THE RESISTANCE IS US

Photo by Judi Miles

Here I am in Takoma Park, Maryland, with Bernie, visiting his daughter and family, no desire to blog, just a wish to eat barbecued dinners or go out and walk along Sligo Creek. Till last night, when I opened the news and saw Trump and various Republicans’ latest proposal to cut immigration by 50%, allocating what spots remain to English-speaking, well-educated people. Not the thin, hungry ones, they’ll make do with special visas giving them the privilege of working at beneath-market wages for companies like Trump’s, and then getting shipped right back home.

Jon Katz wrote about being the son of immigrants, and how that has affected him to this very day. I am an immigrant, having arrived here when I was 7. We came by ship, four of us in a tiny cabin. Nobody spoke any English.

Till the day he died my father, a rabbi and teacher, loved to tell the tales of all the misunderstandings that arose when he tried to work to make some money, not understanding what people were really asking of him. When he was paid pittances to give a speech at the local synagogue on the Sabbath, my uncle not just wrote it out for him but would review it by telephone with him every Friday afternoon, especially my father’s pronunciation.

My younger sister had polio, and my mother would carry her aboard three buses in Jamaica, Queens, to the rehab center that helped her walk again. I remember when my mother, who was very lonely, was invited to a party. She was thrilled, only to remember that she had no dress. So she took an old fabric she had that had been used for curtains and sewed it into a dress, and loved to tell about raves she got (What store did you get that fabulous dress?).

I spoke no English at all in a public school in the Bronx. One day the teacher announced something and gave out a page of lined paper to each pupil. Then she said some words, none of which I understood, and picked up the papers. I gave back the empty sheet and got a 0 because I didn’t understand that this was a spelling test.

But a week later I had my revenge. She held a competition to see who could write the longest word correctly on the board. One by one the children went to the board, choosing to write cat, dog, or even bird. When it was my turn everybody laughed, but I confidently walked to the board and wrote out the word spelling, which was written on the top right of the board where she always wrote the name of the class. I won the competition hands-down.

Years later, when I “dropped out” to be a writer and then join a religious community, in the face of my parents’ opposition, I never forgot what fueled their dream for me to join the middle class, how their opposition came about because they knew about war, poverty, and starvation—and I did not, thanks to them.

Nobody leaves behind a familiar land, culture, and language with any ease in order to go to a place where you’re a stranger, starting from zero, where the cashier in the supermarket sneers because you’re stumbling over the language or hoarding your pennies. You do it because of war, holocaust, illness, and poverty. And you never forget the kindness of teachers who take extra care with your children, the landlord who forgives a month or two delays with the rent, the low-income grandmother who buys chicken for you for Friday night because you can’t afford it.

Whether you’re from East Europe or West, from Africa, Asia, or south of the border, one of your ancestors thought it was worthwhile making this drastic change, taking terrible risks, for the sake of the children and their descendants. You are that descendant.

In that sense, when you shut the door on refugees and impoverished immigrants, you’re shutting the door on your own parent, or the parent of your parent. You’re shutting the door on entire family trees and histories, including your own. You turn your back on your own history and your ancestors’ courage and resilience.

In a funny way, I feel more love for this country than I ever felt in my life, maybe because I can’t take its virtues any longer for granted. This land of hope and generosity is lurching and wobbling, led by a demagogue in the White House and a party that has sold its own conservative soul down the river for the sake of power.

The resistance is us.

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WE NEED MORE MOOCHISMO!

Dinner last night found me in tears.

Terrible news for the economy, Bernie. Scaramucci was kicked out. The unemployment numbers have shot through the roof, I wailed. At last count 2,220,954 people were brushing up their resumes to send out for all those jobs out there impersonating the Mooch, and now it’s down the tubes, their hopes dashed to smithereens. Think of all those brilliant careers that will never happen!

Tsk tsk, says Bernie. How about I give my plate with a little of the turkey meat loaf to Stanley to lick?

Good idea, says Stan.

