WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO TODAY?

I woke up Monday morning, the Fourth of July, and immediately thought: If Bernie was here, he’d ask me in mid-morning: “So, what do you want to do today?” Of course, he would have been up around 4, as he was every morning till his stroke, taken his bath at 6, and gone out with the dogs for a “cigar drive,” maybe filling his car with gas, maybe buying a donut, trying to come up with an errand. And at some point, maybe over coffee in the kitchen, he’d say: “So, what do you want to do today?”

I would probably mumble something like: “Nothing special, do some work,” and he’d say: “Today? On the Fourth of July?”

And if he was around, still healthy and unstruck, I might say: “Let’s see the Tom Cruise movie, you know, Top Gun 2.” And he’d say: “Good idea.”

In that spirit, I went to see Top Gun: Maverick. Every once in a while, I like to get up to speed with American popular culture, want to see what all the fuss is about. But mainly, I went because I knew Bernie and I would have gone to see it. He loved action movies, big car chases, and lots of shooting and killing. I imagined us going to the movie theater, me grabbing a bag of popcorn, he something chocolate or ice cream. I’d make sure to come early enough to see coming attractions, which is often my favorite part of the movies, and when the movie finally began he might put an arm around me for a few minutes, and we’d stay perfectly still for the entire movie till the very end, when he’d say: “So what’d you think?” And I’d tell him in many words, he’d respond in a few words, and we’d leave the theater.

That’s why I went to see Top Gun: Maverick. I loved it. Not the macho pilots or the sexy military hardware, just the terrific flying and fighting scenes against very dramatic landscapes. And even as the pilots were so young (other than Cruise), and even as Cruise himself looks better than ever at the age of 60, there was clearly a generational shift going on. I appreciated the earnest, innocent patriotism and the many American flags that pepper the film because cynicism, about anything, is not for me.

After his stroke Bernie had a hard time with action films that had a lot of bloodshed. That had never bothered him before. We’d see a film he used to like, and if there was too much blood he’d look at me at the end and demand: “Why are we seeing this?” I would respond in surprise: “You always liked these movies, that’s why.” And he’d say: “I don’t like them anymore.”

My husband became so sensitive after his stroke. He wanted to love everyone; almost nothing else mattered much anymore. If I’m happy about anything in that difficult period, it was to know that caring for him enabled those changes to take place and be witnessed by many people.

But yesterday there was no Bernie to say: “So what do you want to do today?” when I came down; I’m still figuring out how to pose these questions to myself. I’ve been a slow learner all my life, now more than ever.

With my housemate gone for the long weekend, there were only the two dogs and me, so we went out mid-morning, following a path we hadn’t been on for a long time. Turned off it to the right, then made another right and climbed, and suddenly, in the middle of a clearing, was a tepee made of canvas and stretched on wooden poles. The door opening faced east.

Instantly I thought of the Zen Peacemakers’ Native American Bearing Witness retreat that’s taking place this week in South Dakota. I looked up at the tepee and wished them well, then thought how wonderful it was to come across this, in a clearing in the middle of the forest, on the Fourth. If not for the canvas covering, I might have thought it had been here since those early centuries, before the Fourth meant anything. Then I remembered that tepees were mostly made of buffalo skins and used by the tribes in the Plains, not in New England woods.

Henry was there with me, but Aussie was gone, dashing back and forth, chasing deer. And I wondered if that’s what the Fourth means for many people, what America is about: Run run run, go where your heart takes you, beyond the frontier, reach for the heavens and chase the stars (or deer, in Aussie’s case). There is something very exciting about that vision and we evoke the great individuals who did just that, be they explorers of this continent or founders of high-tech industries who left college to start a whole new computer age in their parents’ garages.

That was Aussie’s version of the Fourth, while Henry stayed by my side, sniffing the wildflowers and the roots of spruce trees, content to be dwarfed by the pines and massive boulders lining up the sides of the gorge while I gazed up in awe. And in that spirit, I wish to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the money you sent to help the immigrant family whose father was deported and to send six children for 3 weeks to day camp this summer. With the money we got, I texted Jimena that we could send a few more if needed, and I will let you know.

“This is the Fourth for me,” I told Henry. “Big big hearts.”

“Just not big fireworks,” the little dog said.

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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.

THE TREASURE OF LAKE MEAD

“Where are we going, Aussie?”

“We’re running away, Enrique.”

“It’s Henry, not Enrique.”

“A Chihuaua can’t be Henry.”

“Why are we running away, Auss?”

“Because the greatest dog in the world was not allowed into the Westminster Dog Show.”

“Who’s that, Aussie?”

“You know damn well who it is. I should have won everything! Instead, Best Dog went to some bloodhound called Trumpet.”

“Is he handsome?”

“No, he’s ugly. Bloodhounds always looks worried and depressed. And you should have seen the other winners: Winston the French Bulldog, Monsieur Fatso! And Hollywood the Maltese, who looks like a short, white curtain with eyes and plenty of makeup.”

“Doesn’t anybody there work, Aussie?”

“Sure. Striker won the Working Group title. What work? Did you see his white fur? I guarantee you that dog hasn’t rolled around in shit ever. Oh Enrique, the really great dogs are mixes like me.”

“And me.”

