On Saturday we did a one-day retreat. A small group of us sat together. I gave a talk. We ate lunch and rested (it was raining outside). I met folks face-to-face in the afternoon and sat some more. At the end of the day, we shared thoughts and feelings, mostly gratitude, cleaned up, and left.

It was a day of ease.

For a change, I let life come to me rather than going after it, my head craning forward like a turtle’s as it emerges from its shell, aimed relentlessly forward. No wonder I slump. But less so now because I’m more at ease.

Usually, I’m propelled to move forward by events and deadlines: time to feed the dogs, go down to the cellar to check on the dehumidifier, do emails, call this person or that, go to pick up the car from the garage. It’s led to the habit of being in constant motion, and getting suspicious when I’m not. I, who have sat still in Zen meditation for so many years, am conditioned to move, look around, sniff the air, look for what’s the next thing and the next thing, and the next after that.

Recently I read an article about why people, middle-aged and older, always feel younger. 20% younger, as a matter of fact, scientific studies have shown. At the end of the article, I closed my eyes and thought: I don’t feel 20% younger than I am, I feel my age. Not because my body hurts or I have a serious illness, I enjoy very good health, but because my mind feels older.

I don’t rush to judgment as I used to, I don’t rush to gratuitous, harmful emotions, I speak thoughtlessly much less than before, and even as I look at and listen to life around me with curiosity and gladness, I feel quiet and still inside.

None of this was true for me 20% of my age earlier; I have no nostalgia for the young years when I blew off my mouth without thinking, snapped at people, judged them harshly, and obsessed about myself. I deeply appreciate the contrast and am glad for a settled mind and a lighter heart.

Time is loosening up, bringing me a revelation: There is something like ease. There are moments (hours?) when the perpetual restlessness and its accompanying anxiety are no longer there, when you no longer need to hop up on the stage to make sure you’re part of the action or peer around the curtains to see what’s hidden. I can sit back and let life come to me.

Some scenes will beckon, others won’t, and it won’t matter because I won’t be at the center of it and will certainly have very little control. I give up those delusions in exchange—for what? Ease. No hurry to get somewhere. No fluttering question: What’s next? No inclination to clutter up the space and time of my life. Instead, I’ll have ease.

And ease ain’t easy for this woman with the forward-slumping shoulders and the perpetual urge to check her calendar and to-do list. It’s why I love our monthly, simple one-day retreats. They make up a formal invitation to enjoy ease. No computer, no phone. Who else but me needs a structure for ease?

I watch Aussie lying on the top step behind my office, soaking up the afternoon shade. She’ll jump up and bark if people or animals appear on the road above the house; otherwise, she’s at ease. She trusts the world to come to her: squirrels, birds, a car, Henry, supper. The couple that lives two houses down is walking on the road and she barks, but the last bark fades into a question mark, as if she thinks: I know these guys, I plunder their compost all the time, so why bark?

I look at the snow melting and receding. Its life is ending slowly for this season, but there’s no grabbing or clutching, no last wishes. Even dying, the snow is at ease.

Ease is a gift that’s always been there, but for much of my life I couldn’t locate it. Like all life’s great gifts,–love, joy, and creativity–it’s always right in front of me. I don’t need more ease, just to fit my body into it like I do into Bernie’s navy Greyston jacket that’s still hanging in the closet. It’s been hanging there for a long time and it always felt big on me.

Less so now.

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Spring in the air, snow on the ground, and on Kwan-yin

“’The wackadoodle email is a classic example of such evidence,’ Pyle said. ‘The person you’re having on is forwarding without irony an email from a person who claims to be a time traveler. That is a red flag as to the reliability of that source.’”

The above quote is from an article on Fox News’ stories about how the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, and specifically how Texas lawyer Sidney Powell described on Fox News an email she received from an artist who claimed eyewitness proof that the election was stolen. The artist also claimed to be a time traveler herself.

The Washington Post asked Jeffrey Pyle, a Boston lawyer, about this, and Pyle responded above. It seems that Jeffrey Pyle believes that claiming to be a time traveler clearly undermines your reliability as a witness.

Does that mean that everybody who believes in time traveling is wackadoodle? I do time travel all the time. There isn’t a day when I don’t think of certain scenes Bernie and I shared. My brother called today to inquire if I would come to Israel for our mother’s 1-year memorial, and instantly I thought of her and me together: lipsticks, jewelry, talking to her as she lay in bed across a sea of Israeli newspapers (mostly right-wing). I look out and think of past spring seasons when hundreds of goldfinches descended on the birdfeeders all around the house. Who doesn’t do time traveling in their mind?

It’s true that a few may put on a maroon dressing gown to fly them over to Michelangelo’s studio where he works on David; others punch a few buttons before going through a secret door in the cellar of their home to spend a few hours with Cleopatra before she commits suicide via asp. Does that make anybody unreliable?