Don’t even think about it, says I. You think the coal industry was a catastrophe? How about the ending of Mooch Inc.? The jobs were wide-open, anybody could do it except for New Englanders, you didn’t need a college degree or nothing. And it was true-blue American, it couldn’t be manufactured in China or anywhere else in Asia. Japanese tried to copy it but gave up. Did Jeff go after the job?

Dude’s too cool for that, it needs somebody from New York.

Anybody from the Bronx or Staten Island.

Brooklyn! Bernie reminds me. I got the hand gestures, but the right won’t cooperate. These are the times when I really wish I didn’t have the stroke.

Of course, the Mooch was so New York! He brought the city back to me every time I put on the news. The only Mooches you find in New England are with the Red Sox. Bernie, what are you doing?

I want to give him the plate with a little meat loaf so that he could lick it off.

Don’t do any such thing. Stanley’s become a beggar. He never used to beg at the table before.

It’s never too late to learn, says Stanley.

He’s hungry! says Bernie.

He’s not hungry, he needs to lose some weight. Since the stroke you’ve become so tenderhearted, but where’s your tenderness towards Mooch? Even though he was so New York, everybody loved him. He brought this country together. Raising the debt ceiling, Obamacare, Ryancare, immigration and LGBT bans—they’re splitting us apart, but who didn’t love Mooch?

He reminded me a little of Israeli politicians, and all the names they call each other in public.

True, I say, but he was as American as apple pie.

I love apple pie, says Stanley.

When you think of all the screw-ups in the White House, you have to hand it to Mooch. In ten full days of work the only real damage he did was getting rid of Spicer. Rence Priebus, too, only nobody noticed. I miss Spicer so much I was thinking about changing Stanley’s name to Spicer. How would you like that, Stanley?

Better than Mooch the Pooch, opines Stan..

Bernie looks to the side. Hey, he whispers aloud to Spicer-I-mean-Stanley, as soon as she turns away to do the dishes I’m going to slip it to you.

They smile conspiratorially at each other while I continue my grief process. John Kelly! A marine general in the White House!

Stanley sits up straight. The few, the proud, the—

Homeland Security was nothing like the White House. A million terrorists coming in every day from Mexico to blow up civilization to bits—big deal, Kelly can deal with that with one hand tied behind his back. But guarding the White House from fake news inside and out? Fuggedaboudit.

Marines like dogs, Stanley reminds me.

Wet blanket. Spoilsport. Just when we were sitting back and starting to have some fun, along comes John Kelly, thrusts his bayonet into the balloon, and no more Mooch. Party pooper. We don’t need more marines, we need more moochismo! I say, pounding the table with my fist. And then the tears flow. Oh hell, and I turn away so they don’t see this girlie crying.

Bernie and Stanley grin at each other and I see a plate moving as if by itself.

Anybody who f****** leaks food from this table is fired!

 

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I LOVE BOSSY FEMALES!

One Great Bossy Female
Photo by Peter Cunningham

Stanley, Jeanne Moreau died.

The funny-looking Pug who just joined the gang at Leeann’s? Looked kind of young to go.

No, Stanley, Jeanne Moreau was a great French movie star. Moody, sexy, passionate, I loved Jeanne Moreau. And she was tough. She was a bossy female.

[Sigh] I love bossy females!

Really?

I’ve been one lucky dog, I’ve been surrounded by bossy females all my life. I love Leeann, I loved Bubale!

Bubale was one bossy Pit Bull.

She taught me how to go up and down the stairs, she had me running for my life so that I kept in shape, she made order out of chaos in the house—

What do you mean, chaos?

–and she showed me how to eat a bone. There is no better teaching than that.

I remember that first time I gave you a marrow bone, Stan. You had no idea what to do with it. You just looked and looked, then looked up at me.

And did you know what to do with it? No, but Bubale did. Nobody ever gave me a bone before. But there was Bubale, lying on her belly on the grass, bone between her paws, taking long licks and sucking at it. Of course, she snapped at me when I got close, but then it suddenly hit me: “Hey, that’s a bone!” She was a genius, I tell you! Did she ever take good care of me!

