I think a lot about my mother. The good news is that she has just been told to make an appointment to get the covid vaccine in Jerusalem. The bad news is she has to move.

She will turn 93 in July. Like many women, she wasn’t left with much money when she divorced in her early 60s, couldn’t afford to buy an apartment in Jerusalem, and rented instead. In 30 years, she’s moved about 3 times and has lived in this last apartment—old, dark, and in need of repair—for some 15-20 years. There’s nothing to be done here because the landlord’s mother, who lived in the same apartment long ago, wants to move back. So, my mother has to move.

Sometimes she understands what is happening, sometimes not.

Over the past few months, since the Jewish festival of Sukkot in early October, she sings to me on the phone this Yiddish song about a sukkah, a hut that religious Jews build for the Sukkot festival, in which they eat (and some even sleep) for the duration of the week’s holiday. Here is an abbreviated and very loose translation:

I made myself a small sukkah from cheap wood,

The roof from branches,

And there I sit in Sukkot.

A cold wind blows through the cracks

But the candles manage to stay lit.

My young daughter, pale-faced, brings in the food

And says fearfully: “The sukkah is about to fall!”

“Don’t be silly,” I tell her, “and don’t worry.

The Sukkah has stood for 2,000 years already,

A very long time.”

It’s now the same conversation every time I call my mother: “Chavale, I just remembered a song from my childhood which you’ve never heard before.” She starts singing, and when I join her, she’s perplexed: “How do you know it?”

Because you’ve sung it 1,000 times already, mom, I groan to myself.

But one day I suddenly remembered the Song of the Grass-Roof Hermitage, by the 8th century Chan master, Shitou Xiqian:

I’ve built a grass hut where there’s nothing of value.

After eating, I relax and enjoy a nap …

The person in the hut lives here calmly,

Not stuck to inside, outside, or in-between.

Places worldly people live, he doesn’t live.

Realms worldly people love, she doesn’t love.

Though the hut is small, it includes the entire world …

I sat with this a long time.

Recently someone told me that people should put more effort in investigating their family trees and clarifying their roots, even going back hundreds of years. I told him that not all of us have that luxury. In my family, large branches were hacked off during the Holocaust; I can’t track anyone down beyond my  maternal grandparents and my paternal grand-grandparents, and of them I know very, very little.

There’s a sense of loss there, an empty space that has caused me to feel fragile at times. Without a knowable ancestry, where lie my roots?

I heard a sudden echo between the ancient Chinese poem by a Chan master and the Yiddish song about a Sukkah that my mother remembered from her childhood. It’s almost become her theme song, especially now that she has to leave her home. Everything feels so temporary, like a grass-roof hermitage that can blow away any moment

Shitou wasn’t worried.

The middling or lowly can’t help wondering:

Will this hut perish or not?

Perishable or not, the original master is present,

Not dwelling south or north, east or west.

Firmly based on steadiness, it can’t be surpassed.

And my mother, for now, also isn’t worried. Maybe later, not now. She seems to take refuge in old memories of a poor yet happy childhood. At times I’ve had little patience for those Yiddish songs from a world gone by, but really, it’s barely a blink of an eye ago in the long run of things and has a mysterious connection with an old Chinese mountain monk.

It’s a koan, which my dog Aussie is busy investigating,

“Aussie, get into the car this minute. “

“Ugh ugh.”

“You’re embarrassing me, Aussie.”

I pick up Aussie from Leeann, who takes dogs out for outings. At the end all the humans come to pick up their dogs from the outdoors enclosure where they’re waiting, much like picking up kids from school. The other dogs all run to their respective humans, tails wagging wildly in joyous reunion as the two then proceed to go to the car. All except Aussie, who goes to the front of Leeann’s house and sits back on her rump.

“Aussie, we have to get home.”

“This is my home.”

“No, it’s not, Auss. My home is your home.”

“This is my true home,” she insists. “My favorite friends are here, my favorite snacks are here, and Leeann is here, my favorite person in the whole world.”

“No Aussie, Leeann’s home is a temporary home, it’s not your real home. There’s a big difference between a temporary home and your real home.”

“Now I know exactly how Donald feels.”

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“What’s that?”

“I’m bringing Jimena boxes with Christmas toys for the kids. I filled up the trunk and put the rest on the back seat.”

“On my back seat!”

