THE LONGEST DAY

It’s Thursday, June 20, the longest day of 2024. And it feels like it.

I hit the Tivat Airport at 7 am for my first flight leg to Belgrade. My sister and brother saw me off; they weren’t returning to Jerusalem till mid-afternoon. From Belgrade, a noon flight to Zurich, and from there, at 5:30 pm, a flight to Newark Airport, arriving at 8 pm. I will have been on the road for longer than 20 hours, and that’s assuming everything goes as planned.

Nothing goes as planned, especially from my end. My reading glasses are in my checked-in valise, where they can’t do much good, rather than in my handbag. The same happened to my return train ticket from Bern to Zurich. I realize that I must factor into my preparations the fact that I am not as attentive or meticulous in my packing as I once was. There are cracks, and there’s no reason to assume they’ll get fewer or even disappear.

But I have no intention of staying put. I still need to see the world, listen to new consonants (I love the zh sound you hear so much here), notice a very short, elderly woman wearing a pink hijab that half covers a scarred face laughing hard at something on her mobile phone, watch the Euro matches with a group of men wearing red T-shirts and downing beer after beer.

From the time I was small I was fascinated by the simplest life stories. When I talk to my sister on Friday night her time, after she returns from the Sabbath dinner, I ask: What did you cook? What did your daughter cook? Did Dennis bake? What did he make? What did you talk about? Often, she’ll say: You know, the usual, nothing new. I don’t buy nothing new; I don’t buy the usual. It’s the small, ostensibly trivial things that give one the real picture, the color and furnishings of everyday life—the lamp in the corner, the flowers on the coffee table, Phoebe my canine niece barking nonstop.

In Montenegro we had some exotic adventures: Swam in the Blue Caves, rocky caverns you can only get to via boat and whose water is not aquamarine, not green-blue or gray-blue or dark blue, but essence-of-blue. The same boat took us to the tunnels Tito used during World War II to hide his own boats and even small subs.

History and geography are all around us. Bosnia isn’t far, Dubrovnik and Mostar in Croatia are 1-1/2 hours and 3 hours away, respectively. And when we reached the Adriatic, I asked the boat skipper how long a boat ride to Italy on the other shore of the sea, and he said 6 hours. How close geographically these countries are to each other, and how different the languages, cultures, histories and religions. No wonder it’s so hard for them to come and stay together in the EU.

I could have stayed on board our boat just to talk with the passengers: three men, two of whom were Saudi and the other Egyptian, an English couple, and the three siblings, one from the US and two from Jerusalem in Israel. Everyone smiled courteously to each other when we introduced ourselves, but as soon as we got off the boat for a 15-minute layover at a tiny island shrine called Our Lady of the Rocks, we ended up talking with the Saudi cancer geneticist who was with us. My brother wished him a good Eid (the holiday going on all week), and then we proceeded to compare feelings and thoughts about the war.

Did we go deep? No, there wasn’t much time to develop the necessary trust. But did we avoid courteous, thin-lipped smiles? By all means.

Staying in Montenegro, close to Tivat and Kotor, reminded me of the French Riviera which I visited twice many years ago. It lacks the ostentatious wealth and snobbery, but Montenegro has the only fjord in the Balkans, the cleanest, clearest water in which to swim, and craggy mountains. It was the perfect backdrop to celebrating my sister’s 70th.

Last night, our last night there, we finally discussed the war, and differences and passions arose. But the container held. We’d worked hard at stretching it and stretching it, so that regardless of our height or weight, religious or political persuasions, it held. We were considerate, but nobody had to be quiet.

At least these three Semites continue to love each other, greet each other in the morning with the same question: “Do you want coffee?”

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WHAT WE DO HERE

The sun is up in the sky early, coming up from behind the mountains. At 5:30 my brother goes out to swim alongside a pair of dolphins that arrived in Kotor Bay some 5 years ago and decided to start a family.

Sister and I get up much later, make coffee, and then talk, and talk, and talk. Temperatures reach the 90s by 11 am.

“Talking?” you ask. “You can do that back home, right?”

No, back home we have to check on Lori, feed the dogs, walk them, answer emails, start writing, attached to the plan of the day with psychic cables. I might make a break and saunter off to see the hummingbird feeders, but am lassoed back by desk and computer, the harshest bosses around.