“You know why? Because all those purebreds have breed standards which they have to live up to, that’s how they decide who wins. But you and I are mixes, so we have no standards at all. We can do anything we want, eat anything we want, roll in anything we want. We’re free, Enrique. Free to run!”

“Run where, Aussie?”

“Lake Mead.”

“Where’s that?”

“Not too far, Nevada. We’ll be back in time for supper.”

“What’s in Lake Mead, Aussie?”

“Treasure, Enrique. You, of course, have heard of the treasure of the Sierra Madres. Well, this is the Treasure of Lake Mead.”

“What are we going to find there, Aussie?”

“Everything, Enrique. All the toys you’ve ever wanted.”

“Lamb Chop with the red paws? Floppy the Bunny and Squeaky the Hot Dog?”

“Not Squeaky the Hot Dog, Henry. After all this time at the bottom of the lake, he probably won’t squeak.”

“What kind of treasure is a toy that doesn’t squeak?”

“I bet you find Stretch the Rubber Ball and Chucky the Flying Squirrel.”

“What kind of treasure is a toy that doesn’t squeak?”

“When it comes to treasure you can’t be too choosy, Enrique. You might even find Trek the Moose, not to mention cuddler beds and travel pillows, we’ll find—”

“What kind of treasure—”

“Look Henry, Lake Mead is near Las Vegas. That’s where humans go to have fun. That’s where they also go to kill each other. And do you know why they kill each other? Because those humans squeaked. Maybe their dogs squeaked, so they killed them, too!

“Dogs don’t squeak, they bark, Aussie.”

“If you put enough pressure on anything, Enrique, it’ll squeak.”

“Are there dead dogs at the bottom of Lake Mead?”

“Only bones, I imagine. Do you know how many bones we’ll find at Lake Mead? Hundreds and hundreds of them. Instead of getting one measly bone every Sunday morning here, we’ll have bones every day, Enrique, every hour!”

“I’m no cannibal, Aussie, I don’t want to chew a dog bone. And I don’t want to go to no lake with lots of dead dogs in it.”

“Come on, Enrique. We’ll find silly hats and T-shirts, the kinds of things humans like to put on us and tell us we’re SO CUTE! We’ll find life jackets.”

“What good are life jackets that end up at the bottom of the lake?”

“Come on, Enrique, I don’t want to hunt for treasure alone. I’ll even call you Henry.”

“Okay, I’m coming, but only because  I’m thirsty and I need to drink.”

“Well, that’s the problem. There isn’t much water left at Lake Mead?”

“No water in Lake Mead? What kind of lake is it, Aussie?”

“A dried out, evaporated lake. But lots of treasure!’

“Who cares about treasure when you don’t have water to drink?”

“Humans do. You know what they’re finding there? Boats, guns, human bodies, baby carriages, shopping carts, batteries, tents, lots of barrels—”

“But no water? I’m outta here.”

“Come on, Henry, don’t turn your back on an adventure of a lifetime.”

“It’ll be a short lifetime without water.”

“Maybe we’ll find Doug the Pug. Remember how he disappeared without a trace, Henry?”

“Will we find Wally Alligator and Fuck the Duck, which I lost last year, Aussie?”

“I betcha. Come on!”

“Will they squeak?”

“Not anymore. Been in the water that’s no longer there too long.”

“Aussie, what good is a toy that doesn’t squeak?”

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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.

SILLY SOCKS DAY

Jimena and volunteers unpacking boxes of hygiene products

“We’re not supposed to open up a truck and see stacks of bodies in there. None of us come to work imagining that.”

Thus spoke the Fire Chief of San Antonio after he peered inside the tractor trailer that had sat on the side of the road, only to find migrants from Mexico and Central America dead (mostly) or dying. They baked inside a truck in oven-hot temperatures with no access to air or water.

Lately I feel surrounded by the sadnesses and personal losses of family and friends, but none of that’s like this. I’m 72 and healthy; what’s ahead is common to all beings. I feel so sheltered, so cocooned from horrific deaths taking place in other areas around the globe. Watching a cardinal trying out the hummingbird feeder just outside my window, I feel like I’m quarantined from true disaster. I’m not in the middle of an earthquake in Afghanistan, not at the Mexican border, not in the flooded areas drowning villages in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and so far nobody is sending rockets at our two malls in Hadley, MA.

At least, not yet.

Luckily, I had supper with Jimena Pareja the night after reading of the terror in San Antonio. We hadn’t met in a long while. I was away on account of my mother, and when I got back, she was very busy with end-of-year school projects, not to mention some of her medical challenges. Schools here are closed, but Jimena spends the summer season working full-time for the local Catholic Ministries, reaching out to some 200 immigrant families, helping their children learn English, helping them negotiate life here.

She told me of Rosa (not her real name), mother of three, whose husband just got deported. How?

“They were coming home from working on the farms, Eve. Now they work 12 hours a day, every day. A group stopped at the gas station for gas and sat at a picnic table. Next to them was another group of men drinking. Suddenly that group started to fight and the police were called. But when the police cars came, they told everybody on the megaphone to stay where they were, and then they brought everybody to the jail even though this group didn’t do anything, they were just sitting at the table and resting. They found a deportation order for him from 20 years ago, before he was married, before he had a family, and they deported him immediately. His family had no chance to say goodbye.”