Last Friday afternoon I posted a list of Christmas toys for the children of immigrant families. In fact, I posted one Amazon list consisting of some 65 gifted and put together a Walmart list separately. Late Saturday morning, after getting up from our morning sitting schedule, I checked Amazon and there were only four gifts left, everything else had been sold out. Sunday morning the local post office left some 10 boxes on the front steps of the house. And by Monday morning the list had disappeared.

The last time I’d done this, getting school supplies for the same children, I freaked out when I saw the list had disappeared, sure that I’d done something wrong. Amazon informed me that if the list isn’t there, it’s because it’s sold out.

I’ve been bringing boxes to Jimena three days in a row, our deal being that I’d make up the lists and post about them, bring the boxes to her, and she and her husband and two boys would unpack them, recycle the cartons, match the gifts with recipients—and wrap them. Today I’m going over there with $750 in food cards as well.

I’m so moved by Jimena’s family. She works insane hours  in an area that is now coded red for covid. “Do the boys help you?” I ask her.

“What we like to do most is sit the four of us around the TV and relax,” she tells me. “So if one person is working hard and the others relax, that doesn’t feel good, so everybody helps the person who’s working and then we can all sit and relax together.”

We’re nearing the end of the year. I don’t celebrate Christmas much, other than wishing folks a Merry Christmas, but I feel I’m getting a huge gift this year, and that is a sense of unfathomable bounty all around.

One day last September, when Amazon delivered gifts of school supplies, I was out front when the truck came down the driveway. A uniformed young woman emerged and looked at me. “Who are you?” she asks.

“Eve Marko,” I tell her.

“I get it, but who are you? I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever come down this driveway before—”

“I don’t often order via Amazon,” I apologize.

“—and now I’m coming down every day with all these boxes!”

I explained to her what we were doing and she laughed. She good-naturedly took out the other boxes from the truck and we waved goodbye.

Who are you? It’s the most basic Zen question of all. These immigrants, all of them undocumented, have a hard time understanding how folks from far away, including outside the U.S., send money to help them. They help each other; they got here because there’s a brother here or a sister they can count on. They give each other lifts in the few cars they have, so that 2 or 3 come at a time for food cards. But folks from far away? Why would they help?

Maybe because there is no such thing as far away. Across nations and cultures, our DNA is still the same. In addition, we can access a storehouse consciousness that is the total of all past experiences and actions, similar to Jung’s collective consciousness. That may explain why, regardless of our present situation, we can know what it is to worry about paying a grocery bill or meeting the rent, standing outside a store window and looking silently, knowing there’s no money to go in and buy something.

Things get pretty dire in winter. The nice relief bill they’re still negotiating in Washington (I imagine they’ll finally agree on something just so that they could finally go home for Christmas) won’t help these families at all. Who does? Local churches, the county’s interfaith council, wonderful (and often overlooked) civic organizations like the Elks and Lions Clubs, Big Brothers/Big Sisters. And people like you and me.

The teachers in the local schools bought out the Walmart list. Jimena’s two boys bought four of the gifts.

Leave it to canine Aussie to remind me of the obstructions we put up to the flow of the universe. It’s my work, my money, my universe. It’s my back seat!

“I don’t know why you worry about them,” she says in the woods. “Do you realize that Donald’s neighbors in Florida don’t want him there? He’s going to be HOMELESS!”

“I don’t think so, Aussie. He’s got lots of homes, just not the White House as of January 20.”

“If he wasn’t white or blonde—”


“—you’d be plenty worried. You only care about foreigners. Like Henry here, who’s stealing all my treats.”

In the woods, Henry comes running every minute for a treat. He’s supposed to get it only on recall or checking in, but he looks for one as soon as he jumps out of the car.

“Henry, this is an out-ing, not a treat-ing, get it?” snarls Aussie.

“No,” says he.

“On an out-ing, you run around and come back a few times for a treat. In a treat-ing, you constantly get for treats and in between you take a few steps.” She looks up at me and growls. “This is what happens when you don’t speak English.”

We’re preparing for a big storm. I brought up the battery-powered lamps, made a last delivery to the compost pile (it will probably be covered by snow and ice for a while), and filled bird feeders. I fill the birdfeeders and Aussie walks behind me, pouncing on those who feed on the seeds that fell to the ground. She’s already gotten herself a squirrel this winter.

“She wouldn’t get them if you didn’t feed them,” someone said to me.

