CORRECTION TO AMAZON LIST

Hi everyone,

It was wonderful to see how many folks began to respond to the Amazon list of back-to-school supplies that I posted for the children of immigrant families. I know that because I quickly got emails letting me know that my shipping address didn’t show up. So I called Amazon (for the first time ever!) and found out how to do it, and put in my address.

But–it does need a new link, which is this.

Please use this link instead of the first one, and I hope it will all work. Here it is again.

Many, many thanks for the most unsavvy tech person you’ve met yet.

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GOD IS LONELY

I drive with Aussie in the back seat to bring some cash for Hilaria, the deaf mother with sons who’s now home after treatment for a brain aneurysm. Thank you to all those who have helped her. Hilaria’s home now, waiting for the swelling of her brain to come down so that they could operate on her, probably at Worcester. A lot of issues relating to medical insurance are still being worked out. Meantime, she can’t work at all.

“You understand the challenges she’s facing, Aussie?” I tell Aussie. “Imagine someone can’t speak English, can’t hear Spanish, and has to lip-read the translator who’s talking in Spanish and translating from English. Think of all the troubles you and I have understanding one another, and now think of what Hilaria faces. Hard to imagine!”

“Given the situation she’s in, maybe it’s good she can’t understand too well.”

“Aussie, we have to fully face and understand our situations in order to take care of ourselves in the best way possible.”

“Ignorance is bliss!”

When we return home there is a conversation with my mother. “How are you, Chavale?”

“I’m fine, other than allergies. I walked the dogs and I can’t stop sneezing since. You know, mom, it’s Rosh Hashana next Monday, the Jewish New Year.”

“Chavale, do me a big favor. Talk to God.”

“To God, mom?”

“You have a good relationship with Him, talk to Him. He’s a lonely person, He needs socializing.”

For a minute I wonder if she’s referring to my neighbor, an older man who indeed lives alone. I had just invited him over for a cup of coffee this weekend. “God is lonely, mom?”

“Of course! Who does He have to talk with? Who’s there to help Him? Ask Him if He needs something from the store, He’ll tell you.”

“I never thought of that, mom.”

“I know, I know, He’ll tell you He’s okay, but who knows? If you could at least talk to Him, He might tell you the truth.”

“Mom, I want to wish you a happy holiday and a happy new year.”

“Can’t you come for the holiday? You’re not too far away.”

“Mom, I’m in a different country.”

Pause. “Since when?”

“I can’t fly just like that for a 2-day holiday. And Israel now imposed new quarantine restrictions even for vaccinated people like me, which makes a trip like that impossible. I don’t want to travel all the way just to go into quarantine and not be able to see you for 10 days. See?”

“Ye-es,” she says skeptically. Then she brightens up. “Well, look, whatever you do, whatever you can do, I love you. Whatever you can’t do, I love you too.”

“The same goes for me, mom. Whatever you do—it’s a good day, you understand things, they make sense—I love you. It’s a bad day—things don’t make sense, you confuse me with my sister, you confuse my father with your father, the present with the past—I love you, too.”

“Yes. But can’t you at least try to  come for the holiday?”

I can’t come for the holiday, but to celebrate this Jewish New Year I can at least post a list of back-to-school supplies that children of immigrant families need, like Hilaria’s sons.

I recently read that the average American family spends over $400 for back-to-school supplies. Obviously, not every American family can afford that, and certainly not the children of these families, whose parents work on farms, clean up restaurants after closing hour, or make pizza in the back of pizza parlors. So Jimena, with the help of teachers in the local schools, made up a list of what they need. It’s in the range of $2.47 (highlighters) to $42.99 (calculators), and many in between.

Many of the students from the previous year are still using last year’s backpacks and calculators, so this is for the new contingent of students. For these families, nothing—but nothing—is as important as going to school. The parents especially are well aware how critical that is for their children to make their way in this world, a way which is usually out of reach for the parents, who’re often not just illiterate in English but also in Spanish.

Whatever you can do, please do. You can find the Amazon link here. The boxes will come to me and I will bring them to Jimena, who will then distribute them.

