THEME PARKS

Bernie and I like to go out to the Hadley diner for blueberry pancakes on Sunday morning. We did that in late January, two days after Trump instituted the first ban denying entry to people from 7 Muslim countries, including refugees, other folks with visas, people who’ve lived in this country for years, etc. We sat at our own table by the large counter, above which two large televisions, suspended from the ceiling, broadcast news. One showed people stuck in various airports, faces tired and shocked, not knowing where to go and what to do. The other showed video game championships taking place, I believe, in Las Vegas, where mostly young men sat in front of computers and competed to see how many images they could quickly kill onscreen.

I looked from one television to the other inn disbelief.

I feel that for various historical and geographic reasons, many people in the United States don’t feel part of a bigger world, and of that world’s narrative of war and bloodshed. This country was invaded by the English in 1812, who burned down Washington. It fought a bloody civil war over 150 years ago, and many of us still can’t see or appreciate the freshness of those wounds. People of color have endured discrimination and violence in education, housing, jobs and on the streets, but chances are good that if you’re a white civilian whose family has lived here for generations, you may have suffered from addictions, unemployment, lack of opportunity and poverty, but not necessarily from war and violence.

And that’s a history that the civilian populations of most of the rest of the world have known all too well. When I talk to Europeans, even young ones, they seem to have both World Wars, not to mention the Russian occupation of East Europe, in their genetic memory. They know what it’s like to have soldiers marching into their land and taking over their government, or else using their towns and farms as ground in which to stage such terrible battles that bones of the dead are still uncovered there by children many years later.

Other lands know what it is to be pockmarked by thousands of land mines or have razor-wire fences criss-cross towns and farms. Still others know all about militias coming in at nights, carting off or killing boys and men, raping women, at times wiping off entire villages. Or else they know how their children get conscripted or required to do military service after high school. They know how to live under occupation or at least have their national government subordinated to a more powerful government next door. I’m not talking about things from the distant path.

Having been brought up on stories of war and Holocaust, I am not turned on by violent video games. If I want to be a hero, that’s not the way I’d go about it. Personally, I also don’t like firecrackers or explosions of any kind going off on the streets or in backyards (I can watch beautiful fireworks for about 20 minutes, after which my nerves feel too raw). I feel I have a different make-up from many people here.

When the American army rolled into Iraq under George Bush, stores did a brisk business in army fatigues, helmets, various kinds of military gear, not to mention Saddam Hussein targets for gun practice, golden guns, and all other kinds of paraphernalia—for people who wanted to play at war but nowhere near Iraq. As if Shock and Awe was a theme park, with its exploding bombs (couldn’t they have more color please!) and floodlights like at a big movie premier. Everybody wanted to be a walk-on but nobody wanted to die.

I remember as a little girl watching one of Hollywood’s movies on the war with Japan during World War II. At a certain point in the movie the heroic band of American soldiers is hunkered down in a small bunker while being bombed by overhead planes, and William Bendix, John Wayne or some other actors like that began to talk about God:

I wonder if this is about the time you start to believe in God.

You mean you don’t?

I never thought about it very seriously, till now.

I looked over at my mother, who I knew had dug up and huddled in bunkers in Israel’s War of Independence while being bombed by Egyptian planes, and asked her if she also thought about God then. She started laughing: Believe me, when you’re down there and all those bombs are going off, you’re not asking about God or anything, you’re just scared out of your mind and hoping none of those things land on you!

I also remembered the story of an American woman recalling her arrival in the United States after going through concentration camps in World War II. There was nothing to eat, she told Americans when they asked her about her experience. Tell us about it! they often responded. Food was rationed here and there were times when you couldn’t get meat or coffee. She said that after that she never talked about her Holocaust experiences again.

So that Sunday we watched people’s faces on one television screen, scarred with tragedy and loss, bullied into silence, looking pale and exhausted as the reporters asked them what it felt like to be denied entry to the US after three years of vetting following years of terror and starvation. On the other screen young men competed fiercely and deliberately in the video game championships, clicking with immense concentration at keys and buttons as images on the screen were shot, blown away, burned to a crisp, and thoroughly eviscerated in lots and lots of creative and imaginative ways.

