BRIMMING WITH DISTRACTIONS

“Here we are, Aussie, at Leeann’s. Isn’t it great to come here after she took an entire week off?”

“What kind of vacation is taking a week off from me? I almost died from grief. Look at how passionately I’m wagging my tail. Let me out!”

“First, it’s Bruno’s turn, they got here before us. Just look at him, Auss. His human opened the door and Bruno rushed all the way to Leeann in the enclosure out back in ten seconds flat! just look at that dog run!”

“Oh, Phooey Bruno. I can outrun him anytime. Okay, my turn, my turn!”

“I’m opening the door, Aussie. Ready? Go!”

Two beats.

“Aussie, what happened? You took two steps and came to a screeching stop under the beebalm.”

“Can’t you see I’m busy sniffing? My heartthrob, Cecilia, is here. Her pee always smells of chicken liver, lucky poodle.”

“I didn’t know you like females, Auss.”

“Only in summer.”

“Okay, but Leeann is waiting for you, Aussie, so hurry up.” Three beats. “Now what? Where are you running off to?”

“Wild turkeys! Give me a moment to check out if there’s a nest nearby.”

“Come back here!”

“You’re no fun.”

“At least I’m focused, Auss. When there’s something I got to do, I do it, I don’t mess around like you.”

“Messing around is the fun part of doing anything. Running straight to Leeann is like doing an Alpo commercial—boring! And look here.”

“Now what? They’re still waiting for you while—”

“If you paused for distractions, you’d know right away that a coyote came by here, probably trying to get one of Leeann’s chickens.”

“Did it get anything?”

“No smell of blood anywhere. Too bad.”

“Not everybody is a serial killer like you, Aussie. You know what else you’re not? You’re not a Zen dog.”

“Of course, I’m a Zen dog!”

“You’re too distracted, Aussie. A Zen dog is like Bruno, focused on where he’s got to go, brimming with concentration.”

“I’m brimming with distraction. You know why? Because life is distractions! Life is having a destination or a plan—”

“Like running over to Leeann!”

“—and then leaving it for the first smell that comes your way. Just have a sniff of Cecilia’s pee—have you ever smelled anything so exquisite in your life?”

BAM!

“Aussie, what did you pounce on?”

“A rabbit. This is rabbit-killing season, I wait for it all year round. This one I didn’t get.”

“Aussie, how do you ever get anything done giving in to all these distractions?”

“You know what I think? Distractions got a bad rap among you Zenoids. I don’t care how focused you are, if you can’t let yourself get distracted it’s not much of a life!”

“But how do you get anything done, Aussie?”

“I don’t, that’s the beauty of it. It’s summer, the grass calls, the trees, the rabbits, the groundhog I killed yesterday, the fox’s den right outside the backyard fence—and the pond! What’s better than cooling off in a pond?”

“Not much of a purpose-driven life, Auss.”

“Purpose-driven life, phooey. You’re not that important. It’s time to get distracted, Boss!”

“What about when I feed you, Aussie? A tree falls in the back, there’s a bear at the hummingbird feeder, and Henry’s pee smells of roast beef. Can I get distracted then?”

“Okay, I’m getting to Leeann. Just don’t rush me!”

                  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.

RADIANCE

I think it’s Muriel Rukeyser who wrote: “It is always the poet’s task to defend the relevance of radiance, whatever its shape and subject.”

I’ve wanted to be a poet for this very reason. Writing and reading good prose are both rare privileges; telling stories is as basic to human beings as making a fire or pointing up at the stars at night and wondering about the gods.

But radiance is always and everywhere here, even when we humans don’t see it. True, when the sun sets and the light bursts between the trees that guard our rotting gazebo, it’s easy to recognize it. Even now, on a hot summer day, the afternoon sun warms up not just the leaves but also the laundry hanging on lines outside, and you can’t mistake the golden light. The entire air turns radiant.

But it’s the poets who see radiance in the nighttime, even without starlight. Or in the way a small Chihuahua, lips parted, happily takes in the smell of last night’s rain on a wet meadow.

Yesterday was hot and humid, and as I walked home with Aussie it looked like the rest of the world was taking a nap. Things were flat and quiescent. I saw some movement up ahead and wondered if it was another small critter. I worry now because Aussie has become a mass murderer of groundhogs, bunnies, squirrels, and chipmunks. Lori points out that there are lots of young ones out there just learning to find their way, not as vigilant as they should be, perfect targets for the serial killer I harbor at home.

But there was no critter there, just a stem of moss dancing in air that was completely still. Upright, it waved wildly, then collapsed prostrate on the ground, then suddenly flew up in martial attention, circled the air, shook violently, fell down on the ground, and started the cycle all over again.

Why’s it doing that, I wondered. There wasn’t a breath of air, not a hint of breeze, no movement at all other than the human and dog walking slowly home, the dog panting in the heat. The rest of the moss was as sleepy as the landscape, not a move, except for this stem that kept on dancing in the air.