The sun is beginning to set on our record-breaking hot, wet New England summer, which included major flooding. Ahead of us, I hope, are the beautiful colors of fall and the optimism that a new year often brings with it. Covid is still with us; the students all wear masks, not the best school experience. Let’s cheer them up, let’s give them a boost and help them at this critical time. Here is the link for the list for back-to-school supplies once again.

And to everyone: A happy Jewish New Year. If you can help—I love you. And if you can’t—I love you too.

 

 

 

 

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A NEW HOLOCAUST

“I still can’t get over how we left Afghanistan, Aussie.”

“It’s terrible!”

“You know, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, yesterday admitted that there were serious problems with the special immigrant visa program that was used to clear interpreters and everyone else who helped the army to come to the US, but it was cumbersome and took way too long.”

“Son of a bitch!”

“So I looked up that SIV program, which stands for Special Immigrant Visa. It was started over a decade ago and involves the State Department and a whole bunch of intelligence and security agencies whose job it was to vet whether the people coming in actually worked for the army or were terrorists.”

“Give me a break, f—ing a—–e!”

“They didn’t have enough budget or manpower, and even though Trump came to an agreement with the Taliban back in February 2020, and we knew we didn’t have much time, the program never took off. There was no momentum, nothing was rushed.”

“They knew back then! This is so shameful I can’t stand it.”

“Exactly, Aussie, and you know why? Because nobody, but nobody is taking responsibility; nobody is being held accountable. Why doesn’t Anthony Blinken—”

“Who?”

“The Secretary of State stand up, hold himself accountable, and resign? Or the head of Homeland Security, which was part of the process?”

“I’m heading off to Washington to bite them.”

“This was doable, this was achievable. What kind of government do we have that can’t do this? We left thousands of people there who should have gotten those visas and escaped with their families and their lives instead of leaving them there because our paperwork was so slow!”

“Thousands of people! Who cares about the people? What about the dogs?”

“Yes, I know about the dogs, Auss—”

“Fifty dogs were left in cages at the airport. It’s a new Holocaust!”

“Not just a minute, Auss—”

“Don’t just-a-minute me. Dogs are left on an airport tarmac after they faithfully served this country! Nothing, but nothing can be more brutal than that.”

“Look, Aussie, leaving the dogs behind was terrible, just part of a pattern of leaving people and dogs behind when we no longer needed them, but comparing it to the Holocaust is a little over the top.”

“Goddamn f—s sons of bitches, I hate them hate them hate them!”

“Careful, Aussie. I’m angry, too, but that kind of hate starts getting in the way.”

“In the way of what? You know they’re not changing anything. Just like you said, did that guy who said the program failed offer to resign? Did he say that he’d failed? Snookertail! Hateful, sleazy, yecchy yuck!”

“Aussie—”

“Gutless, spineless, yellow-bellied chihuahua!”

“I think you owe Henry an apology, Auss.”

“Rotten piece of carrion!”

“Aussie, what’s got into you?”

“They left those dogs behind!”

“Aussie. I think you’re very sad about this.”

“Sad? I’m jumping out of my skin. I’m furious!”

“That’s when we have to be super-careful, Auss. Sometimes we get angry because facing our deep sadness and grief is too painful. Many years ago a therapist told me: ‘Sadness feels passive to you so you quickly shift to anger because that’s more active, it feels like you’re doing something.’”

“Shitbag, dickface, ass—”

“It sounds like you’re sad, Auss.”

“Piss on you, jackass!”

“This is not a good way to express your grief, Aussie.”

“Lameass! Turdface! Man-slut!”

“Aussie, none of this helps.”

“Your mother likes it RUFF!”

“That’s disgusting, Auss.”

“Whew! I feel better already.”

 

You can also send a check either to support my blog or to buy food cards for immigrant families to: Eve Marko, POB 174, Montague, MA 01351. Please write on the memo line what you are donating to. Thank you.