 

 

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GRIEVING AND PRAISING TOGETHER

Today delegations from Native American tribes will march on Washington once again. The Standing Rock Sioux are back in court over the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was put on hold by President Obama in December and put right back into production by President Trump a month later. The pipeline would deliver fracked oil over land adjacent to Standing Rock Reservation and going under the Missouri River, posing a grave threat of leakage both to the Reservation and to one of the great rivers of this country. The stand at Standing Rock that began this past summer shone a light once again upon how little we honor the Native nations, our commitments and treaties with them, and how little we honor the earth.

So this is a good time to evoke an evening five days ago, when I went to listen to Tiokasin Ghosthorse at the Guilford Community Church in Vermont. Tiokasin is a Lakota sundancer from Cheyenne River Reservation. He hosts First Voices Radio, a program that appears on some 70 local public radio stations in this country, and travels all over the world presenting Native consciousness and values to the descendants of Western invaders.

I met Tiokasin several years ago when he was instrumental in helping to develop Zen Peacemakers’ bearing witness retreat in the Black Hills. He served as a leader in that retreat and in the plunge last summer, and will be there again when we go back this coming summer.

I’ve been in lots of meetings with Tiokasin, but never had the chance to sit back and listen to him speak and play flute. Here is my paraphrasing of what he taught us that evening (any mistakes and inaccuracies are my own, for which I apologize in advance):

 In Lakota, everything is relational. We don’t have a word in for I in Lakota, I    refers to everything that is.

 The Judeo-Christian Bible says that God created man on the sixth day, after creating everything else. So even that Bible admits that humans are younger than anyone else on earth. Lakota also say that when they emerged from Wind Cave onto the surface of the earth, they had to ask the animals who were already there how to live, how to survive. Rather than humans ruling over animals and the rest of life as the Bible prescribed, it is the animals who teach us about living a life of balance, of give-and-take; it is the animals that must have patience with us.

For this reason, in Lakota we appreciate everything. In English we are always asking for something.

We are caregivers to Mother Earth, we give her care. She’s our caretaker, she has always taken care of us. We are slowly learning about how much she is giving us, has given us for millions of years, and what we are doing to her. There is much to do, but first and foremost we have to learn to grieve, to beg her for forgiveness. And we have to learn to praise. There is a way to grieve and praise all at the same time.

 If you’re fully conscious, you have respect for everything that Mother Earth gives you. If that’s your basic attitude, one of respect, you don’t need conscience, a Judeo-Christian concept based on dualistic codes of what’s right and what’s wrong.

We consciously ascribe mystery to everything. (I was deeply moved by this; it’s a beautiful way to describe not-knowing.) Part of that mystery also applies to what happened at Standing Rock since last summer. You have eaten our food all these years, you have us in you. We’re not so separate. Standing Rock was about many things, including Native tribes coming together to fight for water. But it was also about that coming out in you, in us, in everything.

Tiokaskin remembered sitting with us at Auschwitz-Birkenau. We don’t have silence, he said, we prefer to call it respectful quiet. And finally, in describing himself, he said:I am a baby elder, and added, I always try to remember that I am not greater than the message.

What does it say about our Western arrogance that Native Americans were only granted freedom to practice their religion in 1978, almost 40 years ago? There’s irony in the photo I have above, of Tiokasin standing by the big Guilford Church cross, for Tiokasin himself was educated in Christian boarding schools when so many Native children were taken away from their parents’ homes.

It is a measure of the man that he will go to speak here, and almost everywhere. And it is a measure of the changes and challenges of our times that the evening was held to benefit the young people of the Guilford Church who are going to work in Cheyenne River Reservation as part of the Simply Smiles program, which builds homes, plants gardens, and works with children on the Reservation.

