Sometime around the age of 30 I had just been divorced, living in New York City, and needing to find my way. I thought it would have something to do with writing, but had no idea what or how.

It’s hard to look back on some of your most vapid years, when you weren’t so much confused as barely conscious, on the one hand still arrogant in your relatively young age, and on the other, scared and anxious. I stopped working full-time and tried to write a second novel, which was only marginally better than the first. It didn’t take long to get frustrated and stuck; discipline can only do so much. But no worry, because soon I knew exactly what I needed: Ferragamo shoes.

I think the obsession started by reading the wise words of some columnist that a truly stylish woman always wore fine shoes regardless of whatever else she was wearing. I was firmly in the category of “regardless of whatever else she was wearing,” and decided that the way to make up for that was to wear Salvatore Ferragamo shoes. Not just to be stylish, but someone who turned people’s heads. Someone with value, someone with worth.

I didn’t need religion, I didn’t need therapy, I didn’t need to examine my life, all I needed was Ferragamo shoes.

I was trying to make it in a New York City studio on partial employment and writing, and more than 40 years ago Ferragamos started in the range of $120-$150. I’d never bought anything like that in my entire life, and not since either. I went into Fifth Avenue stores I never frequented, like Saks and Bergdorf’s, on the hunt for shoe sales, and discovered that Ferragamos were rarely on sale.

I bought one pair that were somewhere between sandals and shoes for some $150, a feat I haven’t duplicated since. I also remember finding a great deal, red Ferragamo pumps on sale for $109, the last pair, only they were a size too small. I bought them anyway and limped for a couple of months till I gave up and gave them away.

At some point I stopped buying them. It wasn’t worth the starving. And maybe, somewhere along the line, I realized that—wait for it, gasp!—Salvatore Ferragamo shoes weren’t really it.

I’d forgotten completely about my Ferragamo period till I saw a beaver dam a few miles from where I live. My housemate, so much savvier than me, drove me down a country road we’d taken Henry and Aussie to on a number of weekends. We all got out of the car, this time she veered to the left, and some 500 yards later we came across an exquisite pond, fed by streams east of it and crashing down in a waterfall 300 yards to the west. But in between was the quietest pond you ever saw. I oooh’d and aaah’d, she pointed to a barrier made of twigs and logs and said, “That’s the biggest beaver dam I’ve ever seen.”

Indeed, it’s hard to capture the length of that thing, or even the size of that lodge. The busy little engineers had dammed up what was practically a cauldron of white-water streams coming down the hills, joining together and smashing further down in a waterfall that swirled and sprinted down to the Connecticut River, quite a way away. They had taken down tree after tree—you could see their gnawing on the trunks. Almost every single branch and log that lay on the ground bore signs of their sharp angled teeth. Small pine branches littered the banks which they were in the midst of dragging into the water to bolster the dam or else their lodge.

The result was that in the middle of all this cauldron was a quiet, calm, peaceful pond.

The lodge is always started by a male and female, who live inside tunnels in the banks till the lodge is ready. But they also have to stabilize the water currents and build a dam. They have their young who grow and help their parents, till they go off on their own to create more dams and lodges, more peaceful water.

I’m aware that beaver needs don’t always match human needs, but that was one of the most exquisite walks I ever had. The dogs were in an especially good mood, Henry breathless with joy and Aussie’s eyes sparkling as she sniffed so much she never raised her muzzle from the ground. She can smell all that incredible engineering activity, I thought, the cutting down of large trees, the constant shuttling back and forth of pine branches and sticks to bolster both the dam and the lodge.

It was on the way home that I remembered my old obsession with Ferragamo shoes. It was addressing the question: Who am I? At that time, the best answer I could come up with was: I’m the young woman wearing Ferragamo shoes. It was the best I could do at the age of 30, five years after the oldest of wild beavers dies. Back home, I think of them a great deal, old and young alike,  working invisibly in early mornings, twilights and nighttime on their home and watery neighborhood.

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

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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.


“Henry, watch what you do with the duckie. Do not—I say do not—throw it into the toilet bowl.”

Harry tosses it into the toilet bowl.

Before that we play tug-of-war with the duck, he growling like the Hound of the Baskervilles, finally pulls it out of my hands, shakes it up while twirling like a top, and then triumphantly tosses it up in the air. It falls into the toilet bowl.

“What did I tell you not to do, Henry?”

“Toss the duck into the toilet bowl.”

“And what did you do?”

“I tossed it into the toilet bowl.”

“So go get it, Henry.”

“I’ll drown..”

