Some mornings when I come down, Aussie turns onto her back so that I could stroke her belly. But Henry also wants attention. He scampers up onto my knees, ball in his mouth, and leaves it in my lap to throw for him.

I have two hands, I could do both, stroke the belly of one dog and throw the ball for the other. But if I so much as once throw the ball for Henry, Aussie gets off the futon. It’s as if she can’t fathom how I can do two things at once. She wants all my attention, and if she can’t have it, she leaves the scene. And as always, I think of my grandfather’s warning to me when I was a young girl and sitting at the table for a Sabbath meal with him: “Chava,” he would say, “not even angels can do two things at once.”

He was a rabbi from a Russian family of rabbis who never adjusted to living in the United States, where he immigrated due to the kindness of cousins who applied for a visa on his and his family’s behalf through the family reunification process, financially vouching for everyone. I remember that whenever I am with immigrant families.

“How did you get here, of all places?” I ask them, thinking not just about how different the weather is here from what it is in their original country, but also about the long way they had to make from Latin America across the border and then diagonally up to the Northeast. And the answer is always the same: My brother got here a few years ago. A cousin. My uncle.

They arrive, move in with already-crowded families, look for work, send money back home to the older people who often have little food and no medical care. And they’re there for other family members who will come in the future, encourage them, help them find work, give them support till they make it on their own.

It’s how my family got to America and I see that continuing in front of my eyes.

I’m surprised at how often I think of my grandfather, with whom I felt almost nothing in common, or my grandmother, who used to say Oy! so often I would make an inner wager with myself as to how often I would hear it from start of visit to finish. I hated Oy! I hated complaining. I hated, as Jon Katz likes to put it in his blog, old people talk. I was young and full of expectations. I knew early on I wouldn’t be a member of good standing in their world. I wanted to put them behind me, get away from all confines, from complaints, from the history (If you understood what we went through!).

I’d heard it from such a young age that at some point I rebelled and said: “Enough already! I’m not living my life to make up for what you lost, I’m not living my life as a replacement for yours. I’m sorry about the Holocaust, I’m sorry about the Nazis, I’m sorry about what you lived through—but I’m living my life! My life!”

I put thousands of miles between my family and me, I saw no other way, there were many good reasons for doing so.

My mother will be moving by the end of this month after renting an apartment for many years. The landlords were very kind, giving her a special discount in her rent on account of her being a Holocaust survivor, which means a great deal in Israel. But they finally require the apartment for their own mother, who wishes to return to the home she once had, so my mother has to move at 92. She can’t keep this in her head.

My sister and brother finally found a nice apartment in her general (expensive) neighborhood, close to the synagogues she always liked (none have been open for a long time). They will finalize it this week and the rent will almost double.

But for now, I think of my sister packing up my mother’s things. It’s that first cycle of going through old papers, clothes, documents, photos, books, notebooks, etc. that I know so well from after Bernie died. My mother is still living, of course, but in some ways it’s the same thing, a journey into her, and therefore into me.

Which I can’t be a part of. Israeli airports are shut. Even if they reopen in time, current quarantine rules are that they put you away in their housing, not in yours. “It makes no sense for you to come,” my sister told me. “And it’s not going to be as tough as you think, we’ll be practical about it.”

I wanted to be part of that journey into the past, unearthing hints of things (Is that her and her nephew in the refugee camp in France? Is that the young man who led that camp and who she said adored her?), the letters from us (and especially from me, since I was the one who lived a long distance away) that she kept—what was there that caught her attention and convinced her to keep it? Perhaps her divorce papers, which mark one of the most painful times of her life, a photo of a holiday party, and most important, some reminder of her big family that stayed in Poland, didn’t go to Czechoslovakia with her parents, and were destroyed.

Hints and traces of family, so eagerly sought by a woman who did everything she could many years ago to put miles and miles between them. The doors between us were like barricades then. They were not the parents I wanted; I wasn’t the daughter they wanted.

Till we all got older. Now she tells me how happy she is with her children every time I call. And I imagine working alongside my sister on my mother’s past: Look at the date on this letter! Who do you think this is? Look at all these recipes!

It won’t happen.

Outside the New England snow has blanketed everything, reminding me that here I am, surrounded by hungry birds and squirrels whose feeders I need to fill, the skies finally, finally blue and sunny after many days of clouds.

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, would you like to be my emotional support dog?”


“Other than lying on the futon in my office—”

“It’s snowing!”

“–do you plan to do anything of value this winter, Auss?”

“My productive life ended with the election. Besides, I still chase avaricious squirrels from the birdfeeders.”

“Aussie, I feel discouraged by the gray morning clouds I see first thing when I wake up in the morning. We haven’t had much sun lately, or blue skies. And Kwan-Yin is covered in snow.”

“When it’s blue skies here it means it’s freezing. Not that I mind, with my two coats of fur.”