Not here, in Tivat in Montenegro. Here we watch the all-important Euro football championships into the last night, saw Mbappe get his nose broken by an overeager Austrian defender, and while I write this on the veranda overlooking the bay where we swim every afternoon, the Georgians and Turks are battling it out on TV in the living room.

The Airbnb is 2 wonderful bedrooms, kitchen and living room, and a view of green hills and craggy, giant mountains behind them.

We spent all morning today lazing over coffee and danishes, discussing Western secular values, Jewish and Islamic values, our parents, children, what we’re reading, who we’re listening to, and why we bother to get up in the morning. Dinner here last night: fish (something similar to barramundi), potatoes, salad, Montenegrin white wine, followed by more football and reading. Toasted my sister’s 70th birthday, too.

Shopping today, giving opinions in loud English to each other like ugly Americans.

What’s not to love?

View from our airbnb

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BY THEIR NAMES YOU’LL KNOW THEM

November 11, 2021, 14-year-old boy from Sudan drowned in boat near Calais trying to sail to England. Mother and brother, too. Names not known.

November 20, 2021, 7 people, including 3 women and 3 children, sank in boat leaving from Maghreb (Morrocco) to Canary Islands. Names not known.

November 19, 2021. Man around 20 years old from Syria, killed in border of Poland and Belarus. Name not known.

On Saturday, I joined Swiss peacemakers reading the names of immigrants from Africa, the Middle East, and Asia who attempted long and hazardous trips to enter Europe. It’s estimated that 60,000 men, women, and children were killed over the years, but everyone knows it’s a gross undercount since so many are kidnapped to be trafficked, or bodies can’t be found, or they’ve disappeared and no one knows what happened to them. They include people from as far as Afghanistan all the way south to the very tip of Africa.

This is part of Beim Namen Nennen, which I believe could translate to By Their Names They’ll Be Known. The annual event began in Bern, in which the beautiful Open Church by the Bahnhof in central Bern devotes 24 hours to remembering these people and calling as many as possible by name, or at least a short, one-sentence bio. Seventeen cities in Switzerland and Germany now participate in this.

Outside the church, encircled by paper notes with names on them.

Andreas Nufer, the pastor of the church, explained that Open Churches, including churches of different persuasions as well as Jewish synagogues, are often urban churches with smaller local congregations which focus on social justice and environmental issues. “Look around,” he told me, dressed in jeans and T-shirt with a Beim Namen Nennen pin at his chest. “We are now surrounded by businesses and stores, not so much by people living here. So instead, we decided to focus on these problems.”

The church was surrounded by slips of paper containing names and descriptions of those who died.  The rains had stopped, and the clouds had lifted somewhat, and people wandered all around the downtown area. “It is too bad,” Sensei Franziska Schneider told me. Her group has been involved in these annual events for a long time. “More tourists pause to read the names and inquire about them than residents of Bern.”

I was dumbfounded entering the church. The walls were surrounded by art created by immigrants describing their long struggles to get into Europe. Some showed overladen boats that had gone down, others dead bodies carried by their comrades, and still others showed women sold into prostitution. Large drawings were projected onto a gigantic screen up front, and throughout the church lines of hundreds of blue and white paper birds, made by immigrants, dangled off wires throughout the church. Soft pink, blue, and mauve lights illuminated the walls.

Franziska Schneider reading names

People took turns reading the names and single-sentence bios. This reading of names continues throughout the day and night for 24 hours, with participants sleeping in the church and donating sleeping bags for homeless people who live on the streets of Bern. People also told stories of what they’d witnessed, and at some point, a beautiful African woman, wearing a bright red flower print shirt, came up front and sang, in the purest, clearest voice, an African-American spiritual:

This was the sober capping of a long weekend of love, friendship, good food, and even better talk with friends and comrades who’ve worked together as part of the Zen Peacemakers for many years. We shared stories about ourselves and our families, our sanghas and students, life, death, and everything in between. I talked “business” with Koho Mello, co-spiritual director of the Zen Peacemaker Order, and with Sensei Franziska Schneider about our joint retreat in Switzerland next summer.

Attending the vigil at the church, it was sobering to remember that as we were hanging out, laughing, eating terrific pasta in Bernese restaurants, others were still trying to cross dangerous sea and land routes to get to where we were sitting, loving each other, loving this life.

