What Aussie does when it rains

“I don’t like the name Aussie.”

“Aussie, Bernie called you that. He chose you in the shelter and he named you once we brought you home.”

“He only had to live with Aussie for 45 days before he died. Me, I have to live with it forever. How about Gwendolyn?”

“Give me a break.”


“Come on, Auss.”

“And that’s another thing. I hate it when you shorten Aussie to Auss. That’s the trouble with these names, you never know what others will do with them. You could shorten Auss even more, just take out the u and what do you got?”

“I never thought of that, Auss.”

“Now, if you called me Gwendolyn, you could shorten it to Gwen, or Lynn. And if you called me Genevieve it could be Jen, or Viv, or even Viva. Anything’s better than Auss. Auss sounds like horse. I’m not a horse.”

“Auss, I mean Aussie, you know how you like to disappear when we take walks in the woods, and I have to walk around yelling ‘Aussie—come!’ a dozen times at the top of my lungs? Now you want me to walk around and yell ‘Genevieve—come! Genevieve-come!’ as loud as possible?”

“No, you say ‘Genevieve—vien! Vien, Genevieve!’”

“Bernie called you Aussie. He was from Brooklyn. He probably never heard of Genevieve.”

“It’s not fair to be given a name when you’re young, especially when you’re just born, and you have no say in the matter. Imagine you get a name like Blinken or—”

“That’s our Secretary of State.”

“No wonder we get no respect. Or a name like Begonia. How does any self-respecting dog live with a name like Begonia? I hate flowers.”

Buttercup? Primrose?”

“I’m vomiting my supper. But when you’re a pup there’s nothing you can do. You can’t object if they call you Frangipani even though you’re the one who has to live with Frangipani for the rest of your life!”

“Oh Aussie, what’s in a name?”

“Everything’s in a name! When people first meet me, they get down on their knees, which is always a good start, stretch out their hand, and what do they ask you?”

“What’s her name.”


“They want to know what to call you, how to get your attention, Auss.”

“If they take out a treat, they got my attention. If they call me Aussie, I turn my back on them.”

“So, are you saying you want another name?”

“I want to have some control over my life. The name’s just a pimple on Henry’s nose, which doesn’t need enhancement. I NEED CONTROL OVER MY LIFE! It starts with the right name.”

“Like what?”

Alexander. Caesar. Zeus. Nobody messes with someone called Zeus.”

“Aussie, those are men’s names and you’re a female.”

“You’re a cissexist.”

“I can’t even pronounce the word. Another question to you, Aussie. Why do you chase after animals if you’re not going to eat them?”

“If they run, I chase. The rest is all mathematics.”

“What mathematics?”

“Suppose x is the rate of speed when I chase them, and y is their rate of speed when they run. If x is greater than y, they’re dead. If y is greater than x, they’re not. Thank God for algebra, I wouldn’t know how to hunt otherwise.”

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I went back to the woods behind the Montague Farm this morning and couldn’t find my way. It seemed as if no matter where I went, brambles and fallen branches and trees blocked my progress.

Remember, I’ve been doing this walk for more than 20 years and I thought I knew my way. You go up the slope, enter the woods, walk down a half-flooded road wide enough for a vehicle, at the top veer left, and voila! You’ve taken your first steps into a forest that seems to go on for miles, connecting with state land and other forests and mountains up north.

At that point I’m on a path that winds around oak groves, keeping the creek to its left, then veers right and up, crossing rocky perimeters and circumnavigating enormous rocks that jut out of the ground till you reach the top of a hill dotted with tall pines hiding the sunlight, where the snow lasts longest, and then descending towards pools that connect with the creek.

That’s where I stop. I’ve crossed the pools in summer and walked on, but not for a long time.

I’m accustomed to the fact that after each winter, limbs lie strewn on the path and big trunks get in the way, often camouflaging the path so that I need to find ways to go around and rediscover it anew; it’s an annual spring ritual. But this winter, after 20 years, the path seems to have completely disappeared.

“Do you think my time for walking these woods is over?” I ask Aussie.

“You’re old, maybe you need a GPS.”

“There’s no signal here so it won’t work. Right now, I’m running into brambles whichever direction I take.”

“Maybe brambles are the path,” says Aussie.

“Aussie, you’ve been around too many Zen teachers.”

“What’s the matter, afraid your skin will be scratched, your jacket torn?”

“Nice for you to say, Auss, with your thick fur.”

“You’re the one who always says that meaning comes out of interaction. Well, here’s your chance to interact with brambles.”

