THE MORNING AFTER

A good old snowstorm hit us over the weekend. It began around 6 in the evening of Saturday, left some 6 inches overnight, and another 3-4 inches on Sunday. Not a blizzard, not a blow-out of a nor’easter, just an old-fashioned storm that dropped lots of snow on the ground. I remember that when we first came to New England almost 22 years ago, there were many of these throughout the season, but that doesn’t seem to be true anymore.

We woke up this morning to the clearest blue skies I’ve seen since returning from Israel on December 26, a sun so warm it probably came here from Barbados for a brief winter break, only 2-3 white wisps hanging in mid-air that bore no resemblance to the heavy gray skies we’ve had so far. Friends of mine are flying to St. John’s today for a few weeks of Caribbean warmth, and I didn’t envy them in the least.

“You want to hear something stupid I did today?” I wail to my sister on the phone.

Sure she does.

“There was snow and ice on the roads, so before going out with Aussie I got my heavy winter boots out of the closet, then looked for ice cleats to attach to the bottom of the boots and couldn’t find any. Or rather, I found one. I was surprised because I depend on them a great deal, just like I depend on winter studded tires for driving, and I couldn’t find them. I had lots of trouble fitting one cleat on the boot. You listening, Ruth?”

She’s listening.

“The walk was fine except that the cleat came off, so I took it back to the car. I came home and started taking the boots off, and guess what?”

What?

“The cleats had been attached to the bottom of the boots all along, they’d been there since last winter—and I never noticed! In fact, I’d actually tried to put a second cleat under them, no wonder it didn’t fit and finally slid off. This,” I conclude, ”is the results of years of Zen practice. Look at the quality attention and mindfulness I’ve managed to cultivate.”

She laughs, then says, ‘Oh honey, you’ve worked hard to let go of that strong brain of yours. I guess you’re finally succeeding.”

I don’t think she meant that I’d grown stupid or ignorant, though I’ve certainly forgotten a lot of what I once knew (famous enlightenment verse about that). It’s just that once it was so important for me to be bright and brainy. I was critical, fault-finding, proud of my mind, and felt that being smart was the most important thing in the world.

It took me a long time to lay that to rest, to open up to other energies like love and care, to nurturing life around me, and that unnamable, empty essence at the bottom of it all. When I look behind me at various relationships that were on offer throughout my life and the mindless arrogance and silent criticism with which I met them, I shudder. So, I don’t look back too much.

In that vein, or in any vein, a gorgeous winter, when I love trekking in the cold and love even more returning to a warm house, is threatening to many immigrant families living in nearby Turners Falls. A friend calls me today: “Eve, I got a call from Cindy. Her husband’s hours were cut down in the restaurant where he works. You know, they have two little children plus a newborn.”

She doesn’t have to say much more. I keep the house at 65 degrees Fahrenheit; both Lori and I wear layers at home, Aussie has her fur coat, and Henry snuggles between pillows and a blanket when he’s not throwing his toys around. You can’t do that with little children and a baby in the house, they need heat. This morning I visited an old student in her assisted living facility; it was kept so warm I could hardly breathe. But how much heat could they afford in their homes with little children running around?

This is the season of barely enough. The farms—the biggest employers around for families, especially undocumented—are shut down so income takes a radical dip. The heat bills zoom high, as do electricity, as do the rents that here, as in so many other places in this country, know just one direction of travel: up and up and up. Very little affordable housing.

Other charities do what they can. Young kids get winter jackets to go to school, but I’ve seen their mothers come for food cards with bare feet in sneakers and shivering in faded cardigans.

These winters are beautiful for some, like Aussie and me walking along snow-covered fields that once grew corn and pumpkin, and a fearful challenge for these families as they try to make it through another harsh season of unpaid utility bills and eviction notices.

I arranged to provide $500 to the family where the father lost many of his long working hours, but the winter has just begun. Christmas is over, but not the season of giving and caring. Please donate to these families using the button below so that they could make it through another winter, their children warm, their teens in school.

By the way, since someone asked me, most of the families I know are in the midst of a lengthy process of seeking asylum. Yes, they have no documents, but they’ve begun the process of becoming legal even as it costs them years and plenty—and I mean plenty—of money. They’re not criminals.

“Donald Trump says that Henry’s poisoning my good old Texas blood,” Aussie says.

“How’s he doing that, Aussie?”

“If he bites me, I may get his Mexican germs.”

“That little dog is in awe of you, Aussie, given that you’re four times his size.”

“I don’t like it when he talks Mexican. And why does he have such weird toys, like Llama Louie?”

“What toy should he have, Aussie?”

“He should get a Barbie and throw her around. That’s the good old American way.”

Thank you for your help.

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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.