Now three children depend on their mother for everything. She works at the farm, she can’t take care of them, her wages aren’t enough. She qualified for subsidized housing, but she needs to put up rent for first and last month by July 1.

“How much?” I ask.

Jimena checks her notes. Whenever she asks me for emergency funding, she brings the paperwork with her. They need $1,379 by Friday. Our Immigrant Families account can handle it, I tell her, and promise to get her the money before Friday; in fact, I did that today. It seemed like such a small thing to do for a family that lost a husband and father so quickly and abruptly.

We all go through small things in our life: a flat tire, a locked door and I don’t have the key, a credit card that suddenly doesn’t work. I mutter and scrape around, annoyed that life isn’t going my way. I don’t get deported and leave a family behind, not knowing if and when I’ll see them again. It was a no-brainer to help Rosa and her children.

Something else came up. Jimena asked if we could send 6 young children for 3 weeks of day camp. Both parents of these families work in the local farms, this is the time when there’s lots of work and long hours, to compensate and help them save up for the winter when often there’s no income coming in at all. But these kids are young, 5-8 years old, and can’t be left at home on their own.

Camp Kee-wanee is ready to take six children for their second session, beginning on July 25, and gave us a discounted price of $525 per child for all three weeks. The hours are 8:30 – 3:00 in the afternoon. This includes breakfast, lunch, and snacks every day, and of course bus transportation. It includes swim classes and free swims in two outdoor pools, arts and crafts, performing arts, and special themes like: Sensational Sunglasses Day, Favorite T-Shirt Day, Creating with Clay, Silly Sock Day (I’m attending that one), Dress in Your Favorite Color Day, Pen & Ink Drawing, and a Family Night with a show—all in 3 weeks.

It comes to $175 per week per child, which covers all the above. I think that’s a steal.

We have to let them know to reserve those spots by the end of next week, and I’d love to do that. The total for all six children for 3 weeks would be $3,150.

If you could do a small donation using the Donate to Immigrant Families button below, excellent. If you could do a bigger donation, excellent.

We’re talking about 6 scholarships and more help for Rosa, if possible. That’s 7 families. Not 70, not 7,000. Seven families. Six little children for scholarships to day camp for 3 weeks, and 3 children who just lost their father. Seven families, nine children.

It’ll change their lives. It’s changing mine, maybe yours too. Why? Because we belong to one another, and that’s the truth.

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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.

ROE V. WADE

I‘ve been checking in on the new chicks every day. Almost overnight they’ve gone from being tiny red worms, indistinguishable from each other, to gray, fluffy birds. They were still dark red when I took the photo above and if I made a clicking sound, they’d open their beaks wide for food. They don’t do that anymore; they’ve learned that that sound does not come from a parent delivering luscious, juicy worms. They’ve figured out that this Uber, at least, isn’t bringing anything of much value to their survival.

On Friday morning the decision overturning Roe vs. Wade came down, taking away American women’s federal right to choose whether to carry a baby to term or whether to abort the pregnancy. I’ve been sitting with that decision all through the weekend.

I first saw the news through emails that started coming in, and even before I opened up the online edition of The New York Times I got into a defensive posture. Not defensive from the decision—this had been anticipated for a while—but from the frenzy I was sure would follow.

I was not disappointed. The media competed with headlines about how this was the end of all women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, all civil rights, in fact this was the end of the world as we knew it: THE FINAL DAYS OF ABORTION CLINICS; THE END OF LEGITIMACY FOR THE SUPREME COURT (as if the Dred Scott case in 1858, which said that Congress didn’t have the right to outlaw slavery, hadn’t done that already), SEEKING AN ABORTION? AVOID LEAVING A DIGITAL TRAIL, CONSERVATIVES ON THE MARCH, WHO GETS RIGHTS IN AMERICA, SUPREME COURT ROLLS BACK A RIGHT AND INFLAMES DIVIDED COUNTRY, WHAT RIGHTS ARE ENDANGERED NEXT?, GASOLINE ON OUR CULTURE WAR FIRES, A DANGEROUS NEW ERA, etc.

They did such a good job that my own blood pressure shot up. After all, I was glad of the decision on Roe vs. Wade. Why? Because I’m a liberal or a woman? Heck no. Because it gave us a choice. Regardless of what decision I might make, I had a choice.

I tried to stay serene (I’m a Zen practitioner, after all), but then heard the the phone bing: Text message from Nancy Pelosi! Eagerly I scrolled through it, wanting to hear what the venerable Speaker of the House had to say. She wrote that she was launching an emergency petition to protect reproductive rights. “Will you sign your name next to mine?”

“You betcha, Nancy,” I muttered, “just show me where.” I hit the link, only to find the following questions:

“Are you disgusted with Republicans [like Mitch McConnell] who packed the Court with three of Trump’s radical justices in order to make this happen?” I was supposed to check “Yes, I’m absolutely furious.” Trouble was, I wasn’t absolutely furious.

“Do you agree the only—ONLY—ways to get justice is to OUST every last anti-choice Republican who made this happen?” Not really, I thought. Not at all sure that’s the only way to get justice done, aside from the fact that there are Democrats who are also anti-choice.

By the time I finished reading the whole thing I thought of the chicks up the hill opening their mouths wide open at the slightest sound. They reminded me of a rage machine. Click at it, knock on the mailbox, make the slightest noise, and it opens its maw wide, wide: More! More! More! More anger! More rage! More contempt! More humiliation! More!

