“Happy New Year, Aussie. How’re you feeling?”

“I got covid.”

I have covid, Aussie, you don’t. You look just fine.”

“I may as well have covid, for all the walks I go on. This entire week has been one big nightmare. Few walks, few rides, and nobody’s awake in this house.”

“That’s because I infected Lori with covid, too, Auss, so both of us are in our separate rooms taking care of ourselves.”


“Do you have any resolutions for 2023, Aussie?”

“I have a resolution to go for a long walk every day.”

“My resolution is to take care of myself.”

“Enough already with taking care of yourself!”

“Why, Aussie?”

“Because that’s how you know people are old, they always talk about taking care of themselves.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“There are other things to do in this life.”

“Like what, Auss?”

“You could go to outer space in 2023.”

“Why would I want to do that?”

“There, you see? I told you you’re old. Who says no to going to outer space?”

“All the people who can’t afford to pay Jeff Bezos millions of dollars for a ticket, that’s who, Aussie.”

“You can order a trip to outer space on Amazon? YOU’RE NOT SHOPPING FOR IT IN LOCAL STORES?”

“I’m not shopping for a trip to outer space in any store, Aussie. The body goes through a lot of pressure as it leaves the earth and I want to take—”

“—care of myself, I know. Deadliest words I’ve ever heard. The minute you start talking like that, you got one paw in the grave.”

“Aussie, I think you and I mean different things by taking care of myself.”

“I know what you mean: a sensible diet, vitamins and minerals, exercise, and lots of sleep. [Yawn] Wake me up when the year’s over.”

“Actually, Auss, it means different things than that for me. When I take care of myself, I do things a little slower and with more focus. I don’t change what I do—still involved in teaching and working with the Zen Peacemaker Order, working out a bearing witness retreat in Brazil—”

“—Am I going?”

“Still writing, still supporting undocumented families in the area. But I do things differently now. I take more time to do them, so the results of my actions become clearer, both for others and for me. I don’t push myself as much as I used to, don’t get as confused. Things have their place, and I put them in their place. Things have their time, and that’s the time I deal with them.”

“This is the most inspiring thing I’ve ever heard.”

“I try to let the flow carry me, rather than depend again and again on my own arms and legs to do the heavy lifting. I fight less as I encounter resistance; instead, I either find an easy way around the barrier or I let it go. If it’s meant to get done, it’ll get done.”

“This is going to be the most boring year I’ve ever spent with you, not that the others have been scintillating.”

“I don’t argue politics, Aussie.”

“Not even Donald’s return to the White House?”

“Other than to say that I don’t see him back there, no.”

“Then what kind of life are we going to have together? No arguing, no jumping over barriers, no clearing hurdles, no messes in the house. Can I at least kill a squirrel or two? Five chipmunks?”

“Aussie, taking care of myself means having a healthy relationship with everything because it’s all me.”

“I’m also you, so how about my walks?”

“They’ll get longer as I get healthier, Aussie. It’s the dark end of year, just before we ease ourselves into a new beginning. Your walks will come back, your deer chases will come back, especially now that hunting season is finally over. I wish you a happy, invigorated year with lots of play time with Henry at home and with your friends, Evi the Mountain Cur and Percy the Golden, lots of barking at people and animals on the road above the house, lots of snarling at Mackin oil truck and delivery people. In short, a year of adventure, Aussie!”

“And I wish you many hours of sleep at night and not a few during the day, lots of dressing on your spinach and lemon in your tea, lot of brushing of your dentures—”

“I don’t wear dentures, Aussie.”

“Lots of dozing over a book and lots of TV episodes that you’ll watch again and again because you won’t remember what the last episode was about. In sort, I wish you a peaceful, restful, BORING year. Wake me up when it’s over.”

To all of you, too, I wish you a happy new year. May you and the world give and receive the care you need. May you receive the attention—also known as love—that you need. May your heart not hide in shadows but bring light to everyone and everything in the universe.

“Aussie, what do you wish everyone for the New Year?”

“Johnson Family’s Braided Elk Hide Treats, the long ones. All-Natural, Organic Lamb and Vegetable Mix hold the vegetables, and Jazzy Snazzy Wag Tuna Bites, Crunchy. With those goodies you’ll be set up for 2023 (though it’ll be very boring).”

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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.


Aussie refuses to binge-watch

I have discovered the joy of binge-watching.

“Just plop down in front of Netflix, or whatever you have, and stay there,” warned the doctor who saw me on Zoom. “Give your body a complete rest.”

I plopped myself in front of my big TV, which is so old that Hulu recently informed me it can’t supply content to it anymore because the technology is from a different era, and started binge-watching. My first time ever.

I binge-watched The Crown. Why? Because watching The Crown means I don’t have to think or worry, all I do is appreciate the gorgeousness of the production and the fun of seeing actors take on the roles of people you read about in the paper. At this time of covid, when I have no energy or desire for anything but sleep, I sit passively on the black chair with a footrest that leaps up to meet my legs and there I lie, lazy, half-conscious, and very self-indulgent.