Zen Peacemakers is also sending a group to Simply Smiles this August, followed by a week of bearing witness. Following Tiokasin’s talk I felt a deep desire to show up not just to bear witness but also to build, serve, participate in stories, meet and listen. The depth of our bearing witness is visible through the action we take, so now I wish to do both weeks.

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WE’RE ALL SURVIVORS HERE

We returned to the woods for the first time since the snows arrived.

Going back to the forest, the place I most love to walk in, at the end of winter used to be a milestone, our personal version of the spring equinox. In our first winter here, in 2002, we flew to Poland on November 1 for our annual retreat at the concentration camps, and when we returned 10 days later the place was buried in deep snow. That was that for walking in the woods unless you did snowshoes, which I could never get used to. The snow stayed on the ground and began to melt in March, but not till April in the woods because there wasn’t much sun there. In fact, March was when the snow would get so hard and compact in the forest that we’d be able to walk on top of it. April is when it all finally disappeared and we’d be able to see the new terrain: what fell, what remained standing, what new paths carved out. It was like visiting family and looking at them for signs of health or illness: Long time no see, how ya doing?

Just in the 15 winters I’ve been here I can see a big difference. The last five winters have been erratic, warm cold warm cold warm cold. We had two big snowstorms in early February one after another, leaving around three feet of snow in the back, and ordinarily the icy weather would have guaranteed their staying around for a long while. Instead they melted quickly in the warm days of mid-February; even before I left for Alabama there was no more snow on the ground.

So Stanley and I returned to the woods, but rather than a sense of a forest awakening from the deep, snowy sleep of winter it was more like winter interrupted.

The winds were strong, the white birches shook and moaned at high pitch. More and more I feel the trees are as aware of Stanley and me as we are of them. I don’t hug them though I like to feel their old, serrated bark. I guess I feel there’s as much wisdom there as there is in old folks’ wrinkles. When I watch Stanley sniffing at their bases, I feel they’re taking him in as well. There’s a knowing of us there, a feeling of familiar welcome: It’s you again. So you’ve made it through winter, too? We’re all survivors here.

 

 

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LADY AND THE –, LADY AND THE –,

 

Stanley runs in, Bose headphones on his ears, eyes white with terror.

What is it, Stanley? What happened?

He begins to stammer. I was downloading Lady and the—, Lady and the—, Lady and the—

Tramp, I say. Lady and the Tramp is Stanley’s favorite movie of all time and he watches it every rain day when he can’t go to Lee Ann.

Shhhh, and he looks wildly all around him, hackles up.

“Lady and the Tramp,” I repeat. What’s the problem? You watch it all the time.

And that’s what I was going to do today, download the movie, and – and—

And what, Stanley?

I heard HIM!

By now I lose patience, pick up the headphones that have fallen off his ears and put them on my own. Instantly I freeze. A familiar voice is saying: I gotta get some new ties. All I wear are red and purple ties, so I told Melly to get me some new ones. You know, the pricey polka-dot kind that look so Presidential.

I throw the headphones off and stare at Stanley. You wiretapped the President of the United States?

Stanley gives a small whimper and lies down mournfully on the floor.

How did you do that? Everybody knows you need a judge’s order to get a wiretap. It’s so hush hush all the intelligence agencies have to sign off, about five million people.

All I did was download Lady and the Tramp, and suddenly I hear his voice. I didn’t mean to! He mewls like a kitten. They’re going to ICE me any minute.

That’s the least they’re going to do.

Maybe I spelled it wrong. I was always bad at spelling, I’m a dog after all.

By now I’m curious. What else did he say, Stanley? What did you hear?

He talked to Putin. Nobody’s allowed to talk to Russia anymore!

Don’t be silly, he’s now President, he can talk to anybody. What did Putin say?

He told him to stop bugging him when he’s at the gym. Oh God! I mean, stop bothering him, bothering him!

And what did our President say?

He said he just wants a little favor. Could he nuke North Korea for us?

Is Putin going to do that?

I don’t know. He said he already did you-know-who so many favors. Stanley shuts his eyes. I’m in so much trouble!