And what about Leeann?

I love Leeann. She showed me how to get on with everybody and she takes me all over New England. And she’s tough! All Leeann has to do is go “eh-eh-“ in that way she does, with a clear shake of her head, and I know what’s what. That lady knows how to lay down the law! Don’t even try to get near her chickens and turkeys.

You know, Stanley, the rest of the world doesn’t like bossy females.

Pourquoi?

So many men think that when women assert their strong personality it’s unfeminine.

What do they know? All my life I’ve done exactly what a bossy female told me to do, and things have never been better.

Right you are, Stanley, if more men would let women boss them around this world would be a much better place.

Bossy females are the height of human civilization.

Now let me ask you this, Stanley. What about Ruby?

That’s going too far. I run for the hills when I see Ruby.

She’s bossy.

She’s young. That German Shepherd is a bossy female in training. But give her a few years and she’ll save the world.

And what about me, Stanley?

What about you?

Just how bossy am I?

You’re not bossy, you’re a wimp.

I am not!

All I have to do is look at you with my moony eyes and you drop dead. Or mention the word “compassion,” and you turn into a puddle. I tried “compassion” with Bubale and she told me to fuck off. Now that was one great, bossy female!

 

 

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IT’S THE REACHING AND THE REACHING THAT MATTER

Last week I finished reading a remarkable novel by the Israeli author, David Grossman, called A Horse Walks Into a Bar. This short book won the Man Booker International Prize, given annually to a book not originally written in English. From first page to last, it covers a 2-hour stand-up comedy act of a 57 year-old man in a seedy nightclub in a small coastal city in Israel.

I’d met David Grossman some 12 years ago, so I immediately noticed how he’d physically modeled the main character on himself—short, thin, redheaded, nerdy— only the comedian is positively scrawny, ill, and clearly falling apart. Grossman himself, a strong peace activist, wrote this book after losing his son in the last of Israel’s Lebanese wars.

A Horse Walks Into a Bar is not overtly political in the least, but it gives a gritty, intergenerational picture of Israeli society from its beginnings after World War II down to recent times (Almost everything you see in this country, Grossman told us years ago, dates back to the Holocaust). It’s also an extraordinary profile of a deeply traumatized man and the creative web of defenses he’s drawn around himself so that he could keep on living. It’s breathtaking in its expert craftsmanship, the pacing, the setting out of pieces of a puzzle in the context of a nightclub act and then, slowly and relentlessly, putting them together.

It’s also an antidote to the positively dreamy picture of Israel that so many American Jews continue to have. Captive to their own guilt of how their families escaped the Nazis unscathed in the US and admiring that plucky little country surrounded by terrorists and dictator regimes, even the more liberal of them remain loyal to vision rather than, in the favorite words of the government and military, facts on the ground. At best, they shake their heads and mutter, it’s complicated.

Not Grossman. Like any real writer or artist, he knows there are so many ways to see things, the brain often being the puniest and least effective of them all.

I’m very grateful to my London friend who gifted me this book.

But something else held me here. The narrator of the story is a friend of the comedian who hasn’t seen him in some 45 years, and one evening gets a phone call from his old-time companion summoning him to this performance. I’m not into stand-up comedy, says the narrator, who has practically erased his old-time friend from his memory over the years. I know, responds the other, but I’d like you to come anyway and see me. See what? And finally, after stumbling about, it comes out: “That thing,” he said softly, “that comes out of a person without his control? That thing that maybe only this one person in the world has?”

The narrator knows just what he’s talking about and continues in his own words: The radiance of personality, I thought. The inner glow. Or the inner darkness. The secret, the tremble of singularity. Everything that lies beyond the words that describe a person, beyond the things that happened to him and the things that went wrong and became warped in him.