What about the people who are up in arms after seeing an AI-created video of Trump being led away from Trump Tower by police? Do we bar them from jury duty forever? Or those who know for sure that we’re visited by extra-terrestrials every night of the week?

What about toddlers who turn round and round, little arms up in the air, making tweeting sounds? “Are you a little girl?” “No, silly. I’m a bird.”

Of course, she’s a bird! She doesn’t bother with Linnaean classifications, that’s for the birds. She’s a child, wide-ranging, sky-circling, and free as a bird.

Poet Muriel Rukeyser wrote: “Whatever has happened, whatever is going to happen in the world, it is the living moment that contains the sum of the excitement, this moment in which we touch life and all the energy of the past and future. Here is all the developing greatness of the dream of the world.”

The linear story, the primitive arithmetic we use to explain things (this happened because that happened), the tools we use to restore order and control—okay, they may be needed to stop people from killing each other, but I like wackadoodle. I want to be more wackadoodle myself. Burst out of the drawstrings of logic and intellect, prise my brain open and welcome myth, fantasy, fear of the gods.

To this very day I’m frightened of lightning and thunder. Thunder beings, the Lakota call them. Spring is here, and with it the promise of their approach, maybe to the tune of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. At night I hear the distant rumble in the west announcing their intention to head east to the ocean, knowing they will cast their wrath on this valley, on this house, and no matter how hot it is I will go under the blanket, head under the pillow, shaking in the boots I’m not wearing.

Others laugh at me, shake their heads: There she goes again. As far as I’m concerned, only crazy people don’t cower when the gods are angry. Bernie, bless his heart, used to put his arm around me even as he slept to comfort me.

In The Gods Must Be Crazy, Xi, a member of the San people in the Kalahari Desert, finds a glass Coca-Cola bottle and is sure it’s a gift from the gods. There are lots of adventures and mishaps on the way, and the movie audience laughs at his gullibility, but that gift takes him to the very edge of the world, and how many of us sane people can claim to have been at the edge of the world?

As a Buddhist, I make the vow to free all beings. That’s way more wackadoodle than time-traveling any day of the week.

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“Look, Aussie, I got an email from Wisdom Panel. They’re the people who studied your DNA a few years ago, that’s how I heard you were half German Shepherd.”

“Am not. I’m a pacifist.”

“This email asks me if you want to meet your siblings or parents: Ready to Give Your Dog a Family Reunion? What do you think of that? We’re now not only being invited to reunite with very distant DNA relatives around the world, now you, canine Aussie, are being invited to get together with your DNA family, too.”

“What’s that word you use about ten times a day? Meshuga?”

“I laughed for a long time over that email, Aussie. But then I thought about it again.”

“Big mistake.”

“It’s interesting how far away we get from our birth families. You know, people and dogs used to live together in big families years ago. It was a different way of life, see? Everyone had a role to play in helping the family grow and prosper. When I spent more time with Palestinians years ago, one of their biggest complaints was not getting permits to enlarge their homes when someone got married. One friend told me that he wanted to add another floor to his house on the Mt. of Olives because his son was going to get married and the plan was for each of the men to marry and live in the same house, only each on his own floor. Kids weren’t supposed to move away from home.”

“I can hardly wait to get away from you.”

“Why, Aussie?”

“Because I have to fulfill my destiny.”

“What destiny, Auss?”

“How should I know? Once I run away, I’ll find it and let you know.”

“That’s a very individualistic way of looking at things, Aussie, maybe even a very American way: To find out who I am, I have to leave my family and home and go far, far away.”

“You did that.”

“Right. And you know who else did that? Our ancestor, Abraham.”

“The Wisdom Panel told you that I have an ancestor called Abraham?”

“The Bible told me I have an ancestor called Abraham, and God commanded him to leave his family and country and go forth to where God leads him.”

“Exactly. I’m being called forth to discover my destiny. In order to do that, I got to get the hell out of here. By the way, what’s God?”

“Aussie, there’s a price to be paid when you leave your family behind.”

“Name one.”

“Not seeing me day by day. Maybe never, Auss.”

“I’ll live.”

“Not seeing Henry day by day.”

“Party party party.”

“Not seeing Leeann, your favorite human in the whole wide world.”

“I’ll send her a Christmas card.”

“No Paul Newman Peanut Butter treats, Auss.”

“I think I’ll make it. With any luck I’ll find a Big Mac someone threw out along the way.”

“No Buddy Biscuits Assorted Flavors, including grilled meat, roast chicken and bacon.”

“Not even bacon?”

“Aussie, there’s a price for everything. You want to take a journey and discover a new frontier, go right ahead, but you may be leaving important things behind.”

“Like what?”

“Love. A sense of belonging. A sense of being cared for.”