Oh freedom, oh freedom,

Oh, freedom over me.

And before I be a slave

I’ll be buried in my grave

And go home, to my Lord, and be free.

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WHO HAS BROUGHT US TO THIS

Earlier today I drove down to New York. Now, this evening, I wait for a flight to Switzerland to see dear friends, spend the weekend with them, and Sunday morning take two flights to Belgrade and then Montenegro.

I’ve been urging my sister to celebrate her 70th birthday for a year, but once the Middle East war broke out, she, living in Jerusalem, grew tepid. “How can I celebrate when all this is going on?” she’d say. I pushed and pushed, and now we are supposed to meet at the airport in Montenegro on Sunday early afternoon and spend 4 days together celebrating with her. Next Thursday will be the long flight home.

It can all go south depending on the war, especially if Israel and Hezbollah ratchet things up in the north.

There’s a famous Jewish blessing that I love to invoke, pronounced at special times. Literally, it translates to this: Blessed are You, Adonai our G-d, Sovereign of all, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this occasion. I always liked to shorten it to: Blessed are You, Sovereign of all, who has brought us to this day. And now I shorten it even further: Blessed are you, Sovereign of all, who has brought us to THIS.

THIS was with me all day: driving down to New York. Having an early dinner at a Spanish restaurant with a dear friend, who then takes me to the airport. THIS was standing on a long security line, fumbling with 30-year-old luggage, and now sitting by a window looking at airplanes pulling to the gate while sipping a glass of water.

I used to think of it as things falling into place, pieces fitting one into another, but that’s just viewing life through the lens of my own needs, schedules and arrangements. Things do fall into place, but not in any way that I understand it.

Sometimes that calls for a little patience with upset people on long lines and a backpack over the shoulder. I look forward to trying my new foot swing onboard, suspended from the fold-out table towards the floor, on which I could rest my feet. My legs are short, but in some aircraft there’s no room to stretch at all in Economy, so I bought this new travel contraption. We’ll see how it works.

The past diverts me with memories. Brother, sister and I grew up in a highly fragmented and partisan family. One was my mother’s daughter, the other my father’s, the third negotiating his way carefully in between. The divides were sharp, the conflict between parents projected onto—and then carried out by—the next generation.

It didn’t help that the three of us chose different lives, different religious traditions (or none at all), very different styles of family. I suspect we’ll have some discussions about the war in the Middle East and maybe exchange sharp remarks. Denial or staying mute is no longer an option. It is a reflection of how much we now accept each other that we can take risks, disagree bigly (I thank Donald Trump for that great word). It demanded hard work from us.

One of us eats only kosher food, but we’ll eat meals together, swim, go for walks and stand up for each other whenever necessary. This last occurred to me when my brother related that a few months ago he was in the Brussels Airport when a man, spotting his yarmulke, called him a dirty Jew. Looking forward to our trip together, I thought to myself: Just try it. Try it with me around.

I am pretty in one way, and not at all pretty when I lose my temper.

But first, a flight to Zurich and a train to Bern. So much pleasure for this homebound woman to hang out with old friends and co-workers, people who knew me with Bernie, and even just post-Bernie. Only there isn’t really post-Bernie.

I don’t know how regularly I will post over the next 8 days, if at all. At times I want to take a real break from the blog, but always there’s a drive to make sense and create meaning, and I do that by writing these posts. We will see.

Thank you very much for sending in enough money to send immigrant children to summer camp. I let Jimena Pareja know we’re sending a dozen children and I’ll give her the money upon my return. Writing and giving her the check will evoke in me the same old blessing: Blessed are You, Sovereign of all, who has brought us to THIS.

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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.

ON THE ROBERT FROST TRAIL

Up on the Robert Frost Trail

On Saturday, after the morning zendo schedule and late breakfast with a student, I took the dogs onto the Robert Frost Trail, a footpath trail that continues for close to 50 miles through this part of the Commonwealth with an entrance half a mile from the house.

Twice I’ve run into folks asking about the Trail. “We came here to hike it but it’s too steep,” they told me.

“It’s just the first five or seven minutes,” I tell them, pointing to the opening into the woods. “It’s a climb on gravel with some big stone steps, but if you can make it up, you’re home free. It’s easy walking from there.”

I didn’t see them go back to try it out.