I looked at it and asked: “What’s up, moss? Why are you dancing?” It gave me no answer—or rather, the dance was the answer.

I’m very linear in my thinking: This causes this, which causes this, which causes this. It’s a bad habit, my way of bringing this mysterious, radiant universe down to my size (or the size of my pea-sized brain) and concluding that I figured it all out. This entire world, our whole life, is one big Zen koan, and even though I know that God help the Zen student who, presenting a koan, says that she or he is trying to figure it out—that’s what I still do. I still try to work things out, come up with some formulas and reasons, anything to make things coherent and understandable.

It’s an ego trip. Perfectly understandable given that I dislike unpleasant surprises and unlooked-for events as much as anybody, but still an ego trip.

It reminds me of how the two dogs play. I walk in the woods and turn around to see Henry doing his stalking bit, belly and head on the ground, hind legs and tail up, following Aussie, coming up behind him, avidly with his eyes. Aussie ignores him and smells the flowers. Henry gives a little growl, begging for notice. Aussie ignores him. Finally, he runs over to her, jumps up with another growl, and gives her back leg a friendly bite. She scampers past me, ignoring him the entire time, but Henry runs over to me, a triumphant look on his face: Did you see how I showed her! Did you see how I showed her!

Like many people, I’m avidly looking at the first photos sent us by the James Webb Telescope. Hollywood’s best special effects department couldn’t come up with the pictures we’re getting. But beauty, awe, and radiance aren’t just to be found out there, they’re in a little stem of moss that flutters and shudders with no apparent cause, and even in a white mailbox that, to human eyes, is empty but whose emptiness still holds the nest of young phoebe fledglings that were hatched, fed, kept warm there, and are now gone. Maybe not so gone.

                     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.

PAYING ATTENTION TO WHAT I PAY ATTENTION TO

Photo by Peter Cunningham

Some 5 days ago I presented a short excerpt from a dialogue in a neighborhood e-list about our local Greenfield theater showing a movie claiming fraud in the 2020 elections. It elicited at least 250 back-and-forths, about 100 times the average, and included indignation, anger, threats of boycott, ideological lobs out of left and right fields (someone demanded to know what the US is doing in North Korea), etc. It also elicited moderate and reasonable responses from both ends of the political spectrum, but I found myself shaking my head and almost quit the site right there.

Yesterday I received an email from a reader in Germany who responded somewhat gloomily to this post, and ended the email by writing: “Let’s enjoy the world before it’s getting worse.”

As I often remind people, each of us is responsible for his/her state of mind. Mine doesn’t depend on life out there, on newspaper headlines or the TV, it depends on me. There are ups and downs, and being human, I’m glad and lighthearted when life goes up and grim or heavy when it goes down, but I take very seriously the practice of keeping a clear mind and an open heart regardless of what happens.

The way I do that is paying attention to what I pay attention to. Comes the morning, after meditation, feeding Aussie, and lighting incense at the feet of Kwan-yin outside, I look at the news. In fact, I do that several times a day, absorbing information about the world, but only at prescribed times. I’m very aware of the impact made by dramatic and threatening headlines even the best newspapers now carry. I use the New York Review of Books to get longer, more in-depth analyses of international stories but won’t read their articles on our own politics anymore; I need more variety than what they give.

I write this to show that I don’t hide my brain under the blanket, I search out information about what happens in the world. But I’m also careful how much attention I give it, and how much attention I give other things.

Last Friday, Peter Cunningham and I went to the funeral service for the brother of a dear friend. It took place at Camphill Village in Copaque, in New York’s Hudson Valley. My friend’s brother had lived in Camphill Village for over 40 years since he’d been born with Down Syndrome almost 60 years ago.

There was no guard at the entrance to the Village, covering some 615 acres of farmland. The grounds were clean and green, grass sparkling under the sun. We met at the Village’s bakery and cafe, and proceeded from there to the chapel.

I believe there are some 20 Village homes, each housing 5-7 “villagers.” Villagers are adults with Down Syndrome or other disabilities. In Camphill they’re seen as partners in a multi-ethnic, diverse community, living alongside able couples with children, volunteers, students, and interns, many of whom come from Europe.

Camphill was founded some 80 years ago by the Austrian Karl Konig. A refugee from Austria after the Nazis entered Austria and deeply influenced by Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy, Konig started the Camphill Movement of Villages as a way of not hiding and separating people with developmental disabilities from the rest of the world, but rather as a place honoring each one’s uniqueness and essential wholeness as an individual, as a human. People with a varied level of abilities live together, work in organic gardens and with domestic animals, cook and bake, eat together, and create music and art together. Everyone is encouraged to fulfill their potential every single day.