I’m afraid you are. You’re talking about the man who wants to stop Obamacare, close the doors to refugees and deport millions of people!

You think that’s terrible? For the first time ever there’s no canine in the White House. A bad sign for the world, if you ask me. Stanley put his big ears to the headphones. They crackled.

Now who’s he talking to?

He’s talking to Marie le Pen, Geert Wilders, and a couple of the other Far Right European leaders.

Is he wishing them well in the elections?

No, he’s offering them the red hat with “Make America Great Again,” only instead of “America” he’ll leave it blank and they can fill in the name. He owns the slogan so he wants a dollar a hat, fifty cents if they order in bulk.

He’s making a killing out of being President!

He’ll be able to afford a Bichon or a Shih-Tzu, Stanley speculates, one of those small expensive dogs. Pure-bred, naturally.

Maybe if you stop downloading the movie it’ll stop the wiretap, I suggest. But wait till he’s finished talking, otherwise he may hear us hanging up on him. I don’t think you’re allowed to hang up on the President of the United States, he always has to hang up first.”

Stanley listens, quickly runs to the other room and presses the off button. This was a good time. He was holding a conference call with the New York Times and the Washington Post. He’s disconsolate. Will you come to visit me in prison?

Sure, Stan. Unless they put you in Solitary. Oh come on, don’t look so depressed.

I’ll never see Lady and the—,”Lady and the—, Lady and the—

He can’t even say the name of his favorite movie anymore. Sad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THEY LOVE THE WOMAN AS CAREGIVER

Late Saturday I left Bernie in Alabama under the care of Ari, who flew down, and returned home. I was very glad to be at Bernie’s side in his first week at the Taub Clinic and see the remarkable progress he made with his hand, but it’s a full immersion and you need a break. Ari will bring Bernie back on Saturday after his second week of intensive therapy.

Which means that I’m now at home alone, just Stanley and me. No terrific caregivers, no office work downstairs (Rami is also away), no antennas slithering out of my head to receive the house sounds: What’s happening? Is Bernie up? Is he exercising? Who’s here? What are we eating tonight? Just the quiet sound from my own mind reflecting on something I experienced last week.

You know, as a woman you get lots of approval when you take on the role of caregiver, as I did full-time last week. In the lobby of the Taub Clinic people smiled at me as I wheeled Bernie in his wheelchair (which he never uses at home but did in the long corridors of the UAB Hospital), helped him with the heavy doors to the restrooms, or walked vigilantly at his side as he made his way with his cane. Everyone was friendly and warm, jumping up to help, and I thought to myself: People love a female caregiver. It’s a pretty, reassuring sight: the woman bending forward to help, whispering to her husband, steadying him, making sure the brakes are on when he gets in or out of the wheelchair, chauffeuring, shopping, and getting the elevator, asking him what he wants to eat and bringing the plates and the drinks, making sure there are lots of napkins because he’s going to eat only with his right disabled hand.

They love the woman as caregiver. What about the woman who isn’t? What would happen if I walked alongside Bernie and it was Ari who pushed the wheelchair and helped with the doors and the car? What kind of approval would I get then? How many smiles?

Some 80% of the caregivers in the lobby were women. The men were few.

A magazine sent a photographer to photograph Bernie on Friday. Once Bernie got settled in with Danna, his therapist, I tried settling in with my computer, but the photographer interrupted me apologetically: They asked if you could be in the photos. So I sat close to Bernie watching sweetly what he did, then went back to my own work. By the third or fourth time that he asked me if I could be part of the photos I retorted: You know, I’m not just the good woman at his side, I have my own work to do.

What happens if you don’t want to be the maple that grows sideways and provides shade, you want to be like the poplar or redwood, that grow tall? Mary Oliver said it best:

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice – – –

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

‘Mend my life!’

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

 

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations – – –

though their melancholy

was terrible. It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

 

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice,

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do – – – determined to save

the only life you could save.