That’s one way to look at it.

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The Electoral College is voting today and things suddenly look right in the world. People are more relaxed; the tight lines on their faces loosen into lips, even smiling lips, the eyes regain their glitter. They’re no longer slumped, their shoulders have risen about half a foot, there’s even a gleam on their faces.

We’re back, they seem to say. This country is back.

It’s Joe Biden’s message time and time again: We’re better than this. We’ll heal and things will be fine once again. We’ve fought for our democracy and we’ve won, now it’s time to go straight on.

As if Proud Boys marching on the streets of Washington, DC is no big deal.

As though a majority of House Republicans backing a claim of fraud that has been rejected at all court levels is no big deal.

As though states joining a motion asking for millions of votes to be thrown out by the Supreme Court is nothing at all.

As though millions of people actively opposing the results of the election with absolutely no proof is no big deal.

It’s done, it happened, now we can go down the center in the same merry way we’ve done in the past. Life is back to normal.

I never thought I’d say that I miss the generations of presidential candidates who actually served in wars. Remember Robert Dole and his paralyzed right arm? Remember George H. W. Bush and his Distinguished Flying Cross? John McCain and John Kerry? John Kennedy? Their military service, when they risked their lives, was an example of patriotism, of devotion to country and its values.

It sounds so old fashioned now, who would have thought I’d grow nostalgic? That I would recall people who had an appreciation for the rules of the game, ready to play it to the very end to their own cost, swallow down pain and defeat, and go back to do more work?

It looks good for a Joe Biden inauguration on January 20, but I think it’s downright dangerous to ignore how so many opposed and continue to oppose the results of this election, questioning the legitimacy of Biden’s presidency. You might say that it’s only a relatively few fanatics who keep on repeating the mantra of Stop the Steal, that most don’t march on state capitals with guns or stab folks in back streets of our nation’s capital, that most Republicans back Trump because, after all, he’s their guy and they hate to see him lose, but they don’t mean anything bad by it.

Let me tell you, it’s the passive ones I’m worried about. Not the ones who advertise their intentions with photo ops, but the ones at home who pretend nothing terrible is really happening, they’re backing their guy because, well, he’s their guy, and isn’t that just what’s to be expected? They’re not doing anything terrible. They’re not parading down streets in big trucks and flags, but if he could get away with it, hell, why not?

Those are the ones I worry about. There are millions and millions of them, folks who aren’t about to fight to steal an election, but if a gutsy vanguard manages to do it, or a supreme court gives its vapid consent or an electoral college is manipulated (look at how they tried to push through Virginia’s Harry Byrd instead of John Kennedy in the 1960 Electoral College out of fear of what Kennedy would do for civil rights)—well, then why not? He’s our guy, after all.

What pisses me off in Joe Biden is that he’s too nice in the face of this unfolding disaster—and yes, even though he’ll win, this is a disaster and it continues to unfold, openly and actively; it ain’t going anywhere. People have learned and are learning that there are ways to discredit or go around elections, and that you can do it at no cost. No one is pointing a finger at you, no one is castigating your name for the ages. I don’t think this is just Biden’s persona, it’s also a strategy for how he wishes to move forward.

It’s not a viable strategy. At this point we need indignation, we need outrage. Other than Nancy Pelosi, who else is ready to yell to the highest heavens that this will not stand? Trump and his allies take all the airtime with their allegations of fraud, they dominate the news cycles, over and over again giving the message: Yes, you can steal elections—if not this one, then the next one, or the one after that. One day, you’ll win.

You might say: We’ve had enough indignation and outrage for a century, let’s go back to normal. Face it: Learning how to steal elections is becoming the new normal.

The birther conspiracy against Barack Obama was the first lesson. It was difficult to contest that election, so they tried to invalidate Obama’s presidency by casting doubt on his birth. They tried it with Kamala Harris. And now they’re trying it again, this time by casting doubt on the entire operation. They’ve upped the ante.

There are a couple of different views here. One says that the problem is the radicals on both sides, that both are angry, both don’t talk to one another, both are way too partisan for a middle America. Yes, there are radicals on the left side as well, but I don’t remember any concerted effort in 2016 to take Trump’s win away from him. A few hoped the Electoral College would stop him, but that was fantasy; no political leader participated in that scheme.