The chapel filled up with hundreds of people, some in wheelchairs helped along the rows by one or two assistants. A small choir sang beautifully. When the minister began describing the life of the man who was now gone, the crying and weeping began.

This wasn’t the dignified, silent tears we shed in most of our controlled, careful gatherings, the ones we call grown-up, this was wailing from the marrow, mourning the empty space once inhabited by a very special human being who was no longer here, sobbing openly because he was already missed and would never be coming back. They held hands and cried on each other’s shoulders, weeping in the face of death and love all at the same time.

When the service was done, the coffin was taken upstairs and put in back of a station wagon, and everyone followed and formed a circle. They contemplated the departing body and sang goodbye to it, and as the car slowly pulled away, they shouted out goodbye and how much they love him.

After that, strangers came to me to tell me how much they will miss their friend and full of questions: How well did I know him? How far back? What stories did I have to tell? With no hesitation they fell into my arms, weeping. There we were, hugging closely inside a raw and sacred space of love that can exist even between two people who’ve never met before. Everything was possible in that space—friendship, forgiveness, vulnerability, loss, love. Soon I realized I didn’t need to comfort anyone; they were comforting me.

We drove home a little stunned, I think. It was hard to talk about what we’d experienced, only in the deepest part of me, I knew all was well.

The very next day, walking the dogs on our Montague Plains, I ran into a woman and made my usual loud announcement that Henry and Aussie were friendly. She assured me she had a dog back home. She left him at home because he’s still too scared to leave the house. He’d been rescued from an Oklahoma house where he’d been caged up for 3 years, never once going out. Other animals, too, had been caged there. She adopted him and brought him here. Now, six months later, he’s gotten mellower and less fearful, and still won’t leave the house.

She’s not giving up. I gave her the contact information for Leeann Warner, Aussies favorite human in the whole wide world and a superb dog trainer. It was clear that this woman, who didn’t have many resources, was going to do everything in her power to heal him.

“It’s the black-and-white colors,” she said, shaking her head with a smile. “He’s just the cutest thing.”

After we parted, I reflected on how many rescue dogs receive such good care. At times they come to us scared and shivering, or else aggressive and unpredictable, and we get help to take care of them, giving them the patience and love they need to heal. I wish we could do that to humans, too, instead of sending them to prison.

These are the events I pay much more attention to than newspaper headlines. It’s how I keep my heart open. And if you think they’re small, think again. Generous acts and ways of life resonate on levels we can’t fathom, firing off reciprocal actions and transformations across many dimensions. Just because they’re less visible doesn’t mean they’re less potent.

And just in case you still don’t know what to pay attention to, how about this: Jimena had reserved 9 spots in Camp Keewanee for children from immigrant families, where they could go for 3 weeks while their parents worked in the farms. When I met and talked to her last week, she had no money for any. Tomorrow, I’ll give her $4,725 for 9 children to go swimming every day, play group games, sing and color, and do all the silly, wonderful things children love to do in summer. The money for that came from you. Pay attention to that and see what happens to your heart then.

                      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.

WHAT WAS THAT?

Yesterday marked two months since my mother died; today would have been her 94th birthday. I don’t feel that I’m in big mourning for her, but today my body feels heavy and tired, pulled down to earth. Soon I’ll leave for a funeral service for the brother of someone I love very much, Roshi Michel Engu Dobbs. It’s a bit of driving, but I’ll be joined by another dear friend, the photographer Peter Cunningham. We’ll meet somewhere in Holyoke and proceed in one car from there.

My father had a clear mind till he died, but he often would look back on his life with a puzzled expression on his face, as if saying: What was that? I think he spent substantial time with memories going back to childhood days, growing up in a small village on the northern border of Rumania in the years before World War II: his friends, his strict Rabbi father who wouldn’t let him play soccer, his brother, the mother who preferred his brother, his school days, etc.

He had 90 rich years of life: two wives, three children, three different countries where he lived, and work that he loved. When he died many people crowded into his home to tell his family how much he meant to them.

But with all this, whenever he thought of the past—which he confessed to doing often—a look of puzzlement would cross his face, almost as though he was contemplating his face in a mirror and couldn’t recognize it as his own. What was that? It’s as if he wanted to find a final coherent meaning to it all, and failed.

I don’t often go to that distant land called my past. At times I reflect on certain events and relationships, I think about what I learned and what it took for me to finally learn what I learned. I had to learn how to learn.

At the same time, the present is what counts for me, always the same question: What is the call? What is it now?

I find myself wondering if there’s still a big move ahead. Of course, I won’t live in this house forever. One day I’ll go back to emptying it out, converting it back into the shell Bernie and I found when we first moved in here, make it an empty space that others can inhabit and populate with furniture and things that will make the house their own, including memories. People here talk often about finally moving to a condo, with less housekeeping work (of which there’s plenty here, including some new windows to be installed next week), but that’s not the move I’m talking about.