“T-U-F spells tough. I hate that duck, it’s full of all your saliva since birth and now it’ll be full of rank toilet water. It’s time to flush it.”

“You can’t do that! Besides, it won’t do you any good, my duck is an Indestructible Toy. It says so on the package.”

“Fuck the duck,” says Aussie, who just came in. “Why do you bother with it anyway? It’s so old.”

“Because it’s my significant other.”

“A duck is your significant other?”

“What about us, Henry?” I ask. “What about Aussie and me?”

“You’re not the duck.”

“Does it have a name?” I ask Henry politely.

Fuck is the name,” says Aussie. “Fuck the duck, right? Hee hee hee!”

“Fuck the Duck is drowning,” points out Henry.

I pick Henry’s significant other out of the toilet and wash it in the sink. Then I give it back to Henry, who shakes it violently, sprinkling water all over the bathroom, and takes the wet duck for a cuddle in his crate. I turn to Aussie.

“Aussie, why are you so obnoxious?”

“To a dog with a toy duck for a significant other? Give me a break!”

“You’d be surprised at what strange significant others we choose. Aussie, am I your significant other?”

“You’re other. I don’t know how significant you are.”

“It’s better than dog and master, don’t you think? It has more of a feel of equality between species, Aussie.”

“You mean like between Henry the Chihuahua and Fuck the Duck?”

“Not quite, Aussie. My point is that humans are beginning to better understand that there’s a kind of equality between species. You know, in the Old Testament it’s written that God gave Man dominion over the fish and the birds and the animals and the creepers—”

“Did He mention dogs?”

“Not specifically, Aussie.”

“There you have it.”

“The point is, Aussie, many of us are perceiving the interrelatedness of all species, that no one specie holds dominion over any other. We’re all equally the children of Mother Earth so every specie has a right to its own existence, its own evolutionary journey.”

“Henry should go extinct.”

“What a terrible thing to say, Aussie. Why? Because he’s a chihuahua?”

“No, because he has a duck for a significant other. Do you know what those children will look like?”

“Aussie, Henry can’t have children, and neither, for that matter, can the Indestructible Duck.”

“He’s humping that duck as we speak! If anything comes of it it’ll be the end of civilization as we know it.”


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

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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 talk to a friend who’s now in hospice. She rests on a hospital bed on the ground floor of her house. She breathes with difficulty on account of a bad heart. When we talk on the phone she stops to cough and catch her breath. She made a point of calling me to say goodbye several weeks ago, one of the most moving conversations I’ve ever had with anyone.

In our last talk, when she seemed to have a little more strength, I reminded her what a rich life she’d had. She had a long marriage, lived in different countries, spoke different languages and cooked various cuisines superbly, had two terrific children and more terrific grandchildren, and a very fine therapeutic career. Most important, she never stopped wanting to learn:  a new writer, a new poet, a new friend, a new place to visit. In her later years she went deeper rather than farther, which seemed just as satisfying.

She listened to me and said: “It’s true, I’ve given every phase of my life its due.”

I admire people who can stand back from their day-to-day life and wonder about the big story. And it is a story, of course, which can’t possibly explain or encompass the rolling terrain of day-to-day existence. But some stories give you a sense of wellbeing, i.e., I’ve lived a very rich and meaningful life, and some stories are: Huh?

It’s not easy to notice or label a phase when you’re actually living it; it’s probably easier as we get older. I certainly reflect on what this later period of time calls on me to do—and also what not to do. How do I give this time its due?

I was married twice—did I give those times their due? The attention, the listening, the sharing, or did I want to live as a single woman who happens to live alongside a man? How conscious was I of what that period in life required of me? How ready was I to plunge in and really get wet?

And when that period of life ended, how ready was I to turn the page?

Two seemingly contradictory things come up. I feel more directed and focused in my life now, less worried about other people’s opinions. I prefer solitude to interaction that doesn’t satisfy; there’s more clarity than before.

At the same time I feel more porous; vulnerability courses through my veins faster and deeper. I think, to put it frankly, I love and appreciate people more. I experience life more and more as a circle of infinite care, all of us constituting the whole, reaching out and yearning for each other. A little like Michelangelo’s God and Adam in the Sistine Chapel, we reach and reach for each other, but we never fully make contact because we are not the other. The space in between is there, but so is the reaching, which will fall well short of the grasp.

Yesterday Jimena and I were giving out food cards, and Ilena, a single mother barely 20, and Miguel (not their real names) came to where we sat on the porch steps on a warm day. She talked for a while about her wish to get training to be a nurse’s aide even as she has no social security number, while bored little Miguel climbed up the steps or started walking towards the street, at which point all of us would jump up to catch him, turn him around, make sure nothing was hurt, reach in for some apple sauce. Take care of him. It was a reflex, nobody thought much, we just did it.