I don’t have the energy for meditation or for reading. The world of work seems distant and irrelevant; big questions seem to have receded into the distant mist, leaving me with vaguely admiring how Elizabeth Debicki copies those Princess Diana mannerisms with the lilt of her face and opening wide her eyes. More important, how does she do that thing with her eyelashes, that are ever so black and ever so long?

And who knew about revenge dresses? Did you? Evidently, they refer to very sexy dresses that the Princess started wearing after her separation from Charles. If you’re going to do revenge, I tell myself as I watch her, a revenge dress is the way to go.

A revenge dress is the very opposite of what the sovereign wears, suits and dresses that remind me of what my mother’s friends used to wear, only theirs were polyester with zippers while Elizabeth’s are expensive fabrics with ornaments for buttons, and aways, always, the pearl necklaces. For some reason, the series makes her look terribly dowdy and elderly even when she’s supposedly in her 60s. Or maybe that’s their comment on the monarchy, who knows?

Eye candy, is what it was, and I ate and ate for 10 glorious episodes. I binged!

Aussie looks up at me from the sofa and whines; she’s not used to seeing me watch TV except on weekend nights, and here I am wasting precious sunlight on binge-watching. At this time of winter, you barely need two hands to count the daylight hours.

“I know, I know, you want to go out walking. I can’t, Auss, all I can do is binge.”

“Is that a new dance?”

“No, Aussie, it’s when you do things to excess. There’s binge-watching, binge-eating, binge-reading (all of Dickens’ novels?), binge-chocolating and icecreaming, binge—”

“How about binge-walking?”

“Not this time, pretty girl. It’s got to be something that doesn’t take any effort at all. You know, Aussie, I’m getting a taste for all this indulgence. Not raising a finger. Do you see me throwing toys for Henry?”

“I do not.”

“The only time I get up is to get another dose of Paxlovid, which is supposed to get me on my feet pretty quickly, and right now I’m not sure that’s such a great thing because then how would I binge?”

“You could binge-feed me. I’ll do all the work.”

“Aussie, once I get on my feet the world looks different. Everything becomes more vertical, which for some reason reminds me of all the things I have to do. There are different forms of binging and I’m only a beginner binger, but I believe that true bingeing requires a prone position.”

“What happened to the compulsive worker who’s always busy busy busy?”

“Bingeing makes you very busy, Aussie, you can’t let up. There’s always another episode, and another, and when that’s done there’s another season. I don’t worry about walking you, I don’t worry about filling the birdfeeders outside or Donald Trump or what to teach, all I think about is whether England’s royal family will make it to the next millennium. Between worries I nap. What a life! Who knew?”

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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 have covid.

Probably got it when traveling back home Thursday night, though I wore a mask on the plane. Friday night felt a sore throat coming on, covid test negative on Saturday morning, assumed I had a cold, went out with Aussie and did various jobs, and things went downhill from there. Last night tested again, and this time there was a dark line on the strip.

“It’s too dark,” I tell Lori, my housemate. “It’s supposed to be pink.” What a whizz in denial.

Did another test, same dark line. Looked it up and it said that the darker the line, the more viral you are. By then I was sleeping 15 hours a day. Aussie isn’t talking to me since I haven’t taken her out yesterday or today. Lying on the futon in my office, she looks up at me when I come in, groans, turns around, and goes back to sleep. Which is pretty much what I do.

I have to admit that whenever we’ve counted who’s had covid and who hasn’t, I felt a subtle nuance of self-satisfaction to be a member of the latter group, as if somehow I’d done some extra bit to qualify, which others hadn’t.

No longer. It’s always a good lesson for me to see that, in most things, I’m not so different from anybody else. Genetically we’re so similar, minds acculturated and conditioned similarly. Why, oh why, do I cling to comparisons that emphasize the differences rather than the huge similarities? Why spend so much energy combing my mind for more individual traits, more uniquenesses, in the face of vast reserves of similarity?

The longer I live, the more I’m stunned by patterns of conditioning that still won’t let go. Some say that the Buddha’s realization got rid of all that, that’s why it was so powerful, but as a woman I say: “Oh yeah? Is that why he wouldn’t let women become nuns? And when he finally agreed, within humiliating strictures they had no choice but to accept?”

Most women wouldn’t accept those conditions now, I reflect. But then, I reflect again, what and how much are we ready to sacrifice to go after our heart’s deepest desire?

So here I am, ready to go back to sleep after 10 hours of sleep at night. Lori filled the birdfeeders, she’ll take the dogs out when she comes back from work, may even take up the laundry bin I left at the foot of the stairs because I didn’t have strength to bring it up. I’m no good to anybody, I whimper idiotically.