The second position is that after January 20 people will accept the results and we’ll be fine. But this is the second consecutive time that the validity of a Democrat president is being questioned. It’s the first time that a majority of Republican Congress people are actively participating. Why? If the Supreme court had given them a win, terrific. If not, they had nothing to lose. They didn’t wish to antagonize their boss, and most of their constituency doesn’t seem to mind pushing at the boundaries, trying to get what they can get. If they end up casting doubt on democratic elections, no big deal.

It’s great that Republican governors, secretaries of state, attorneys general and supervisors of elections have stood up for the fairness and soundness of their local elections, only to be reviled, threatened, and told to resign. But look at the national Republican leadership!

Ahead of us is one of those highway crashes that end holiday hopes for many people. If not in 2020 or 2021 then in 2024 or 2028, but not too far in the future. You have to be blind not to see it. Maybe we need that crash, I think to myself in despondent moments. Maybe that’s the only way we’ll get rid of an Electoral College system that had its origins in racism and protecting slavery.

Thomas Paine wrote: “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly,”

It’s not those carrying guns I worry about. It’s not those in brown shirt uniforms or making big salutes. It’s the rest of us quiet ones: the ones who say: Why not take it as far as it can go, after all he’s our guy, and the quiet ones on the other side who keep on assuring us that things will go back to normal on January 20.

It’s always the quiet ones.

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These are gray, beautiful days. We walk along the plains, almost 2,000 acres of shrub land and scrub oaks. I keep my eyes on the long gray skies and remember again why Ishmael goes back to sea whenever November is in his soul. I’m not tempted to go to sea, I enjoy going back to a warm home when outside it doesn’t go over 32 degrees.

I miss the call to adventure. Instead, I have a conversation with Henry and Aussie about—what else?—politics.

“You’d think you Libs would be happy after the election,” snaps Aussie. “Instead you’re scared shitless by what Trump will accomplish before he leaves.”

“What’s the worst he could do?” asks Henry.

“It’s too much to hope that he’d deport all chihuahuas to Mexico,” growls Aussie.

“He’ll add more folks to the unemployment rolls, that’s for sure,” I say.

“Because of corona?”

“No, because he’s going to fire half of all government employees, especially career diplomats and professionals in the intelligence community,” I tell her. “Would probably love to fire some generals but I don’t know if he can, not to mention all the Republicans who supervised elections in states that went Blue.”

“I’m sure he’ll award Ivanka, Don Jr., Eric, and Jared well-deserved Presidential Medals of Freedom,” says Aussie. “Maybe Tiffany and Melania too. If only he’d invited me to be his White House dog, he’d probably be giving me a Medal of Freedom, too. I’d go down in history instead of walking in this God-forsaken place.”

“I don’t know if dogs can get Medals of Freedom, Auss.”

“We’re civilians like everybody else. Beside, Trump doesn’t care about silly rules like that, that’s what made him who he is today.”

This Thanksgiving will be my first in a very long time without family. But I’m lucky, I have money for food, and in case I don’t feel like cooking for 1 or 2, the Stone Soup Café, which provides hundreds of hearty, flavorful meals in this community every week, is giving away fabulous Thanksgiving meals on a pay-what-you-can basis. I haven’t been there in a long time, but this may just be the ticket. It will be nice to greet Kirstin, their head chef, and their big team of volunteers.

We’re also beginning a give-away of some $1250-1500 in food cards over the next 8 days to immigrant families to make sure they have food for the holiday. I can’t forget how my orthodox Jewish family, including my Russian rabbi grandfather, always had a Thanksgiving meal. I haven’t met the immigrants or refugees, regardless of religious and cultural observances, who don’t participate in Thanksgiving as soon as they arrive.

So, what are my Thanksgiving thoughts?

“You Americans don’t have your own main culture, except for maybe Thanksgiving.” I still remember the evening when a Filipino playwright friend of mine said this at a meeting with me and other writer friends in a New York City apartment. I felt some annoyance. In New York there’s a Filipino theater that produces your plays, I wanted to tell her. Where would you and many of us be if we had one main culture that imposed its rules and limitations on everybody?

In a recent interview in the Atlantic Magazine, Barack Obama said that the United States is an incredible experiment in building a true multi-cultural society. Unlike other countries, Western and otherwise, we don’t have a dominant culture. Whites will soon be a minority, and with their majority goes any pretense we might have had of a dominant culture that was primarily white, Christian, and European in origin. Many people believe that this is what the partisanship we are experiencing now is mostly about (even though Donald Trump got more Latino and African American votes than before).