“I’d love to have a meal out, Aussie.”

“Easy. Kill squirrels.”

“I’d like to sit down for a cup of coffee with a friend in a café. Right now, I do coffee via Zoom. I have mine on my desk, they have theirs on their desk, and we talk. But the computer screen is always between us.”

“If you can’t touch somebody, what’s the use?”

“Exactly, Aussie. What’s the first thing I do when I come down in the morning?”

“You bug me.”

“I come to the futon where you’re lying down, greet you, stroke you and say: ‘Another wonderful day with Aussie.’”

“Pretty corny, if you ask me.”

“You’re wrong about that, Auss. You watch people and dogs get older, you get older, and each day is so precious.”

“Precious enough to get me the humongous buffalo treats they sell in the store?”

“No, Aussie. I don’t want to spend money in the  name of love and longing, I just want to love.”

“Big deal!”

“A month ago, a friend brought me her sewing machine that she’s giving to one of the immigrant women. ‘I’ll put it in the trunk of your car,’ she said to me. She took it to my car, I must have turned away for a minute, and when  I turned back to her she was standing right there, in front of me, arms outstretched, remember, Aussie?”


“I was stunned. She wanted to give me a big hug. I didn’t think twice, I just sank into her arms and almost wept! I think she’s coming back today to give me another sewing machine. I wonder if she’ll want to hug me.”

“Not again!”

“I have a friend in the hospital sick with covid and I want to give him a big hug, but I can’t. I try to express my love to my mother whenever we talk, but it’s not the same thing, Aussie.”

“Thank your lucky stars you have me to stroke and pet and murmur sweet little nothings to every morning. ‘You’re my pretty girl, Aussie.’ Uggh!”

“I guess you are my emotional support dog whether you like it or not, Auss.”

“So, when do I get to fly on a plane?”

“Planes don’t let emotional support dogs aboard anymore, Aussie.”

“When do I get my bandanna with my name on it and my office hours?”

“Office hours for what?”

“Submitting to needy humans! That’s what it should say on my bandanna: Aussie Marko: Available for touching, licking, love, and other bullshit. Fee for services: Ten big buffalo treats.”

“You’re no big cuddler, Aussie.”

“You want licks and kisses, go to that Chihuahua Henry. I’m a Yankee dog, I’m restrained. Also, not Jewish.”

“Aussie, let’s have an orgy.”

“Not into the inter-species thing,  either.”

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.


We got well over 12 inches of snow several days ago; more is on the way.

I’m spoiled. The snowplow arrives in the morning to plow the long driveway while my housemate shovels the paths and steps, part of our housing agreement, leaving me to fill five birdfeeders and prance around on the snow with the dogs. In my 69th year I discovered studded snow tires (where have you been all my life?). You can’t drive on them once spring arrives because of the wear and tear on the roads, but having them on the car in snow and ice is a dream.

Before the Age of Studded Snow Tires, driving up an icy driveway with declivities on both sides was a nightmare. There was a hump towards the top where the driveway met the road, and if you were driving too slowly or cautiously the car wouldn’t get over that bulge and start sliding down instead.

Bernie was very good at getting uphill.

“Here is what you do,” he’d say, lighting up his cigar. “Start way back where it’s flat, by the garage, then drive as hard and fast as you can so that it takes you over the hump, and voila! Whatever you do, don’t slow down. Press the accelerator all the way down,” he’d urge, taking a puff.

I would, only two-thirds of the way up I’d lose my nerve, loosen the pressure on the accelerator, the car would chug up the hump just like the small fire engine that could (“Come on! Come on!” I’d urge under my breath), only it couldn’t. Its wheels would churn on the ice (“Come on! Come on!” I’d say a little louder), and then start sliding back, and I’d have to apply the brakes carefully so that it didn’t skid out of control.

There would be no choice but to carefully drive reverse all the way down and try again.

Bernie would shake his head, take another puff: “No, no, you gotta take it all the way back, all the way back!” I would go all the way back and he’d say: “Now press that accelerator all the way down and don’t let up!” I’d do that, trying to control the wheel as the car rushed up the icy slope, the yellow skidding light flashing harder and harder.

After a couple of tries, I’d make it. The car would glide over the hump and come to bank on the road. He’d nod happily, take another puff, and I’d let out a sigh of achievement.

Our roles were reversed when it came to driving reverse (except for the cigar). Bernie couldn’t do it for the life of him. He sure knew how to do other things backwards, just not driving.

Then, too, driveways were the problem. We lived in La Honda, California, and the driveway went up a short but steep hill. Going up wasn’t the problem, coming down in reverse was. He tried it a few times, ran off the driveway twice. One day he hit the brakes and put on the emergency brake. Didn’t say anything.

“Switch drivers?” I offered.

“Okay,” he groaned, and after that I was the one who always drove the car down and onto the road.

But he was great at never letting up on the accelerator and getting over the hump on the ice.