And speaking of circle of care, here is an update on Monica, who had a prolapsed uterus. She listened to my doctor friend and went straight to Emergency. Jimena took her and did the translating. She also helped her obtain some medical coverage. Doctors examined her, treated her, and said that at this late date there as no choice but to do a full hysterectomy. She had the surgery but stayed at the hospital longer because of high fever. Her neighbors took her three children in. Now she’s home with her children and can walk, and received money from you to keep them going till she can get back to work.

This circle of care functions in mysterious ways.

Does it mean I forgot about the homeless children left by their parents on the streets of Bogota, Colombia, because the latter couldn’t take care of them anymore? I encountered this 12 years ago and can’t forget it.

I can’t fully define or describe this phase of my life, only that I want to give it its due. And for me, that means being part of that circle of care with full consciousness and intent.

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“Aussie, I’m so moved by how well you and Henry  communicate!”

“Henry don’t communicate.”

“For instance, this morning you didn’t finish your food—”

“Kibble, ughgh!”

“You left your food bowl and came out just as Henry passed by my chair. Instantly you curled your lips and snapped at him, making it perfectly clear: Stay away from the laundry room! Stay away from my food! But you weren’t aggressive.”

“Aggressive towards a chihuahua? Moi?”

“He understood right away, Aussie. He walked all the way around to show you he had no interest in your food—”

“Who would?”

“—and then approached your rug where you keep your bones,  rolled on his back to show you he knows he’s trespassing on your territory—”

“Like all chihuahuas!”

“You did a fabulous downward dog and wagged your tail, hovered over him, and the two of you licked each other’s lips. I can’t believe how relational you are! You’ve become good friends even as you enforce boundaries.”

“We need strong borders with chihuahuas.”

“Many families don’t have such healthy relationships, Auss.”

“That’s because they don’t communicate. All they care about is things! Look at Henry. He has his yellow duckie, Pinky the Elephant, Red the hippo, a dozen yellow tennis balls, a blue beach ball and half a dozen little plaid monkeys! It’s like a rainbow house.”

“What’s wrong with that, Aussie?”

“Do you know how much energy it takes to take care of these things? He’s as bad as you are.”

“Me, Aussie?”

“You want so many things! You want your books—”

“I borrow them from the library!”

“You want your clothes, your computer, your phone, your plants, your pictures, those guys who’re always sitting and whose face never changes—”


“They’re not much into facial communication, notice? You want your blankets and your ice cream—”

“And what do you want, Aussie?”

“I want my marrow bones and a squirrel to kill in my spare time—is that too much to ask? Humans are consumers. All you know is wanting, having, taking, keeping!”

“Aussie, we arrived at the Farmers Co-op and going in. Let’s see, first thing we need to get is lamp oil. Where are you going, Auss?”

“Wilderness Trail Duck Biscuits for Dogs is over there. Grain free!”

“Sorry, we’re heading off to Aisle 3. Aussie! Aussie?”

“Sniffing out Blue Buffalo health bars baked with bacon, egg and cheese.”

“Put the box down, Aussie.”

“They’re health bars!”

“And don’t sniff at those Milk Bones!”

“As if I would bother with something like Milk Bones! Though an open box of them at lip level—silly humans are just asking for it.”

“Aussie, I have to get a 40-lb. bag of black sunflower seeds for the birdfeeders, so please—Now what?”

“Crunch-‘n-Munch chicken-free pumpkin, apple, and potato dog treats. Who ever heard of chicken-free?”

“Maybe for vegetarians, Aussie.”

“Vegetarian dogs? Treats should be free of pumpkin and apples, not chicken! Culinary colonialism!”

“Okay, I’m done. We’ll get one thing for you and then we’ll go to the cashier. What do you think of these treats, Aussie?”

“Baked-Lite? Do I look fat to you?”


“Nothing lite, low-fat, or wholesome. Nothing for Seniors or for overweight dogs. And no quinoa!”

“Apple mint biscuits for bad breath, Aussie?”

“Fuggedaboudit! I like this: Wag More gourmet chicken and bacon wraps with liver and cheddar.”

“Aussie, that’s too rich!”

“Canine bagels with smokehouse turkey, salmon, and lamb crunchies?”

“Choose one already, Aussie.”

“Okay, here’s one. Cow ears filled with gourmet peanut butter, roast chick-n-chips, and charred bison tongue with cheddar puffs.”