On Saturday we only walked it for a couple of hours, didn’t even get as far as Pigpen Ledges. And yes, as the years go by those first five minutes get more arduous. I had to reach for branches to help me up, sometimes bending all the way to the ground. Coming back down, I managed to stay upright, not sitting on my butt and sliding down as has happened before.

Between the two, it’s just the human, two dogs, the moss, boulders, tall spruce and pine, long grasses waving hi to the breeze, streams gurgling. We walk on this Trail a couple of times a season and when we get back, we’re tired.

Earlier that morning I read about the death of the astronaut William Anders, one of three from the Apollo 8 mission who left the earth’s orbit and flew around the moon. He’s famous for taking the iconic photo of our blue earth rising above the desert surface of the moon against the overwhelming blackness of an unknown universe.

I’ve heard so many people talk about that photo over the years and how it affected them. Some said is showed how lonely we are because there is nothing else out there. Others resonated with earth’s fragility, and still others with its beauty.

Dean James Morton, head of New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine, told me in a 1996 interview that it was that photo, hanging over his desk, that convinced him of the sacredness of the earth and the importance of protecting it. Under the Cathedral’s auspices, he started the first interfaith environmental organization called National Religious Partnership for the Environment, under the leadership of our old friend, Paul Gorman.

Anders the astronaut said: “To me it was strange that we had worked and had come all the way to the moon to study the moon, and what we really discovered was the Earth.”

Not all of us can make such a trip and appreciate the Earth from a distance, we have to develop that sensitivity while eating, walking, driving, working, sleeping right in it, while being part of it, not outside. Like walking on the Robert Frost Trail.

At 74, I felt small and young among the tall trees and the big gray boulders, as if this was their home and I was a guest. I felt silent expectations about being a good guest and I wondered what that meant. I carried no trash with me, no food items, just a blue belt around my waist with dog treats and a phone for which there was no signal.

My friend, Gabby Meyer, wrote this in his forthcoming book, On the Verge of the Verb: “We humans are the youngest siblings of Creation. As infantile terror-makers and juvenile delinquents, we are the ones who break stuff out of clumsiness and ignorance and get a thrill out of our own inventions without considering the consequences. We’re the ones who get carried away by success and glory and commit reckless acts of destruction. We are the last creatures to arrive to this world. Accordingly, we have much less experience than our elders: the animals, the trees, the mountains, the rivers.”

Walking in the woods, I feel surrounded by elders, those who not just came long before me but who continue to watch over that gorgeous blue-and-white globe in the sky even as they’re planted in it. Who shake their heads at human antics, at the silliness of their ambitions, at the arrogance of their Muskian reach.

Charge all the millions you want for tourist travel to space; the real story is between sheaves of grass, in the hooting of sentries in the night, the soft indentations on muddy ground that fill with water and then empty as we cross them, still newcomers learning our manners.

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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.

LIFE IN A BROTHEL

“Aussie, we raised good money to send immigrant kids to camp for the summer, I wrote Jimena that we can do this, and guess what?”

“She has more kids to send to camp.”

“How did you know?”

“There’s always something! There’s always more—and more—and more. It never ends. Nothing you do is ever enough, nothing you give is ever enough, people always need more and more.”

“She was asking, Aussie, not demanding. She wanted to know if we have enough for 5 more children, and I said yes, we will be able to raise more, so we’re sending 12 children to summer camp while their parents work in the fields rather than 7. At $525 per child for 6 entire weeks, it’s a steal, Aussie!”

“I call it emotional blackmail. Besides, you tell me never to steal.”

“I’ve stopped using the words never and always. And you have a mind of impoverishment. Bernie warned me against that years ago.”

“Nobody’s worried about me! Nobody cares about me! Why don’t you send Henry to camp? We’d have a summer without him and he’d fit right in with all the other illegals.”

“I’m already in camp, Aussie.”

“That’s true, Illegal. But I didn’t sleep half the night last night.”

“Why, Aussie?”

“Did you hear that terrible screeching in the early hours?”

“We all did, Auss. It went on and on, and it was heartrending. In the morning Lori wondered if it wasn’t some big bird, like a wild turkey, that got devoured by a fox or even a mountain lion. But when I brought you to Leeann for a walk later that morning—”

“Leeann, May Her Name Be Blessed.”

“—she said it was porcupines mating.”