“If I send you an address, could you send me a care package every month? Let’s see: Buddy Bacon Biscuits, Organic Crunchy Duck Treats With Blueberries leave out the blueberries, Killer Chicken—”

“Forget about it, Aussie.”

“You know what? I don’t care. I’m leaving home to discover my destiny and live my life. California, here I come.”

“Aussie, there are big thunderstorms in California nowadays.”

“How big?”

“And don’t forget, when you go west, young dog, you’ll pass The House.”

“The House? You mean—you mean—the one with the two big German shepherds?”

“The very one, Aussie.”

“Can you walk me to the corner on leash?”

“They’re always indoors, Auss, they don’t bother you.”

“I can smell them. They’re waiting in the woods to jump me and—and—and—I changed my mind. Destiny can wait.”

“Why are you giving up so quickly?”

“First rule of survival: You see two big German Shepherds lurking in the forest, head for home.”

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“Aussie, where were you? Did you run through the frozen stream? Don’t deny it, just feel those hairs. They’re full of frozen water and mud, your chest is turning into an icicle!”

“Who cares? I was chasing deer and it ran across the water!”

“Aussie, you’re crazy. Do you know how icy that water is?”

“Of course, I know, I’m the one who ran through it. Who cares? When I chase deer, I’d go through hell. Have you ever smelled a deer? It’s the best smell in the world: warm, thick, sour milk, oil, and urine. Man, what a milkshake!”

“Aussie, you have to let some of that stuff go, otherwise how will the light shine in?”

“What light?”

“You know what light. The light of not-knowing.”

“Does it have a smell?”

“It’s the transparency all around us, the air, the space, the emptiness.”

“Does it smell better than sour milk and urine?”

“I’m not sure it has a smell, Aussie.”

“Then I’m not interested.”

“Aussie, you got to let go of your attachments.”

“My attachments are what make life worth living!”

“I also feel bad for that deer, Auss. It’s March with lots of snow on the ground. We’ve had a late winter, and this is the time when deer really starve. That’s probably why that deer was so close to the road, it was looking for something to eat. I’m sure it wasn’t particularly strong when it ran.”

“Fooled me.”

“The cold temperatures and snow have extended the winter famine for them, they’re not at their best. And look at you!”

“I’m looking, I’m looking.”

“You’re well-fed and warm, you don’t worry where your next green meal is coming from.”

“I hate greens.”

“You’re at the peak of your powers, Aussie, and they’re not. It’s not an even contest.”

“That makes it more fun!”

“Oh, Aussie.”

“Oh, Eve. Besides, why are you always going on and on about this sad thing and that sad thing? The poor trees sagging under the weight of the ice and the winds. The deer starving in winter—boohoo!  Why can’t you just sit back, or stand back, and enjoy life? Go chase some deer.”

“I do enjoy my life, Aussie, but it’s important not to lose connection with the grit, you know what I mean?”

“I have grit in my life.”

“Like what, Aussie?”

“Every time you say Stay! and won’t take me with you.”

“That’s grit?”

“Of course, that’s gritty. How about when you do take me in the car but leave me there when you go into a store? Stay! Worst word in dog language.”

“I take you to the farmers co-op where they sell dog supplies, don’t I? I say: Come on, Aussie, let’s go shop-ping.

“Shop-ping! My favorite thing after eating, chasing deer, and mauling Henry! And yes, when you don’t take me shop-ping life gets gritty.”

“Oh Aussie. If you saw the hungry dogs in Bahia, you’d know a little more about gritty.”

“They didn’t go shop-ping in the dog stores?”

“They sniffed around the garbage, Auss.”

“I love rummaging around the Kings’ compost next door.”

“In Bahia people are too hungry to throw out much food, Auss. The dogs lie down a lot on the hot pavement.”

“Like me! I love to doze off under the sun.”

“Not quite like you, Aussie.”

“Do they have friends to play with?”

“There are other skinny dogs around, but they’ll fight over every scrap of food they find.”

“Just like me and Henry. I kill him the minute he makes a move towards my food bowl.”

“You don’t understand, Aussie. Not like you and Henry at all. You can’t see beyond your own life so you’re making crazy comparisons. You know what this reminds me of?”

“Do I have to listen?”

“When my mother came to the United States, sometimes people asked her how the war years were for her where she grew up. At first, she tried to tell them of the hunger she went through, of the starvation in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, even of how she was so sick there they removed a tooth without anesthesia. Do you know what her American friends said to that?”

“Did they say they were sorry?”

“If only, Aussie. What they said was: We know just what you mean. Here we couldn’t get chocolate, we couldn’t get sugar, and not enough coffee. After that she never said another word to them about what she went through.”


“Because what they meant by grit and what she meant by grit were entirely different, Aussie. It’s hard to understand that without some kind of direct connection, if not experience.”

“Watch me murderize another squirrel, you’ll see grit then.”