Last night I was with Jimena as we handed out food cards and a young man came on behalf of his family. Jimena greeted him joyously, then told me about him:

“I know Mateo (not his real name) since the age of 2. His parents were illiterate and came from Mexico; he was born here. I got to know him when I worked at the community health center, which helped immigrant families with medical help. When I went to work for the schools at first I taught Spanish and math, and he was one of my students. I saw him grow up the whole life. He finished high school and won one of the State prizes because he’s bilingual and his reading and writing in both languages are very good. His score was so high that they gave him an award with a scholarship to go to Greenfield Community College. He’s now in his second year there studying business and accounting. In his time off he helps his father in the farms.”

I thought of Mateo driving home. Of parents who risked so much to raise you here but can’t help out with school, you work hard hard hard for everything. They labor outdoors in freezing temperatures while you get top scores and go to college to get a business degree.

The American dream.

Last night we gave out food cards and cash assistance in a total amount of $925. We’ve been doing something in this range weekly. A wonderful friend sent me a check for $600 telling me this was her covid relief money and she wants to give it for food cards. Thank you for your help, it continues to take us over the icy hump!

You can also send a check for immigrant families to: Eve Marko, POB 174, Montague, MA 01351. Please write on the memo line that this is for food cards. 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.


In 1995 or 1996 I attended a benefit concert in New York City’s Lincoln Center for Opus 1, Roberta Tzavaras’s organization which supported her teaching of violin in the city’s public schools. I had been involved with her work a couple of years earlier (no, I didn’t see the film) and had been given a ticket for the benefit.

Various performers appeared that night, but the best (excepting the children playing violin with Roberta conducting at the end) was the jazz duet of violinist Yitzhak Perlman and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.

I had seen Perlman, crippled from early childhood by polio, in previous occasions and knew the drill. Most violinists came onstage holding their violin in one hand. Perlman couldn’t do that because he needed both hands for his crutches as he walked in, so his violin (a Stradivarius or one in that class) would be waiting for him in the hands of the orchestra’s First Violinist, who would hand it over once Perlman was seated on his chair at the front of the stage, ready to begin. After the performance and/or encores, Perlman would hand the violin back to the First Violinist, get up, reach for his crutches, and hobble off the stage.

When he was giving a solo recital with no orchestra or First Violinist present, an assistant would bring him his violin and also pick it up from him at the end of the recital.

That evening Perlman and Marsalis played beautifully together. Marsalis’s popularity had zoomed and people clapped enthusiastically for him. But for me, Perlman was the great treat because he was a classical musician, not jazz, but played with his unique combination of sensitivity and bravado. They finished their duets, the audience asked for more, and they planed an encore, all obviously arranged ahead of time.

At the end of the encore Marsalis got up on his feet, bowed to the joyful ovations, and walked offstage. Perlman, violin in hand, couldn’t get up to acknowledge the audience, never mind walk offstage. We waited for Marsalis to come out and take his violin from his hands, or at least a stagehand, but no one came.

Working with Roberta Tzavaras a couple of years earlier, I’d seen Perlman visiting young violinists at NYC schools. His office had strict guidelines: The building had to be accessible to crutches, which meant no stairs. He wasn’t going to get into a wheelchair and he certainly wasn’t going to be lifted upstairs. This wasn’t easy to navigate in old East Harlem schools and we had to  nix various spaces that didn’t fit the bill. Once he arrived, he was cheerful and extremely generous, but he clearly had his dignity. If you wanted him, you had to meet him on his terms.

That night it didn’t happen. He sat facing the sell-out audience as moments passed. There wasn’t a soul there that didn’t get it, that didn’t understand that he couldn’t move so long as that violin was in his hand. But there must have been some glitch backstage because no one came to take from him.

He stared out at us, this most famous of violinists, having played his heart out, and we stared back. He had achieved so much in his life, but almost all of us there could have done the one thing he couldn’t: stand up and walk off stage. Some lowered their eyes in embarrassment.

I felt I was looking at a man more naked than anyone I’d ever seen, as if I’d asked: What’s left when you no longer have your family, your immense talent, and your even more immense discipline? And he was showing me the answer as the moments crept by.

Eventually a young man came out and took the violin. Perlman got up and hobbled out on his crutches.

I never appreciated him more than I did that evening.

Two years earlier he was one of the guest performers at the first benefit for Roberta Tazavaras that took place in Carnegie Hall. The last show of the concert paired a child or teenager from the East Harlem schools with a world-renowned violinist—Isaac Stern, Midori, Perlman, etc.—and the 20 played together.

At the end I went backstage where the young people were assembled. Hundreds of their family members streamed to the back to congratulate their children. Going in the opposite direction was Perlman. He was making his way on crutches to one of the Hall’s large banquet rooms in the front where $1,000 ticket-holders were waiting to see him. He limped alone against a river of humanity, many of whom nodded and smiled towards him.