“You mean, they were having sex?”

“Yup.”

“They must go in for a lot of S&M!”

“What’s S&M, Aussie?”

“Shut up, Henry.  It’s a tortured relationship, hee hee hee!”

“Remember what you looked like last summer, Auss, after your annual tussle with a porcupine?? By the time we left the hospital you were down 450 porcupine needles, and I was down one thousand dollars.”

“That sure took a bite out of you!”

“Aussie, I don’t have a porcupine budget this summer. We paid for a new roof and a new car, I ain’t paying anymore.”

“So, porcupines fuck and scream. They must have loud orgasms.”

“What’s orgasms, Aussie?”

“Shut up, Henry. Now as for the Senora and orgasms—”

“We’re not going there, Aussie. And they weren’t all loud, there was one faint wail.”

“Must have been seniors doing it. Do you realize how much sex is going on all around us right now? Leaves are sprouting, flowers blooming, there are fawns and young foxes and baby chipmunks and bird chicks–everybody’s having a good time except me. The forest is hosting one big orgy!”

“What’s an orgy, Aussie?”

“Cover your ears, Illegal, pretend you don’t understand English. You’re good at that.”

“Do you know what the male porcupine does when it wants to have sex with the female, Auss?”

“It gives her full body armor? A collection of bandages? One thousand dollars for the vet?”

“It pees on her. Everybody is having babies and reproducing, Aussie. At night you can hear male owls calling out to female owls, the blue bearded irises are calling out to the bees, male hummingbirds zoom up and down in front of the females like test pilots, male cardinals show off their redness to the females. It’s just gorgeous, Auss.”

“We live in a fucking brothel.”

“What’s a brothel, Aussie?”

“Shut up, Illegal.”

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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.

ZEN TIME

I bought my car last Friday, and as I parted from my very helpful salesman we wished each other a good weekend.

“We’ll have beautiful weather,” my new friend said. “My brother has a boat, we’re going to take it out in Barton’s Cove, and then—it’s Zen time.”

He had no idea I was a Zen practitioner, and as I drove off in my 2015 purple Honda Fit (“I’m glad someone aside from me is fit,” grumbled Aussie, who doesn’t like the car), I again, for the hundredth? thousandth? time, thought of how my beloved Zen practice is popularly associated with total chillin’, hanging loose, even sunbathing or taking a snooze under the summer sun.

How do I look at this practice? My awareness is broader and more outward focused (I used to vegetate in my head for lifetimes); an eye for small things, ability to focus, pause, stand still, a return to the breath, looking straight into someone’s eyes in the most casual of circumstances rather than from the margins (a little ironic given that zendo decorum has you often looking down, not up)—I could make a big, big list.

That’s not what my friend meant. Zen time was down time. Zen time was letting the mind go dead. You might say: And that’s bad for someone with a full-time job and five kids at home? But for me, the practice means tranquility, not self-tranquilizing. It means being at home in all terrain, not blocking things out.

We may need to do those things to relax, to take care of self. But I don’t call it Zen time.

Our culture is so tough on us. The drive to grow up and be independent, not need anybody, make money, live far from family, make it on our own terms—it’s merciless, grinding, wearying, and ultra-American. This species that survived in family and tribal units, often emphasizing the good of the group over the individual, has broken down in this country into multitudes of successful, isolated persons suffering from an epidemic of loneliness, often feeling that asking for help and company is a sign of weakness.

Challenging new philosophies came from the East: body awareness and yoga, silence, mindfulness, meditation, the centrality of breath, the unity of body and mind. These are very active practices, not shut-off mechanisms. For me, they result in more attunement to the world, deeper listening and looking, greater balance and clarity and way less fear, with clearer engagement in the world.

They’re not techniques one adds to an inventory of techniques, not one of many apps to make you even more independent and self-reliant than before (as long as you have your smartphone with you), so that after a weekend of shutting things off you can get up on Monday morning and take on the world once again.

Zen is not off-time, it’s always on time because it questions the very notion of time. It captures the interplay of life. It pushes us to question our use of nouns and names, as if we’re surrounded by things that, like us, are solid, independent, and separate. Each inhale and exhale remind me that every noun, every name, every idea is actually a verb, changing, transitioning, and merging with other nouns, names, and things, the change undermining and redefining their very thingness.