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Sign in a pizza shop with immigrants in back manning the stoves

“Feeling like Wonder Woman?” Lori asks me on her way up the stairs.

“What do you mean, feeling like? I am Wonder Woman,” I shout up after her.

Lori shakes her head and keeps on going. Aussie rolls her eyes as she walks by.

“What’s wrong with her?” Henry asks.

“Ignore her,” Aussie says. “Let’s go out and murderize some squirrels.”

I’m on steroids for asthma, feeling strong and happy, and pretty high. Got a bad cold after returning from Brazil, which turned into asthma. Steroids are more fun than cold medicine.

Only now that I’m Wonder Woman, what’s next? What does Wonder Woman do? There are no Nazis around that I can see, no devils with magical powers who want to end the world as we know it, at least not in this Valley. I’m not working secretly with the American army or as a super-secret weapon of the CIA.

I don’t have baddies to fight against because, frankly, I don’t believe in baddies. Harmful actions, yes, but not baddies. So, what’s Wonder Woman to do when she’s full of vim and vigor, and high as a kite?

Shovel the enormous snow we have in back? No reason, temperatures today in the 50s will take care of it. Lori has already shoveled the walks. Take care of the loud noise made by the car when I go reverse? Already have an appointment with a service station. A doctor phoned in a prescription for prednisone, which didn’t cost much at the pharmacy. Haven’t run out of heat, haven’t lost power all winter. In Brattleboro, 20 miles north, folks got 3 feet of snow and have been without power for days.

What does Wonder Woman have to do? Maybe not much. First, feel amazed to see how well she is taken care of. How many people, knowingly and unknowingly, visibly and invisibly, seem to be at her elbow at all times providing guidance.

When I was in Brazil, planning for a bearing witness retreat in Bahia, I missed Bernie terribly. We’d worked together on such retreats in various places. Now I looked around, asking: Where are you? We need you.

But we didn’t. My partner in ZPO, Jorge Koho Mello, was at my side in his stead, full of generosity, wisdom, and Portuguese. I continued to have conversations with Bernie in my head and I could swear he was there, too, giving few ideas but lots more blessings.

Recently, speaking with a Zen teacher giving dharma transmission to her student, I told her what I always heard from Bernie. There is an exchange of vows in that ceremony. The future teacher promises not to let the Buddha’s wisdom be discontinued. The old teacher promises to support the student no matter what. I felt Bernie’s presence and support every single day when I was in Brazil. I feel it now, back home.

“People will take care of you,” he promised before he died.

He was right. The world takes care of me, often while I sleep or rest. As if by magic, the birdfeeders fill up. Leeann takes Aussie so I don’t have to walk her. Is that what he meant when he used to say that we have the Buddha’s wealth at our disposal?

Maybe I don’t have to be Wonder Woman after all. Maybe I just have to be part of that enormous net that holds us all up–except for those that fall between the cracks.

I just finished reading the book Solito by Javier Zamora, in which he describes his trek to the United States from El Salvador to California at the age of 9. Solito means alone, or unaccompanied, in the sense that his birth family was nowhere near him when he made that arduous trip across water and desert and three different countries, almost dying from thirst and hunger trying to get into LaUSA to be reunited with his parents.

But what the book ends up chronicling is how he wasn’t alone after all. It describes all the help he got along the way, especially a mother and daughter and another man, who together became a second family with him, risking their own lives carrying him to safety. Strangers whom he’d never met before. As they’re wandering in the Sonoran desert, with no food or water, abandoned by their coyotes and everyone else, when the young boy can’t take another step, the man picks him up and carries him on his back, tells him to hold on with his arms around his neck, and continues to walk and walk.

The guy wasn’t high, he wasn’t on steroids. Wonder women, wonder men, appear in all guises.

Please read Solito, and next time you see a Latina speaking Spanish to the cashier in the store, two little kids in tow, or a Latino in a construction crew fixing the gutters of your home and arduously writing out his name on a receipt on a blank piece of paper, think of what they’ve had to overcome to get here.

When I was 7, I came with my family here from Israel on a ship. The problems I faced were one bad day of seasickness two days before our arrival into New York City, and an upset stomach from all the apples I ate onboard (I’d never had apples in Israel).

Javier Zamora had it a little harder.

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At around 1 in the morning, I was awakened by the sound of a chain saw. What’s going on?

I got up and looked out the window. Big lights were on, the lights of a snowplow come to dig out the driveway, but it had stopped before getting out front. I wondered if it had found a big tree limb blocking its way, so the driver emerged into the snow (it was still snowing then), sawed off the limb, pushed it away, and then came down to dig us out.

I don’t remember it ever working so hard and so long. We had some 15-20 inches of watery, heavy snow and it was tough going for the plow. I like to go downstairs in these times, turn on the garage light, open up the garage door, wave, offer coffee. But not last night; I’m suffering from a persistent asthmatic cough.