“Aussie, what I meant was that we sometimes think that meaning comes out of sitting in our chair and thinking about stuff. When I look back, I think most of the time I did that was a waste of effort. Sure, you have to reflect on things here and there, but most of the thinking that I did didn’t come to much. More and more, I think that meaning arises out of the space between people, between people and things, how we meet each other and what arises. How we treat each other.”

“Doesn’t that include the shrubs that scratch your cheeks? The many branches on the ground that, with any luck, will trip you up?”

“With any luck? You want me to fall on the ground, Auss?”

“Think of it as a meeting, an encounter. There you are, walking on and on, not paying much attention because what can you do, you’re human, and suddenly—CRASH! Down you go. A perfect occasion to interact with the earth. Feel the hard ground under your knees and hips, feel it giving a rough kiss to your back.”

“I’ve never heard anything so silly in my entire life, Aussie.”

“Don’t forget—every moment is a chance to wake up! A good fall will shock you out of your head big-time. You could have a major insight!”

“I don’t know, Auss.”

“Of course, the minute we talk about it we ruin it. You realize this entire conversation can’t possibly be true? Words are delusional misrepresentations of the truth. In fact, THIS ENTIRE POST IS DELUSIONAL! You think you’re baring your soul, sharing intimately, but you’re just deluding your readers!”

“What do you suggest I do, Aussie?”


“Good idea, Aussie.”

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I often write about how busy I find himself, that it’s an old habit I’ve had trouble loosening up. Trouble giving the old drive a rest. What’s the cliché? Take time to smell the flowers. Don’t fall victim to society’s sense of urgency and overwork.

But recently I’ve been looking at it the other way, and that is appreciating my work more and more. Asking myself why I think I have to change so much, why I need to improve in some way. Yes, holding tightly to anything can feel like locking yourself behind bars, but doing what gives you a sense of purpose and meaning?

Getting into action, feeding Aussie, looking at emails and what’s ahead for me today—and doing them—actually energize me. Lots of emails, conversations, and lately research re plane travel in connection with the Zen Peacemaker Order, plans for next week’s teaching, plans for the winter intensive here at the local Green River Zen Center, writing, studying, looking at what’s needed by low-income immigrant families—these call out the best in me. Still taking action to fulfill my vows to ameliorate the suffering in the world, still finding renewal almost everywhere, even on a snowy afternoon in the middle of the woods.

Many people have family nearby and taking care of children and grandchildren becomes their big focus. Others like to gather the local community at certain times, have lots of coffee with friends. I also like to do small talk with really good friends, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that doctors now find that it’s healthy and life-prolonging. When I spend time with my sister in Israel, we do lots of small talk, which leads to lots of laughter and much health for both of us.

But I can’t do a lot of that, I got to get to work. That’s what I hear myself saying without thinking: “Lori (after we both feed our respective dogs), I have to get to work.” Or: “Aussie, you’ve had your breakfast and your walk, now I have to get to work.” Or even as I get up from the morning meditation, there’s the unstated resolve: Time to get to work.

Not for me reading during the day, certainly not watching television (except when I binge-watched during covid, at the express order of the doctor). No, it’s sitting in front of the screen, tentatively touching the computer keys while wondering how much longer this old computer will last, opening up emails, the news, and most important, the calendar with reminders of what’s up for today. Okay, I think to myself, let’s get to it.

I’m aware that it’s not just through taking action that life is meaningful, it’s also through watching snowflakes come down, following the birds in the feeders, the squirrels foraging on the ground for spilled birdseed, Aussie slumbering her way through a rainy, snowy day, the gray stones lining the paths slowly turning white. Presence is everything, but work requires presence, too.

I am one of those who has always found great energy in work, as well as solace. Whatever angst or dread I may feel as I face the day—fear of death? Vague existential anxiety? Seeing the delusion behind the very notion of control?—it disappears when I write these posts, or when I go back to an old writing project and look at how I can pick it up again, write anything, ideas and words rolling in from I don’t know where. Broaden my life even as I try to simplify, give permission for meandering, and continue to work.

Work has always been the pivot, especially now without Bernie. I’m no longer the stay-at-home caregiver, he didn’t want me to be that, so he died. I’m also not the day-to-day doting grandmother picking up small children from school and giving them supper if their parents are still working, or the main holiday cook. Relationships are so important—but me, I love to work.

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It was New Year’s Day, or soon after, when I walked down the muddy, gray slope of the old Montague Farm, where we once lived and worked, after walking in the woods with Aussie. It had begun to rain so I was hurrying a bit, watching the slippery trail, when I heard the train.