Roe v. Wade came down almost half a century ago. I cheered it. As for those who didn’t, as for those who felt that aborting a fetus was killing life, I did what many like me did: I ignored them. Too bad on you. If you’re lucky, then one day you ignorant, uneducated—and now fill in the blanks—men, Republicans, unliberated women, Southern Baptists, etc.—will get with the program and see how wrong you were.

Religious exemptions? No way, Jose.

Not wishing to pay taxes that support Medicaid financing of abortions? Don’t you know, poor women deserve equal access to abortions, and if that’s on your dollar, too damn bad.

A few years after Roe v. Wade I started feeling more ambivalence, which made me support Roe v. Wade even more because I understood it stood for choice, not necessarily for abortions per se. That’s when I started paying attention to the surrounding vitriol and rage, the insensitivity to people who felt differently, the grabby banners and headlines that made out of a deeply personal question a venue for deafness and even contempt.

How many of us tried to talk about this with others who didn’t see eye-to-eye? How many of us stretched out our arms and said: “Yes, we hear that this hurts you, that this goes against some very basic values you have about how life begins. Let’s talk. Not because we’ll convince you or you’ll convince us, but because one heart beats in all of us.”

We didn’t do that then, and I don’t get from Nancy and others that we’re invited to do that now. Only now the picture is reversed. The other side is reveling in its rightness and righteousness, the other side assumes that history ends with this decision, now. And what do we do? We react, vowing vengeance, and the hate machine opens wide, showing teeth: More! More! More!

A blog reader, responding to my previous post about the new birds, sent me this poem by Mary Oliver:

This morning the redbird’s eggs

have hatched and already the chicks

are chirping for food. They don’t

know where it’s coming from, they

just keep shouting, “More! More!”

As to anything else, they haven’t

had a single thought. Their eyes

haven’t yet opened, they know nothing

about the sky that’s waiting. Or

the thousands, the millions of trees.

They don’t even know they have wings.

Oliver called this a miracle, but ironically enough, I felt she was describing our hate machine. When the machine gets going, it doesn’t pay attention to who or what gets destroyed, to who is labeled how. It just shouts “More! More!” And if we think that by ousting evil Republicans or creating havoc on the front yards of homes of monstrous Supreme Court justices we’ll have an effect, we’re probably right, only what effect that is I fear to ask.

The people so many of us looked down on did the almost-impossible. They managed to overturn a decision that’s almost 50 years old. A lot is attributed to Trump, but they organized well before Trump. They started winning local offices, they kept the question alive year after year. Again and again the Court rejected their petitions, and they didn’t give up.

Now imagine that we do the same thing, we also don’t give up. Only we don’t just put Roe vs. Wade at stake (now Dobbs v. Jackson), we put the entire country at stake. We put the world at stake. And the first thing we do is shut down those indiscriminatory beaks, the cavernous mouth that yells for rage and sacrifice, both human and nonhuman. That tells us to loathe and despise, that tells us to punch each other in the face and even hang or shoot each other. That machine isn’t just out there, it’s in here, I was ready to sign anything Nancy Pelosi sent me. But I didn’t.

Is this elite up to doing what those ignorant religious fanatics managed to do across generations? Is it ready to take on the long run?

Is it ready to say: We have to take care of ourselves, we have to take care of each other, and this will take a long time but it’s a struggle worth meeting? When I feel myself giving in to hate I’ll stop what I’m doing, sit and breathe, go for a walk. When I see elected leaders and media turning on the heat, outdoing each other with more lurid accusations and talking points, I will take a step back and reflect, discern who and what this serves over time. And finally, if this is a time to take a stand, maybe the stand I take is on behalf of all of us, not just some?

In last week’s talk on the Zen Peacemakers platform by Fr. Greg Boyle, Founder of Homeboy Industries, he defined oneness very simply: “Being One means we belong to each other.” He also said: “Live the truth as if it’s true.” If you agree that you and I are everything and everyone, then live it as if it’s true. Don’t condition that on what the other side says or does, simply live as though it’s true.

The young birds no longer open the beaks wide indiscriminately, they’ve learned what the truth is. I’m with them, not opening up my beak for hate, either. Been there, done that, enough already—and what’s more, it didn’t help. Roe v. Wade was overturned, so much for what we once did. We want the return of personal choice? Let’s act on behalf of all life. All.

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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.

MINOR SUPPORTING ROLE

The birds have hatched. First 3, and then number 4. The above photo was taken about 2 days after the hatching. In the first day they looked like a small pile of tiny red worms thrust against each other for warmth (it’s been cool here). By the second day, if I made a clicking sound, they opened their mouths wide in silent clamor for food.

Food, always food. We have so much of it here in the US, some more nutritious, some less, but we waste and throw away at least a third. I compost our organic materials, but my sense is that the animals get to it long before it turns into compost. Two nights ago, a bear took down the front hummingbird feeder full of sweet water, along with the pole from which it hung—looking for food.

Speaking of the birds, I feel like a proud mama, though of course, other than hanging up the sign telling people not to disturb the mailbox, I didn’t do anything. Phoebe parents did everything, life gave birth to life; all I did was play a minor supporting role.

Minor supporting role feels just right for me. No star, no head honcho, most important: no angry person in opposition, basking in indignation and self-righteousness. Enough of that; the media is doing plenty of it for me.