“And what do we get Henry?”

“Something vegan.”

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

Make a Donation to My Blog Donate To Immigrant Families

You can also send a check to: Eve Marko, POB 174, Montague, MA 01351. Please write on the memo line whether this is in support or immigrant families or of my blog. Thank you.


“Aussie, I didn’t manage to write a post on Wednesday. That adds up to only two posts this week, not my usual three.”

“Lazy bum!”

“I ran out of time.”

“You’re no good.”

“Don’t be so hard on me, Auss, I feel bad enough already. You know what a dear friend told me? He said it’s the saints who feel bad about their inadequacies. The more they see themselves in action, the more persuaded they become of their lapses.”

“You’re no saint!”

“Of course not, but he said that ordinarily people resist examining their behavior too much, so they don’t feel as bad about their failures as saints do.”

“If he was Jewish he’d know it’s a broader phenomenon.”

“The thing about getting older is that you have to learn not to sweat the small stuff, Auss. You don’t have that much time ahead of you, so make sure you give your attention and energy to important things.”

“So when do we go walking?”

“My walks with you are definitely among the important things, Auss.”

“Our walks are the only important thing you do all day.”

“Not true, Aussie.”

“How do you know?”

How do I know? I can get so much into my head about what the world needs, what the future demands of us, my own importance,  etc. I can get inspired by a book, a talk, certain teachings. But how do I know what’s truly valuable?

Lately, when the dogs come over for attention, I pause what I am doing, stroke and talk to them, give them what they want. Aussie makes a mewling sound, and when I swing the chair around towards her she brushes against my leg, first giving me her brow to circle with one finger, then her silky ears, and finally her back.

Henry will come under the desk and tap my leg with his paw, but he can’t get up on my lap till I again swing the chair sideways away from the desk so that he has room to climb up and sit in contemplation. I’ve decided to put aside the hurrying voices in my head (You gotta finish this!) and pay attention, look into his eyes, watch him staring out the door at the wind shaking the trees and the squirrels he loves to chase.

I’m  amazed by how much is contained in his 13 pounds. I marvel that his small body contains a brain, lungs, kidneys, muscles, ligaments, joints,  and millions of cells just like Aussie, who’s almost five times bigger. Just like me. How do all those things fit in there? He’s clever and full of spunk. How does so much energy emanate from a being so small?

For some odd reason my mind meanders to a story Jimena Pareja told me about one of the mothers who gets food cards with her little boy. She always refers to them as mothers. We were sitting on her porch on Wednesday, front door open to wait for the next people coming (she always asks them to come one by one, not in a crowd). She was exhausted, which is another story. But she told me this:

A mother tried to cross the border with her 5-year-old boy. They had no papers of their own, nothing even from their country of origin. A “coyote” gave her papers for herself and for the boy, so that once they got caught after crossing over they could apply for a form of refugee status, or hardship cases. The agents would then open a file for them and let them stay till the case was adjudicated.

What she hadn’t realized, due to illiteracy, was that the coyote gave her papers in different names. The border agent looked at what she presented and growled that the names are different, that the boy wasn’t hers and she  must have just taken him across the border to raise the odds of getting permission to stay. He was going to separate them.

“No, no,” she cries, “he’s my son, he’s my son!”

“So why are the names different?” the man asks.

She has no answer. Instead, she offers to show him photos of herself and her son from her cellphone, but the agent has already confiscated that and won’t return it to her. “Anyway, it’s locked,” he says, looking at the screen.

“I can open it, I’ll show you,” she says, and still the refuses to hand over the phone.

And then her little 5-year-old pipes up: “I can do it!”

The agent looks at him, hands him the phone, and to his mother’s amazement he punches in the code that unlocks the phone, scrolls through photos and shows the agent photos of his mother and him. The agent relents and lets them stay together. Eventually, they land in my neck of the woods

“If not for my little boy punching that code, they would have taken him away from me at the border,” she told Jimena. “I had no idea he knew what it was, he must have just seen me doing it enough times and he remembered.”

Contrary to the laws of physics, it’s the smallest things that sometimes carry the big.


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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.


My mother hasn’t been well. She’s in no great danger but is very uncomfortable and sometimes in physical pain. Today I did a visual WhatsApp with her and my siblings, both of whom were with her, and at some point I heard her cry out. A deep sense of impotence threatened to take over. Her doctor believes it will pass soon, but that didn’t temper anyone’s feelings when we heard the cry.