Like it or not, we’re on our way. We’ll melt a little in the big pot—we usually do in Thanksgiving, when everybody eats and gathers with family—but big pieces of us don’t melt so easily. We want to hold on to our ethnic, religious, and cultural differences, and why not? It’s where our parents stood, our grandparents; it’s our genealogy. Why invalidate it?

“When we define ourselves, when I define myself, the place in which I am like you and the place in which I am not like you, I’m not excluding you from the joining—I’m broadening the joining.”

That was written by Audre Lorde, a woman of color, a Lesbian, a mother, a poet and essayist, a feminist. A little like me, a lot not like me, but at this time in our history, her words rang bells and bells. I can’t and won’t deny my life experience as white, female, Jewish, Buddhist, immigrant. What in that makes me any less of an American?  When I was very young, I tried to conceal the Jewish side of me for several years. What I realized over the decades is that I fit in better when I stand in my origins, in my difference, than when I pretend they’re not there. The more unique the  traits, the better the possibilities for a great joining.

The poet Joseph Pintauro wrote:

I am not who I was

I am not going to be who I was going to be

you changed all that

you are not who you were

you are not going to be who you were going to be

I changed all that …

who are we going to be?

we are going to be who we never would have been

without each other.


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Every Sunday I give Aussie and Henry marrow bones. This tradition started long before either was born. I take the bones out of the freezer on Saturday night to defrost, and by Sunday morning both dogs are circling that particular corner of the kitchen, Henry getting up on his hind legs and hopping around like a meerkat. It’s all we can do to get them to eat their regular food first.

Yesterday I took out an enormous bone and gave it to Aussie; it was so big she could barely take it in her mouth. Henry got something smaller and ran upstairs with it, where he could eat it safe from interruption. He needn’t have worried, Aussie put hers down on the rug under the dining table, her favorite perch. As usual, she started the job while standing on all four legs and licking the bone from all sides, then got down on her belly and down to business, holding the bone with one paw as she began pulling bits of meat off, after which she would be going after the marrow. I imagine Henry did something similar upstairs.

One or two hours pass. I’m seated at the dining table having soup. Henry has come down with his bone, puts it on the kitchen floor and sits next to it. Aussie, who’s been gnawing loudly for a long time, stops.

After a while I notice how silent it is and look at both dogs. Aussie lies under the dining table, her big bone (now slightly diminished in size) next to her. She’s staring straight at Henry, who’s seated on his haunches some six feet away next to his bone. They look at each other like this for at least ten minutes (If only I had a camera!).

What’s going through their minds? I don’t know, but I can guess. It’s time for the post-chewing bone exchange. Aussie, having finished her bone, now would like to get her teeth into Henry’s. Henry, who has finished his, would like to get his tongue and tiny teeth into Aussie’s. They do this exchange every time, but at this early stage of the game, each is loath to give up his/her asset, his/her bone. They have to give it up in order to go for the other, but they’d rather keep their bones and go after the other.

No one makes the first move, but don’t think nothing is going on. Diplomacy is happening even as they stare at each other silently.

Eventually something will happen. We’ll have a walk, or one or the other will be called to something else. They both may run barking outside because someone’s walking up the road. At that point one will get the other’s bone, and after that the other will get the bone she/he had been eyeing for a while, and the compromise is reached: You get mine, I get yours. They may have a small fight about it, but basically, it works out.

I watched this process yesterday and wondered why it is that Aussie and Henry have figured out how to come to an agreement about the sharing of assets and wealth, and American humans can’t do the same. We start out just like them—we want it all. We want what we got and we want yours, too. But even Aussie, four times bigger than Henry, doesn’t want a fight. Maybe she has a sense that it’s unfair to hover over both, who knows? If so, she’s ethically a lot more advanced than many of us humans. Regardless, in the end, after glowering and vigilance in turn, they come to agreement and exchange one bone for another.

They compromise. They do this every single Sunday.

This is when I ask myself whether evolution in reverse is possible. Haven’t we gotten way too smart for our own good? How do we reverse our engineering and see things a little simpler? How do we relearn the art of compromise, which is what our form of government is based on? Without it, the government we have will simply not work.