At different times we give different meaning to our life. That’s not an abstract question because I activate that meaning through my actions. I think my parents wanted the meaning of my life to be survival. They had struggled to survive through poverty, Holocaust, war, and refugeedom, and they wanted their children not just to survive, but also to make sure their tribal forms and religious traditions survived. Nothing would have fit that vision more than by my going to college, meeting a Jewish doctor or lawyer, getting married, and raising children. Other things, sure, but only as adjuncts to the main thing.

From very early on I knew this would not be my way and I never looked back. But what I did derive from that legacy was a tendency towards negativity, criticism (see how much smarter I am than others!), looking over my shoulder, and a low-key depression. It was almost as if I felt it wrong to be happy when life stank for so many people.

Lately I feel these things slowly dropping away. It’s good to take a stance against killing, poverty, autocracy, the lack of homes and opportunities, racism—the anger feels energizing and even cleansing. And I can still lose it a bit (right now upset over the possibility of Bibi Netanyahu becoming prime minister of Israel all over again, surely an inspiration for Donald Trump in 2024). But those are becoming fewer. I want to support good things, not denigrate bad.

Yesterday, Fr. Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, spoke on the Zen Peacemaker platform. I find him one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met (his one-hour talk and Q&A was recorded, and once it’s produced you’d be able to access it on that website). One of the things he said was that, given his 35+ years of working with gangs in Los Angeles, he had probably met more gang members than anyone on the planet. And he added: “I’ve never met an evil gang member.”

He’d buried well over 200 of them, and in a lot of cases he knew how they’d been killed and maybe even by whom, or at least by what gang. But he couldn’t see them as evil. He knew their background, their traumas and suffering, and he can’t condemn them even as he might condemn their actions. Instead, he dedicated his life to giving them a way out of that misery, a way out of that terrifying karma. He became a major supporting player.

I don’t have those pretensions, but I’d like to continue to be a minor supporting player as much as I can, supporting things rather than criticizing, yelling, and obstructing, if only for the selfish reason that it makes me happier. The spiritual life is meant to be joyful, Fr. Greg said. If we can’t ground ourselves in and show people joy, why should they follow us?

Finally, I’m indebted to one of my students for this great story from the Cape Cod Times about a lobster diver who got swallowed by a humpback whale. Suddenly he was surrounded by darkness and it took him a short while to figure out what happened. Eventually the whale spat him out, and other than  a brief stay in the hospital, he’s fine.

What most stood out for me was his comment: “I want to apologize to the whale.” It was not a monster, it was not a manifestation of God’s anger, it was simply a big whale that swept him inside his mouth along with other beings and, after the diver struggled a bit, spat him out.

“We belong to each other,” Fr. Greg said yesterday.

                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.

WRITING FROM FAR AWAY

I read a report by The New York Times on its investigation of the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, a well-known, respected Palestinian-American TV journalist who covered the Middle East for Al-Jazeera. She was shot in the middle of a battle in the West Bank city of Jenin between the Israeli army and Palestinian fighters; she was clearly wearing PRESS identification, not to mention body armor.

At first the Israeli army said it was a Palestinian gunman who killed her, then amended to say that if its soldiers fired at her, it was because she was near Palestinian gunmen. But lots of videos were taken that don’t show any Palestinian gunmen nearby. The Palestinian Authority immediately accused the Israeli army of killing her on purpose, but The New York Times said there’s no proof of any such intention.

The Times used forensic analysis by American gun specialists: “Measuring the microseconds between the sound of each bullet leaving the gun barrel and the time it passed the cameras’ microphones, they were able to calculate the distance between the gun and the microphones. They also considered the air temperature that morning and the type of the bullet most commonly used by both the Israelis and the Palestinians.” The range of distance between the journalist and the soldiers were anywhere from 170 to 211 yards away.

The Times also showed a few of the videos taken, preambled by the message: This video includes scenes of graphic violence. Just in case, sitting outside in my yard, looking at hummingbirds circling the red feeder, I’ll feel disturbed.

I have a hard time with these articles. They give great information, but little sense of what things are like. I feel that especially in connection with the Middle East because I was born there, because the karma of the region is my karma, because it’s closer to me than blood.

Many Israelis think the world media discriminates against them; I disagree. If anything, Israel has very skillfully managed to conceal the effects of its occupation of the West Bank. There’s a very small group of peace activists who continue to fight against the occupation, and of course a large contingent that feels the West Bank belongs to them. And those in the middle?

“When Donald Trump was elected President, a large and vocal opposition came together to make sure he wouldn’t turn back the clock on too many areas: women’s rights, antiracism work, climate change, anti-poverty programs, etc.,” I often said to Israeli friends. “When it comes to the West Bank, where’s the opposition?”

There’s very little, and one can sit back and say, “Peace is dead, it will never come.” But those, too, are just words.

How do words convey the closeness of things? A city’s narrow alleys, the many children on its streets, potholes left by previous convoys of military vehicles? I write in the green back yard behind my house, sun pouring over the picnic table holding the computer, a dog waiting for me to throw a stick. Even as my heart aches, I can’t bear witness to what happened in Jenin.

The closest I came to the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh was leaving my mother’s shiva in May on Friday afternoon, before the Sabbath, and having lunch with friends of mine, peace activists both, in East Jerusalem.