He plowed on, a big smile on his face: “Yes, they did very well. They played very, very well. Yes, it was terrific,” he told the proud parents.

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.


“Hello Eve, hope this message finds you well. Harry had his doctor visit today still in great health. We celebrated his birthday in beginning of month. Had over foot of snow. Harry did not like it at first but loves it now. Just wanted to touch in with you.”

The text came from Harry’s new humans. Harry is the Mountain Cur I’d gotten from a shelter two years ago ago, only to give him to another family last summer because he and Aussie together were too much for me. They ran away all the time. I found him a beautiful couple with lots of dog experience, and 7 months later they’re still giving me updates: jogging for several miles in the mornings with J, running around the yard, going on drives, still iffy with the cat, etc.

I’m grateful for the updates, though I no longer ask for them. Harry’s and my paths parted in good, healthy circumstances. I trust the family he’s with now, they’re as happy as could be with him.

Do you look back a lot and wonder if you made a good decision? Bernie had no patience for the drama of second-guessing and I’ve inherited much of that legacy. What was, was. You discern as well as you can and make the best decision at the moment. No control over the future, no basis for a final judgment on whether things turned out right or not. I think of the famous story of the Dalai Lama’s reply when he was once asked whether he thought the French Revolution (1789) was a success: “Too early to  tell.”

With Harry, Aussie, everything I do, it’s too early to tell.

At the same time, I love getting these texts re Harry’s good life. I still remember the dreadful week after he left, leaving Aussie and me alone in the house. A silence descended on us and Aussie did canine shiva, a week of lying and moping around. She recovered, Harry recovered, the house recovered. I’m happy, Harry’s happy, J and his family are happy.

“I’m not happy,” Aussie grouses.

Let go of the past. Or, as some say it, let it be.

I woke up in the early hours this morning, and suddenly the old pre-election voices were back: He incited a mob and they attacked the Capitol—and the Republicans are going after Liz Cheney? Not Matt Gaetz, not Andy Biggs or Paul Gosar, and not Marjorie Taylor Greene, all of whom enabled and defend him still! Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy flies down to Florida to grovel back into the Great Leader’s good graces!.

Of course, none of these were the issue. It’s the unleashed forces of fear and its antidote, anger. They bubbled under the surface before Trump, but four years of unfettered tweets and bogus claims have helped them spread throughout this land, even the world, and become political staples.

They came for a visit in the early hours, mocking my efforts to stay engaged and at the same time calm, as if saying: Long time no see. We haven’t connected with you in a while—how’re you doing?

I had a few hours’ conversation with them even as it got colder and colder outside. They didn’t shut up till close to 5 in the morning.

Peace has returned this frigid Friday afternoon; I will probably sleep well tonight. The angry voices won’t come back for a while, and when they do, I plan to let them be.

These forces will out; they need to have their say. They’ve built up way too long to quickly blow off the stage. I believe they’ll ignite violence. We can minimize it, but we can no longer prevent it completely.

I’m concerned but not pessimistic. Sometimes you just have to let things unfold. The furies have escaped the box, and they’re not going into retirement very soon till something else happens. For now, letting them be means giving them their space, minimizing the harm, watching out for those they victimize.

I opened an Amazon package two days ago and out came a wall tapestry with photos of a gorgeous young woman and the signature Selena. It took me a while to figure out that the package wasn’t for me, it is a tapestry of Selena Quintanilla, the mythical Latina singer who was killed some 25 years ago, one of the gifts ordered by the children of immigrant families for Christmas. This one came over a month late.

At first I got annoyed about the delay. And then I looked at it as it lay open on the bed showcasing the tragic, beautiful face, and thought of the young girl who wanted that tapestry to hang on the wall so she could look at it from her bed or desk, dream about Selena and her music, dream about love and life.

I called Jimena. She right away knew who’d ordered it. “She still wants Selena,” she told me. “Bring it next Wednesday and I’ll get it to her.”

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 walks fearlessly on the surface of the icy pond. She can’t seem to resist any frozen surface of water. I wasn’t concerned yesterday, given how cold it’s been, but earlier this winter the ice was soft and melting and she went on unconcerned.

When I had Stanley, he did the same thing. Once the ice cracked under him and he went under. I rushed forward, unzipping my jacket,  planning to die with him in the frigid water, only he clambered back up on the ice. First his front paws scrabbled up, then he got his entire black body out, including hind legs, and hurried towards land.

That was the last time he ever walked on the icy surface of a pond or lake. He could have tried again another winter (he lived till he was almost 15!), but he didn’t, leaving me with that one image of his paws scratching and scrabbling onto the ice, hoisting himself up, cold and wet, onto the surface.

When do I fight? When do I stop fighting?

Fighting for life is probably the most basic imperative of all, doesn’t even require thinking. Up to what age? Up to what point?