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OLD EGYPT ROAD

Sometimes I take the dogs to a nearby large lake and we take the path that goes all around. And somewhere on the western side of the lake there are two signs, one that points the way to going all around, and the other pointing you in the direction of Old Egypt Road. I always pause there and ask myself which way I’m going.

Long ago, Egypt was the land of slavery. Generation upon generation of Israelites were forced to build pyramids and tombs till a man called Moses led them out of Egypt and into freedom. God broke the will of the Pharoah, split the Red Sea, drowned the bad guys, gathered everybody at Sinai, and gave them the Ten Commandments.

That was followed by a Golden Calf and lots of moaning and groaning about how life wasn’t so bad in good old Egypt, the food was better for one thing, so God figured that people needed to wander for a bit in the desert to really get what he was offering. He gave up on the older generation and let them die, hoping for better things from the young ones.

Whenever I come by this intersection of paths I stand and look at the sign towards Old Egypt Road. Do I want to go back, or do I want to finish the loop around the lake?

Old Egypt is not necessarily about hard labor or a cruel taskmaster. How many of us spend our lives working really hard? True, we probably have more comfy homes and a car, wide-screen TV, video games, and Alexa. By the accounts of many sociologists, we pay for that by working much longer hours than people did long ago. We also don’t like our bosses, don’t like our presidents. Maybe Old Egypt wasn’t so bad after all.

I stand there and consider it. I met a man recently—

“Not another date!”

“Relax, Aussie, not another date. They come once every 10 years or so—”

“Good, then I’ll probably be dead when the next one comes around.”

–and he told me that he elected not to lead a conventional life. So, he got into his car and traveled all around the country, down to Latin America, then into Europe—

“Did he take the bridge or the tunnel?”

–and all around, including Africa and Asia, and he did many different things. I told him that I also decided not to live a conventional life, so I sat.

“In the same place?”

“Yup, Aussie, in the same place. I’ve visited different places, met different people, but in some way I never got up from that sitting, know what I mean?”

“No.”

Sometimes I want to go in the direction of Old Egypt Road. I want to get out of my skin, get out of my life. Go to the kitchen and scrabble around for chocolate.  Look at photos of Bernie and get nostalgic. Don’t talk to me about the One Body, it’s just Eve the little red blood cell racing around here and there, reaching fingers and toes, bringing blood and taking it away, full of her own self-importance.

“Sounds good to me.”

“It’s just half of it, Aussie, that’s the trouble.”

“Half is better than nothing.”

“Not necessarily, Auss. Go play with Henry.”

Or else I follow the path that goes around the lake and will bring me back to my car. We’ll pass a tiny beach with a circle of rocks marking where people have made a fire. We’ll examine how clear the water is, I’ll put a hand in to feel the cold and then spill the water across my face. Aussie will go in up to her belly; she could stay in all day.

Eventually we’ll make it all the way around and head out to the small parking lot that holds 7 cars max, I’ll open the back door and then the windows, check I have everything (including two dogs) and head back home. Text Jimena that the list of school supplies is not complete, a few questions about backpacks.

Like I said, I never got up.

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.
 

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A DATE

“Aussie, I have to leave you for the evening.”

“Where are you going?”

“I have a date.”

“A what?”

“A date, Aussie.”

“What’s that?”

“A date is when I meet a man and we spend a little time together.”

“A man? But you had a man! You had Bernie!”

“That’s true, Auss, but in case you haven’t noticed, he hasn’t been around much lately.”

“So you want to meet a new man? How many men do you need in your life?”

“A couple.”

“Together or one at a time?”

“Aussie, don’t be cheeky. You know how a good friend of mine refers to you now? Cheeks.”

“Because I have a cute butt?”

“I’m talking about one man, Aussie. November will be three years since Bernie died. For most of that time, at least till Lori and Henry joined us, it was just you and me.”

“Poor girl, was that too much suffering for you?”

“No, Auss, you’re good company, for a dog. I miss someone to talk to—”

“You talk to me lots. And I talk back!”

“But you don’t listen, Aussie. I mean, listen deeply. And I miss being part of a couple.”