Then remember Bernie after his stroke, helpless, paralyzed in half his body, unable to do for himself never mind for others. And he seemed to be okay with that. Gave in to it completely.

“How are you?” I’d ask first thing in the morning when he got up, which was never earlier than 10:00.

“Okay,” he’d say.


He’d shrug. Was there a choice? So he plunged into it because that’s what was happening, why do things by half?

I used to wonder what went on inside his head. Did he wish to die? He certainly managed it after three years, and pretty quickly at that. Did that just happen, or was it a fulfillment of some deep, unspoken wish?

You have covid, I tell myself, join the human race. There’s a choicelessness about it that I like. Cancel dental appointment, cancel a talk I was to give by Zoom this evening. Most important, eschew heroism. Don’t push the envelope. Stay inside your (slightly warm) skin.

Oh, this beautiful body! This wonderful, 73-year-old body that is usually so healthy, that holds up through so much. What a marvel you are.

Still, I’m not a happy patient.

“Everything passes,” my sister reminds me on the phone.

“What are you, a Buddhist or something?”

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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 arrived home yesterday from Israel, in the middle of the storm that hit so much of this nation hard. We were lucky here in Massachusetts, lots of rain but almost no snow, some winds but no loss of power.

As the plane landed in Newark Airport a number of people vomited into bags, but I’ve been through worse and the landing itself was as soft as a kiss. Kudos to the pilot! I drove slowly up to Massachusetts, expecting to be lambasted any moment by wind and rain, but it wasn’t like that, at least not till much later in the afternoon. When I got home, I went shopping for food and then, when the sun actually came out, walked the dogs, who were in raptures to see me.

This morning it said 9 degrees Fahrenheit feels like -8, but I dressed warm and went back to our old woods with Aussie (too cold for Henry). The cold was bracing and pleasant at the same time.

We walked in the woods I’d wandered in, above the Montague Farm, since 2002, when we first arrived here. Trees have fallen, paths have changed. The photo above was my iconic photo of the pools we reach, but the icon has changed (who says icons don’t change?). The thin tree limb that used to arch over the pool, giving me a sense of seeing a forest fairy scene like in A Midsummer Night’s Dream onstage, had been cut in the middle. Nothing to aid you in seeing it like a stage set, from now on I have to depend on my original eye to see the beauty.

Three days ago would have been Bernie’s and my wedding anniversary, and I was remembering the first time I saw him. A Zen practitioner and Jungian analyst had brought me up to the Greyston Mansion in Riverdale, New York, owned by the Zen Community of New York. I was curious to see an American Zen master, had only met Japanese teachers at that time, but agreed to go only after my friend promised to bring me back home to Brooklyn afterwards.

We thought we were going to sit with the group, and upon arrival discovered they were having a meeting instead, so we entered the big dining room where they sat around a few tables pushed together. They looked up at us and gestured for us to sit at two seats in the corner of the enclave.

Across from me sat Bernie, or Sensei as he was then called. I know many people who say that the minute they saw their teacher they knew this was it, they didn’t need to look any further, as if some extrasensory communication had taken place. That did not happen to me. My first impression of him was that he was arrogant and unattractive. I frowned at how a different woman sat on either side of him (not one of whom was his wife) and immediately sensed how people kept their eye on him, how cocked their ears were in his direction. I didn’t care much for any of that.

What I did care for were their plans for Yonkers. The Greyston Bakery was in full operation and the community was already cooking for a shelter providing meals to homeless folks on Main Street.  It was 1985 and I wasn’t aware of other Zen groups doing that. But the meals were just the beginning. They were going to build permanent apartments for homeless families, childcare centers, hire more folks from the neighborhood in the bakery, and move to Yonkers. At that time no one spoke of an AIDS center and housing, that was all ahead for us.

I say us because right then and there, I felt I was witnessing something historical taking place, a new turn of the dharma in the West, and wanted to be part of that. I actually felt it that evening, sitting around the rectangular tables pushed together, hearing scenarios that to Sensei seemed as concrete as plans for making dinner but to most others seemed like bedtime fairytales.

My friend, who did indeed bring me back home to Brooklyn, had no interest in that, came back only a few times, and left. I stayed.

It’s funny how at certain times something happens—in a particular year, a particular evening—and all your life has changed. I am so lucky to have made such a dramatic resolution, then decision, then commitment, all arising out of that evening, which wouldn’t have happened had my friend not promised to drive me there and drive me back.

Seated next to me on the plane was a blonde woman in her late 40s, not a wrinkle anywhere on her beautiful face, who lived in Israel and who told me that all her life she’d wanted to live in the US. We talked about that a while, and then started the descent to Newark. The clouds parted and I looked at the dots of light along streets and houses that were still dark, their people still asleep, and wondered at the big and small events in their lives, the big and small decisions they’d made that changed everything.