It’s hard to witness people in pain. Bernie was a master of stoicism and would rarely admit to any discomfort. He took pride in a high pain threshold, as he described to others. But I remember a few times when he did cry out, and I felt my stomach collapsing to the ground. My mind would start zipping around to what to do—Painkillers? Ibuprofen? Tea? Chicken soup? What could I do do do?

What is it to actually be with someone in pain? All the empathy in the world won’t help you feel his or her pain. You join them up to a certain point, letting your very nerves shiver in response, but there’s a place you can’t go. You can’t feel their pain.

I remember the first Friday night after Bernie returned from the hospital. I’d been looking forward to it so much. Weekend evenings were our “date nights,” which usually consisted of getting some take-out or eating whatever there was in the refrigerator (never cooking!) and watching a  film on TV together. He’d wash the dishes first thing Saturday morning because he woke up earlier than I did. Finally, we were going to have our first “date night” since before his stroke.

The one thing I was afraid of, that kept me awake half the nights preceding his return from the 6-week hospital stay, was the prospect that he might fall. He had no strength in his legs, always had to hold on. He would get to walk later with a cane, but when he came home he relied on wheelchairs.

Sure enough, that first Friday night he fell. I was exhausted by evening time, I’d brought over some food on his tray, he was returning from the bathroom, I didn’t have an arm free, he got up from the wheelchair to get into bed, put his weight on it, the wheelchair moved, and down he crashed.

He couldn’t get up. I couldn’t get him up.

Months later he’d be stronger and we’d both learn how to get him up in case he fell, but this was his third day home. I tried and tried, and finally had to leave him on the floor and call 911. The first responders were there in less than 10 minutes, but I still think of those 10 minutes as some of the longest in my life.

He was so strong, I was so strong, how could this happen? I sat on the bed looking at him on the floor. He didn’t cry out, he was quiet. I knew he had pain. I also knew there was nothing I could do till they came. There wasn’t space in that downstairs room for me to lie next to him.

I contemplated my uselessness, what it was not to be able to do anything.

We were together, and at the same time we weren’t. I felt our aloneness, I felt our separation. We loved each other, we were going to go through things together, but he was him and I was me. No matter how much you want to, no matter how much you try, you’ll get to that place where you feel like two islands with an ocean between you. It’s not for lack of trying, it’s not for lack of love, it’s how it is.

The first responders came, cheerfully helped him up and into bed. Rami Efal arrived from his home in Northampton. He actually called from the outside wondering if he should come in, and we laughed and said Sure! He entered to find Bernie in restored spirits. Soon after that, Bernie fell asleep.

I never forgot Rami coming down to help, and then calling from outside to make sure it was okay to come in.

So, Bernie got his falling out of the way, which was good because it stopped looming in my mind as a nightmare to be avoided at all costs. He was going to fall, that was part of the deal, and indeed he did fall, and learned to get up.

But I never did forget what it means to be together, and not. It’s like that word cleave, which goes both ways. You can’t have one without the other.

This is not just true for pain or falling. Things happen. You cry for people, help them, raise money for them, talk to and support them. Always, always ask them how they are, what are they feeling and experiencing, witness their life as much as possible. But you can’t live their life. You can’t be them.


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

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 no longer like to say that my  heart breaks. That phrase is used so widely now, it’s as if all of us are walking around with hearts broken daily. People’s hearts break for Harry and Meghan, for losers in a contest or a reality show, for a TV show that’s been canceled or a movie that didn’t win an Oscar.

For me, heartbreak carries immensity. The heart isn’t just any organ; any organ breaking inside our body would be trouble enough, but a heart breaking? There’s power there, there’s depth there. It’s not just another way to be sorry.

And that’s what I felt when I read a New York Times article about Yazidi mothers reunited with their children. It’s about Yazidi women, kidnapped when they were girls by ISIS fighters (many after watching their fathers and brothers killed), then raped, given away, or sold by one ISIS fighter to another, and giving birth. When they were rescued, their children were taken away from them, put into a Syrian orphanage while the mothers returned to their Yazidi community in Iraq, which had barely begun to recover from its own genocide by ISIS. There they were given a choice: stay with their family and community without the children, or go back to Syria to reclaim their children and never return to their family again.

The article is about the mothers who chose to  leave their Yazidi loved ones, the parents and siblings who survived, cross the border into Syria, claim children who don’t even remember their mothers, stay with them in a refugee camp, and hope and pray that a third country—not Syria or Iraq—will permit them entry where they could build a new life with the children of the ISIS fighters who so horribly abused them, even killing their families of origin.

The trauma of the Yazidi community is so great that no family wants those children there; some have threatened to kill the children if the mothers ever brought them back.