“You were a couple—with Bernie. How could you even think of being a couple with anybody else? I’m ashamed of you.”

“Aussie, I can’t feel guilty about not wanting to wake up alone in the morning. About talking to somebody over a cup of Italian coffee.”

“What do you want to talk about that you can’t talk over with me?”

“My internal life.”

“Oh, that.”

“You know, feelings, ideas, insights, questions.”

“Boring! With Bernie you traveled. You did things, you built things!”

“We had a great time, but Aussie, things change. There’s death and there’s rebirth. I want to find new meaning for my life, a new way of being in the world, a new way of caring—and also being cared for.”

“You’ll never find anybody like Bernie.”

“I’m not looking for anybody like Bernie, one Bernie is enough for one lifetime. But endings can be new beginnings.”

“You can have your new beginning alone, or just with me.”

“I’ve thought about that, Aussie. To tell you the truth, I have no idea if I can have a new beginning with someone else. Living like this for almost three years, I’ve learned to appreciate the freedom and independence. It takes a lot of effort to be with someone. But I miss having fun. I miss laughter and sharing.”

“You have fun, laughter, and sharing with me, and look what a pain in the neck I am. Besides, what’s everybody going to say?”

Good luck, I hope. I don’t recall jumping into the flames when we put Bernie’s body into the crematorium.”

“You know what you are? You’re greedy. You’re 71, time to relax, time to stop, but not you. You always want more in your life. More! More! More!”

“There’s some truth in what you say, Auss. But it’s not just more and more, I try to be more discerning about what I want in my life. For example, do I really want to live with a dog forever?”

“Are you kidding me? I’m the best thing you got! You’ll never meet a man like me: Funny, loves water, loves to run, lots of chutzpa and in-your-face bullshit, never sleeps in your bed—the perfect companion!”

“Don’t forget cheeky, Auss.”

“Yes, got a cute butt, too.”

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.

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BUT THE PROBLEM IS

I drove to the dentist yesterday to get a fancy x-ray of my teeth, a preamble to root canal work.

On the way I called Jimena Pareja to ask about Hilaria. She told me Hilaria is still in the hospital and diagnosed with a brain aneurysm. The seizures have been brought under control, but the aneurysm is exacerbated by her deafness. Surgery has been recommended—

“But the problem is she doesn’t have real medical insurance, Eve,” says Jimena. “She has some coverage through the farms but very little, so we have to find a hospital and doctors that will do the surgery, I think maybe in Worcester.”

There is another medical program she could have qualified for—“But the problem is she doesn’t have a social security card, which is the minimum she needs.”

She is looking for other sources of help here in the Valley, “But the problem is they require her to work and she won’t be able to work for three months, according to the doctors.”

“Three months! What about her sons?”

“They are with the sister and a few others, we buy them food with the money you gave us, but the problem is there isn’t much room for them because people squeeze into apartments, you know.”

But the problem is . . . But the problem is . . . I am so used to this refrain from Jimena I could plug it in myself several times in our conversations. Nothing is ever simple. A child needs help, but the problem is his English is deficient. A family needs to move, but the problem is the father was deported and it’s just the mother with her children.

Bernie taught me a lot about living with But the problem is. Nothing was ever quick or simple. It often seemed as though every single thing about Greyston and the Zen Peacemakers was complex, with twists, turns, and meanderings nobody anticipated. I no longer get discouraged by But the problem is the way I used to be, a clear signal that my expectations have changed.

You do something, the results aren’t what you’d hoped for because something else came up, so you do something else, more karma is generated, more unknown factors suddenly come up, so you make new plans and do something else, and something else comes up: But the problem is . . .

Others say that they get overwhelmed.  I used to feel that way often. When Bernie died I felt overcome by shock, so I just did what was right in front of me. I could identify those things: sit, clean, make food, eat, walk Aussie, prepare a talk. And in some ways, I continue to do that. If I think too much further down the road (Climate change! Covid! Death!) I won’t function well at all.