Merry Christmas everyone. Or happy holidays. What does it matter what we call it, as long as we celebrate this life of infinite flexibility, infinite potential? Thank you for supporting me, supporting this blog. Thank you for supporting the undocumented families and their children that live nearby (91 of whom will enjoy gifts you bought them).

The birdfeeders are full, the birds feeding eagerly in the cold. In my absence Lori bought feeders more resistant to squirrels in place of my old ones. Birdseed has doubled in price this past year and she was concerned the squirrels were getting most of it. I’m grateful to this wonderful woman for taking such good care of the dogs, the home, the birds, enabling me to continue to travel and work out the threads of karma that began that evening in Riverdale almost 40 years ago.

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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.


Tomorrow night my sister will take me to the Tel-Aviv airport and, hopefully, I will board a flight that arrives in Newark, NJ, at 4:20 the following morning. I say hopefully because there are various warnings of weather-related delays and cancellations all around the US. I wish for all those traveling during this holiday minimal hassle and major ease as they gather with family and friends.

As I near this trip’s end, what stays in my mind? Believe it or not, it’s the scene from Newark Airport when I left 10 days ago. I often use the airport’s Terminal C, from which United Airlines flights take off. It doesn’t easily accommodate the enormous crowds that flood its corridors and  concourses, and don’t even ask me about the wait in the women’s bathrooms and inadequate seating areas by the gates.

The crowds were there that Saturday, rushing and jostling, and I found myself reaching for my mask. People hurried with their carry-ons in all directions, not looking right or left, staring relentlessly towards their destinations, as if in this vast international confluence of travelers all they could do was stay in their respective personal tunnels. Or else they contemplated the phones in their hands, which made the tunnel into a box, bumping into others or turning right onto others’ paths without apology, oblivious.

I walked back and forth, assisting a woman flying to Puerto Rico shepherding a young man with Downs Syndrome in a wheelchair along with big carry-ons and bags. She told me that someone had dropped the man as a boy at her home and was supposed to pick him up that evening, and never came to get him, so the boy grew into a young man who’s been living with her all these years.

Terminal C wasn’t the place to get the full story, I simply took her bags while she pushed the wheelchair to her gate, bid her goodbye, and rejoined the whitewater of people streaming in all directions.

Suddenly I heard piano music. Chopin, unmistakably. I searched and saw a black, grand piano smack in the middle of the wide concourse. A young Japanese man, seated on the piano bench, was playing the famous Nocturne in E-flat major. I stopped to watch and listen. No one else did except for a man in an orange jacket on the other side, sipping from a cup.

The pianist finished the Nocturne, making full use of all the grace notes and other embellishments Chopin added to the melody, like twinkling Christmas ornaments, and went straight into a Chopin waltz. No one seemed to pay any attention to him or the music as they rushed here and there, to and from their gates.

Finally, I tore myself away and walked, slower than before, towards my gate in another concourse. The music got softer and softer, finally fading completely, but the exquisite feeling of finding an unexpected treasure remained. Briefly, I thought of the time when I played those compositions many years ago; also remembered seeing Artur Rubenstein play Chopin, one of his last concerts.

I thought of how there’s treasure everywhere around me, if I only pay attention: my brother-in-law’s hand-baked cookies, which he gave me for my morning coffee, a cyclamen plant on the dining table four feet away from a yellow painting of flowers in a vase by my niece. It’s so easy to just rush forward towards goals and destinations without pause.

Someone emailed me after my last blog about how I and two siblings met for “family consultations” in the Sinai, talking about the ingredients of our lives. “The three of you together help each other improve,” she lauded.

That wasn’t it at all. Our talking and sharing questions on a deep level had nothing to do with self-improvement. Yes, there are always things to pay attention to, edges we’re still clumsily negotiating, but all is contained inside a framework of wellbeing, of taking joy in ourselves, of appreciating that we don’t duplicate each other but are all the stronger due to our differences.

My brother likes to organize things, look up airfare and schedules, what’s needed at border crossings, etc. When he gets pushy, he gets a bit of blowback from his two older sisters, but also appreciative laughter at how well he arranged the trip. I’m fast and purposeful, keen on making use of every moment, and they shake their heads and laugh at that, too. My sister slows us down, insisting on R&R, and we have learned to take that to heart. Together, we make a fine team.

As the years and trips pass by, I sink deeper and deeper into the self. I hope I have the time and health to continue creating and doing, but always remember to pause for the treasure, musical and otherwise, that’s there in every aspect of the self.

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We went down to the Mosaique Hotel on the eastern shore of the Sinai Peninsula for three days, checking into two rooms (my sister and I shared a room) on an all-inclusive basis.