What is that thing in me? In Bernie? In anyone around me? That essence of a person that you know deep in your bones, though the more you try to explain and put into words the farther it is. I am not different from the comedian, who tries heroically and in vain to describe his life to the people who came in for a light evening of comedy and entertainment, only he fails brilliantly and I fail less brilliantly. But it’s the reaching and the reaching that matter, the effort to communicate, to stand verbally naked in the world and always, always, to be seen. By an old friend coming to the nightclub, by the man or woman who lives with you, by a blog reader who probably prefers Stanley the old dog to me.

It’s an effort doomed to failure, but so worth doing.

And if you give up hope, you may finally conclude that it’s the maple leaf brushing your face as you walk in the woods that has really seen you, and honored the deep question burning inside, not with understanding but with a caress.

 

 

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WHILE STANLEY SLEPT

Today Stanley slept—it didn’t just rain, it poured buckets, torrents, rivers—while I picked up a mother with two small girls, one four years old and the other one month old, and drove them down to an immigration appointment in the courthouse.

I’d prefer to have shown you a photo of the beautiful 26 year-old mother with the fiery girl and the tiny infant with its creased face and heart-shaped lips, but those photos are not possible. I’d have liked to show you how she brought them in that hurricane into the car, along with their safe seats, put them in the back and belted everyone tight, which caused me to wonder how she could possibly have done this on public transportation in our neck of the woods, since 70 miles each way would have necessitated several bus transfers along with a taxi. I’d have liked to have taken a photo of the four of us struggling against the wind and rain, me holding an umbrella over her as she held in one hand her baby in her seat and with the other the 4 year-old’s hand. But I couldn’t take such photos, so instead I show you a photo of Stanley doing what any smart dog would have done on a day like today.

She couldn’t speak English so I muttered in my Pimsleur espagnol: What’s the name of your daughters? Ashley and Brittany, she says. Not Spanish names, I stumble aloud, and she corrects me: Si, si, Spanish names. And we leave it at that, while I recall numerous immigrant families I knew who made sure to call their children names that fit both their original culture and the new one. One foot here, one foot there. Just one of many early elements deciding one’s destiny in life.

I suspected Ashley knew English, and this was confirmed in the waiting room at the immigration office when I showed her my computer. Instantly she took charge, telling me what to look for, and once we found the appropriate YouTube she made the volume change and put it on full-screen. You could tell she was born here.

But before that we entered the Courthouse, and had to wait quite a while to get down the security line to the metal-detector and belt, though Brittany was crying wanting her food. Once it was our turn the man in charge turned to me and said harshly:

Are you accompanying her?

Yes.

So this is what you tell her. She is to do nothing—NOTHING!—except what I tell you and that you translate to her. NOT ONE MOVE!

I didn’t dare tell him that my Spanish was inadequate, I was afraid he’d throw us out into the rain, so I nodded.

He proceeded to tell me to tell her to leave the baby and walk through the x-ray machine, and assuming it was fine to come back, retrieve the infant in her arms, and again go through the x-ray machine. I did my best to explain, but she hesitated for an instant over leaving the weeping infant and his voice got much harsher: I TOLD YOU, JUST DO WHAT I TELL HER TO TELL YOU!

The baby, of course, cried that much louder, but the rest was fine. She went through the barrier, returned, retrieved the baby— DON’T TOUCH THE CARRIER!—and walked through again, followed by Ashley, and then he put everything else on the belt. They checked out my computer and handbag even more thoroughly than they do at airports, and then cleared us.

I remembered a phone conversation with my sister just the other day, in which she, quoting a renowned Holocaust historian, said that it wasn’t the Jews who were dehumanized by the concentration camps, but rather the Nazis. Women stripping down, stripping their children and holding them in their arms, crying over what will happen to them—they have not lost their humanity, quite the contrary, they’re doing what any human mother would do. Men watching this process and yelling at them to hurry up and get a move on, all while drinking their coffee, that’s another matter entirely.

What do I say about a big man who yells at a young mother scrambling with two little children and a car seat, obviously anxious to do the right thing? What do I say about a system that condones such harshness, fomenting fear in some, anger and resentment in others? When was the last time you tried to complain about an abusive tone a security guard took against you or someone else? Did you get much of a listening, or were you told not to make trouble, just move on?