There are train tracks some three-quarters of a mile from the Farm, a half-mile from the house. Amtrak used to use those tracks for its daily Vermonter, grumbling it way from Virginia all the way to northern Vermont and back, and I used to tell people that it was very easy to get to us, just be ready to jump when the train came round the bend into Montague. “There is no barrier or lights,” I’d tell them, “just a small white house on one side of the tracks and an even smaller mud pond on the other side, but there’s a road there and all you do is jump down, pick yourself up, walk half a mile, and you’re at our home.”

But Amtrak let go of those tracks in favor of tracks further south going through Deerfield, so now the only trains using our tracks are freight trains with a different name on each car, names like Canadian, Wyoming Rail, BNSF or Norfolk Southern.

I’ve loved trains all my life. They evoked adventure and mysteries just behind the bend. I think that my first English-language children’s book, when I came to the US at the age of 7, was about trains. Knowing this love of mine, Bernie took me down to New Orleans on a sleeper train on the occasion of my 60th birthday. I often wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of a distant train. I lie, eyes closed, in a pleasant, reassuring haze; I know that all is well with the world when trains are still running.

As I heard the rumbling of the wheels while walking down the slope at the Farm, I felt my entire train life collapse into that moment. In a vague way I was aware of the many places and times I had encountered and used trains (yes, even the New York subway), the last being on the train from Tel-Aviv Airport to Jerusalem when my siblings and I returned from the Sinai, everybody looking down at their phones to follow the finals of the World Cup.

But that moment wasn’t about getting lost in some bygone time or era, indulging myself in memories and nostalgia. It was as if all trains melted right into that moment of stepping on the hard, muddy ground while a train rolled a short distance away, as if the rumbling of wheels was nothing but the beating heart of the entire universe.

These are now the daily episodes I wish to fully experience, when everything collapses into a bent Norfolk Pine, one squirrel suspended upside-down from the birdfeeder, white stomach glistening, the scratch of Henry at the dog door.

It’s funny to write this even as I will shortly go online to search for bookings for a trip to Brazil in the end of February in order to help plan a bearing witness retreat in Bahia. I was in Brazil some 20 years ago and loved it, and when I get on the plane I’ll be fine (though there are a number of planes to take on this trip, first to Porto Allegre in the south, then to Bahia in the north), and it’s all for a good purpose.

But adventure? Excitement to meet new people, see new places? My heart’s no longer in it, not as it used to be many years ago when I loved to travel.

Bertrand Russell wrote: “As we rise in the social scale the pursuit of excitement becomes more and more intense.” I don’t want that kind of intensity anymore for myself, though I can understand how others do. I’m no longer seeking out more and more experiences with no time to digest and absorb them into my very cells.

I have been reading for an hour daily for many, many years, and lately notice that I hardly remember what I read. I come across a phrase and sentence that means so much for me at the time, I’m sure I’ll keep it in my heart forever, but the next morning I can’t bring it to mind. Not just because my memory is bad, which it is, but because I’m inundated with aphorisms of great import. And still, I read more and more every day.

What would happen if I was stranded on a desert island with just one book? I would memorize it from cover to cover, and each sentence would serve as the gate to the paradise of meaning; it would be as essential to me as food and water. But when I read book after book, where is that deep intimacy with the words, the sense of a secret door that has unlocked the secrets of the universe, and I must take care of these words, hold them in my heart and never forget them? Instead, I’m deluged by study, deluged by literature.

The simpler the experience, the more I can lose myself there. So it could be that the best travel I can do right now is right in my own back yard.

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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.


Frozen Fiske Pond

I went to Fiske Pond today with the dogs, indulging in a leisurely walk. Usually, the winter snow would have turned to ice by now, lasting till spring and preventing easy access in the woods. But we’re having warm days and the snow has melted, giving us more walking options this January. The pond itself, on the other hand, was frozen solid.

While I finally tested negative for covid yesterday, Lori, my housemate, is down with it big-time, manifesting in a bad cold and, in her words, the feeling that nothing is worth doing. That, more than anything, is what I experienced when I was down with it. I had no desire to go anywhere or do anything even when I managed to get out of bed. In a funny way, I enjoyed that, almost as if I needed permission to stop everything, including dog walks. Covid gave me that permission.

As of today, I’m allowed, by CDC guidelines, to mix with people even without a mask, but I’m still giving it one more day of house seclusion. Tomorrow, it’s back to the world. Unless I get rebound covid.