All-inclusive, as the hotel staff explained, included three big meals a day buffet-style—lots of eggs, cheeses, and beans for breakfast, lots of meat, chicken and fish for lunch and dinner, lots of Middle Eastern desserts all day—snacks and drinks mid-day (alcohol and ice cream were extra), access to the biggest pools I’ve ever seen (fresh water and seawater, including a heated pool), work-out and games stations, evening performances, daytime classes, and of course the beach with its coral and beautiful fish. Meals were sumptuous, service was quick, the coffee being the only major disappointment.

All-inclusive meant many things. As I wrote earlier, the Sinai is the bridge between Asia and Africa. The hotel is managed and staffed by Egyptians whose families are back in Cairo and Alexandria and who see their families every 4 months or so. The guests included not just Egyptians but also lots of Russians, some Poles, a few from Western Europe, and some Israelis. The hotel was expecting 150 Israeli families to fly in today, the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Chanukah, and the Egyptian director of the restaurant walked around trying out his Hebrew, wishing us LeTe’avon, Bon Appetit.

Who remember the wars Israel and Egypt fought not too long ago?

My brother walked confidently among this crowd, the only man wearing a yarmulke, till we heard Sabbath singing on Friday evening and espied a group of young men, all in white shirts and black yarmulkes, at a corner table. I went over there and wished them a good Sabbath; they immediately asked me who I was, and did I have a man or more men with me because they needed a minyan, a quorum of 10 men, for Sabbath services.

I used to be self-conscious about being the only identifiable Jews in such a setting, but no longer. I enjoy the different clothing and languages, get a big kick out of religious displays of all kinds, including the numerous Christmas wreaths and the Santa in a big sleigh pulled by lit-up reindeer in the vast lobby. I had a brief massage and treatment at a Turkish hammam, lying stark naked on a marble slab and drenched first with hot, soapy water, and then scrubbed with white loofah particles before being washed down again.

I love all-inclusive.

Here and there I shared with people that we were two sisters and a brother, and they nodded appreciatively. I didn’t bother explaining how many twists and turns it had taken us, over three different, separate lives to get to the point where we not only enjoyed swimming, walking, and eating together, but also what I called our family consultations, sitting round the table overlooking the pools and sea and talking about our lives.

My brother is the only one of the three of us who continued the family’s orthodox Jewish life, and watching him over the decades, I appreciate so much how many strictures and stigmas he had to release in order to meet us as he has, equals in our practice of an enlightened life. He might call it a search for God. His recent Hebrew book on changing Judaism from a religion of survival to one of growth and even flourishing is an enormous change from how he was brought up in our family.

My sister’s training was more psychological, a search for being real rather than being mired in various forms of denial, including abstractions and, even worse, idealizations. I think of her facing both of us as we sat at the round table overlooking the water and asking pointed questions that often started with the words: I still don’t understand what you mean by—. The language we used had to be parsed for clarity and concreteness, causing us to choose the simplest words possible.

Finally there was me, the oldest, the one who lives far, who broke with her family long ago but who always wished to stay close in some way, who practices Zen Buddhism with full recognition of her Jewish roots, who wished for her siblings to come back to the US and who considered going to Israel, only to face the fact that all-inclusive doesn’t always mean being together day after day, or even being geographically close. It might mean living your life where it’s been planted, accepting distance but not alienation.

We talked about our family. We wondered what aspect of our parents we see in each other and what my brother and sister see of themselves in their children. We told each other what we see as our individual strengths and areas where we need to practice harder. We needed a lot of trust to have these talks.

For years there had been a history of not speaking to each other, or when speaking, not speaking truth. For years efforts at coming together were aborted by someone walking out, leaving the others angry and hurt. Our early family life had torn us asunder; it took time before we realized it would be our job to overcome those experiences and come together. And we did it. We are doing it

 I appreciate that not all siblings feel the need to do this work. We faced many obstacles, and it was those very obstacles that made it important for us to do this work, not to fragment into infrequent checking-in and polite small talk, but to create authentic, deep bonds across religious traditions, interests, and even oceans.

At the end, we promised each other to do such a three-day weekend, just the three siblings, annually for as long as we can. Only next year we’ll have to do this without the World Cup. My brother figured out that the reason our flights were so cheap ($100 both ways from Tel-Aviv to Eilat) was because our return took place during the Cup final, but that didn’t prevent him and everyone else in the airport and train to Jerusalem from watching it on their phone. We had the sense we were part of the whole world watching one of the greatest soccer games ever.

“Everybody wanted Messi to win,” said my brother. “Maybe they didn’t all back Argentina, but they backed Messi.” All-inclusive meant so many things.

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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.

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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 arrived in Tel-Aviv a few days ago, was picked up by my sister, and we drove up to her home in Jerusalem.

No one said: “Should we call mom?” No hurrying to her apartment to say hi, no creating a schedule for more visits. The lapses point squarely to her absence, thus making her very present.

Instead, we sat and watched Argentina beat the daylights out of Croatia in the semi-finals of the World Cup. I can’t stream the games back home, but I love watching them here. Soccer played on this level is riveting. I can’t believe Lionel Messi’s ball control, the speed of the players and the precision of their kicks and passes. Half their movements are up in the air, not on the ground, and they seem to have 360-degree eyesight.