We agreed that given all this, I’ll pause the food cards for a few weeks and help Hilaria as much as possible.

“Could you get the kids some school supplies?” Jimena asked me. She’s counting on an Amazon list of school supplies for kids going back to school, and yes, I said, of course I’ll post it. What they need is not expensive.

I got to the dentist and for the first time went through a 3D x-ray. I didn’t know they had something like that. When the nurse had told me how much it cost, I blanched. Insurance was covering none of it. “Are you sure it’s necessary?” I asked.

She hesitated: “You can say no, of course, but the dentist will know the state of the tooth and nerve better if he can see that ahead of time.”

I don’t usually question the competence of professionals I depend on, they have experience and education that I don’t, so I agreed.

She took me into a room I’d never been in before and had me step close to a machine with my chin on a chinrest. The machine whirred and different panels moved around my head, brushing my hair, the top of my head,and shoulders, catching a three-dimensional picture of my teeth on the lower right side of my mouth.

“Don’t move!” she warned me.

I didn’t move. But as the machine whirred around my head, I thought of how sophisticated this machine was, how other-worldly it would seem to most of the people on our planet, how extraordinary that I had access to such technology and expertise while not too far away lay a woman in the hospital who struggles to lip-read, hopes to find doctors and a hospital who will operate on her and finally return her home to her sons. Hopes to be able to return to work hard on the farms in three months’ time to support those sons. But there is a problem . . .

Yes and no. I don’t live in a world of problems, I live in a world of taking care.

I used to take to heart the difference between my life situation and others’, and I still think it’s good to remember that. But sometimes it leads to guilt and paralysis, and I don’t go there anymore. Instead, I live in a world of taking care, including myself.

This afternoon a couple I knew from our life in Santa Barbara, CA came for lunch. They’re a handsome couple and brought much needed sunlight to this cloudy Valley. They were traveling cross-country in a gorgeous RV which I peered into, ooohing and ahhhing, and we proceeded to talk, laugh and reminisce, evoking names of beautiful people we’d known. I cooked some corn (approaching its end this season) and made a terrific bean salad; even the dogs seemed full of joy.

They had more leisure than me, more laughter and light. I was so happy they’d returned to my life if only for a few hours, and I’m happy Hilaria is in my life, and even the expensive 3-D x-ray machine. All of us–excluding none– have our roles to play.

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.

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HURRICANES

What Aussie does when it rains

“Boy, Aussie, did our Hurricane Henri fizzle out! After all the hurricane and storm mongering, after bringing up the two battery-powered lamps, filling up the bathtub and big pans with water, and generally hunkering down, we got no winds at all (so no danger of fallen trees, wires and loss of power), just a lot of rain. Big deal, we’ve had lots of rain all summer!”

“That might be nice for you, but I still have our private hurricane: Hurricane Henry. How come Henry doesn’t fizzle out like Henri? They have the same goddamn name, only Henry runs around from morning to night, never leaves me alone, barks endlessly, and worst of all, always brings his friends.”

“What friends, Auss?”

“Pinky the Elephant, Al the green Gator, Wabbit the yellow rabbit, and Turtle. What happened to us? We used to be calm around here, we were on our own, self-contained, and peaceful. Now we’re a menagerie!”

“You know, Aussie, it’s easy to be peaceful when you’re alone. I just finished our summer retreat, and most of that time was peaceful. Saturday night at 10 pm I left the zendo and saw light on the driveway. I looked behind me and there was the full moon climbing out of the clouds that seem to have been with us all summer, and it was glorious. Retreat ends and we go out to face Hurricane Henri.”

“Then you come home to face Hurricane Henry.”

“I come home to hear news about the family, other people, money, the house, my teeth, it doesn’t end. So yes, it’s not easy to be peaceful when we’re with people. But I discover far more about myself from interacting with people and the world than I do when I’m sitting on my own. I’m constantly challenged, constantly make mistakes, constantly learn from those mistakes. Everything feels alive, full of change!”

“I hate change! And why is it that the things you love just as they are are the ones that change, and the ones you wish would change—like Hurricane Henry—don’t?”