“You won’t find parking,” the restaurant warned them, “the police have closed up the streets because of the funeral.” They were referring to Shireen Abu Akleh’s funeral.

We drove there anyway, seeing groups of young people walking down to join the funeral procession. He was right, there was no parking, so two of us stopped at the restaurant while a third went to park. We waited for him at least a half hour till he returned, pale and shaken. He had had to make his way through the crowd holding up the casket with pictures of the journalist while Israeli soldiers fired at them, ordering them to disperse. He said nothing.

Something else happened that same day. Later that afternoon I went with my brother into a Jerusalem supermarket. There were long lines at the cashiers, common on the eve of the Sabbath, and soon I heard a commotion on the line next to ours.

“Why aren’t you taking her ahead of everybody else? That’s what you’re supposed to do.”

I looked up and saw a long line of Israelis waiting, including a woman wearing hijab pushing another in a wheelchair. In front of them stood an African man. The cashier, a young girl, barely looked up.

“What’s it your business?” someone else yelled.

“It is my business,” the Israeli woman shot back. “She’s disabled,” and she pointed at the Arab woman in the wheelchair, “and the law says she should go first. She’s not sticking up for herself, that’s the problem, so I’m doing it.”

The African man was not sure what to do, people were impatient and angry, and muttered at the Israeli woman: “Why are you yelling?”

“I’m yelling because when people don’t get their rights somebody has to speak up, that’s all!”

The African man lets the two Arab women go in front of him to the cashier, who looked bored out of her mind.

I felt hope.

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NO MORE POTENTIAL

A friend of mine went to Harvard as an undergraduate. Actually, she went to Radcliffe College because at that time Harvard only accepted men, but that was an achievement because Radcliffe didn’t take too many Jewish students. She finished and went on with her life, and about ten years later applied for a job through a headhunting firm. They looked over her resume, unimpressed by her early years.

“But I went to Harvard,” she pointed out.

“Yes,” said the interviewer, “but then you had potential.”

Now, 10 years later, there was no more potential.

She and I met last night for dinner, years after she told me this story, many years after the job interview. Were there changes? Of course. Physical and mental constraints, the food so-so. But sparkle in the eyes and sparks of conversation leading nowhere and everywhere. No automatic moaning and groaning over January 6 hearings, no headshaking about what will happen in the midterms, what will happen in the elections. Instead, an exchange of looks that pose the same excited question: So what now?

Sometimes, in these gorgeous June days in New England, I feel that question all by my lonesome. Headlines blare that all Lower 48 states (what a funny phrase!) are baking, but that’s not true. Here it’s warm and breezy, hemlock and spruce leaves loving the sun, dancing with the breeze.

Do I feel at peace? Yeah, but not as some nice, superficial layer. The stirrings of the leaves invigorate the stirrings in the heart. It’s a subtle process, you don’t know what, if anything, comes out of this, maybe nothing at all, and you can’t be too ambitious. You have to just sit with it and harbor those stirrings much like the phoebe sits on the eggs in the mailbox. Does it know for certain that they’ll hatch? Does it have hopes or expectations? Maybe neither; all it really needs is patience.

Slowly I go through Bernie’s notes of his early koan study with his teacher, Maezumi Roshi. He wrote them out in handwritten notes in soft pencil (somewhat faded now) on lined paper:

“December 26 1970 5:30 am.

The koan: At the bottom of the deep ocean there is a stone. Bring it up without wetting your sleeve.

BAG [Bernard Alan Glassman]: I became a stone.

Roshi: Yasutani Roshi used to explain this koan by diving down quickly into the ocean, swimming fast to the bottom, bringing up the stone and presenting it to the student. The important thing is in the stone. Everything is one.

12/28/70 5:30 am.

Koan: The name of the maker of the stone is hidden in the stone. What is the name?

BAG: Examining the stone, I found the name: Tetsugen [Bernie’s dharma name.]

Roshi: That’s right.

12/30/70 5:30 am

On the stone is written the phrase, Not wet. What does this mean?

BAG: The stone and water are one, therefore it is not wet.

Roshi: That’s right. This is called the wisdom of equality. Everything is Dharmakaya and yet everything is different. To see this clearly is the goal of our training.

12/30 8:30 am

On the stone is written the phrase, Not dry. What does this mean?

BAG: Although the stone and water are one, there is stone and there is water. Therefore, the stone is not dry.

Roshi: You have the point, but you do not see it clearly. Look again, considering the wisdom.

1/4/71 5:30 am

BAG: The stone and water are one, therefore not wet and also not dry.

Roshi: Look at it from the standpoint of the functioning of wisdom.

1/6/71 5:30 am

BAG: The stone and water are one, therefore there is no wet or dry. Seeing the functioning of wisdom, there is a difference between stone and water. Therefore, not dry.

Roshi: What is the water? What makes the stone wet?

1/8/71 5:30 am

BAG: I am the water. I make the stone wet. Basically, the stone and water are me.

Roshi: This should be considered from the standing of compassion. The functioning of wisdom is compassion. The enlightened one feels the world’s pain as his child’s pain, as his own pain.”

I sit with this exchange for a long time.

What reverberates in my mind? You have the point, but you do not see it clearly. Also, I am the water, I make the stone wet.