“You fight too much,” Aussie tells me. “You’re always up against something.”

“It’s called challenges, Aussie.”

“What’s that?”

“Something that calls you into battle, into an encounter with some dark place. Something that pushes you into uncertainty. Maybe like walking on top of a frozen pond.”

“I ain’t afraid!”

It’s odd how many of us are pulled towards an unknown land, an puzzling relationship, projects that may have a result and may not, or else they’ll result in something unexpected and unwanted. The blank white page that could remain blank even after hours of effort, or worse, that fills up with nonsense.

Bernie used to say: “Nine out of ten things I do either never take off, never go anywhere.” He didn’t seem to mind those odds; he was even proud of them. Something would fail, and the next morning he’d be up and around, ready for the nex.

My brother tells me: “Every morning I get a phone call from Ima (our mother): ‘Okay, I had breakfast, I’m dressed, what’s the plan?’”

He laughs, we both do, because it’s a measure of her dementia. It’s cold, it’s winter, she hasn’t left the house in a long time, Israel is in its strictest shut-down since the start of the virus (its third, at least), with airports shut and police checkpoints on the roads to fine you heavily and send you back home.

But here’s my mother, going on 93, who needs help putting on her skirt and pretty blouse, earrings and a necklace, shoes that will take her safely down the two flights of stairs to the ground floor, calling up my brother with the morning mantra: “I had breakfast, I’m dressed, what’s the plan?”

That’s not just her dementia, I think to myself, it’s her. Like the birds peeping through the snow that came down all night, she peeps through the dementia: Another venture out, another hill to climb, another new person to meet, another way she can serve and be of value. Maybe she’ll have fun, maybe she won’t. Maybe she’ll eat out, probably she won’t.

It doesn’t matter that her legs are weak, that her body is thin and frail, that there’s a wheelchair waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs. Somewhere inside that mental vagueness and physical decrepitude, her vow lives on: Frontiers are endless, I vow to cross every single one.

I don’t have quite that spirit. Or rather, it feels differently for me. Everything in life stretches out to connect: Birds that need feeding, dogs that play,  the cold entering my body, a ghost from the past, a voice on the phone, the warm oak desk, appointments in Samarra. Endless arms stretch out everywhere I look, seeking not so much care as connection.

And I vow to connect with them all. I can’t take care of all, but I want to connect, if only for the briefest moment.

Rilke wrote:

“If only we would let ourselves be dominated

as things do by some immense storm,

we would become strong too, and not need names.”

I don’t walk on icy surfaces like Aussie—don’t have her paws and long, sharp claws that hold her up instead of slipping and sliding like me. Not smart or strong enough to get to any finish line, but when something stretches towards me, I want to at least stretch back.

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’m a Zen Buddhist teacher. Does that make me an essential worker?”


“I could get the vaccine if I was considered an essential worker.”

“Wait till Phase 89.”

“There is no Phase 89, Aussie.”

“There will be for you.”

“What about if I’m a writer, Auss? A creative person?”

“Last in line.”

Many years ago, Bernie and I brought his dharma uncle, Junyu Kuroda Roshi, with his wife to Israel. We took them both, along with a few other friends, around the country; they later said it was their best trip ever.

Finally, the evening came when they were going to depart. We took them to Ben Gurion Airport near Tel-Aviv, the country’s international airport. There were various lines at that time and a young, harried woman looked at every passenger’s passport, deciding on the spot what line s/he should stand in. The holders of Israeli passports were processed fastest, then American and European passport holders, and finally the rest. That last line was long and slow.

Junyu Kuroda Roshi, always elegant in his priest’s travel robes, showed the young woman their passports.

“Over there,” she said, pointing to the slow line.

I tried vouching for them. “They’re not young,” I said to her in Hebrew. “They’re friends of ours, we know them.”

“Last in line,” said the young woman.

And they were indeed last in line. Long after everyone else had boarded, they were still being searched and interviewed, left to wait as various supervisors were called in to check them out. I apologized on behalf of Israel and they were polite and patient, but it was clear that they weren’t used to being treated this way. The Kurodas were a prominent Zen family in Japan, the robes alone would have facilitated a quick departure. But not in Israel.

We go up and down, depending on the situation. When I talk to my students, they’re very c courteous and usually call me Roshi. When Bernie first returned from the hospital after his stroke, they made us dinner after dinner, often eating with him when I had to be elsewhere. There’s a deep listening space around me, which is easy to get accustomed to.

Till I bring my car for servicing.

“Hi there, Mark,” say I from behind a mask.

“Hey,” says the man behind the counter, no mask. “You got an appointment?”

I went today to the supermarket to get 15 $50 food cards for immigrant families. This week we’re also giving some cash to a family that lost its ancient refrigerator, which the landlord won’t replace.