Four years ago, the surprising Croatians made it to the Finals. My mother had the games on in her home and I’d get right into bed next to her and watch the games with her. This year the three of us sat around the small TV and watched as Croatia, a land of some 4 million residents, along with Morocco beat one soccer giant after another. I’m not a partisan fan, which lets me cheer for the underdog every time. By underdog I mean almost any country that’s not West European, including this year teams that represent Arab or Muslim countries.

After watching the Moroccans lose to the French, we went to the Sinai Peninsula for solace. My brother, sister, and I flew from Tel-Aviv to Eilat in the south, took a bus to the border with Egypt, went through Israeli and Egyptian border controls, and then took a taxi to a hotel with the Sinai mountains in back and the Red Sea in front.

Hotels in the Sinai, under Egyptian ownership, are way cheaper than their Israeli counterparts in Eilat or the Dead Sea. At night I can see lights from Neom, Saudi Arabia’s new city-in-construction and future big tourist attraction, across the Red Sea. We’re here for three days.

“Is Sinai in Asia or Africa?” my brother asks. We all know that Israel is considered part of Asia and Egypt part of Africa, but what about the peninsula that connects them?

I look up Wiki and Britannica, and they agree that geographically, Sinai is part of Asia. Politically, however, the Egyptian government likes to say it’s part of Africa.

I can’t get my head around the fact that here I am, in an area that connects the two continents. Was it really here that God gave the Torah to the Israelites? Did it happen in Saudi Arabia instead, as many archeologists believe? I prefer to trust the evidence under my feet, to walk the desert, make my way around the mountains and Bedouin encampments. The earth will give me an answer.

But not now. We’re in a hotel to rest and relax, eat, take photos, read, and mostly talk. Share our lives. Compare stories. Laugh. Sleep. The sun is warm, permitting shorts and T-shirts, but sets early. We walk at twilight, the mountains getting purple, then black, stars twinkling everywhere.

I am happy to have my siblings with me. It took us many years, but finally we learned to listen to one another, respect, forgive, and love one another. We’ve grown older—73, 68, 62—and all the closeness we didn’t have as children and adults we have now, along with deep reserves of trust, tenderness, and resilience. We worked hard on this, it didn’t come easy, but it paid off. When I think of companionship in vacation, it doesn’t get better than this.

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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.

Make a Donation to My Blog Donate To Immigrant Families

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


I am often struck by how much I have in comparison to others.

When I told friends I was flying to Switzerland for 2 days and then to Israel for 9 to see my family, some listened quietly and wished me a good trip. I know they have little money and can only wonder what flying is like, what Switzerland and Israel are like, the latter’s beaches, the holy city of Jerusalem, the Galilee up north, the hot desert down south or the Dead Sea.

I have a home while many others don’t, or else, like the immigrant families I work with, must squeeze tight with other families to save on rent. I have worked at things I love for many years while others labored at unimaginative tasks. I have a car, a computer and phone (old, I admit). I provide for my dog, Aussie (not so old).

The old Buddhist monks lived as simply as the poorest families they met and that’s my tradition, but I am a lay person with a home, an office surrounded by birdfeeders, and a wooden Kwan-yin who seems to take care of all creatures, only more of some than others. Fully live your life, She says, don’t apply standards such as rich or poor. Nevertheless, I’ve always felt restless about having the lifestyle I have, as if I’m inhabiting a planet different from the one I should be inhabiting.

I recently spent two days in Bern, Switzerland, with my friends, Barbara and Roland Wegmueller. As I wrote earlier, other friends joined us and we were immensely happy to see each other, exchange gifts and stories of our lives. I’m sure that the reason I’m not pessimistic or depressed about this world is that I am close to changemakers, the best people you can find, who’ve taken vows to help others in the spirit of the One Body, one family, that you are me and I am you. We talked a great deal about the Zen Peacemaker Order and how to better support its members who all do this work.

During this visit I thought a lot about my hosts, Barbara and Roland, and how they have shared their home with so many people over the years. For me, they are exemplars of how to make good use of our relative abundance to serve others.

For years they hosted circles of activists in their home. As Syrian refugees began flooding Switzerland, they started hosting them, too. I still remember being in their house when one of their sons came home.

“Jonathan, next week a Syrian family is coming to stay here. We may need your room.”

Jonathan didn’t bat an eye. “For how long?”

Barbara shrugged. “Until they get housing from the government.”

Jonathan also shrugged and went upstairs. He’d heard it all before.

“My children would tell their friends that we were crazy,” she told me, “that we were not like other parents. Their friends agreed, but they always loved to come here.”

They came to the Wegmuellers’ home because here they found not just hospitality but also love. Not just food but also love. Not just parental acknowledgment but also love.