What women, I thought to myself. What mothers! Who can explain this? A young woman barely past puberty is raped and tortured, giving birth to a baby whose father may have killed the rest of her family, clings to that baby so deeply that she’ll leave the only place she’s ever called home, facing their outrage and suffering, hoping against hope that she’ll get a visa to a Western country where she’ll struggle to make a decent living for herself and that child in the midst of strangers.

The story seemed to cut through all the bullshit of day-to-day life, all the petty concerns, fears and antagonisms, the hyper vigilance and control, to say: Look what is possible in a human being. Look at what we’re made of!

At times, the desire to nurture life is even greater than the desire for life itself. These girls may well be illiterate; the only shelter and haven they know is their family and community, the bounds of their old, safe world, and they give that up to care for children conceived in rape and violence.

We’re made of stars, they say, but what can possibly compare with this? I couldn’t come up with a word to do it justice: Love? Sacrifice?

I have an aunt who wouldn’t surrender a tiny boy to Dr. Mengele and elected to go with the baby to the gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Had they lived, I have no idea what kind of mother she would have been, I simply  know that that story—and of so many who chose like her—has been deeply embedded inside me since I was a young child.

Motherhood is available in this very flawed species; not just ours, I’m not so arrogant to believe that. Nevertheless, my heart broke, not because the article was sad but because it pointed to something deep and immense, to a group of young women, terrorized to the edge of their lives, who manage to be so human at such a cost.

One of the women who gets food cards from us has a prolapsed uterus, which means that the uterus has collapsed, torn through the cervix and now juts out of the vagina. The terrible thing is, she had no idea what it was or what was happening to her. A single mother with three children, the pain started four months ago and got worse and worse, and soon she was terrified by what was emerging from her vagina, which got bigger and bigger, making it so difficult to pee.

She works as a dishwasher in a restaurant and could barely lift the heavy pots and pans to wash them. She had no medical insurance so, of course, she didn’t go to any doctor.

Finally, she took a photo of herself, legs splayed, and sent it to Jimena, who showed it to me on Wednesday. I talked to a close doctor friend, who diagnosed her with a prolapsed uterus and said that at this point, after four months, she must go to Emergency. She did that today, I was told, and will undergo surgery. She’s scared about her three children, she’s scared for her job.

At times I want to ask Jimena stupid questions: Why is she a single mother? Why did she have three children? Smart questions on the level of social and welfare policy, but stupid questions at the same time. Why? Because she’s a mother raising her children alone. Because often uteruses collapse due to difficult and painful childbirths. Because she works her chops off to sustain life and nourish it at all costs even after the father’s gone, either on his own volition or because he was deported–I never did ask Jimena about that. It didn’t matter, she’s a mother, like the Yazidi mothers, like my aunt, like so many you know and I know.

If you could help this woman, please use the button below to help immigrant families. Jimena thinks that very soon she could get her insurance to cover medical procedures, but there will be other costs while she can’t work.

I am very grateful.

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

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.


“That’s the stupidest mask I’ve ever seen.”

“Someone gave it to me as a gift, Aussie. It’s quite pretty, reminds me of Hawaii.”

“On top it’s pressing into your eyes while the sides are wide open. Anyone can catch anything. Don’t come any closer! I have to protect my health. In fact, why don’t you go work upstairs?”

“Aussie, I’ve noticed lately how territorial you’ve become. You fight Henry every morning so that he doesn’t dare come downstairs.”

“Only when I get my breakfast. I have to protect my food!”

“Aussie, you eat in the small laundry room, so if you think you want to protect that, be my guest. But you end up patrolling the entire first floor!”

“I used to just guard the laundry room. Henry would sneak into the hallway, and as soon as my back was turned he’d make a break for my bowl, steal some food, and rush upstairs. So, I started patrolling the hallway, too. Then he’d sit and wait in the kitchen, and as soon as I turned my back he’d rush to get a bit of food, then escape upstairs. I started patrolling the kitchen, too, so he’d sit and wait in the living room—”

“Basically, Auss, you widened your territory to include the entire ground floor of the house.”

“Then he sat on the bottom-most step of the stairway, and as soon as my back was turned he’d run into the laundry room to steal—”

“So, you widened your territory into the staircase, too, Aussie, so that now poor Henry finds himself imprisoned in an upstairs room till you’re finished eating—which, I remind you, is taking longer and longer since you’ve gotten so picky with your food!”

“I’ve expanded my area of concern. Once all I cared about was what happened in a small laundry room, see? Now I’m concerned about the entire ground floor—”

“And staircase, Aussie.”