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MISS EVE AND MR. BARNEY

Miss Eve and Mr. Barney are here in Birmingham, AL, and Mr. Barney, as some of the staff refers to him, is working hard. With his left hand resting comfortably in its mitt, his right hand is busy transferring blocks from one container to another, carrying a spoonful of beans and emptying it someplace else, putting one cone into another, and he’s timed to see how many he can get done without dropping them in 30 seconds flat. You call that work! Each exercise requires a different way of grasping the object with the fingers, a different twist of the wrist, a different reach with the arm.

Everything was fine till I saw him working on a calculator with his right hand. He’s finally learning to use a calculator, at the age of 78! Now I know why we were so broke all those years.

It really is hard work. I’m amazed at how versatile his dead-fish hand has become. When it’s forced to do things, it does them, and you could almost see new brain cells lighting up, new connections being made. As if the brain is saying, Oh yes, I remember now. I remember how to do this.

After therapy Mr. Barney is exhausted—not physically, mentally. It’s not the muscles in the arm and hand that strain him, it’s the palpable brain work. And I’m moved by how a 78 year-old man meets the challenge to learn new things, set new goals, and do new activities.

We live in a culture that so denigrates the elderly. At his age he’ll never change, people say. That’s being demonstrated as untrue day after day in front of my eyes. Mr. Barnie’s willpower is as strong as it ever was, as is his drive to get well. And the brain can get it together. Edward Taub emphasized to me last fall that his research shows that the brain cells relating to physical functions can come back at any age.

Out in the lobby I talk to lots of folks in wheelchairs, and others with aphasia who speak with difficulty. They’re young and old and everything in between; they encourage me and each other. A young, handsome man built like a football player, sitting in a self-propelled wheelchair (he has no legs), watches Mr. Barnie walking slowly with a cane. “You’re doing good, man, you’re doing good!”

And after Mr. Barney enters the clinic, Andrea, a thin, middle-aged woman tells me this before I get up to follow him: I fell 8 years ago. Since then my nerves go all hot and burning on me, I get lots of shots of pain and my muscles kill me in both arms and legs. I had an operation on my neck 7 years ago and that made things worse. I can’t work no more, on disability only that don’t pay the bills. Only one thing I got going for me, and that’s that the dear Lord gave me a great ear to listen with. I’ve always listened real good. The one thing that makes me feel better is when I’m with people who’re worse off than me and they start talking. I was with folks the other day who had terrible face disfigurement and I could listen to them talk. That’s when I realize that I am so much better off than them and I thank my God that I have this life and that I can listen, you know what I mean?

How did you learn to listen so well?

My God, only my God.

 

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MAKING A MESS IS EXHAUSTING!

In the photo, Bernie is exhausted after eating dinner with the mitt on his left hand, so that he had to eat with his disabled right only.

Jean, the Taub therapist, is having a great time with Bernie. He just does everything I tell him! You know, it’s always tough in the beginning when I tell folks they can only use their afflicted hand to do everything. The next day they come back and tell me they couldn’t do it, it didn’t work. They’re frustrated, they’re embarrassed. That’s why we have them sign an agreement to use the mitt, because without it the therapy doesn’t work. But Bernie, well he’ll just do anything I tell him!

Humph, I grumble to myself. But she’s right. If Jean tells Bernie to throw a bowling ball with his right hand, he’ll try to do it. He wastes no time in frustration or second-guessing. Play the Allegro in Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata? With a mitt on his left hand? He’ll sit right down to it though he never played piano in his life.

But these two weeks at the Taub Clinic feel different from the two weeks in October. Back then Bernie, working on the lower right side of his body, seemed to get stronger from the beginning. He walked with more confidence with his cane, then began to walk without a cane. From day to day he grew more mobile. This time he’s being asked to actually shut down the hand that works relatively well, the one he’s learned to rely on since the stroke, and depend on what has been semi-paralyzed for 13 months. In some way, it’s letting go of ability and going back to disability. Right-handed all his life, it took him a long time to learn how to eat and do things with his left hand. Now he’s being asked to let go of that hard-earned skill and start all over, like a child.