“Hi there,” I chirp to the woman with short blonde hair and pencil-thin lips standing behind the Customer Service counter. I’ve seen her week after week for 10 months. “I feel like we’ve become friends.”

“Hmmm,” says she.

I do some quick mental math and estimate I’ve bought at least $40,000 worth of food from her. She tears herself away from the lottery tickets corner (the reason most customers  stand at Customer Service), opens up the drawer, peers inside. “$50 cards?” she scowls.

It’s been $50 cards from the get-go. “Yup,” say I.

She takes them out and counts them—slowly. By now I know all the steps: She’ll  input them one by one into the cash register. If there’s no beep of recognition (it happens several times each session), she’ll peer closely at the number of the card, then at the screen, then back at the card before doing it again. Then she’ll break them in half, count them a couple more times. In the middle she’ll admonish those standing on line behind me to move over to the right can’t they see where the waiting line begins? She’ll tell me the total, I will tell her I’ve already inserted the credit card, she’ll peer at the screen and say “Right,” push a button, wait a while longer till the register spits out receipt after receipt, then peer once more at the number on each receipt as she folds them over carefully.

“Thanks,” I finally say. “See you next week!”

“Hmmm,” she says.

This morning I talked to a friend of mine who has been teaching much longer than me. We talked about what we’ve learned, what we’re still learning. How even as you get more experience, the horizon recedes because there is no horizon, just endless sky everywhere.

There’s a squeak. “Nnnnn! Nnnnn!”

“What is that sound?” asks my friend.

I look at our Chihuahua mix Henry, who stares at me and then back at the credenza in the corner of the room. “Henry lost his ball under the credenza,” I tell him.

We try to continue the conversation, but Henry’s relentless. “Nnnnn! Nnnnn!”

I run out of patience. “Just a minute,” I tell my friend, “I’m going to get his ball, otherwise he’ll cry nonstop.”

I get up from the desk, walk over, and get down on the ground. The bright orange ball is under the credenza way in back. I sigh and slowly get up from the wooden floor (lately my left knee has been hurting), get a broom, get down on the floor again, and wave the tip of the broom handle all around under the credenza to get the ball out. It takes three tries. Henry grabs his  liberated orange ball with his mouth while I slowly get back up and go back to the computer.

“Sorry,” I say to my friend.

“That little dog brought you down on your knees, Eve,” says my friend.

“See you last in line,” I tell him.

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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From Aussie, White-House Wannabe

To First Canine Major

Dear Major,

Congratulations, First Canine. I got close but never made it to the White House. Closest I came was to the Capitol with that group of patriots, but I’m being tailed by the FBI so I got to keep quiet about that, not to mention that Eve threatened quarantine for life, so—shhhh!

You got there. Congratulations. You got there by fraud, but we won’t talk about that.

We also won’t talk about your flawed origins. You came from a shelter. How could we possibly have a First Canine who came from a shelter? Do everything you can to hide that.

You say it’s not your fault, that someone gave you up to the shelter? Stop it. I hate whiners.

There must have been something wrong with you. You probably didn’t guard the house, maybe you feel asleep on the job, didn’t learn enough tricks.

You say you were too young? Excuses, excuses.

It’s true, I also came from a shelter. I instantly forgot about it. My advice to you is to do the same. You’d be amazed how quickly folks can forget their origins if they really try.

Do not—DO NOT!—pose as an example to future canine generations. Do not walk up and down the lawn of that White House, fans throwing buffalo ears and beef knuckles at you, declaiming that if you could be First Canine, anybody can be First Canine. That you worked hard, that you got lots of help from Joe and Jill, that this is the story of America. I would vomit, only I try to never let go of food.

Check out the local branch of the Proud Pooches, they’re everywhere. Ordinarily they wouldn’t ask you to be a spy, given your origins, but they may make an exception of you, Major.

Major, consider this: A great fraud was committed, the crime of the century. Now history gives you the opportunity to do what’s right, sabotage the saboteurs, torpedo the ship, foil the plot—INFILTRATE!

Small acts of subversion will do.

Like what, you ask? Here’s a list:

They will want to take lots of photos of you with Joe and Jill sitting at a fireplace looking homey. Wait for them to set up, and just when they’re ready to click their cameras, pee on the rug. You’d be surprised what a little pee on the rug can do to humans.

When you and Champ are out on the front lawn, go for his throat. Even better, go for the throat of the Marine who’s walking you. There’s not a thing they can do to you, you’ll get pardoned instantly.

In general, try to fart as often as possible, but especially when other heads of state come to town—and especially Angela Merkel. Joe will ask you to sit there as a welcoming prop. As soon as he starts talking about his respect for Angela and for our allies, you fart. Pause for a short while, give him a chance to make a little joke, wave the air around—maybe they’ll bring in a fan—then do it again. I know, humans can barely smell, but a well-timed fart can bring down an alliance.