The only security that comes out of such a process is the sure knowledge that someone there is thinking: Today you talk this way to me because you have the power, but just you wait till I have the power.

It poured on the long drive back, the three of them sat in back because the baby was crying, and I drove slower than usual not just because of the storm, but because of the precious cargo in the back seat.

And through all that time, Stanley slept.

 

 

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LOST!

Okay, okay, Stanley, don’t get upset. I messed up.

Messed up? You got us lost!

I went a whole new way, decided to explore a different part of the woods, and kept climbing up and up. Everything was fine till I turned us around to go back and I lost the trail.

You know how often I looked down towards sunrise? I was trying to show you where the trail was!

I’m sorry, Lassie, I thought I knew. I figured that as long as we were going downhill we couldn’t be that lost. But these brambles are tearing me apart and I’m slipping and sliding on the dry leaves.

You know how old we are?

Don’t remind me, Stan.

What happens to me if you break a leg?

You stay and keep me company?

Fat chance.

You get home and bring help?

I get home, drink lots of water, and go to sleep. Promise me you’ll never take me anywhere new again. We dogs like to keep things simple, stick to a routine.

Absolutely not. You and I have to keep on trying new things, Stan, it’ll keep you young.

It’ll keep me lost!

That may describe the job of a Zen teacher. It’s so easy for us to sink into routine, the same-old same-old. You need somebody to shake you up, Stanley, get you lost if only for a while, so that you lose the ground under your feet.

You get paid for that?

Just enough to keep you in dog food and turmeric for your stiff joints.

I saw you lose the ground under your feet and skid down on your butt. You didn’t look happy.

But I went on, didn’t I? And I don’t complain like you do, Stanley.

I think it’s all part of your Zen warrior training.

For your information, I was a warrior long before I came across Zen. But that’s over and done with, I’m a real softie now.

Oh yeah? Well, what I’m going to do once this trauma is over and we get back home is sleep the rest of the day. What are you going to do?

Probably write about it.

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GAME OF THRONES A LA BERNIE

We’re seated on a Sunday morning over a cup of coffee and Bernie gives me his take on Game of Thrones:

See, Eve, there are these people who want to be in charge of these 7 kingdoms. Some kingdoms are little and some are big, and some people just want to take over one kingdom, but some want to be in charge of the whole thing. There’s this princess with three dragons—those are her children—and they send fire out and burn everything whenever she tells them to, and she wants to be in charge of the whole thing.

What’s a dragon? asks Stanley, lying on the other side of the table. As usual, Bernie can’t hear him.

Then there’s John Snow, and he wants to be in charge of the whole thing. There are others who also want that, and then there are others who just want a little piece, they just want one little kingdom, they don’t need to be in charge of the whole thing. That’s Game of Thrones.

Sounds like politics right now, Bernie.

It was ever thus, says Stanley mournfully.

And you’ve been watching all the episodes? I ask.

Yeah, I tape them and watch them out of order.

But if you watch them out of order, Bernie, how can you make out the entire story line?

I don’t. I can’t remember anyway so it makes no difference.

Same here, says Stanley.

You know, say I, that’s what’s going on right here in the US. Everybody gets very upset about Donald Trump, they’re completely obsessed by this one episode, and they often forget how many other episodes there have been. When Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter in 1980 and Carter conceded at 8 in the evening, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I drank a double scotch on the rocks because I was sure the country’s going down the drain.

And you were right.

Remember when the GAO called us at Greyston because we had qualified for a big housing grant from HUD, only Reagan’s Secretary of HUD funneled all the HUD money to his rich contractor friends? I think he was convicted later, but Greyston certainly didn’t see any money.

Every episode has its own story.

Only we forget the big, big story because we can’t remember it all, right?

Right, says Bernie. Nobody knows the whole story, they only think they do. I know I don’t know it, so I don’t have to see the episodes in order.