I intuited very early on that Zen was about relationship. We’re in relationship whether we’re conscious or not, but we’ll do a damn better job of it if we could be conscious and see the effects and ripples of the simplest actions. “The original way of being human,” as Tiokasin Ghosthorse has put it.

Zen has taught me all this, even taking its long, meandering time because, after all, it came from Japan, which has its own fascinating, unforgiving culture. It went by way of an all-press drive to awaken, sit through tough retreats, ignore the pain in our knees, ignore everything in the way of enlightenment, disappear! I understand this trajectory more and more, and how that has changed and adapted over the years.

I’m eternally grateful to my teacher, who constantly reminded us to question the assumptions we make about Zen Buddhism and practice, about how conditioned everything is by other things. In the conference I attended in May, someone told me that he once asked Bernie about tradition, and Bernie replied that tradition is what happened 5 minutes ago.

Zen is not just about sitting on that cushion, alone, all one, however you call it. It’s all relationship, full engagement with everything—including with a sailboat, water and sun—because you are everything.

There will always be practitioners who’re at the opposite end of my car salesman friend, for whom Zen time will mean just sitting, doing retreats, and working on koans. Nothing wrong with that, only I think

it’s somewhat elitist because not everyone can afford the time and support to do that. For me, Zen time is for everyone, workdays and weekends, in sun and under clouds, on sailboats or refugee boats, and everything in between.

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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.

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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.

A NEW BUSINESS

“Look, Aussie, we received over $1700 to send immigrant kids to summer camp this year. People sent in money; I think we’ll get more. I’m grateful and thrilled. We’re halfway there. Aren’t you excited?”

“A new roof for the house, a new car for you—”

“It’s nine years old, Auss.”

“—and now money for camp.”

“That’s a whole other bank account, Aussie.”

“Is there any money left over for me?”

“What do you need money for, Auss?”

“I must get registered with New England Service Dog Trainers. I need money for the fee, do the course, and get certified as a service dog as fast as I can.”

“You, Aussie, a service dog? A non sequitur if ever I heard one.”

“You’ve got me all wrong. I’m caring, loving, and kind. I’m all into service.”

“You never showed any interest in becoming a service dog before.”

“That’s when you had the bright idea of taking me to visit hospitals and nursing homes.”

“So where do you want to go, Aussie?”

“With the Man. I heard that if Donald Trump is sentenced to go to prison, the Secret Service is going with him.”

“Why?”

 “Think of all the criminals who’re out to off him.”

“Do you suppose they’ll share a cell? Will they be in adjoining cells? A suite? They can put him in a cell with MSNBC and NPR on 24 hours a day.”

“That would be torture under international convention. But hearing about the Secret Service gave me the idea. As a service dog, I can go to prison with him. Think of all the fun we’ll have. He’ll have his private chef, for sure. No prison food for my Man and no kibble for me. A miniature golf course for daytime activity and bagfulls of dog treats.”

“You mean, under all that cash he’ll smuggle in.”

“And of course, I’ll be his guard dog.”

“Aussie, he’ll be surrounded by prison guards and Secret Service.”

“Yes, but who’ll guard the Amazon boxes full of top-secret documents? Were Secret Service people any good there? That’ll be my job. If DOJ sends agents to pick them up, I’ll snarl and show my teeth: Just try it, Merrick!

“Aussie, Donald Trump never showed any interest in dogs in the White House, or anywhere else, for that matter.”

“Wait till I start digging a couple of tunnels. I took lessons from Hamas. He could use one to go see Melania, and another to go to the next cell to play poker with the Secret Service. I’ll help him cheat.”

“Why, Aussie?”

“Because if he’s in prison and not in the White House, how will he make any money? But it’ll be no problem. The Man will buy the prison.”

“What’s he going to call it?”

“Trump Cooler. It’ll be a big money-maker for us. Too many hotels and apartment buildings are trying to get rid of the Trump name, but we’ll start a whole new business: Trump Coolers. World-class Penal Colonies for billionaires and up. Bitcoin accepted. No riffraff allowed. We’ll dress up the guards as doormen, nobody’ll notice.”

“Aussie, Aussie.”

“What a business opportunity! People will die to get in. Every state will have a Trump Cooler. Medium-security for immigrants, maximum-security for Democrats and Anthony Fauci.”