“My children always befriended the kids who were lonely in school, who no one wanted to talk to because they were different,” she told me. There was always plenty of home-cooked food and drink, a room for someone to stay in if there was trouble back home. In addition, there was a meditation room where everyone—Christians, Buddhists, Muslims—came for peace and silence.

I know just a little about their work, but over the years I had glimpses: Bringing into their home refugee women with Swiss women to see how one could support the other, the former showing the latter how to cook Middle Eastern food, the latter providing opportunities for the former to study Swiss German; the joint celebration of different holidays; helping refugees and their children to find work; Interceding on their behalf with government agencies to make sure they get benefits. Fostering children and adopting entire families to help them adjust to a new culture and language.

Whenever I visit Barbara and Roland I hear of a new project they’re involved in—connections with Guerilla Yoga to raise money for some good work; sponsorship of a film documenting the identification of casualties of the war in Bosnia out of bone fragments (the film-maker lived in their home for a long time); an art show exhibiting and selling beautifully sewn fabrics made by a group of women in Afghanistan hoping to make money for their families out of their sewing; a social worker in Rwanda whom they met at our bearing witness retreat there many years ago and whose work they still support a long time later, and on and on.

They have shown me how one can work out of abundance, not poverty of mind. Yes, they have their home, but it has steadily grown because they’re ready to bring the entire world inside. Rather than waste time worrying about why they have more than others, they seem to have stretched every Swiss Franc they have to reach as many needs as possible, accompanied by happiness and laughter, grandchildren, dogs and turtles, sharing joy and humor, the immense generosity they personify.

In that spirit I’d like to once again ask you to buy a Christmas gift for an immigrant child. You can find the Amazon list here. I heard from two people that this time our list contains some expensive gifts, over $25, which we didn’t post before. I can evoke inflation, but I take the caution to heart and will make sure this doesn’t happen next time.

At the same time, children asked for presents their parents can’t afford to give, so if you can respond, that would be great. If not, that’s fine, too. If some are left unpurchased in the end, I will look to possibly cover them from the account I have for immigrant families. Whatever you choose to do, please do out of a sense of abundance, freedom, and joy.

Thank you. You can find that list here.

                     Donate 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.


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.


snow in Switzerland

I’m in Bern, Switzerland, and will leave tomorrow for Israel.

I’ve wanted to go to Bern since my dear friend, Roland Wegmueller, had a big tumor removed almost a year ago. I thought then that I’d do it on my way to Israel, only the next time I flew east it was to attend my mother’s last days and death. So here I am now. Snow is on the ground and it’s very cold outside.

Yesterday, my dear friends Koho Mello and his wife, Marge Daien Oppliger, and Franziska Schneider, two of whom I work alongside, also came from Zurich and St. Gallen, respectively, and I am so grateful for their efforts. The Wegmueller home, comprising Roland and Barbara, and over the years their children and Barbara’s mother (and Jacino, her dog), seems to have become the Zen Peacemakers’ European 5-star hotel. The beds are firm and the food delicious, but nothing beats the conversation.

It’s hard to maintain international friendships and relations with family, but I can tell you from experience, it can be done. There’s no point in comparing it to what it is to live in the town or even an hour away, but for many years I was able to visit my family in Israel twice a year. When I did work with Israelis and Palestinians I saw them more often, though for shorter times. Before that, especially when I lived in community at ZCNY, I only visited once a year because I didn’t have money and often my parents paid my way.

The closeness is renewed again and again, the laughter and the intimacy, the shared memories and experiences, the language that is ours and ours alone. It’s a delight every time.

Many of us have rough times with our families as we grow up and no one, including me, can say what’s the right behavior.  But in a talk I gave during our last retreat, I talked about cliches. Too many of us live our lives as if they’re cliches. A bird is a bird is a bird, a rock is a rock is a rock, and, of course, there’s Ronald Reagan’s “If you see a tree you’ve seen them all.” I used to laugh and shake my head at that till I realized that, day after day, I don’t gasp with wonder at the miracles called trees; they surround my home, I see them every time I walk around, look out the window, and don’t look twice. Why? Because they’ve become cliches.

So do the people around us and the people we once lived with. My father is a father is a father, my mother is a mother is a mother, Bernie is Bernie is Bernie, you’re sure you know them, and they often degenerate into abstract symbols: of abuse, ignorance, bad parenting, whatever. They become cliches.

You know when they’re not cliches? When they die. When they die, especially suddenly as Bernie did, you remember every little thing: the precise moment when he’d go to his bathroom to take his morning baths and put the tub water on, how he sat on the deck in back with his computer on the table and a cigar in his hand, often holding a phone in his other hand. How his hand looked with the wedding ring on it, the moles on his back, every single Hawaiian shirt he wore, every single pair of suspenders, how he’d look up from making coffee at the coffee machine. I remember his smell most of all, it’s as vivid in my nostrils as if he’s still here, lying next to me.