Rebound covid? I hope that’s the name of a basketball game.”

“I’m afraid not, Aussie. Some people get covid again quickly after healing, most don’t. I guess I’ll find out this week.”

“You mean, more days with no walks or drives, more days without SHOPPING?”

“What shopping?”

“You always take me inside the Farmers Co-op when you go there to get lamp oil, gardening supplies, and food for me.”

“I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that, Auss. You cannot lick the treats and bones that they leave out there.”

“Of course I can, why else do they leave them in those bins right above the floor, if not for a starving, emaciated dog like me?”

“Aussie, they’re meant to be picked up by humans and put in a shopping cart.”

“The big birdseed bags right by the entrance are meant to be picked up and put in a shopping cart by humans, not the braided treats, the premium jerky sticks and the bacon crunchies. Those are right there by my nose, what am I supposed to do, ignore them?”

“Exactly. Ignore them. When I say Leave it, you leave it, Auss!”

“What is it with you Buddhists? You’re obsessed with leaving things.”

“We say, let it go.”

“I’m not a Buddhist and I’m not leaving anything. In fact, for 2023, the sky’s the limit. That’s my resolution for 2023: Gimmee, gimmee, gimmee. I’m not leaving anything, I want everything!”

“Aussie, when you have so much without letting go you get confused.”

“Try me.”

“Ever notice what happens to you when a few things occur all at the same time? When you have food in your bowl and someone rings the front door or the garage door opens, or our neighbors walk on the road above the house? You don’t know where to go or what to do first. That’s because you haven’t learned how to leave it!”

“I have abandonment issues.”


“I can’t bear to abandon food, dogs, strangers, or treats. It gets me anxious, reminds me of when I didn’t have anything to leave, ever. I was a stray north of Houston, Texas, lonely, uncared for, hungry. At that time I decided that if my life ever changed, I’d never leave anything again. I could obey all commands—Sit! Stay! Let’s go! Car! Food!—but never Leave it!”

“Aussie, I’m so sorry. I had no idea.”

“I was traumatized, I tell you! Not to mention the trip up here in a cage with lots of other cages containing dogs that barked and whined and cried and farted. It was like the trains full of Jews going to Auschwitz!”

“It was not, Aussie. Those were crates, not cages.”

“You mean, there’s a difference?”

“And those trips are often handled by dog-loving volunteers who make stops to take you out and give you food. Why, or why is every trauma nowadays compared to Jews at Auschwitz? Next thing you’ll tell me is that you’re wearing a yellow star on your collar.”

“Trauma is trauma!”

“And look at where you ended up—New England, where so many people want dogs that the shelters have very few and we have to bring them up here from down South. Where you get two meals a day, all the downstairs chairs and sofas for bedding, with an enormous yard, not to mention a sweet little pooch like Henry for company.”

“A Chihuahua! Another immigrant! I tell you, this world is a sad place, with misery and trauma everywhere. Except for one place.”

“Our home, Aussie?”

“No, the Farmer’s Co-op, with those yummy-smelling bones and treats right at nose-level, just begging for a lick. I’m not leaving them, hear that, Buddhist?”

“Have you noticed, Aussie, that that’s the gluten-free section? That all the dog biscuits and treats in those baskets are either gluten-free or vegan?”

“Are not!”


“Then I’m converting. Watch me leave it as soon as you give the order. BUT ONLY IN THE GLUTEN FREE SECTION!”

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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.



“Happy New Year, Aussie. How’re you feeling?”

“I got covid.”

I have covid, Aussie, you don’t. You look just fine.”

“I may as well have covid, for all the walks I go on. This entire week has been one big nightmare. Few walks, few rides, and nobody’s awake in this house.”

“That’s because I infected Lori with covid, too, Auss, so both of us are in our separate rooms taking care of ourselves.”


“Do you have any resolutions for 2023, Aussie?”

“I have a resolution to go for a long walk every day.”

“My resolution is to take care of myself.”

“Enough already with taking care of yourself!”

“Why, Aussie?”

“Because that’s how you know people are old, they always talk about taking care of themselves.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“There are other things to do in this life.”

“Like what, Auss?”

“You could go to outer space in 2023.”

“Why would I want to do that?”

“There, you see? I told you you’re old. Who says no to going to outer space?”

“All the people who can’t afford to pay Jeff Bezos millions of dollars for a ticket, that’s who, Aussie.”

“You can order a trip to outer space on Amazon? YOU’RE NOT SHOPPING FOR IT IN LOCAL STORES?”