And when he does, there’s a mess: the shirt falls on the floor, the buttered bread ends up on his lap, his hand drops off the door handle, etc.

People complain that after learning to be more independent, Jean says, they now have to go back to being dependent on their partner, or else its gets messy. But you know, sometimes we have to get messy to regain the use of more limbs.

It’s simple to stay with what works. To develop what doesn’t work, that’s a whole other thing. You’re no longer the expert; you’re not even in your comfort zone.

I think about how we naturally propel toward being with the folks and situations that work for us: the meditation hall, the progressive activist community, the people who look and talk like us, who share our values. It’s so much more awkward to be with people who’re different.

A week ago I posted about how Rami planted a big sign outside our home welcoming regardless of their origins, but he mistakenly planted it on our neighbor’s property rather than ours. I corrected that because I didn’t think my neighbor would approve, and it hit me how easy it was for me to love immigrants and illegal residents, usually from afar, and more difficult to befriend a neighbor. I feel awkward because she barely acknowledges my Hello or a hand wave, and her boyfriend complained about our dog. Also, I can’t remember her name.

I don’t think she’s one of us, a voice says quietly inside.

There’s a new version of that message, and that is: I bet they voted for Trump.

Bernie, in describing the One Body, often liked to talk about John and Mary, his arms, and what happens when they don’t know they’re one body. After the stroke, he said to me: I can feel John (which is on his left side), but now I can’t feel Mary.

In my own way, I don’t feel Mary either, though I haven’t had a stroke.

So here we are at the Taub Clinic, helping Bernie get to know Mary once again. To do that, he puts a mitt on John and wildly waves and throws things on the ground as he makes his forays into not-knowing.

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AND IN THIS CORNER–ROCKY!

I, Bernie Glassman agree to wear the mitt on my stronger arm (i.e., the arm that was less affected by the stroke). I also agree to use the arm that was affected by the stroke as much as possible when I am away from the Constraint-Induced Movement therapy clinic. The purpose of the mitt is to prevent me from using my less affected arm.

This is actually the contract that Bernie, a/k/a Rocky (yes, he used to be known as Rocky when he was a boy), had to sign yesterday on our first day at the Taub Clinic. The mitt came on his left hand, which hadn’t been affected by the stroke, and now he has to use his right hand for everything. Good luck! You want to eat? Use your right hand. You want to look at the computer? Use your right hand. You want to open a door? Use your right hand. Flush a toilet? Yep, the right hand.

And that right hand hasn’t been doing much since Bernie’s stroke some 13 months ago. He was right-handed, but since January 2016 the hand usually lies in his lap like a dead fish. He can’t feel things with it and therefore it gets bruised and injured. He can bang it against a door, blood comes out, and he don’t feel a thing. So I’m used to seeing it band-aided up, with lots of pigment.

But Bernie hasn’t been around hundreds and hundreds of students for decades for nothing. I’ll just tell her that since I’m so strong-willed, I don’t need the mitt, he assures me in the car going over to the Clinic.

Heh heh heh, say I to myself.

I really know how to pay attention, he tells Jean when we get there (they all know his background). You can count on me to use the right hand, I don’t need that mitt, I just tell the left hand: “Get outta here, Leftie!”

Heh heh heh, says Jean, unamused.

As they said in 20012: We want Mitt!

So while he’s building his strength, wrist action and flexibility, and finger dexterity in exercises with Jean, Bernie’s real exercises are life! And that means messy meals. We had lunch at the big food complex of the University of Alabama Hospital, and Bernie destroyed a tuna fish sandwich with his right hand. I don’t know how much of it came down on his pants, the floor, or the table, and how much went down his throat.

He can count on my loyalty. I don’t know this guy, I tell the folks around me. I’m also collecting quarters for the laundry machine downstairs in our hotel.