“Aussie, I raised you to be ethical, a lover of all beings.”

“It was a very dull education, but don’t worry. We’ll finish every day with a reading from the Trump Bible and a request for donations.”

               Donate to My Blog              Donate to Immigrant Families

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.

Make a Donation to My Blog Donate To Immigrant Families

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.

PURPLE

I went to Green River Auto on Thursday to buy a second-hand car after my well-used red Prius emitted a new burst of squeals and screeches. There wasn’t much time before I would lose my 13-year-old companion.

My feminism regresses big-time around cars. Need to have a guy around. No mansplaining, just practical tips and suggestions that are very valuable. A friend of a friend sent me an exhaustive list of questions to ask. Lori, too, knows her way around cars, but she’s bedridden and can’t help much this time, except to recommend Green River Auto. So, for the first time in my life, I go used-car shopping on my lonesome.

The silver Prius is 5 years newer than mine. It feels safe and familiar, just like driving my own old Prius without the death throes.

“I guess I’ll take this one,” I say unexcitedly. “Do you have anything else?”

“A 2015 Honda Fit with 106,000 miles,” Scott, all red hair and blue eyes, tells me. “A good car, only it’s purple. Not too many people want to buy a purple car.”

A purple car!

Where does my mind go? Back a quarter of a century, when Bernie and I lived in Santa Barbara and met Alison Allen. She and her husband owned the beach house where we lived for over two years. Alison was one of the most beautiful women I’d ever met. She was also talented, kind, and openhearted, and after Bernie got sick, drove to see us a few times even after getting hit hard by cancer.

There was something ethereal about her, as though she had way less concrete substance to her body that the rest of us. This became especially palpable once her struggle with breast cancer began. And—she loved purple.

The house we lived in was purple, as were the Adirondack chairs on the porch overlooking the Pacific, as were the sofa and rug in the living room and the bedspread in the bedroom. I only ever saw her wear purple clothes and drive purple cars. Her hair was purple and when she lost it to chemo, she painted art on her scalp, and that was purple, too.

“Let me try it,” I tell Scott.

It’s way different from the tight, strait-laced Prius I’m accustomed to. For the first time in my life, I have a car with a camera in back and one showing the right lane as I drive. And it’s purple. It’s small, with lots of space—and it’s purple. It’s a year older than the silver Prius, $2,000 cheaper, 106,000 miles—and it’s purple.

“I’ll take it,” I tell him.

I’m so grateful when the past merges with the present. There isn’t a day when Bernie doesn’t come alive to me because of a question someone asked, because of an email or a photo, or because I stained the tablecloth at dinner. “Oh oh,” he’d say and grin. When this happens, the present becomes more vibrant than ever, as if this combination of past and present adds to the vividness of the moment.

“What do you think?” I ask both dogs when I take them out today.

Henry whines in disapproval.

“What’s your problem?” asks Aussie.

“I liked the red car,” he tells her. “It made me feel like a gigolo.”

“Purple is majesty,” Aussie tells him.

Purple is Alison, I think to myself.

I got a note from her right after she ended her life. “Life was and is the most astonishing miracle.” She loved it even as she brought it to an end, had no regrets, except for one: “I never figured out how to be of service. I think that should be a priority for everyone, how to give back for this glorious experience called life. It only makes our own life richer.”

I have it in front of me now, five years later. Naturally, both ink and paper are purple.

I have purple in mind as I ask you, kind readers, to please make a donation in order to send children of immigrant families to day camp this summer. We’ve done this for the past 3 summers and I have often heard about the big difference it makes not just in the lives of the children, who do arts programs, swim, play, and learn, but also for their parents who work hard on the farms during summer. Any parent can sympathize with the plight of having to work and no one to watch the children.

The camp is a Godsend to these families, and listen to this: The price to send 7 children to camp for 6 weeks, starting July 1, is $3,400: $525 for each of six and just $250 for the 7th. It’s a steal.

“Are you sure about these numbers?” I ask Jimena.

“Yes. This time I got a big discount because I do all the translation of the camp materials into Spanish, so we are sending these children to camp for less than half what others pay, less than half what we needed to raise last year.”