“I’m not shopping for a trip to outer space in any store, Aussie. The body goes through a lot of pressure as it leaves the earth and I want to take—”

“—care of myself, I know. Deadliest words I’ve ever heard. The minute you start talking like that, you got one paw in the grave.”

“Aussie, I think you and I mean different things by taking care of myself.”

“I know what you mean: a sensible diet, vitamins and minerals, exercise, and lots of sleep. [Yawn] Wake me up when the year’s over.”

“Actually, Auss, it means different things than that for me. When I take care of myself, I do things a little slower and with more focus. I don’t change what I do—still involved in teaching and working with the Zen Peacemaker Order, working out a bearing witness retreat in Brazil—”

“—Am I going?”

“Still writing, still supporting undocumented families in the area. But I do things differently now. I take more time to do them, so the results of my actions become clearer, both for others and for me. I don’t push myself as much as I used to, don’t get as confused. Things have their place, and I put them in their place. Things have their time, and that’s the time I deal with them.”

“This is the most inspiring thing I’ve ever heard.”

“I try to let the flow carry me, rather than depend again and again on my own arms and legs to do the heavy lifting. I fight less as I encounter resistance; instead, I either find an easy way around the barrier or I let it go. If it’s meant to get done, it’ll get done.”

“This is going to be the most boring year I’ve ever spent with you, not that the others have been scintillating.”

“I don’t argue politics, Aussie.”

“Not even Donald’s return to the White House?”

“Other than to say that I don’t see him back there, no.”

“Then what kind of life are we going to have together? No arguing, no jumping over barriers, no clearing hurdles, no messes in the house. Can I at least kill a squirrel or two? Five chipmunks?”

“Aussie, taking care of myself means having a healthy relationship with everything because it’s all me.”

“I’m also you, so how about my walks?”

“They’ll get longer as I get healthier, Aussie. It’s the dark end of year, just before we ease ourselves into a new beginning. Your walks will come back, your deer chases will come back, especially now that hunting season is finally over. I wish you a happy, invigorated year with lots of play time with Henry at home and with your friends, Evi the Mountain Cur and Percy the Golden, lots of barking at people and animals on the road above the house, lots of snarling at Mackin oil truck and delivery people. In short, a year of adventure, Aussie!”

“And I wish you many hours of sleep at night and not a few during the day, lots of dressing on your spinach and lemon in your tea, lot of brushing of your dentures—”

“I don’t wear dentures, Aussie.”

“Lots of dozing over a book and lots of TV episodes that you’ll watch again and again because you won’t remember what the last episode was about. In sort, I wish you a peaceful, restful, BORING year. Wake me up when it’s over.”

To all of you, too, I wish you a happy new year. May you and the world give and receive the care you need. May you receive the attention—also known as love—that you need. May your heart not hide in shadows but bring light to everyone and everything in the universe.

“Aussie, what do you wish everyone for the New Year?”

“Johnson Family’s Braided Elk Hide Treats, the long ones. All-Natural, Organic Lamb and Vegetable Mix hold the vegetables, and Jazzy Snazzy Wag Tuna Bites, Crunchy. With those goodies you’ll be set up for 2023 (though it’ll be very boring).”

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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.


Aussie refuses to binge-watch

I have discovered the joy of binge-watching.

“Just plop down in front of Netflix, or whatever you have, and stay there,” warned the doctor who saw me on Zoom. “Give your body a complete rest.”

I plopped myself in front of my big TV, which is so old that Hulu recently informed me it can’t supply content to it anymore because the technology is from a different era, and started binge-watching. My first time ever.

I binge-watched The Crown. Why? Because watching The Crown means I don’t have to think or worry, all I do is appreciate the gorgeousness of the production and the fun of seeing actors take on the roles of people you read about in the paper. At this time of covid, when I have no energy or desire for anything but sleep, I sit passively on the black chair with a footrest that leaps up to meet my legs and there I lie, lazy, half-conscious, and very self-indulgent.

I don’t have the energy for meditation or for reading. The world of work seems distant and irrelevant; big questions seem to have receded into the distant mist, leaving me with vaguely admiring how Elizabeth Debicki copies those Princess Diana mannerisms with the lilt of her face and opening wide her eyes. More important, how does she do that thing with her eyelashes, that are ever so black and ever so long?

And who knew about revenge dresses? Did you? Evidently, they refer to very sexy dresses that the Princess started wearing after her separation from Charles. If you’re going to do revenge, I tell myself as I watch her, a revenge dress is the way to go.