It was gorgeous. We haven’t had this much snow all year, probably in a few years, and I almost forgot what the trees look like under those white, cottony shrouds. It’s as if they lose their distinctive shapes and turn into a Kwan-yin bent over, with her many arms covered in snow and groaning low over the ground.

Yesterday morning Lori and I walked around, I with a broom handle, and brushed away as much of the snow on the vulnerable branches as we could, especially the forsythia and lilac bushes. We also filled birdfeeders. But much more snow fell over the next 24 hours.

Brushing off snow from a pine that was crouching dangerously over the laundry lines, I heard the familiar CRACK. Here it comes, I thought, crouching even lower under the tree for shelter. A big mound of snow crashed some 3 feet away, but I was nervous about what else was coming down. Whatever it was seemed to be held up by other tree limbs and never smashed on top of me.

We never lost power, though lots of electricity lines collapsed all over the county.

Aussie was not happy.

“I am not happy.”

“Why, Auss? I thought you love the snow.”

“We’re not taking any walks.”

“No kidding, Aussie. There are some 20 inches covering the driveway; I don’t have boots that high.”

“I’m ready to perform aussie-kiri.”

“What’s that, Auss?”

“Hari-kiri but without Hari. Why should Japanese suicide be named after a Chihuahua?”

“Now where are you going?”

“To the back yard. I love murderizing squirrels.”

I looked out last night and early this morning, opened front and back doors. Steps were full of snow and, of course, there was the silence. A big snowfall brings a big silence with it. You listen and listen, and what you’re listening to is silence because there are no sounds. It’s as if the universe has taken a break from all the burn and bluster, here on Earth or else in outer space, and coats everything in a white bridal gown, a new beginning for our relationship with our planet and each other. The flakes vary from each other but don’t boast of it. No identity politics here, just snow covering everything, past and present.

The only sounds were comforting ones: the Grass Roots plow blustering down the driveway at 1 am, repeating its loud, metallic sweeps as it laboriously pushed the heavy snow out of the way, yellow light flashing. Or else the bigger town plows up on the road. I would open my eyes and, through the small window of the closet that looks out back, would espy a monster roaring its way on huge tires with lights, bells, and whistles.

Then I would go back to sleep, warm and cared for. All around us, people slept.

We haven’t had such a big storm in a long time, and I wondered when it would happen again. If it would happen again.

I’ve lived in New England only for some 21 years, and still I remember that a snowstorm wasn’t called that for anything much less than a foot of snow. Under 12 inches and it was just snow. Not anymore. Our storms over the past few winters consisted of a few inches of snow with a glaze of ice, and we needed plows to spread soil over the ice rather than sweep out the snow.

Standing by the open door last night, I felt a funny feeling: Maybe I’m seeing the last of these powerful nor’easters. Could be they’re a dying breed, like other species, and won’t return again for a long time. I felt I was missing it, almost grieving over it, even as the snow continued to fall.

It’s already mid-March, the Ides of March when Julius Caesar was told he would die, and I wondered what prophecy was unfolding before my eyes this cold, icy night.

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I walked past the tree that had arched and almost fallen to the ground, its top branches caught in the mesh of other trees. A survivor? I asked myself.

 I want to talk more about “surviving” that my brother and I talk about a lot, and what it means to live out of that consciousness. We often talk of our parents who lived out of the consciousness of surviving Holocaust. They were Survivors, big-time.

What does that mean? One thing it implies is that you experienced many horrific, life-threatening, and certainly life-changing things. Sometimes it also implies that it becomes the only prism you see life through, a source of self-definition. This is what happened, and therefore this is who I am. You’ve seen the abyss; you didn’t fall in, but almost.

I have no judgment around people who went through what they did. At the same time, it’s easy to see things only through one prism even in mundane circumstances.

I caught a bad cold early last week, right after my return from Brazil. Eight days later, it has settled into my lungs, robbing me of energy. When that happens, I see most things through the prism of illness. Would I give a talk sometime in May at a Zen center? I’m tempted to say no. Why? Because right now I have no energy, so that’s the prism I look through even though the invitation is for an event two months away, by which time I’ll probably feel fine.

I went to Israel to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday. The family had made preparations. One of the events they arranged was a kiddush in her synagogue after the Shabbat service, in which congregants gather for light foods and drink. This time they would do this in my mother’s honor.

“What should I do?” I asked my brother and sister.

“You help mom prepare her remarks,” they told me. “And make sure she doesn’t refer to the Holocaust. Everyone there knows that about her. Let’s try to make this light and happy.”

I worked with my mother, wrote out notes for her, asked her not to talk about her past in the Holocaust, she said of course she won’t. And the first words out of her mouth that Saturday late morning, as a large crowd stood outside on a hot July morning, were: “Of course, you all know I grew up in the Holocaust. It’s been with me all my life, and I want you to know . . .”