“And staircase. That’s what I call enlightenment!”


“You start caring only about your little corner of the world, and then you realize you’re not just a little corner, you’re everything!”

“But Aussie—”

“You’re not just a little laundry room, you’re a kitchen, a living room, a hallway, a bathroom, even your office!”

“You’re not my office, Aussie.”

“If I’m everything, I’m your office, too! Everything is me! I like this enlightenment business.”

“You’ve got it wrong, Aussie, and you got it dangerous. It’s true, we’re as infinite as stars. Our basic nature is life itself, that’s why we take care of the whole, because we are the whole.”

“I don’t want to be the whole, I don’t want to be life or stars. I just want to be the downstairs. Is that too much to ask?“

“It sounds like you want to own it all, Aussie—”

“Just the ground floor and the staircase—”

“That’s not enlightenment, Aussie. We don’t own life, we serve life.”

“Can I own my food bowl?”

“You’ve extended your area of concern to be the entire ground floor, Aussie, that’s very dangerous. It’s what every narcissist does. Narcissists think they’re everything, and therefore it’s all about them. Enlightened people think they’re everything, and therefore nothing’s about them. See?”


“Nothing is yours, Aussie. When you are the world, you don’t need to own the world, get it?”

“I don’t want the world, I just want the—”

“And when you’re fully the ground floor, you’re everything, see? And that includes Henry, who’s right there by the lamp.”

“I don’t want to be a Chihuahua.”

“Aussie, the Way is not about picking and choosing.”

“I know the Way: living room, hallway, bathroom, laundry room, kitchen, and the staircase. I patrol the Way every single morning. There’s no Chihuahua in my Way, no way.”

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

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 love to put color on toenails and fingernails. It’s one of my mishigas from many years ago, continuing well into my early Zen years. I still remember the sneer of a student at the Zen Community of New York when she saw me taking orders at the Greyston Bakery, everyone else in black or brown, perfect images of sparse living, while I had bright red varnish on fingernails and toenails: “This is the wrong place for you,” she said, walking out of the office disgustedly.

Boy, was she ever right!

But this winter I have let go of bright polish. It’ll come back, I have no doubt, matching pace with that of the buds on the trees.

Here’s a secret: I love winter. I mean the New England winter. Not for me Florida or California, not even as I feel the chill first thing in the morning and fuel bills climb. Not even as I relentlessly walk with Aussie daily, treading gingerly on the ice. Not even as I sit down to pull up the heavy boots with Yak-Trax, then the ancient burgundy jacket that’s only kept for winter dog-walking and the heavy black gloves, all while she’s walking back and forth mewling: “Why are you taking so long!”

“I don’t have your double coat of fur,” I mutter. I’ll watch her sliding over an ice-covered pond and even splashing in frigid water while I hunch up my collar and cover my mouth with a woolen scarf.

But I love winter. Even while others point to the sun that’s closer now and say: “Look, spring is coming!” there’s a part of me that mourns the beginning of the end of winter.

Here’s the thing: Follow the trees in winter. By late fall trees have to fend for themselves. It’s bare-barked survival out there, and the sun isn’t helping the manufacture of chlorophyll, so they let go of the leaves.

I, too, am tempted by a barebones life. Take the opportunity to let go of anything extraneous or secondary. If nothing comes to mind, ask yourself: If I had to live such a life, what would I let go of? You’ll find things.

Winter is the time for Zen intensives, for more meditation, for feeling the deep center of things. The snow and ice in back make it a challenge to walk, there’s no temptation to go out in short sleeves and get the sun.

There’s a seasonality to all this. In summer you do outdoors activities; in winter stay in, maybe review the year. Maybe listen over and over to the guitar of Marcel Dadi, maybe catch up with feelings you’d tried to banish over the year. Maybe look at the results of past thoughts and actions and remember the long run of things.

Appreciate the gorgeous gray of winter afternoons, the example of hardy birds that made it through another frigid night, and remind yourself how precious, how superb, this life is. How so few people have seen squirrels hanging upside down against feeders and a dog lying in ambush in the shadow of the house. That you were given one more undeniable chance at winter, at long dark nights discouraging you from going out and encouraging introspection.

So many big and small gifts: a closed garage for the car so you don’t have to wipe it clean from snow and frost each morning, the yellow lights of plows sweeping along the snowy roads so that the roads are clear when you get up in the morning—people did this for you! People worked all night to clean for you, to make life and transport possible.

And so much gets done without human hands. The earth swallows up the leaves from last year, the snow changes into water that flows into the Connecticut River and out to sea, the trees breathe sap and pray with upturned limbs towards the blue sky above them.