A revenge dress is the very opposite of what the sovereign wears, suits and dresses that remind me of what my mother’s friends used to wear, only theirs were polyester with zippers while Elizabeth’s are expensive fabrics with ornaments for buttons, and aways, always, the pearl necklaces. For some reason, the series makes her look terribly dowdy and elderly even when she’s supposedly in her 60s. Or maybe that’s their comment on the monarchy, who knows?

Eye candy, is what it was, and I ate and ate for 10 glorious episodes. I binged!

Aussie looks up at me from the sofa and whines; she’s not used to seeing me watch TV except on weekend nights, and here I am wasting precious sunlight on binge-watching. At this time of winter, you barely need two hands to count the daylight hours.

“I know, I know, you want to go out walking. I can’t, Auss, all I can do is binge.”

“Is that a new dance?”

“No, Aussie, it’s when you do things to excess. There’s binge-watching, binge-eating, binge-reading (all of Dickens’ novels?), binge-chocolating and icecreaming, binge—”

“How about binge-walking?”

“Not this time, pretty girl. It’s got to be something that doesn’t take any effort at all. You know, Aussie, I’m getting a taste for all this indulgence. Not raising a finger. Do you see me throwing toys for Henry?”

“I do not.”

“The only time I get up is to get another dose of Paxlovid, which is supposed to get me on my feet pretty quickly, and right now I’m not sure that’s such a great thing because then how would I binge?”

“You could binge-feed me. I’ll do all the work.”

“Aussie, once I get on my feet the world looks different. Everything becomes more vertical, which for some reason reminds me of all the things I have to do. There are different forms of binging and I’m only a beginner binger, but I believe that true bingeing requires a prone position.”

“What happened to the compulsive worker who’s always busy busy busy?”

“Bingeing makes you very busy, Aussie, you can’t let up. There’s always another episode, and another, and when that’s done there’s another season. I don’t worry about walking you, I don’t worry about filling the birdfeeders outside or Donald Trump or what to teach, all I think about is whether England’s royal family will make it to the next millennium. Between worries I nap. What a life! Who knew?”

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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.


I have covid.

Probably got it when traveling back home Thursday night, though I wore a mask on the plane. Friday night felt a sore throat coming on, covid test negative on Saturday morning, assumed I had a cold, went out with Aussie and did various jobs, and things went downhill from there. Last night tested again, and this time there was a dark line on the strip.

“It’s too dark,” I tell Lori, my housemate. “It’s supposed to be pink.” What a whizz in denial.

Did another test, same dark line. Looked it up and it said that the darker the line, the more viral you are. By then I was sleeping 15 hours a day. Aussie isn’t talking to me since I haven’t taken her out yesterday or today. Lying on the futon in my office, she looks up at me when I come in, groans, turns around, and goes back to sleep. Which is pretty much what I do.

I have to admit that whenever we’ve counted who’s had covid and who hasn’t, I felt a subtle nuance of self-satisfaction to be a member of the latter group, as if somehow I’d done some extra bit to qualify, which others hadn’t.

No longer. It’s always a good lesson for me to see that, in most things, I’m not so different from anybody else. Genetically we’re so similar, minds acculturated and conditioned similarly. Why, oh why, do I cling to comparisons that emphasize the differences rather than the huge similarities? Why spend so much energy combing my mind for more individual traits, more uniquenesses, in the face of vast reserves of similarity?

The longer I live, the more I’m stunned by patterns of conditioning that still won’t let go. Some say that the Buddha’s realization got rid of all that, that’s why it was so powerful, but as a woman I say: “Oh yeah? Is that why he wouldn’t let women become nuns? And when he finally agreed, within humiliating strictures they had no choice but to accept?”

Most women wouldn’t accept those conditions now, I reflect. But then, I reflect again, what and how much are we ready to sacrifice to go after our heart’s deepest desire?

So here I am, ready to go back to sleep after 10 hours of sleep at night. Lori filled the birdfeeders, she’ll take the dogs out when she comes back from work, may even take up the laundry bin I left at the foot of the stairs because I didn’t have strength to bring it up. I’m no good to anybody, I whimper idiotically.

Then remember Bernie after his stroke, helpless, paralyzed in half his body, unable to do for himself never mind for others. And he seemed to be okay with that. Gave in to it completely.

“How are you?” I’d ask first thing in the morning when he got up, which was never earlier than 10:00.

“Okay,” he’d say.


He’d shrug. Was there a choice? So he plunged into it because that’s what was happening, why do things by half?