I thought of him while helping Barbara in her kitchen this morning. She remembered, too, how he liked to sit in the back, how relaxed he was, how he loved to carry on with people and share some new ideas as he waved the eternal cigar back and forth, smoke signals rising in the Swiss air.

He died and stopped being a cliché.

For others, especially as the years go by, he may well become a symbol of the confluence of Zen and taking action in the world, but I fight against that privately. I hold on to the details of the man as long as I can, as closely as I can, like long-held secrets. In the details, I feel, he’s mine, all mine.

                         Donate 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.


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.


“Henry, you’re not going out with just a collar, you have to wear the long orange hunting vest that covers your entire body.”

“Not on your life.”

“What about the smaller red vest that hunters could still see when we walk in the woods?”

“I look stupid in that.”

“The black winter coat with the flashy orange flap on top?”

“Don’t even think about it.”

“What is this, the dressing room for Ralph Lauren canine outdoors wear? When have you gotten so finicky about clothes, Henry?”

“I hate accoutrements.”

“Well, guess what, Henry? It’s hunting season, there are hunters out there, and though you’re little, you’re precisely the color of deer and I’m not taking any chances. Just look at Aussie with her neon vest. It doesn’t bother her.”

“She looks like the Green Lantern.”

“The point is, Henry, the vest or jacket has to stand out so that you could be safe. It has to be seen!”

“I don’t want to stand out. I don’t want to be seen. I want to be a plain dog.”

Oh, to be plain.

Thank you for your generosity in response to my request for support 6 days ago, on my birthday. I got some very moving and appreciative messages, too, for which I’m very grateful.

And still, at times I feel silly. I want to say: Hey, you guys and gals, I’m just a plain person, like everybody. Like Henry is a plain dog.

Aussie: “I’m not plain.”

Everybody is a plain person and I’m no different, so I ask myself: Why are you writing? Yours is such a plain and simple life, what’s interesting about it? Nothing fancy, nothing special. Is it pretentious to write about these things?

The French philosopher and essaying, Montaigne, wrote: “Tis a rugged road, more so than it seems, to follow a pace so rambling and uncertain, as that of the soul; to penetrate the dark profundities of its intricate internal windings; to choose and lay hold of so many little nimble motions.”

I agree with him, though his words sound pretentious to me (he’s French so he’s forgiven). Instead, I remember the words of the Dutch artist Maurits Escher, who said: “What enthralls me and what I experience as beauty is often judged to be dull and dry by others.”

Last night I was bummed out by hearing news of a serious illness afflicting a dear friend. What did I do? The most mechanical thing in the world: I input some 89 Christmas gift wishes into an Amazon gift list, all for children of the local immigrant community (mostly undocumented). I did it to distract myself while still making good use of the evening. Only it didn’t turn out mechanical at all, it unfurled a new language for me, which I slowly and purposely pronounced:

Bubble Machine Blower Blaster Lawn Mower (try to say that quickly)

Baby Alive Magical Mixer Baby Doll, Strawberry Shake with Toy Blender, Blonde Hair (they have dolls of different skin and hair colors)

Wall Climbing Remote Control Car-Normal (What’s normal about a wall climbing car?)

Original Stationery Unicorn Slime Kit Supplies Stuff for Girls Making Slime

Glam U-nique Metallic Nail Salon with 200 icons and designs, etc., etc.

Yes, it’s the time of year when we’re invited to bone up on the new language of children’s games and toys, which now include drones and wireless charging stations, but also eternal favorites like dinosaurs and unrelenting Disney dolls, e.g., Frozen Elsa Singing Doll Singing Show Yourself (we need two of those).

It’s our annual Christmas gift list for children whose parent or parents work hard in the warm months in farms and now, in the frozen winter, in whatever jobs they can get, be it restaurant or office cleaning, dishwashing, meal deliveries, etc. Or sometimes they can’t get other jobs and certainly can’t afford gifts for their children. You can find this list here.

Hit the link and it’ll take you to a list of gifts in the range of $18 to $38, most in the $25-$30 range. Please buy whatever you can. They will go to Jimena Pareja, who then sits with her family, identifies which gift goes to whom, wraps them up in gift wrapping and brings them to the children.

It’s our third year of doing this, and I for one would love to do more. I already bought the most expensive gift of the lot myself and it’s already on its way to Jimena, this from the training I got from Bernie: Whenever you ask other people for money or gifts for a cause, be the first one to donate.   

Keeping my sick friend in mind, I remember how lucky I am, how I have the best life of anyone I know even when I’m not conscious of it, and how I love more and more to build a bridge between others and myself in whatever ways it takes: talking, sharing, laughing, telling stories, and buying Christmas gifts.

Please, if you can, become a bridge yourself in whatever way suits you. If one of those is buying children holiday gifts, do so using this link.

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.