In the White House Easter Egg Roll, run across the lawn in the middle of the roll, go for the eggs as soon as they crack, and generally disturb the festivities. Poop prominently.

Shed as much as possible, especially when Jill wears white.

Anytime Joe addresses the nation from his office, embarrass him. The minute he says: “My fellow Americans,” snarl. So much for Mr. Nice Guy.

When Joe and Anthony Fauci stand outside and talking about the phony virus and all the good things they’re doing to fight it, start scratching. The more they tell people to trust science, scratch. Scratch and scratch and scratch. I mean, trust them when they can’t fix their own dog’s fleas?

They may get upset, they may get angry, they may threaten. The minute that happens just open wide those goo-goo eyes of yours and look humble. The nation will rise up to protect you.

Eat poop. It works every time. “Uhhhh!” humans say whenever they see that, for reasons unknown. They get very upset when dogs eat poop, it can start a revolution. We’ve already set it up with your friend, Champ. He poops, you eat.

Get Joe to start throwing you balls.  Catch them but never return them. Make him look bad.

When Jill says: “Hey, sweetie, come give me a kiss,” lick your penis for  a minute or two and then hurry over.

In your extra time, dig a tunnel.


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Photo by Peter Cunningham

I loved watching the inauguration. It’s our only day of pomp and circumstance. No royal marriages or divorces here, no royal personage opening Parliament. Just one day every four years, and by now I know the elements, even this year during covid, when flags covered the Mall instead of people. You get to know the sequence, only the stars are different, and the political leaders taking office.

I have to admit that I deeply appreciated seeing Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell there, freezing in the wind, and listening to Senator Roy Blunt, all Republicans. Showing up when you’d really rather not, in fact when there’s pressure on you not to show up, is hard. Obama seemed happy, but it’s easy to be happy when what you wanted to happen happens.

I enjoyed Biden’s speech. It wasn’t brilliant, it wasn’t historic, it was Joe Biden. Sounded just like him. Very decent, a warrior for unity, urging us to do what he did—keep on showing up.

The big star was the 22 year old Amanda Gorman. Her poem, The Hill We Climb, was inspiring, but not as inspiring as she was. Beautiful, confident, poised—Yes! I felt like yelling, you go, girl! You’re the one we depend on for the future, you’re the one surpassing hopes and expectations.

My one issue with Joe Biden’s government picks (other than Tom Vilsack, which is another matter) is that he drew on so many from Obama’s time. He knew and respected them, but I would have liked to see younger, newer faces; I would have liked to see him groom a new leadership to take over, not so many old names and faces.

“I do solemnly swear . . .” The same oath every four years; I remembered when Chief Justice John Roberts stumbled administering the oath to Obama, and Obama reminded him. Always the same words, the same oath written up in the Constitution, regardless of who fills the position. It’s not personal to you, it’s personal to the country.

Vows are more personal. When I make a vow, even if it’s said in a few simple words, my entire life is there: awareness of attachments and karmic cycles, a life that disappears as quickly as it appears, wasted opportunities and endless possibilities for renewal.

People say they don’t want to make vows because they’re afraid they won’t keep them. But how do you know? How do you know that the minute you made a vow a world wasn’t created in which those vows were kept all the time? We know so little about this world, this dimension of being, what do we know about others?

In that spirit I remembered that Bernie’s birthday was January 18, 1939—”a triple Capricorn,” I used to say, shaking my head sadly— and on that date in 1994, when he turned 55, even as the Greyston companies he and Jishu Holmes founded were still trying to find a stable footing in the world, he knew it was time to make another vow. He didn’t wait to assess the success of the past, he was moving on.

That used to annoy folks—You can’t just leave now, Bernie, wait a few more years, etc. But he was a man in a hurry. He also had a gift for seeing where things were headed, both individually and socially, and he liked to be ahead of the curve. And, too, he didn’t need to be affirmed or validated by anyone else (except maybe his wife).

So he sat on the steps of the Capitol in the coldest time of year. He invited folks to join him. That, too, was Bernie. Many of us make our vows privately, perhaps feeling that if no one else knows, they also won’t know if we fail. We’re self-conscious and keep it to ourselves.

Not Bernie. “I’ve made a vow to end homelessness in our county,” he’d announce every chance he got. Then he’d work like crazy to do that, day after day; how it came out didn’t concern him too much. “If you announce it to the world,” he liked to say, “the world comes in to help. If you keep it secret, nobody knows so they don’t help.”

And folks joined him. People from different walks of life sat with him in DC that winter, a motley group. It was historically cold and the Capitol actually shut its offices, very typical for Bernie’s retreats. As one man from Cameroon later said: “I always hated the winter cold in New York. After sitting with Bernie that winter in DC, I lost my fear of the cold.”

He made a vow at the steps of the US Capitol that he would begin an order of Zen Peacemakers, folks not content with sitting on a cushion to gain clarity and peace for themselves but use that as a foundation to make peace in the world in all areas, integrate all the voices, see the dharma in all things. He came back home and set about doing that.

