrenheit).

There is much to do ahead of time, and in these years I find myself reluctant to get up too early. But get up I will, and I know that once I get through the door and into the car in the icy, pre-dawn mornings, then out of the car and into the zendo, once I sit, really sit, feet on the ground, head straight up to the dawn star, there will be no fear at all. I’ll find the heart of my heart and rest there till mid-day Sunday, which will be my 72nd birthday.


I’m thrilled at how the Christmas gift list for immigrant children has almost sold out—and there were gifts there for some 80 children. I believe 7 are still left, so if you’d like to buy a holiday gift for a young immigrant child for Christmas, please do that here, at this link. The gifts are arriving at the home of Jimena this time because I won’t be around to receive them and bring them to her. These Christmas gifts make the children happy. What more could anyone want? Here’s the link again.

Many, many thanks to all of you.

You can also send a check to: Eve Marko, POB 174, Montague, MA 01351. Please write on the memo line whether this is in support or immigrant families or of my blog. Thank you.