Could we possibly stare at each other across seven feet of kitchen and dining area—Trump voters and Biden voters, Democrats and Republicans, Progressives, Conservatives, Moderates, and what-have-you’s—do our posturing, glowering, baiting, and snarling on our respective networks and social media, and then come to some compromise where each side gets the bone they want?

Don’t forget, the bones the dogs get the second time around aren’t as fresh as what they got the first time, they don’t have the meat and all the marrow they had before they’d been chewed on. They’re getting second-hand bones, like the used clothes I used to get at the Salvation Army which somebody had worn first. But they get something. They get some remaining gristle, some spots red from blood, and odds are there’s still marrow left inside the bone that you have to burrow deep to get. Best of all, they get the flavor and smell of the other dog, its teeth and spit are all over the used bone, and I believe that makes the bone even more luscious for them this second time around.

If we weren’t so bent on winning at all costs and having it all—Wait till 2024!—we might find some satisfaction in getting something that has the imprint of the other. Something that has been argued about, maneuvered from a House committee to the House and from a Senate committee to the Senate, then back to a joint committee for compromise, then back to House and Senate for their approval, then up to the White House for signature—could you imagine what all those smells would do to the dogs? They’d be all over each other sniffing in curiosity and excitement, trying to decipher who’s who and what’s what.

We don’t want all those smells (Anything Mitch McConnell agrees to I’m not interested!). We want just our smells. Only we don’t get those smells either, we get nothing. We’re stuck in those 10 minutes of staring each other down, only in our case it’s been lasting for years. We’re ready to wait, because we’re sure it’s only a matter of time before we get it all. Meantime the virus hits, climate change hits, fires and floods and climactic gaps between rich and poor have hit, and we’re still staring at each other, waiting to get the other’s bone.


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About a week after our elections I went to a local garage to make an appointment for my 9-year-old Prius, which needs work. I entered the office wearing my mask, and immediately noticed that the man at the desk did not. In our part of the country that’s highly unusual, probably illegal.

He looked up at me as I approached and asked how he could help. I described the work I needed.

“I can’t hear you,” he said, so I raised my voice, speaking through the mask.

He informed me that they were scheduling now for the week of Thanksgiving. That’s fine, I said. We made a date and I walked out the door and to my car.

A Trump voter, a voice inside said. Before I could stop myself, I was off to the races, chugging along on the Trump Express. Quicker than I can write this, I made up a Trump Voter list customized to the man I’d just left:

  1. Didn’t wear a mask.
  2. Was glum and talked in monosyllables.
  3. Was overweight.
  4. Didn’t make eye contact.

Check, check, check, check.

And one more check: You’re insane, I told myself. Check.

That’s my only defense, that as I watched these thoughts flash in my head quicker than water bubbles, I could still label them for what they were: Insane. Tying the most disparate dots together to produce a story or picture that had as much proof and credibility as how Joe Biden won the election through fraud.

I’ve written here before that I never thought much about Trump the man, I thought he was not sane from the get-go. I couldn’t forget that this was the man who liked to have his picture put on the front cover of the New York Post with another gorgeous woman on his arm even as he was married, ignoring the impact and humiliation of this on his wife and children. New Yorkers (of whom I was one then) knew he was a classical narcissist, and I’m personally not that interested in crazy people (unless it’s me). But I am very interested in the impact they have on other, saner people.

When I think of the leaders I resonated with, I think of Martin Luther King, whose life and speeches I studied over a period of years, ditto with Gandhi. We seemed to share a frequency. They lived their lives, a woman reads their words years later and her heart surges and the blood pumps: Yes! Yes! That’s how I feel!

Sometimes it wasn’t the words, but a picture. I studied the life of Abraham Lincoln, too, and though I felt deep ambivalence about some of his actions, including his offers to the South to keep their slaves till 1900 just to keep the Union intact, there was something of the man that always moved me. I liked to picture him on his horse, leaving Mary Todd behind and traveling as a lawyer throughout Illinois’ Eighth Judicial Circuit, so deeply engrossed in the book he was holding that he’d let go of the reins and lose his way. He’d suffered great losses—in that sense he reminds me of Joe Biden—and there was a loneliness about that figure on the horse, deep in his book, that stays with me.