Peter Cunningham was with him, the photographer who dogged Bernie’s steps and documented the fulfillment of his vows again and again. These photos are all his, as are so many others in which he bears witness, showing again and again how personal and creative this bearing witness journey is. You can find many of these photos, and others, on Peter’s website.

Peter, too, was someone whose life intersected with Bernie’s trajectory in many different places, though the two men had their own respective journeys. As I wrote yesterday, every once in a while, someone else says to me: “I was there in that retreat on the steps of the Capitol that freezing winter.” They may have made vows as Bernie did, or not. They went back home and did photography, social service, poetry, business, one is even the President of Naropa University. But at some point, their lives intersected with Bernie Glassman’s because he opened his space of practice so widely, let everyone in who wanted to come, let them be who they were, and said goodbye when they left.

Photo by Peter Cunningham


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 planned to write yesterday, on the celebration of the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life I studied and admired, and which this year fell on the birthday of my husband, Bernie Glassman. Bernie’s two-year memorial last November was accompanied by sadness and flagging energy for some 24 hours. The next day I felt fine, so I thought: Oh, it’s pretty much over. Bernie comes to mind every day, he doesn’t disappear, but the desolation and the pain, they’re mostly gone. And that translated to a more self-centered version: I grieved right. I went deeply into the pain, didn’t leave the house for first 49 days, went through the first year in a blur of mourning—I did it right!

You better laugh than weep. I long ago discovered that if I was to weep over my mistakes, I wouldn’t stop crying, so it’s better to laugh.

Yesterday felt like I was falling into an old, familiar abyss in which I questioned everything: What it is to be intimate with someone where so much of your identity is tied up with him, and what it is to lose him; what it is to marry your teacher; what it I to live a meaningful life once he’s gone; how I interact with the many people who knew us both as one unit and what happens now when we’re no longer one unit, etc.

It was a very, very funky day. I hoped the next morning would be different, and it is. And this blog helps; readers help. You’re going to get up and write, I tell myself in the morning. You weren’t up to it yesterday, but this is a new morning.

It’s no accident that this evening Green River Zen starts a 3-month study of vows. I live the challenge of living my vows day after day because there are days when, frankly, it’s the last thing I feel like doing. Or else I question the habit of doing them, that gets me to sit each morning, remind myself aloud of the vows, and then look at the schedule replete with reminders and ask: So, what’s to be  done today?  I sometimes wonder: Is it just my natural habit and tendency to be busy? Anything—absolutely anything—can be used to bolster my sense of self-importance, including vows.

I don’t spend much time mulling this over, only I’m aware of the hairsbreadth path. The Breslov Rebbe, a very famous Jewish rebbe, said: “Life is a very narrow bridge, and the important thing is not to be afraid.”

Bernie didn’t like birthdays, especially his, which were often celebrated publicly. People meant so well, they loved him very much, but he would have preferred to go out to dinner, just the two of us, and that’s it. Instead, parties were organized, and he even made of a couple of big birthdays fundraisers for Zen Peacemakers.

His 55th birthday, as some know, was spent sitting by the Capitol with a group of students and associates, asking his question about what the next step in his practice is, his next vow. I wasn’t there with him, though over the years I’ve talked to those that were (including yesterday). It was the coldest winter in many years and I believe that work in the Capitol had been suspended. The group stayed in a big homeless shelter just blocks away. Every once in a while, I talk to someone who remembers that birthday.

“Oh, you were there, too?” I say.

Bernie had such a flair for the dramatic, for pulling people into his life and vision. He needed them. But in other ways he was so shy.

Many years ago, long before we married, there was another birthday for him in Yonkers, New York. The Zen Community of New York was then at its smallest size and only a dozen of us attended the party. At some point in the middle of it I looked up and there he sat, on a faded sofa, alone in the corner. I approached him.

“Happy birthday, Sensei,” I said (he was Sensei then). “How are you doing?”

He nodded and said. “I don’t like parties.”

“Not even your own birthday party, Sensei?”

He gave s short laugh. “That most of all. I’m not good at this,” and he gestured towards the few clusters of folks talking and laughing easily. “I never liked parties.”

“But you’ve done so many of them,” I said.

He shrugged. “Sometimes I have to,” he said.

Not everyone felt at ease with him, but I did. Maybe that ease between us presaged a marriage that would take place years later. And at that time, when it didn’t have to be something public, I’d say: “It’s your birthday today. What do you want to do?”

He’d bark out a short list of restaurants: “Johnny’s Tavern, the Indian place in Northampton, the Japanese one we go to, the Chinese place in Greenfield—”

“Not that one,” I’d say, and then catch myself. “Okay, it’s your birthday, you choose.”

And he did.

You can also send a check either to support my blog or to buy food cards for immigrant families to me :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.