Also, the hour of the day when so many of these exchanges took place. At that time Bernie lived an hour away from the Center. I imagine that meditation began at 5 am, interview with Maezumi Roshi at 5:30. He left his home every day at 4 not to miss one opportunity.

Also, the interplay of wisdom and compassion. Even as in later years,Bernie worked his head off (and worked our heads off) in works and projects benefiting homeless families and people with HIV, for him compassion was as basic as sweating when you’re hot, shivering when you’re cold.

I see the leaves outside waving in the wind, compassion at work, and think of him.

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EVE UP FOR ADOPTION

Photo by Jon Katz

“Henry, I’m putting Eve up for adoption.”

“What does that mean, Aussie?”

”I’m going to re-home her, as they say in local parlance.”

“Why, Aussie? Don’t you think she’s nice to have around?”

“She was once, Henry, but now she’s getting old. Can’t walk like she used to and costs too much.”

“She walks us a lot, Auss.”

“Slowly, Henry. And we can’t go far on the Robert Frost Trail anymore. I mean, what if she falls?”

“She gets up right away, Aussie.”

“Voice of Doom, Henry: One day she won’t.”

“What’ll you do if that happens, leave her in the woods?”

“Not a bad idea, Henry. Saves on re-homing her. She’s gaining weight, too. I need to cut down her food, put her on a Senior diet.”

“Is there such a thing for humans?”

“Yes, it’s called vegetables. And there are her medical costs. You and I could both go to the moon on what she spends on medical insurance.”

“But she looks so healthy!”

“She is healthy, Henry, but humans are funny that way. They spend a lot of money on what if I get sick? Instead of that, she could be spending money on premium food for us, like Ollie’s Raw Venison with Quail Patties or Hugo’s Fleeceless Sheep No Coloring or Preservatives. She’s also getting senile.”

“You mean she pees on the bathroom rug, Aussie?”

“Not yet, just a matter of time.”

“You mean, the way she sits outside and stares at nothing?”

“A lifelong illness, Henry. They used to put people away for doing that; now they call it religion. No, I mean how she yells at me for no good reason.”

“Like when you’re killing young chipmunks, Aussie?”

“It’s not my fault that they haven’t yet learned about fear, Henry. A faulty upbringing, is what it is. She’s also getting too cuddly for my taste.”

“That’s bad?”

“You betcha. I’m 26% Chow-Chow and Shar-pei. You know what that means?”

“You’re mixed up?”

“No, Henry, I’m Asian. Detached, self-contained, no attachments. If you’re the lovey-dovey type human, keep away. Henry, she invites me into bed with her! How sick is that?”

“I’d jump in a minute, Aussie.”

“There are laws against interspecies cohabitation, Henry. At least, there should be. I’m sick of being abused in this way. Tried to report her to MoiToo, but does anyone listen? Of course, if I want other dogs to adopt her, I can’t tell them about this. As it is, I don’t know who’d take her; she’s no deal.”

“Do you think Percy the Golden might? He’s kind of old, maybe they’ll be a good match.?

“Percy’s got it made. He’s adopted 2 restauranteurs. When I think of what he eats every night I start crying.”

“What about Bruno the whatever? He’s only got one human, maybe he wants two for more company.”

“Why would any normal dog want two humans? One’s enough trouble. I’ve been thinking about it, Henry, and I think I’ll post this on that pine tree over by the railroad tracks, where everybody pees:

Need new home for my long-haired human.

Age: Old. Weight: Excessive. Colors: Sick pink, no spots. Needs lots of grooming.

Answers to Eve but getting deaf. Recently vaccinated. OK with small children but no cats. Housetraining: So far, so good. Not fixed but don’t worry about it.

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2 DAYS IN NEW YORK

I went to New York for two days. Spent one day and night with an old friend, friendship close to 40 years old. We did what we always do—ate well, compared notes about our lives, spoiled dogs, went out for a reflexology session, ate well again, rested.

The next morning, after picking up Roshi Genro Gauntt, we proceeded to Morning Star Zendo in Jersey City where Roshi Fr. Robert Kennedy gave dharma transmission to John Kealy, a man who has practiced Zen meditation for almost 50 years and embodies dharma practice in his regular work life as a doctor. I know both Bob and John, as well as John’s wife, Sensei Sally Kealy, since 1985, old dharma mates.

It’s hard for younger people, who now see Buddhist centers all around them, to comprehend how new the dharma felt even back in 1985 (when it was already 20 years old in the US), how fresh and rare it seemed, with the sense that if we didn’t give it our all it might disappear, or not take root.

We needn’t have worried, but we all shared a passion and love for it from the get-go. We met Bernie in that love, we met each other, and almost 40 years later, at the sight of each other’s grayer hair or more wrinkled cheeks and brow, we connect with that love all over again. For the dharma, and for each other.

Last night I had dinner with Jeff Bridges. I met him over 20 years ago but really connected when we worked together on his book with Bernie, The Dude and the Zen Master. After Bernie’s death we continue to hang out by Facetime, only this time he was in New York promoting his new Hulu series, The Old Man, and we could meet face-to-face.

We met at the lobby of the Mandarin Hotel in the city. The lobby is on the 35th floor (only in NY) and looks down over Central Park and the tall buildings surrounding it. I wish I’d remembered to take a photo, but frankly, we were having such a good time that I forgot. Jeff had gone through cancer and a bad bout with coronavirus since we last met, and I was very happy to see him look so well.