I used to wonder what went on inside his head. Did he wish to die? He certainly managed it after three years, and pretty quickly at that. Did that just happen, or was it a fulfillment of some deep, unspoken wish?

You have covid, I tell myself, join the human race. There’s a choicelessness about it that I like. Cancel dental appointment, cancel a talk I was to give by Zoom this evening. Most important, eschew heroism. Don’t push the envelope. Stay inside your (slightly warm) skin.

Oh, this beautiful body! This wonderful, 73-year-old body that is usually so healthy, that holds up through so much. What a marvel you are.

Still, I’m not a happy patient.

“Everything passes,” my sister reminds me on the phone.

“What are you, a Buddhist or something?”

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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 arrived home yesterday from Israel, in the middle of the storm that hit so much of this nation hard. We were lucky here in Massachusetts, lots of rain but almost no snow, some winds but no loss of power.

As the plane landed in Newark Airport a number of people vomited into bags, but I’ve been through worse and the landing itself was as soft as a kiss. Kudos to the pilot! I drove slowly up to Massachusetts, expecting to be lambasted any moment by wind and rain, but it wasn’t like that, at least not till much later in the afternoon. When I got home, I went shopping for food and then, when the sun actually came out, walked the dogs, who were in raptures to see me.

This morning it said 9 degrees Fahrenheit feels like -8, but I dressed warm and went back to our old woods with Aussie (too cold for Henry). The cold was bracing and pleasant at the same time.

We walked in the woods I’d wandered in, above the Montague Farm, since 2002, when we first arrived here. Trees have fallen, paths have changed. The photo above was my iconic photo of the pools we reach, but the icon has changed (who says icons don’t change?). The thin tree limb that used to arch over the pool, giving me a sense of seeing a forest fairy scene like in A Midsummer Night’s Dream onstage, had been cut in the middle. Nothing to aid you in seeing it like a stage set, from now on I have to depend on my original eye to see the beauty.

Three days ago would have been Bernie’s and my wedding anniversary, and I was remembering the first time I saw him. A Zen practitioner and Jungian analyst had brought me up to the Greyston Mansion in Riverdale, New York, owned by the Zen Community of New York. I was curious to see an American Zen master, had only met Japanese teachers at that time, but agreed to go only after my friend promised to bring me back home to Brooklyn afterwards.

We thought we were going to sit with the group, and upon arrival discovered they were having a meeting instead, so we entered the big dining room where they sat around a few tables pushed together. They looked up at us and gestured for us to sit at two seats in the corner of the enclave.

Across from me sat Bernie, or Sensei as he was then called. I know many people who say that the minute they saw their teacher they knew this was it, they didn’t need to look any further, as if some extrasensory communication had taken place. That did not happen to me. My first impression of him was that he was arrogant and unattractive. I frowned at how a different woman sat on either side of him (not one of whom was his wife) and immediately sensed how people kept their eye on him, how cocked their ears were in his direction. I didn’t care much for any of that.

What I did care for were their plans for Yonkers. The Greyston Bakery was in full operation and the community was already cooking for a shelter providing meals to homeless folks on Main Street.  It was 1985 and I wasn’t aware of other Zen groups doing that. But the meals were just the beginning. They were going to build permanent apartments for homeless families, childcare centers, hire more folks from the neighborhood in the bakery, and move to Yonkers. At that time no one spoke of an AIDS center and housing, that was all ahead for us.

I say us because right then and there, I felt I was witnessing something historical taking place, a new turn of the dharma in the West, and wanted to be part of that. I actually felt it that evening, sitting around the rectangular tables pushed together, hearing scenarios that to Sensei seemed as concrete as plans for making dinner but to most others seemed like bedtime fairytales.

My friend, who did indeed bring me back home to Brooklyn, had no interest in that, came back only a few times, and left. I stayed.

It’s funny how at certain times something happens—in a particular year, a particular evening—and all your life has changed. I am so lucky to have made such a dramatic resolution, then decision, then commitment, all arising out of that evening, which wouldn’t have happened had my friend not promised to drive me there and drive me back.

Seated next to me on the plane was a blonde woman in her late 40s, not a wrinkle anywhere on her beautiful face, who lived in Israel and who told me that all her life she’d wanted to live in the US. We talked about that a while, and then started the descent to Newark. The clouds parted and I looked at the dots of light along streets and houses that were still dark, their people still asleep, and wondered at the big and small events in their lives, the big and small decisions they’d made that changed everything.