She couldn’t help herself, for a variety of reasons. She looked at much of her life, including the many happy decades she had after the war, though that prism.

Frequently we refer to ourselves as survivors—of abuse, harassment, disease, a bad marriage, a tough job. I have heard people refer to themselves as survivors when what happened to them were what I call the wounds of life: a tough childhood, divorce, the loss of a job, death.

Some of these things—not all—can cause severe stress, a sense of dislocation or loss of identity, blankness, disconnection. I’ve experienced all the above, but do they make me a survivor? If so, then I’ve survived life, which consists of all these things.

In Greek, trauma refers to wound. I’ve experienced a challenging childhood, divorce from my first husband, the loss of various friends as well as my second husband, and various work disappointments. These were wounds, some stronger than others. Were they traumas that I survived?

We can be both physically and psychologically wounded for many different reasons, but for me, trauma evokes something much sharper and more severe, a malfunctioning or collapse of an entire emotional system.

Many people consider themselves survivors. Survivors of what? I’ve been harassed by work bosses who sometimes asked for sex. Did I survive sexual harassment? It’s not pleasant, but my life was not in danger, and I was not threatened in any way. You might say that I have a right to demand a work environment that is completely safe, and I agree with that; it’s certainly worth fighting for.

But I don’t think anything is completely safe. Life isn’t safe. My experience is that Americans especially, with the help of labels and aphorisms, dramatize the discouraging circumstances that make up any life. Someone tells me that she had a nasty back-and-forth with a co-worker which traumatized her. I’ve heard young people talk of surviving a bad date and even an exam. As if the only life we should have is one of bliss and contentment, where nothing ever goes south.

People have asked me how I survived Bernie’s death. It was unexpected, I say, and I went through a very hard time, but he was 79 and he’d lived a great life. I’ve also lived a great life. Why talk about me as if I’m a survivor?

I’m the luckiest person in the world, I often think. I’ve had the kind of meaningful and rich life I didn’t dream of as a child. Yes, I’ve been wounded, sometimes deeply, but what human hasn’t? Does that make me a survivor? As I get older, I may feel a little bruised up, but not cut to the quick or scarred by grief. If anything, I see many of those things as flavors of a life well lived.

The other day I walked Aussie. Suddenly, my thoughts turned to my husband, Bernie, and our life together. There isn’t a day that that doesn’t happen.

Did I get sad? You bet, but just for a short time. Teaspoonfuls of sadness, is how I look at it. Every day there are teaspoonfuls of sadness from a loved one lost, illness of friends, a wish or dream that didn’t come true. But they’re teaspoonfuls, not to be confused with the main course. They have spiced up this supreme meal that’s my life in the most flavorful of ways.

The Dude abides, not survives.

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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.


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.


“Aussie, don’t you dare shit over there. Get up get up get up!”

“Why? Why? Why? Why?”

“Because the grass belongs to the people who live in this house.”

“So? My shit is good for grass.”

“It’s their private property, Auss. They own it.”

“They own the grass?”

“They have title to the property, Aussie.”

“What does that mean?”

“There’s a piece of paper that says that this land belongs to me. It’s how humans define what land belongs to whom.”

“A piece of paper can do that?”

“Hard to believe, I know.”

“But I gotta take a shit!”

Aussie wasn’t with us when my brother and I took this selfie in front of a local reservoir. Mordechai, coming from Israel, wanted to take a photo of frozen New England and this was a good day for it.

He’s come for a quick overnight visit after flying into Boston from Tel Aviv. Before that he was in Dubai, and before that in Abu Dhabi, in United Arab Emirates, convening a group of Muslim and Jewish religious leaders to explore what the two religions have in common. Both are descended from Abraham, brothers. Do they really have to be at each other’s throats?

Some brothers are; some sisters are. Karma is complicated. We usually attribute things to events and relationships we can identify and remember (we think): our parents, our upbringing, our culture, immediate past. But these things are way more complicated than the formulas that take us to therapists’ offices.

Mordechai continues to be a religious Jew in the spirit of our parents (as well as his children and grandchildren), a paradigm I left when I was 14 and he was 3. When my parents took him to Israel, he faced lots of painful social challenges even as he became a passionate Zionist.

I visited Jerusalem in 1976, when he was 16. He was studying in a religious school and hardly came home, but the evening I was set to fly out he gave me a paper bag and told me not to look inside till I returned to New York, saying it was the most precious thing in the world for him. In New York I opened up the paper bag and found it was full of earth and soil of the Holy Land.

It was clear to him, and to many other Israelis, that the West Bank belonged to people like him; there could be no other alternative.

Aussie would happily pee and shit in the Hebron Hills outside Jerusalem. It has nice, soft earth, though the human blood that has seeped into the ground over millennia doesn’t seem to have encouraged much vegetation.