Monday morning, I’m out the door by 6:30 to drive home, feeling warm all over. It’s important to me to see old friends. Once we lived and worked together; now, as everyone’s life proceeds in its own direction, we’re far and it takes special effort to travel and come together. I want to make that effort more often, I promise myself as I drive north to Massachusetts.

As I reach our driveway I pause carefully by the mailbox. Not to check the mail, Lori would have done that, but the bird nest in the newspaper mailbox. In the previous week I hadn’t caught either of the parents brooding on the 4 eggs and I was worried, but as I looked out the window there the bird was, sitting very still, not showing much alarm at the car that stopped alongside. I imagine a number of cars have stopped to check out the mailbox, alerted by the sign I posted.

I watch the phoebe deep inside the white mailbox, sitting so still on the eggs (both parents take turns doing this, it’s not like the male goes out hunting and the female stays home). Here it is, able to fly in blue, sun-dappled skies, hunt for worms, go out on dates with the boy/girlfriend buddy, and now, for several weeks, it just sits there incubating eggs. It does this knowing the entire enterprise is at risk, that one of these thoughtless humans could throw something inside or stretch an arm in to grab something. And still it sits there, quiet, still.

I do that, too, each morning (this morning with Henry on my lap, a rarity; we both didn’t move). You can say that I don’t produce new life, not busy incubating eggs so that life could eventually hatch and take off. (On the other hand, my sitting doesn’t require giving up the newspaper mailbox.)

But when I get up at the end, while there’s no new life, there may be a transmuted life, a new day that no longer arouses dread or anxiety, that doesn’t seem full of “homework” or an exhausting to-do list. A day that folds me gently into itself and reminds me: Yes, there are the routines. Light incense, feed the dog, make coffee, check emails, get ready for the 8 am meeting. But today someone will say something you hadn’t heard or thought of before. Today you may sink into a story you’ve wanted to tell and haven’t found your way to do yet. Today you’ll laugh out loud while on the phone. Today you’ll also cry, or save a chipmunk from Aussie’s jaws, or not.

Jeff reminded me that Einstein said that the most important question we could ask of ourselves is: Is the universe a friendly place? At the end of each sitting, I find myself breathing gratefully yes.

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GOD SNOOZES

WE’RE DOING OUR SHARE! YOU?

“Leave me alone, Aussie, I have work to do. And stop putting that dirty monkey on my lap, Henry, I don’t have time to throw it.”

“No time to throw a monkey? It’s not Pinky the Elephant, it’s not the green alligator, it’s my favorite monkey.”

“You have a dozen favorite monkeys, Henry.”

“Why are you stressed?”

“I’M NOT STRESSED! I have to attend this meeting, I have to post a blog, I have to make a bunch of phone calls and answer 100 emails. BUT I’M NOT STRESSED!”

“Aussie, what does she mean, she has to do all these things?”

“Oh Henry, these humans are crazy. They’re convinced that if they do enough, everything will go their way.”

Everything, Aussie? Is there such a thing?”

“Of course not, Henry, nobody gets everything they want. I love Big Macs keep the bun, so what do I get? Dogfood. But humans are idiots! They’ve talked themselves into believing they’re God.”

“What’s God, Aussie?”

“God is a dog, Henry.”

“You mean, like me?”

“Certainly not. God is everything but you, Henry.”

“Do you think Bailey the Bullmastiff, who was here a few days ago, is God? She’s the biggest dog I’ve ever seen, she must be God.”

“Here you go, Henry, sounding like a dumb human. Humans assume that God has to be big. That’s not just silly, it’s macho. God is like most of us, an average pooch. This average pooch is everywhere, but we don’t recognize Her because She looks average. Humans think that God looks like them.”

“How can God look like a human, Aussie?”

“More important, Henry, who’d want to? Just look at those ugly squiggly fingers and toes. Can they run?”

“No.”

“Smell? Hear? Kill chipmunks?”

“No.”

“They can’t do anything except get anxious that they can’t do anything, and still, they think they’re God. Or at least that they look like Her. Here’s a lesson for you, Henry. Anytime someone says that they look like God, you can bet they don’t.”

“But you just said that God is everywhere, so why can’t She be a Chihuahua?”

“Because God would look stupid if She was a Chihuahua. Besides, everyone knows that God is all American, like baseball, jazz, and the Man.”

“Bernie Glassman?”

“No, Donald. If God was a Chihuahua we might have to deport Her, and we can’t deport God.”

“Why, Aussie?”

“It’s not the American way.”

“So, you’re saying that God is just an average pooch?”

“Medium-size, I’d say. Multi-racial, you know, a little black, a little brown, a little white. Ears could be floppy or straight, but She prefers straight.”

“I think I know someone like that.”

“Likes a little curve in her tail, friendly-like. Unobtrusive snout, maybe a little extra weight because She likes her snoozes.”

“God snoozes? Doesn’t She have a lot of work to do?”

“Yes, but She’s not anxious about it, like humans get. In the middle of taking care of everything, She likes her nap. She knows that things take time, so why rush?”

“You make Her sound a lot like you, Aussie.”

“Don’t be silly. She’s God, I’m just Aussie. There might be a little resemblance.”

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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.