Donald Trump is also a study in resonance. When he talks of how this country becomes great when it kicks out immigrants and keeps minorities and women in their places, that it should make rooms for white supremacists, alt-right militias and anti-Semites, I go No! No! No!, but it’s still a kind of resonance, say a resonance in reverse. It hits me somewhere deep. It evokes denial and even self-loathing, a call to all the angers and rages I’ve felt in my life. He’s my Northern Star for hate and fear, for some old dread that perhaps comes out of being two generations away from a Holocaust, from haunting memories of harsh early years of life.

That’s when I get on the Donald Trump Express.

Leaving the garage, I mentally labeled the man I’d just talked to—someone I’d never met in my life nor exchanged political views with—a Trump voter. A Trump loyalist, maybe a Trump lover. Okay, it wasn’t accompanied by hateful feelings so maybe that wasn’t the Trump Express but more like  the Trump Local, slower and a little more rational, taking me to the same destination as the Express only by a more circuitous route. Either way, I end up in the same place, in stereotypes and stories that carry the same implacable ending: He’s wrong! He’s bad! And even: I suffer because of him.

I shudder to think of what makes any person a human tuning fork for so much fear, or a radio tower that emits constant signals of alarm and hate. What a terrible karma, I think  to myself; there must be suffering at its core. But those signals are powerful and unambivalent, and we resonate strongly either with them or against them.

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“Eve, I love you!”

“Really? Why, Mom?”

“The song you wrote was so beautiful. I sang it to everyone and you should have seen people’s eyes—they shone, Eve!”

“Is that so?”

I never wrote any song for her and she doesn’t see people because the country’s shut down. What do I say, I wonder as she keeps on thanking me again and again for writing the most beautiful song in the world? The other week she thanked me for making the trip to Israel and hoped my trip back would be fine (“Best trip to Israel I ever took,” I texted my brother and sister. “Quick, too.”). And now she’s thanking me for my song.

“I wrote it for you, mom,” I finally tell her.

“You did?” she exclaims happily. “I will not forget this, Eve, ever!”

She’ll probably forget it right away, I think after we hang up. My mother is suffering from dementia and has delusions. But there are delusions and there are delusions. Thinking her daughter wrote a great song just for her makes her feel a lot better than thinking that Nazis are downstairs and coming up to get her.

I’m still in the stepping-back mode after the election. I need to regain that stability, and also some humility. I feel a lot better when I go deep into the wellspring of things, far away from rumblings and expostulations. For a short while, at least, I’ve gotten off the political train, with its emotional extremes, and I stay with what must get done next. Write this; get on the phone with another Zen teacher; go to meet Jimena with food cards later on (we’re meeting Wednesday rather than Thursday this week), etc. Thank heavens for the small jobs of living.

“What will you write about today?” someone asked me earlier.

“I have no idea,” I say, still feeling somewhat dull. “Nothing.”

But you know what comes up when I feel I have nothing to write about, nothing to say? Love comes up.

Tennessee Williams wrote: “[W]e live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.”

Much of the time I’m surrounded by a sense of urgency, of excitement but also anxiety. These past months saw an overwhelming impulse to get online once again and find out what happened, the latest headlines, the latest polls: Did Biden inch up another little bit, did Trump inch down?

Only it’s not just politics or the election; I often push forward and try to cover lots of bases, one thing followed by another and then by another. I remain passionate; I still have my vows.

But when I stop and sit, when I decide to shrug off the jobs and assignments at least for a short time, when I don’t fill that extra time with reading or study, don’t even look at a dramatic sunset or smell the flowers or stroke Aussie’s beautiful black fur—I just look at the air. I feel it waving, and find love there. Not love of someone or something, not even love of life, just a sensation of the enormous generosity all around. I fold myself inside it, humbly and gratefully, and it fills me with love.

That’s how I feel today, Veterans Day. I light incense to honor the people who’ risked their lives so that I could be safe. So many don’t feel safe right now.

I went to give out food cards and a woman said to me in Spanish: God will bless you. God already has, I thought to myself, though I didn’t know how to say this in Spanish, my tenses are terrible. I got chicken, rice and beans from Jimena’s husband for dinner, and a woman brought us home-made bread.

I make a point of calling up my mother every day now rather than every other day, I realize my days of intelligent conversation with her are coming rapidly to an end. But I’m up for unintelligent conversations as well.

“Eve, did you speak to your father?” she asked me in yesterday’s phone call.

“No, Mom.”

“Why not?”

“Because he’s dead, Mom.”