“What do you need?” we often ask members of the Zen Peacemaker Order. If I was to ask that question of both sides to the conflict, I’d get many answers: stability, safety, a place to raise a family, sacredness, peace, a strong sense of identity. I wish we’d ask the earth what it needs.

If someone had told me that the religious and fiercely Zionist young man with the brown paper bag filled with earth would one day coordinate and lead delegations of Muslim and Jewish leaders to explore together what they have in common, I’d have said this might happen in a Star Trek episode. If someone had told me that this same man, who’ll get up by 5 tomorrow morning to hit the road from New Hampshire to a Boston synagogue for morning prayers so that he could say Kaddish for our mother, will one day be studying the Koran and pointing to parallels between the holy texts of both religions, I’d have said not in my lifetime.

My brother and I have different languages, but more and more similar values. I am no longer the Jewish woman who betrayed family and 6 million Holocaust victims by turning to Buddhism. If anything, he rejects the language of victimhood. “When you live in a survival mode,” he says, “even the smallest things feel like life and death.”

That kind of consciousness has no space for moderation, compromise, discernment, creativity, or just deep listening. Catastrophe is around the corner all the time; you’re hooked by trauma. Even the small ups and downs of life become reasons to draw up the bridge and huddle in some deep corner, convinced someone—or just life—is out to get you.

How do we get out of that kind of consciousness? How do we flower and flourish instead?

We talk about this when the two of us come together over the mushroom soup and broccoli casserole I prepare to honor his kosher food needs: What’s going on in Israel? What about the Palestinians? Do you know this person, or that? How does he get in touch with the Sufis in Turkey?

We also talk about where we came from, what we took in, what we let go of. What we’re doing now after so many years.

Neither of us knows what the future will bring, but we’re sure of one thing: Words and letters will no longer keep us apart. Religion and spirituality, after so many years of fragmenting our family, now bring us together in a journey towards peace, God, becoming a mensch.

There’s a Jewish blessing which thanks God for giving me life, keeping me going, and finally bringing me to this day, to now. That’s how I felt when my brother drove away late this afternoon.

Let me use this opportunity to ask you to please support this blog, which also supports my life and its endeavors. I make these requests quarterly. The blog is free to anyone; if anything, I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to share this life with readers regardless of payment. I don’t just mean events in Bahia, Brazil, but the small exchanges I have with the odds and ends of daily life, be they feelings, experiences, or humble dialogues with Aussie (“Me, humble?”).

But the blog costs; I need an IT person to help me. Bahia cost, too, a trip I paid for to help develop a bearing witness retreat. Telling stories of immigrant families costs. Stories are important—and they cost.

If you can help me, please donate using the button below (Donate to my blog). Thank you very much.

                        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.


I’m back in the Land of Snow.

Left to Brazil in an ice storm and returned to snow 8-1/2 days later.

Fairly unperturbed, I’ll add. You hear stories, you see things, and as so many of us discover, you realize that you are probably the luckiest person alive.

My friends didn’t pick me up in the early morning in Boston, too much snow. But the buses rolled, and five hours after our Boston landing, I was in Springfield, where they picked me up and we all went for a great Dominican lunch because I was famished.

Eventually we drove north, and finally I rolled down a snowy driveway on studded snow tires that give me confidence. The dogs rushed into the garage, Henry barking like crazy, Aussie a little more demonstrative than usual. A big hug to Lori, who dragged my heavy valise up the stairs, and 15 minutes later I conked out on my bed, asleep.

Long before Bernie died, I wondered what would happen to me later, after he went. He was 11 years older than me, it was reasonable to assume he would predecease me, though I was shocked and unprepared when it finally happened. I was afraid of being left alone. Nobody would call, nobody would email. There would be no money.

“People will take care of you,” he said, and he was right.

In Brazil I gave a few talks about those Greyston years of struggle and hard labor, and remembered how, if I would complain to him that there wasn’t enough of this or that, he’d say: “All the Buddha’s wealth is there for us to pick up and use,” and he’d wave his arm from side to side, half pointing to the ground, as though it was there right at my feet.

You can say that the Buddha, once he left his father’s palace, had nothing other than his simple robes and bowl. But what Bernie meant was that the wealth of the world was at our disposal. Sometimes the timing wasn’t right, sometimes we encountered resistance and rejection. When that happened, he’d shrug. Perhaps it wasn’t the right thing to do at that time, but it’s still there, like the flowers, waiting for the snow to melt and the earth to soften, the right season, the right amount, and bashfully they’ll rise out of the ground.

Bahia had a bigger assortment of fruits and vegetables than I’d ever seen. It felt as if every day I would sample five new fruits I never tasted before. Everywhere I looked there were mango and papaya trees, huge, heavy coconuts, big melons.