Do you think we live the story in order? I wonder.

We live it in dis-order.

No, we live it in dat-order. And dat’s an order.

What a stupid conversation, says Stanley.

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BERNIE MAKES BLUTTE

When we went to the Taub Clinic in March to work out Bernie’s right arm and hand, they warned us that Bernie has to do everything he can with the disabled hand rather than relying on the “unstruck” one, especially eating meals, and when he does there will be a mess. Bring plenty of clothes for him to change, they told us.

That was some 4 months ago, and Bernie can now use a knife in his right hand to cut his food, then pick up a fork with the right hand, spear a morsel and bring it to his mouth (the first couple of months the food went to all different corners of his face when he did that). But very often the tablecloth gets dirty right around his plate.

Oh oh, he says after we’ve cleared the table (he walks without a cane to the sink holding cutlery, though he can’t hold up large plates, and he has begun to wash the dishes at the sink regularly) and he looks down. I made blutte.

Blutte? I asked the first time I heard him using the word almost 20 years ago. What’s blutte?

Blutte. You know, Yiddish.

Never hoid of it.

What kind of Jew are you? Blutte. It means a mess.

For years I searched in every Yiddish book I could find, starting with Leo Rosten, for blutte. Finally I realized that, like many things, it was right in front of my face. It refers to blot, or mud. Blotto is how the English refer to it; in Polish bloto means mud.

It’s food stains, Bernie, not mud.

I made blutte, he insists, and off the tablecloth goes to the laundry, a new one comes out, and in 1-2 days that one will go to the laundry as well.

You can’t regain the use of your right hand without making a mess, Edward Taub told Bernie. It’s true all the way around, I think. There’s so much for us to regain—basic decency towards everyone, care of our earth, listening to all the voices we try to ignore—and invariably it will involve making blutte.

You want to offer rides to undocumented workers but the job fell through so nobody shows up and you’re waiting around, looking at your watch. You care for an old dog, walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night and stumble over his vomit on the floor. You grow a garden, it rains day after day, and tomatoes turn into mush. You reach out to a family member in trouble and they remind you of the past when you didn’t get along. You revise a poem, look at it afresh in the morning and say, What a mess!

The more limbs of the One Body I try to reactivate, the more cells of the Big Mind I wish to fire up, the more I make blutte. WARNING: Reaching for perfection will get you nowhere, humor and forgiveness everywhere.

Last night I dreamt that I was in London with my 89 year-old mother. We were going to a fancy benefit, she was driving, and she hit the car of Queen Elizabeth. The Queen and cohort generously invited us to come into their car and return to the castle with them. My mother asked me to park our damaged car to get it out of the way, and I instantly hit the Queen’s car again. Queen Elizabeth and family rolled their eyes; nevertheless, they took us in and brought us home.

At Windsor, everyone there was nice and pleasant, good manners and white china. It wasn’t intimidating in the least, just kind of ho-hum, till a Spanish princess came in, one of Elizabeth’s daughters-in-law, glowering and angry, speaking only Spanish. No one could understand her. How is it possible, I wondered, that in all of Windsor Castle no one speaks Spanish? But I had learned a little Spanish using Pimsleur tapes because I wanted to interact with the Latino population here, especially the undocumented families, so I mumbled a little in Spanish and she lit up, yakking away a mile a minute in Spanish. She’d finally found someone who talked her language.

 

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THE GOAL OF A LIFETIME

Stanley, when you have a goal that is hard to attain, a dream you’ve never fulfilled, you know what you have to do?

What?

Never lose sight of it. Call it by its name, affirm that that is what you want and it will happen. So let me ask you, Stanley, as you approach the end of your life, is there anything you deeply regret? Anything you wish you could do over again? Any dream unfulfilled that I could help you with?

One.

What’s that?

I’ve always wanted to be a balloon.

You wanted to be light on your paws and float up in the air?

No, I wanted to be fat like a balloon. Eat what I want when I want.