“Good question, Aussie.”

I’m tired today. It used to be that I’d get up from retreats and go right to work, but no longer. I needed to rest today, not run around.

I want to thank you from deep in my heart  for the donations that streamed in for Hilaria, the deaf mother from the Dominican Republic raising three sons on her own out of a salary she makes working in a local farm. Hilaria had many seizures even in the Springfield hospital where they took her. I didn’t have a chance to hear anything about her till last night, when I saw that $2,000 had come in to help her pay her rent and utilities and buy food for her boys while she’s ill.

This morning I got a message from Jimena that Hilaria has finally been diagnosed with a serious brain aneurysm that’s causing the seizures and is still in the hospital. I texted back asking for details about her situation and needs and haven’t yet gotten an answer. I probably will get more details tomorrow, but meantime, I was so happy to see what came in for that gentle, always cheerful and warm human being, it just made my day. Thank you.

I came home and caught up with the news, especially developments in Afghanistan, and then drove to our favorite pizza shop to pick up pizza for the evening. Bernie used to go there all the time. When I arrived, the Greek pizza ( feta, olives, and spinach) wasn’t ready so I waited. Bernie couldn’t imagine ordering Greek pizza,  but it is my housemate’s favorite.

In front were two young white men, students from the local Five Colleges, taking phone calls and interacting very courteously with customers. I looked towards the back and saw that the ones who actually made the pizzas were all Latinos and Latinas, a few maybe from the community we try to support. I watched a young man (to me he looked like a boy) toss the pizza dough up and down, manipulating the dough for the crust, while behind him others slid the pizzas out of the hot ovens and put them into the white boxes. A lively banter was going on even as they worked hard.

I thought of the Afghans coming to the States, those lucky enough to get here. The media focuses on how hard it is for them to get to Kabul airport and whether or not they will be able to fly out. What we still don’t hear much about is what awaits them here in their status as refugees: split families because they had to leave parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, even spouses and children behind, a very strange new culture and language, the challenge of building new communities and new lives—and finding work. I wondered if they, too, will learn to make pizza behind the American college boys, even pizzas with feta cheese, olives and spinach like the one I finally picked up and brought home.

 

You can also send a check either to support my blog or to buy food cards for immigrant families to: Eve Marko, POB 174, Montague, MA 01351. Please write on the memo line what you are donating to. Thank you.
 

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HILARIA

Fernando holding up a food gift card

I thought that I wouldn’t be posting anymore this week since our summer retreat begins tomorrow. Take a small step back from the usual mishigas of life, appreciate morning sitting, afternoon sitting, evening sitting. Feel floor under my feet (I sit in a chair), meditate with the birds (they do theirs in song).

But last night Jimena got in touch with me to tell me that one of our friends, Hilaria, was in the hospital because of seizures. I’ve always admired Hilaria, with her red hair worn in a big floppy bun on top of her head and lots of freckles on her face. I met her last summer when Tim and I brought her some furniture for the apartment she had to rent quickly when she was forced to leave after squeezing with other families for a while.

She’s from the Dominican Republic and deaf from birth. She was married and raising three sons, but when her husband started abusing her she managed to get across the border with all three sons (now 15, 13, and 8) and came here ,where she has a sister. She works in a farm to support her boys, and when she landed in the hospital her first concern was what will happen to the rent, the phone bill, food for the boys, etc.

Jimena wrote me last night: “Hi Eve, do you think we could help Hilaria instead of  doing the [food] cards because she is at hospital with seizures?”

Jimena came today with her husband, Byron, to give an update and also for coffee. She loves my coffee. They’d gone to visit Hilaria and the seizures don’t stop for long.  When she walks to the bathroom or even sits on the toilet, she loses control of her body and begins to flail. They are still doing tests but so far have been unable to diagnose what is causing the seizures (Hilaria has no history of seizures) and are therefore considering sending her to one of the Boston hospitals.