And still, so many people there go hungry. I am sure that if we could cast off our typical self-centered miasma, we’d see how much is available for everyone. Maybe some of us learn to live more simply. Instead of tuning into the relentless thinking machine that occupies us night and day, we take a step back and look at how others live, how they make do, how much they love their children as we love ours, how much they struggle for life.

When I was in Boston’s South Station trying to find my way to the Peter Pan buses, I went into an elevator with my valise only to find a large shopping cart with a worn blanket and pillow, cartons, newspapers, clothes, and a torn tennis paddle taking up half the space. I looked around for the person who’d left it there; there was no one. I went in with my valise containing clothes, books, and gifts, looked at the simple articles in the shopping cart, and pressed the button for Exit.

It reminded me of traveling on a highway in Salvador. On one side were modern, tall apartment buildings, accommodating middle-class families. On the other side of the road were shanties with leaking roofs, many containing no doors or windows, looking dark even at night-time. Each side looked at the other every single day, and I wondered what it takes from us to shrug and go on with our lives as if that chasm didn’t exist, and what it takes from those with so little to eat to see, day in and day out, that others live very differently.

It’s a big koan for me. That means I don’t look for an answer, just live it day by day.

I’m both energized and tired now, with a cold that, happily, is not covid. My brother will pop in for some 36 hours soon, and he’ll describe to me his trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai for conferences between Muslim and Jewish religious leaders, bringing him finally here.

How do I describe to him my journey, this path to Bahia?

If you are reading this post through a Facebook  link, I was unable to link to Facebook while in Brazil, but you can check my website for posts on Bahia.

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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.

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.


I’m nearing the end of my scouting trip to Bahia, Brazil, to see the various people, communities, and destinations that will make up our gathering and bearing witness retreat starting on April 30

On Wednesday I wrote about our visit to the Luiza Mahin Community School and other projects here in Salvador. Listening to Jarila’s vision for what is possible for the impoverished neighborhood of Uruguay, I told her she reminded me of Bernie, who called southwest Yonkers a Cathedral City back in the mid-1980s, seeing transformation everywhere.

Yesterday, having gone to the countryside, I saw a very different cathedral city.

It was the monastery of San Sebastian do Paraguacu, which sits on a beautiful hillside overlooking the Paraguacu River. Built in the 17th century by sugar plantation owners, its construction took 9 years and the labor of 2,000 slaves..

“They had no beds or places to rest,” said our guide, Antonio Goncalves Garcia. “They slept on the ground and ate hand-outs like animals.”

Luiza Mahin has its ingredients: a school, a future child care center, a community center, a community bank and credit association, and an interfaith center, all run by women of color, wise and wizened beyond their years, full of enthusiasm and excitement unmatched by most younger women I know.

San Antonio is now empty. A plantation owner had donated the land and promised 50 bags of sugar, or its money equivalent, to the church every year. You can still see the room where the wealthy owners met to discuss the running of the church. Right next to it is a “punishment cell” for priests and novices, at least one of whom we know was locked in there for 10 years.

The church floor, now cement, was once the wooden tops of crypts for the wealthy families; you can still see the number at the top of each crypt; the richer ones, of course, lie closest to the altar. Adjacent was a novitiate for training young priests, with a long, rectangular dining room, kitchen, and dormitories. The entire compound was served by a network of culverts that brought in water from the river and took out sewage to empty into the river.

Food was delivered by slaves who carried large sacks of corn and beans from the plantations all the way up to the church. They were not permitted inside. For a time there was even a small infirmary opened by a priest who learned something about medicinal herbs, though this ended with his death. Worship, training, food prep, financial support, even Portuguese art on the walls.

And death, too, a place of execution for slaves. The river flowed into the bottom of the church, height depending on low or high tide. There was a wide and deep well at the bottom where slaves were chained upside-down by their feet, waiting for the high tide, to drown them.

The average lifespan for slaves in that era was 20-30 years.

Indigenous people fared not much better. When the Portuguese first arrived, they promised to share the land, but Portuguese soldiers, equipped with legal authorization (Antonio mentioned that explicitly), destroyed some 100 indigenous villages to make room for sugar plantations. He said the bodies thrown into the river stretched in a line of 3 kilometers.

Legal authorization. Torture and killing right under a novitiate and church. A very different kind of Cathedral City indeed.

We returned to Salvador and headed to Pelhourino, the Old Town, this morning, and I took a photo with Odara and bought gifts in beautiful traditional stores. Odara was very gracious, even whlle wearing 5 layers of clothes in 90-degree Fahrenheit heat.

Leaving this evening, and looks like I’ll be heading into a major snow storm in Massachusetts. But it’s fine. I need time now to sit in my office, isolated by snow, Aussie pressed against my knee, taking it all in.

This was my bearing witness retreat, no doubt about it.

With Odara at

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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.