Merry Christmas everyone. Or happy holidays. What does it matter what we call it, as long as we celebrate this life of infinite flexibility, infinite potential? Thank you for supporting me, supporting this blog. Thank you for supporting the undocumented families and their children that live nearby (91 of whom will enjoy gifts you bought them).

The birdfeeders are full, the birds feeding eagerly in the cold. In my absence Lori bought feeders more resistant to squirrels in place of my old ones. Birdseed has doubled in price this past year and she was concerned the squirrels were getting most of it. I’m grateful to this wonderful woman for taking such good care of the dogs, the home, the birds, enabling me to continue to travel and work out the threads of karma that began that evening in Riverdale almost 40 years ago.

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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.


Tomorrow night my sister will take me to the Tel-Aviv airport and, hopefully, I will board a flight that arrives in Newark, NJ, at 4:20 the following morning. I say hopefully because there are various warnings of weather-related delays and cancellations all around the US. I wish for all those traveling during this holiday minimal hassle and major ease as they gather with family and friends.

As I near this trip’s end, what stays in my mind? Believe it or not, it’s the scene from Newark Airport when I left 10 days ago. I often use the airport’s Terminal C, from which United Airlines flights take off. It doesn’t easily accommodate the enormous crowds that flood its corridors and  concourses, and don’t even ask me about the wait in the women’s bathrooms and inadequate seating areas by the gates.

The crowds were there that Saturday, rushing and jostling, and I found myself reaching for my mask. People hurried with their carry-ons in all directions, not looking right or left, staring relentlessly towards their destinations, as if in this vast international confluence of travelers all they could do was stay in their respective personal tunnels. Or else they contemplated the phones in their hands, which made the tunnel into a box, bumping into others or turning right onto others’ paths without apology, oblivious.

I walked back and forth, assisting a woman flying to Puerto Rico shepherding a young man with Downs Syndrome in a wheelchair along with big carry-ons and bags. She told me that someone had dropped the man as a boy at her home and was supposed to pick him up that evening, and never came to get him, so the boy grew into a young man who’s been living with her all these years.

Terminal C wasn’t the place to get the full story, I simply took her bags while she pushed the wheelchair to her gate, bid her goodbye, and rejoined the whitewater of people streaming in all directions.

Suddenly I heard piano music. Chopin, unmistakably. I searched and saw a black, grand piano smack in the middle of the wide concourse. A young Japanese man, seated on the piano bench, was playing the famous Nocturne in E-flat major. I stopped to watch and listen. No one else did except for a man in an orange jacket on the other side, sipping from a cup.

The pianist finished the Nocturne, making full use of all the grace notes and other embellishments Chopin added to the melody, like twinkling Christmas ornaments, and went straight into a Chopin waltz. No one seemed to pay any attention to him or the music as they rushed here and there, to and from their gates.

Finally, I tore myself away and walked, slower than before, towards my gate in another concourse. The music got softer and softer, finally fading completely, but the exquisite feeling of finding an unexpected treasure remained. Briefly, I thought of the time when I played those compositions many years ago; also remembered seeing Artur Rubenstein play Chopin, one of his last concerts.

I thought of how there’s treasure everywhere around me, if I only pay attention: my brother-in-law’s hand-baked cookies, which he gave me for my morning coffee, a cyclamen plant on the dining table four feet away from a yellow painting of flowers in a vase by my niece. It’s so easy to just rush forward towards goals and destinations without pause.

Someone emailed me after my last blog about how I and two siblings met for “family consultations” in the Sinai, talking about the ingredients of our lives. “The three of you together help each other improve,” she lauded.

That wasn’t it at all. Our talking and sharing questions on a deep level had nothing to do with self-improvement. Yes, there are always things to pay attention to, edges we’re still clumsily negotiating, but all is contained inside a framework of wellbeing, of taking joy in ourselves, of appreciating that we don’t duplicate each other but are all the stronger due to our differences.

My brother likes to organize things, look up airfare and schedules, what’s needed at border crossings, etc. When he gets pushy, he gets a bit of blowback from his two older sisters, but also appreciative laughter at how well he arranged the trip. I’m fast and purposeful, keen on making use of every moment, and they shake their heads and laugh at that, too. My sister slows us down, insisting on R&R, and we have learned to take that to heart. Together, we make a fine team.

As the years and trips pass by, I sink deeper and deeper into the self. I hope I have the time and health to continue creating and doing, but always remember to pause for the treasure, musical and otherwise, that’s there in every aspect of the self.

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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.