That’s been your goal in life?

The only one.

Stanley, when we went to see Dr. Brown this morning she said you gained 8 pounds in just three months.

The House of Horrors!

Don’t be so dramatic, all they did was take a blood and urine test.

They held me down so I couldn’t breathe, tied something around my leg, and then they stabbed me!

Oh please, it took all of 10 seconds.

And if that’s not enough, they threw me out in the rain—

You mean you rushed out, don’t you?

–and after I smelled the flowers and started to pee they put a dustpan under me. Now I can’t even pee in peace.

Gaining a lot of weight is not good at your age, Stan.

Looks can be deceiving. It’s probably my gorgeous fur.

They put you on the scale.

What’s that?

Your joints shouldn’t have to carry all that weight, Stanley.

I don’t care, I want to be a balloon. I want to be fat! That’s my goal in life and I haven’t even come close. How would you like to die without your great love?

Your great love is balloons?

No, food! You walk long distances, you guard the house from lions and tigers, you chase that maniac Pit Bull Bubale all day till she mercifully dies, you flush out wild turkeys from behind the trees, you dig up Joe’s compost pile and terrorize the cats down the road—you think those things are easy? I’ve worked hard all my life and there’s only one thing I’ve ever wanted in return: not a Nobel Prize, not a party, not even money. I wanted to be a balloon.

And I want you to stay healthy, Stanley. Why do you think we’re spending so much money to relieve your aching joints?

Did I ask you to?

Getting fat before you die is not a worthy goal for someone of your stature, Stanley Marko-Glassman.

[Groan.] My name is Stanley Balloon. My name is Stanley Balloon. My name is Stanley Balloon. My name is Stanley Balloon.

 

 

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THE WHITE WOLF

 

This is our place.

It’s where the dogs and me—now Stanley and me—end up. It’s been our place for a long time.

You enter this particular piece of woods from the old Montague Farm, which Zen Peacemakers owned for a number of years. That’s how I first got in there, exploring different paths, often getting stuck in brambles, on occasion getting lost. You go in across some 10 acres, and then find yourself on State-owned land. It’s wild here, no rangers anywhere. Some 300 yards west, on the other side of the creek, is the Robert Frost Trail that goes up to Vermont, and in good weather we can hear people calling out to their friends and even dogs barking. Here, by the pools, we’ve only run into hunters and they tend towards friendliness.

Only once, in bow-and-arrow season, did I pass a man sitting on the ground, his back leaning against a tree, legs akimbo, bow and arrow at his side. I said hello softly, but he didn’t reply though I was passing right below him, and something shivered inside.

You go in hunting season? people ask me.

We put on orange vests.

Isn’t it dangerous?

How can I explain? This is our place, it’s been that over a decade. When the Farm was taken over by William and Beth Jacobson, I asked them for permission to bring the dogs up the hill and take them into the woods, and they said it would be nice to see dogs walking around, using the place.

When Stanley and I get to these hidden pools, I feel they say the same thing: It’s so nice that you’re here. Not because we’re mindful, don’t leave an untended fire or cigarette butts, and generally are no disturbance. It’s that we belong here. We’ve found our place here.

Some 9-10 years ago I sat on one of those old rocks, peered across the pool and out into the dense trees, and saw a large white animal standing under the foliage. I’d never seen a dog there and it didn’t move like a dog. Instantly I told myself it was a white wolf. White wolves are only in the Arctic, my reasonable voice said to me. There’s a white wolf here right now, I replied. It was far away and only moved slightly, and finally disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.

For months later I would go to that rock, sit on it, and look out for the white wolf. I never failed to search for it in all seasons, sure I’d see it again one day, but I never did, though I always look out towards the trees on the far, far side of the pools.

Before Stanley got old I’d occasionally sit on my butt and slide downhill or explore other paths, but now, since he’s unleashed and likes to follow his nose, I go to the pools because he knows that ultimately, regardless of his zig-zags and mine, that’s where he’ll find me. That’s where we’ll end up.

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