We lost people these past months, or else they lie in hospital beds and look out, knowing it’s their last winter.

Covid  feels like winter. I got my fist vaccine in early March and my spirits soared—a light at the end of the tunnel. But what this tunnel has this been?  It wasn’t just a dark tunnel; no tunnel is just dark. It has texture and spirit, just like the New York city subways I used to take as a kid, looking out front from the front car and watching the tunnel speeding by, electric flashes along the tracks, the rushing noise, other tracks coming alongside then parting. Those weren’t just tunnels; even as a girl I knew without understanding that they were an important part of my life.

Covid, too, though I still don’t get it, have no story about its seasons. The doctors promise spring and renewal, in fact I felt it when I had that vaccine. But I’m already looking back: What has this tunnel been really about? I understand some of the human part, the mistakes, the uncertainty, the fear, the loss. But step back for a moment, give the camera a wider angle, and now ask: What is it about?

Zen is paradox. So even as we still try to shelter from the covid storm, get the right vaccines, follow guidelines, see it as the pandemic it was defined, there’s another face to it, and what is that? What am I bearing witness to day in day out? And why do I secretly feel that I will look back on this sequestered time and wonder if I made the most of it, if I felt what had to be felt and reflected on what should be reflected on. If I realized that under all the loss and illness and loneliness, there was something sharp and bright, like the ice, that flashed in the sunlight asking to be seen, felt, and intimately known.

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

Make a Donation to My Blog Donate To Immigrant Families

You can also send a check to: Eve Marko, POB 174, Montague, MA 01351. Please write on the memo line whether this is in support or immigrant families or of my blog. Thank you.



“Aussie, how come you’re turning back to the car? We just started our walk.”

“I don’t like the noise.”

“You mean the gunshots from the shooting range? They’re pretty far away, Auss, they can’t hurt you.”

“I’m heading back.”

“I’m surprised at you, Aussie. You, a Proud Poocher! You didn’t used to be afraid of gunshots.”

“The world isn’t as safe as it used to be. It’s becoming downright dangerous! That’s why Joe needs me in his cabinet.”

“You, Auss?”

“I’m from Texas, they’ll confirm me in no time.”

“I can think of a big reason why they won’t, Aussie.”

“I’d be great at Homeland Security, you know what a good watchdog I am. I walk the perimeter every night!”

“Aussie, you’re a dog!”

“So? What about his other nominees? They’re from every race, culture, and religion in this country. Why not a dog?”

“I never thought of that, Aussie.”

“Joe says he loves diversity, so when are nonhumans going to be represented in government?”

“That’s a good question, Auss.”

“I can represent all nonhumans. In fact, I can create a Department of Nonhuman Affairs.”

“What a great idea. Who will you put on staff?”

“Everybody. No specie will be excluded in the Department of Nonhuman Affairs except for Henry the Chihuahua.”

“I’m not sure Republicans want another cabinet office, Auss. They wanted to eliminate the Department of Education.”

“That’s a good one for me, too. I’m great with treats.”

“I’m not sure treats—”

“Or else I can take over the Department of Agriculture.  I’m a terror on chipmunks, squirrels, mice, moles, voles, and other dangerous varmints. Head of Transportation? I love car rides!”

“Aussie, get a hold of yourself.”

“He could put me in charge of the FBI. I’m mostly black, think of the great message that would send!”


“Director of National Intelligence, for obvious reasons. “

“I love a Department of Nonhuman Affairs, Aussie. It will be called DNA and its job will be to represent all nonhumans.”

“I have the best ideas! Does Major the German Shepherd have–”

“Aussie, my sister wrote me that I have an amazing alter-ego in you.”

“What’s that? Something you put on your altar? Don’t even think of lifting me up and putting me on that—”

“No no, Aussie, you don’t understand. She thinks that in you I’ve created a different version of me. Even an opposite version of me.”

“Of you? How come she doesn’t think that you are an opposite version of me?”

“Maybe because we haven’t found evidence of dogs having alter egos, Aussie.”

“How much evidence do you have of alter egos?”

“Aussie, my sister is convinced that I write your voice.”

“Ha! Ha! Ha! You’re not clever enough, creative enough, or bitchy enough!”

“We have this argument often. She says I write your voice, while I tell her: No, this is Aussie’s voice.

“I’m registering my words with the US Copyright Office. I need to claim my voice! I need to stand for my separate identity!”

“She says that your identity is my secret identity, too.”

“Sounds like a Zennie to me. And here I hoped that somebody in your family was a little normal.”



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.