I know the hospital she’s in right now, Bernie spent a long time there when he had his stroke, they took excellent care of him. In Hilaria’s case there are more challenges. She is completely deaf but can lipread. They bring in a Spanish-speaking translator, Jimena explained, but regular translators don’t know how to work with her. They talk quickly without making sure she could see their lips and give lots of information instead of slowing down.

“She needs information in small chunks because it takes her much more time to understand what they’re saying,” Jimena said. “She keeps on nodding as if she understands, but she really doesn’t. She can’t go home because she has no one to take care of her there, they need to get to the bottom of these seizures so she must stay in the hospital and get good care. But because she can’t follow what they’re saying, she says yes to everything.”

I gave Jimena some cash I already had, but we’ll need more for rent, utilities, food, etc. Jimena will help with the boys. It’s that kind of community here; they may be illegal, but they are there for each other. Money isn’t everything, but it can really help.

If you, too, can help this lovely, always smiling, deaf mother at this time of deep trouble, please do so by following the link below Support Immigrant Families. Many, many thanks.

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.

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BRING THEM ALL IN!

Our annual summer retreat begins on Wednesday so this will probably be my last post of the week. I have been talking to Jimena about helping to get school supplies for needy children going back to school (probably masked), and if I get that list I’ll try to post it soon, otherwise the blog will retreat till Monday.

The blog will retreat because it has a life, it has energy. The house has its energy, as do the dogs, the yard, the food, my mind. Everything has energy. When my mind quiets down, everything quiets down, if only because so much of it is created by my mind.

And even as I say that, I cry. Why? Because of events in Afghanistan.

“It’s deja vu all over again,” I said to a friend on the phone. I had a hard time containing myself.

If you’re old enough to remember how we left Vietnam, the photos we see now are eerie. Then it was folks hanging on to helicopters taking off from the Embassy, here it’s planes leaving the airfield. Then it was US Marines blocking entrance to the Embassy in Saigon, pulling down folks trying to climb up the bare walls. Here it’s US soldiers aiming guns at women and children on an airport tarmac.

Let them in! I cry. They helped us. They drove us, translated for us, cleaned and cooked for us, served in offices and fought for us—let them in! What’s with the excuses—the bureaucracy, the visas, lists, third countries and special status—why don’t we just bring in plane after plane, let them all board, and take them in?

The country that sent folks to the moon and beat even the rosiest of timeframes to come up with a coronavirus vaccine, the country that did all can surely do this. It doesn’t have enough planes? We have thousands of soldiers already at the airport or flying in, and they can’t manage an orderly exodus out of the airport, onto the planes, and then into this country?

I harbor generational memories of Jews trying to escape the Nazis, ships arriving on these shores and then turned back to a certain death because people didn’t have the right papers. Since the Nazis had robbed them of German citizenship (including those families whose members had served valiantly in World War I fighting for the Kaiser), they ostensibly had no citizenship and for that reason alone couldn’t qualify for refuge. Talk of Catch 22! As Heller put it, it’s the best catch there is. In at least one case everybody had gone home to celebrate a holiday, there was nobody around to process their applications. All returned to Europe and were killed; in one case a ship was torpedoed and went down with all aboard.

You need volunteers to process papers? I’ll do it as long as it takes. I’ll drop anything—including the retreat—if I can in some way help bring them here.

Is it that they’re dark-skinned, I start wondering? Would it be different if those people on the tarmac were white, blue-eyed Europeans? I read that some government officials defend their procedures out of fear that otherwise, a few terrorists will infiltrate the big group.  We have lots of home-grown terrorists right here, we don’t need to fear a few Taliban coming here in disguise.

Our government told us stories, the Pentagon and Army once again assured everyone they got it all in hand, delayed and delayed with the quagmire of paperwork, bureaucratic rules, congressional approvals—and who pays the price?

I can’t bear to look at the papers. Not in the worst of Trump times did I ever shut my eyes with grief over what is happening as I do now. The shame and pain of being an American citizen and watching the government act out of zero integrity, lose all shred of credibility and self-respect!