The super woman continues to do it all, raveling the web of generosity all around her. That web surrounds me all the time. A dear long-time student gave me a financial gift so that I could buy, as she told me, “a reliable car,” not something that might give up the ghost a few years from now. The sun shines, I’m healthy, and Henry, the ex-gigolo, has just deposited on my lap a disgusting, dirt-encrusted marrow bone that he dug up from the ground and brought me as a gift. What more could anyone want?

Please donate to send these children to Camp Kee-wanee, which offers immigrant children a variety of arts programs, free meals and snacks, and takes the worry off their parents’ brows. You can do that by using the button below: Donate to Immigrant Families. Many, many thanks to all of you, from the families, Jimena, and me.

                 Donate to My Blog                      Donate to Immigrant Families

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.

Make a Donation to My Blog Donate To Immigrant Families

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.

CRIME IN MONTAGUE

Montague Reporter

May 23, 2024

Police Log

“Caller from Fifth Street states she got home and there were flowers on her steps along with a note. She finds this suspicious; last time there were flowers and Skittles. Wants on record at this time.”

OMG, major crime in this backwater of the country. First, flowers with Skittles (candy), followed by flowers with a note. Call State Police! Call the FBI! Who said serious crime is down nationally?

I laughed when I read this. Till yesterday, when I went car-shopping. My red Prius is finally giving up the ghost, courtesy of how much salt we put on our icy winter roads and an unpaved driveway. I was sure I’d drive it way past 200,000 miles, but that was not to be, so I’m looking for a good second-hand car. My sweet red Prius was the only new car I ever bought; Bernie urged me to get one (they were just coming out) after our old car was junked at 230,000 miles.

Since Lori is still bedridden in my office, I stop by to inform her I’m leaving the house.

“Have a good time car-shopping,” she calls out.

I leave, muttering to myself. Bah! Humbug! A good time car-shopping! Who has a good time shopping for a used car? This is not how I planned to spend my super-important-to-humanity days, not to mention that I know nothing about used cars.

But as I pulled out in my dying Prius, listening to a new sound on the left side of the car that hadn’t been there before (slow cardiac arrest?), I thought: Why can’t car-shopping be fun? Okay, it’s not what I planned, not on my top 300 to-dos, but I have to do it anyway, so why not make it fun?

I pull into my local service station, Mark’s Auto, and tried their used Priuses. Too expensive. But had fun bantering with funereal Terry, who greets me whenever I bring my car in for service.

“Terry, you look great. Did you cut your hair?” I ask.

“Just took my hat off, Eve,” he says drily.

I don’t miss a trick.

“Hatlessness suits you,” I tell him. “You’re a handsome dude. Believe me, I know about handsome dudes.”

He grunts, hands me the keys to a couple of second-hand Priuses and looks back at the computer screen.

Then off to Orange, some 30 minutes away. No hybrid cars here, just a possible Honda, maybe even a Subaru; everything else is too big. I take the Honda out for a very pleasant ride in the countryside, turn the wheel this way and that, and when I brake hard to try the brakes a truck almost rams into the backside. I’m having a ball. I get down on the ground to check for rust—“The car came from New Jersey!” remonstrates Mike—and we have a humorous conversation about rust in NJ vs. rust in MA, agreeing that MA rust is far superior.

I negotiate with all my usual persuasive power and congratulate myself on getting a whopping $7.50 off the asking price of the Honda. Mike and I talk dogs and I wave goodbye and tell him I’ll be in touch soon, but not before giving him my card.

“What’s Zen?” inquires Mike, never dreaming of the dharma talk he’s about to get. After 20 minutes discourse on emptiness, he interrupts me to wait on a customer looking for a pick-up truck, and I leave, proud of my bodhisattvahood.

Whenever I walk the dogs, Lori says: “Have a good time!”

I mutter to myself then, too; I often have no desire to walk the dogs. Notice how things not on your priority list suddenly become number 1? Not to mention hay fever. But almost every time I go, I’m glad. Identified a bird I didn’t know before, noted the oddest-looking bark on a tree, watched Aussie splash Henry while wearing a big grin on her silly face, wondered what had just been planted in the fields, looked west at the rest of the country and decided that life was way bigger than me.

It’s your state of mind, dummy, I tell myself. Some things you can’t change, but you can always change your state of mind.

John O’Donahue wrote: “Awaken your spirit to adventure.”

                Donate to My Blog            Donate to Immigrant Families

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.

Make a Donation to My Blog Donate To Immigrant Families

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.