“Really? For how long?”

“I think it’s 5 years this week, Mom.”

She thinks it over. “Oh,” she says.






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I take Henry and Aussie for a walk, followed by a ride to the bank. This is the first time both dogs are in the car. They share the back seat, but Aussie instantly reclines back to front on the armrest that separates the driver’s seat from the passenger seat. Henry, sealed off from the front, whines a little, scampering back and forth between both half-opened back windows, standing up to snarl at squirrels, chipmunks, and other dogs while Aussie and I commune up front.

We go through the drive-through. Aussie pricks up her ears; she’s been here many times in the past, knows the high-pitched whoosh of the bank capsule traveling through the tube, bringing her a dog biscuit when it returns. This time there are two. I give one to her and the other I slip back to Henry.

Aussie, standing on the armrest, promptly loses half her cookie which falls between the seats. “Nothing I can do about it, Auss,” I tell her. I’m already driving.

Crrrunch! comes from the back seat, the small chihuahua mix slowly making his way through the biscuit. Aussie’s head turns to look back at him.


She spins back.

“Don’t even think of taking Henry’s cookie!”

I drive, and a short while later, once again: Crrrunch! Crrrunch!

Aussie’s head turns to look back.

“Aussie!” Head spins back. “Don’t even think of taking Henry’s cookie.”

“I’m a Zen dog,” she snaps, “I do it without thinking about it.” And back she goes to bully Henry and get his cookie.

The next day she and I are back in the car.

“Come on, Aussie, we’re going to Turners to give out food cards, and you have a job to do.”

“What job is that, Boss?”

“You’re the good-will ambassador. You grin and wag your tail, show everybody they’re welcome, especially the little kids.”

“I hate men and I hate kids!”

“You hate kids! Why, Aussie? I know you don’t like men, you were like this when we got you from Texas, maybe you had some bad experiences with men.”

“Doesn’t everyone?”

“But what’s the problem with kids?”

“They don’t know how to pet me. They put their hands up in the air and come down on top of my head, I never see it coming. How would you like to have something come down on top of you from a total stranger? You don’t know if he wants to stroke you or hit you.”

“Lots of people don’t know how to stroke dogs in a good way. Nobody means any harm, Aussie; as a rule, they’re happy to see you. You make them feel welcome.”

“How much are you paying me?”

“Paying you for what?”

“Paying me to be your goodwill ambassador. To wag my tail for over an hour—you know what that does to my back? To distract the children, get slapped on top of the head in return, and never once show my teeth or growl. Get smacked around—”

“They’re stroking you, Aussie—”

“They have no idea how to touch a refined, sensitive dog like me. I’m abused, misused, and exploited. And I don’t get paid.”

“Give me a break, Auss.”

“You know what the real problem is, don’t you, Boss? I’m not Latino. I’m not a refugee, I’m not some immigrant rushing the border. If I was any one of those, you’d be out there kicking up a storm, yelling that I’m being taken advantage of. But no, here I am, born and bred in Texas, and I DON’T GET PAID! You’d think I was some kind of foreigner!”

“Maybe you’re not from Texas, Auss.”

“Of course I’m from Texas, Boss. You always tell people that I came from around Houston.”

“Maybe you were born south of the border, traveled hundreds of miles and splashed across the Rio Grande, Aussie.”

“Don’t dare say that about me! I’m true blue, or black and tan, or whatever!”

“Supposedly you came from north of Houston, but that could be just a story, Aussie. Maybe you got separated from the rest of your family. Maybe some do-goodie Quakers got you water in the desert, or at least a map. You pretended to be a stray but you were aiming to get on board that truck and get to New England. And you know what? You found sanctuary in our house!”

“Hey, the Man called me Aussie, remember? Like from Australia.”

“You deceived him, Aussie.”

“I’m not the illegal around here, Boss. You know who is? Henry, the chihuahua. He’s stealing everything he can get his paws on.  I can’t find a single one of my toys or marrow bones, the little bugger has buried all of them.“

“Henry’s the sweetest little dog, Aussie.”

“The name is a dead giveaway all by itself. No chihuahua is called Henry. He’s a liar, a faker, and an imposter.”

“We’re a family, Aussie. He’s like your little brother.”

“No illegal is a brother of mine,” she snarls. “Drop me off at the nearest ICE station. We’re deporting Henry.”



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