We had a take-out meal in the room for dinner, something out of the old Archie comics. Bernie ordered a hamburger, French fries, and a vanilla shake. He managed the French fries fine, to my great relief (when he first tried to fork something and bring it to his mouth, Jean and I were afraid he’d gouge his eyes out by mistake). The hamburger was something else, leaving lots of ketchup all around (note to myself: leave room staff big tip at end). And the vanilla shake! Heart in my mouth, I watched that white plastic teaspoon carrying liquid ice cream shake and shiver, trying to find its way to the open mouth.

Where, oh where is Stanley? I wailed to myself. Where is that canine vacuum cleaner when we need him?

If you have courage, go to Facebook’s Order of Disorder page and look at my video of Bernie eating a banana. WARNING: THIS IS NOT FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED1

 

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BACK AT THE TAUB CLINIC

Bernie, close your eyes and open your right hand. Can you tell what I put in the palm of your right hand?

Not unless I open my eyes.

Try to feel the shape. Can you feel it?

No.

What about the texture? Is it smooth, is it soft, is it hard, is it sharp?

Nothing.

Okay. Now I’m going to put it in your left hand. Keeping your eyes closed, can you feel what it is?

A golf ball.

We’re back at the Taub Clinic in Birmingham, Alabama. Jean, Bernie’s therapist, who will work with him intensively every day, is assessing how little feel he has in his right arm and hand. Till now Bernie has concentrated on the right side of his lower body, trying to stand and walk better and stronger. It’s time to work on his shoulder, arm, and hand.

Outside there’s a downpour.

Edward Taub, Founder of the Clinic and considered by many a giant in brain plasticity, comes by to say hello once again. So do others who remember Bernie. At 85, Taub has cut back to working 6 days a week at his research lab. I ask him how he’s feeling.

Very well. I attribute it to my meditation.

Really? I wonder if he’s saying this because he knows I’m involved in that world.

Absolutely. Since 1970, he estimates there have been some 700-800 studies of the effects of transcendental meditation on things like general health, strength, longevity, mental illness, even cancer and heart disease. Their findings have been so positive and important that insurance companies have supported much of that research.

Richard Davidson’s work, more recent, is now studying the effects of Buddhist meditation, not so much on health as on brain functioning.

Bernie will be here for two full weeks. Thank you to all of you for your kind wishes, as well as for the financial gifts that make this therapy possible for him.

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THE WRONG SIDE OF THE LEDGE

From his hospital bed, Grillot said . . . he hoped to get together     with Madasani, “the gentleman I’ve now become best friends with,” and meet his son once he is born.

“After last night, we’re definitely going to be spending a little bit of time together,” he said. “Don’t think it’s going to be at the bar, though. Maybe some grilling in the backyard with a beer or two.”

This morning the papers told the story about how Adam Purinton killed the Indian Srinivas Kuchibhotla in a Kansas bar and wounded Kuchibhotla’s friend, Alok Madasani, yelling at them to go home before he opened fire. Ian Grillot tried to stop the violence and was wounded. Grillot now wants to spend some time together with the surviving Madasani, maybe have a barbecue together.

I thought of that this morning when I looked at the placard that Rami Efal, Executive Director of Zen Peacemakers, had put on the street on top of our driveway. He’d shown it to me yesterday and I loved it, but only this morning, on my way home from a meeting, I saw where he’d placed it. Oh no, I thought. Unbeknownst to him, he’d planted it in our neighbor’s property.

We have a small, pretty stone ledge dividing our property from our neighbor’s on street level, and Rami had planted the placard on the wrong side of the ledge. We know a number of our neighbors and I have a sense they wouldn’t mind such a placard, probably welcome it. But this time I had misgivings. I have very few exchanges with this neighbor. I was once able to render her a big service and other times have said or waved hello, but there is barely an acknowledgment. The one other communication we’ve had was a yell to keep Stanley away from their side of the ledge.

If they didn’t want Stanley, whose biggest wish is to pee on every bush on planet earth, what would they say about this?

I pulled up the sign and planted it on our side of the ledge. It’s crooked because there’s still so much snow and the ground is hard. And I wondered what it said about me, us, that we are so welcoming to refugees and immigrants, and still have so little to do with our own neighbors.

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