This is indefensible—and cowardly. As for Secretary of State Blincken’s assertion that our hands are tied by Trump’s agreement with the Taliban, we’ve broken agreements before for much lesser reasons than this, the saving of lives, discharging our obligations to people who took care of us.

I, for one, did not wish for us to stay in Afghanistan even as I am aware of what women suffered under the Taliban. A friend was part of a delegation that traveled to Afghanistan years ago with the intention of bringing American troops home. After meetings with Afghan women she changed her mind, returned home, and began to advocate for staying in Afghanistan rather than leaving.

I think that would be an endless task. If it’s your son and daughter shipped to Afghanistan for military service, are you ready for him or her to die to safeguard women’s freedom there? I don’t see any mob on an airport tarmac rushing to take that route.

A withdrawal was overdue—but this? Leaving people in the lurch after all the promises we made them in 2014? Seven years of warning and waiting, seven years to process applications and bring them here—and it winds down like this?

Let them all in, I say. Bring them all here!

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GRRRR!

“Boy, that’s some water bowl!”

“That’s not a water bowl, Aussie, that’s the kiddie pool I got so that you could spend these hot, humid days lying belly-down in cool water just as you do when we go on walks.”

“I say it’s a water bowl. Watch me drink and drink and drink. Sure comes in handy on hot days like today.”

“Aussie, your water bowl is inside. This is a pool.”

“It’s a water bowl.”

“It’s a pool.”

“It’s a water bowl.”

“You know, Aussie, there are koans like this.”

“You’re telling me! I’ve lived here for almost three years.”

“So what is this, Aussie?”

“Glub glub glub glub. Yum!”

“You know, Aussie, I watched you join Leeann and her group of dogs the other day. I saw Derek the Lab puppy try to give you a puppy lick, and what did you do?”

“Grrrr!”

“Then I watched Forrest the Terrier try to sniff you, and what did you do?”

“Grrrr!”

“Then I saw Jamie the whatever-it-is wag his tail hard because he wanted to play with you, and what did you do?”

“Grrrr!”

“What kind of behavior is that?”

“Grrrr!”

“Is Grrrr! equivalent to being silent?”

“Grrrr!”

“You know, Aussie, a wonderful reader of this blog emailed me to say that ‘silence can be heard in sharing songs, cooking, walking and interacting in life, silence is just this spacious “thing” which exists inside and outside of us’. Do you think the same can be said about Grrrr!?”

“Grrrr!”

“Aussie, you don’t have to play with other dogs if you don’t want to, but hear this: Working with koans is like working with life. Life gives you different challenges and situations and asks you to respond. If you always respond the same way, that’s not a good answer to a koan and it’s not a good answer to life, see?”

“Grrrr!”

“For instance, in this country we rely on money so much. If one of our children has a problem, we throw money at it: more stuff, a therapist, a more expensive school, a great trip. As if money is an answer to everything.”

“Grrrr!”

“It’s important for a Zen canine to cultivate not-knowing, Aussie, which means that you loosen up a bit, try to see things differently, be more open to new ways of relating. For example, this yellow pool—”

“Water bowl!”

“—is clearly something you haven’t experienced before. When Henry first saw it in the back yard he barked at it for a few minutes.”

“What a dummy, barking at a water bowl!”

“Whenever Henry sees something unfamiliar, he barks. But you go back to past experiences, and since you’re not used to pools you think it’s a big water bowl. But if you can let go of your usual ideas about water bowls, Aussie, you might see the potential of stepping inside and lying down inside rather than drinking the water, see? That’s what a true Zen canine would do.”

“Grrrr!”

“And if you keep on responding all the time with Grrrr!, first to Derek, then Forrest, then Jamie, now me, you’re not giving a live answer, right? You’re just saying the same thing all the time. That’s not good koan practice and it’s not a good way to live, Auss.”

“I don’t say the same thing all the time.”

“You do.”

“I don’t. Grrrr! Water bowl! Grrrr! Water bowl! Grrrr! Water bowl! Grrrr! Water bowl!”

 

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.
 

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