What I have in mind addresses not just lifestyle but also a bigger quest. It’s the way I’ve moved many times in the past: work beckoned, practice beckoned, love beckoned. Those are the things I continue to listen for, not the beckoning of senior housing, though I surely appreciate the need for it. Given everything, the needs of my body may still ambush me into making that kind of move, but here I am, at the age of 72, still listening for a different kind of invitation, a different idea, a new possibility.

I know well the temptation to settle into a comfortable chair, read more, take more care of my body. And still, I listen for another call. I don’t want those calls to ever end.

I won’t fool you, sometimes I ask myself whether I can still access something essential. I wonder if I can still dive deep and emerge with something real, something that feels true for this time in my life and the life of the world. There are brilliant young writers and teachers out there now, offering new, clamorous voices on behalf of the poor, the marginalized, our suffering planet. Ursula Le Guin wrote: “Truth goes in and out of stories, you know. What was once true is true no longer. The water has risen from another spring.”

I’m aware that truth isn’t found in words, but it can become visible through the words, through what’s said and not said. The blanks between the lines, the commas asking you to slow down, the final period at the end of the sentence—that’s how insight comes.

And there are days when I wonder if I still have it in me to do that or is this something only young people can do now. I feel they’re so ahead of the game in many ways, have realized in a short time what it took me decades to understand. As I wrote earlier, I’ve been a slow learner all my life. Quick learner of trivia, and very slow with the important things.

Can I still be the throat through which something real emerges? Can I find the words? Can I respond to the call?

The phoebe birds in the mailbox have fledged. Yesterday they still lay close to one another in their nest, but when I tried to take a photo, they fluttered their young wings and flew out, landing on neighboring branches. Will they even be in the mailbox today? Or will they finally be gone, and I’ll take down the sign asking not to disturb the nest, go back to using the mailbox for its original purpose?

If not today, tomorrow, or the day after that. And though I didn’t do the work, I’ll feel good that they were hatched and fledged safely and comfortably, in a mailbox people didn’t disturb, and could now fly away.

                   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.

TOUGH ON CHINA

I think it was around the Fourth of July, naturally, that I came across this post in the neighborhood website of which I am a highly absent member: “Are people aware that Greenfield Garden Cinema is showing the movie 2000 Mules, a creation of Dinesh D’Souza that pushes the claim that the 2020 election was tainted by voter fraud?”

Certainly not, I thought to myself, and for the first time since joining, actually commented as follows: “So what? Should we censor it? Stage a demonstration? Promise to never see a movie in Greenfield Garden Cinema ever ever again?”

I wrote this tongue-in-cheek. I love the old cinema, a Greenfield landmark with a marquee right on Main Street. It offers old-fashioned red seats redolent of popcorn and soda, is rarely full, and is a locally beloved independent small theater that caters to popular fare but also shows some excellent old movies. No Real D 3D, no XD or any of these other acronyms I don’t get, just plain movies.

It did threaten to close on account of being in the red very often, but a local attorney bought it to keep it going. Given what follows, I should add a local Republican conservative attorney. I can’t believe he’s making much money on it.

To my great astonishment, the following comment appeared a few minutes after I posted mine: “Your ideas (especially about demonstrating and boycotting) are great. They have been really effective tools in the past.”

Immediately I wanted to write: No, no, no, no, I didn’t mean that seriously. Forget the whole thing! But before I could do that, another comment appeared: “I will never again go to see a movie at Greenfield Garden Cinema because I have no desire to support a business or businessman that spreads Trumpist propaganda and false myths.”

About five more posts of this nature followed quicker than it takes to write this sentence, before finally someone wrote: “If you don’t like the movie or what it’s about, don’t go see it. Pretty simple.”

Instantly I wrote that I agreed and closed the site.

Since then, at least 250 comments appeared, more action than I’ve ever seen in this neighborhood. New posting alerts keep on arriving in my inbox every few minutes, such as:

“Too bad the Garden Cinema isn’t safe.”

“I was wondering about the owner when I saw the MyPillow commercials play before the previews. All makes sense now.”

Makes sense how, I wonder. Connect three dots and get a dinosaur? And by the way, what is safe?

Then there’s: “I think ______ [name of theater owner] should not be showing propaganda and that he needs to be schooled about that.” Of course, there’s good schooling in the kind of camps the Chinese run for Uyghurs in Northwest China. And what do you call propaganda? You want to tell me that Top Gun 2 (I loved it), which makes love to warships and war jets and shows us how to brilliantly bomb a nuclear facility deep underground (any similarity to Iran is purely unintentional), isn’t propaganda?

Aussie, of course, has boycotted every single theater that has ever shown Garfield movies, which explains why she never goes to the movies with me anymore.

The only post I thoroughly enjoyed was the following: “Even though it’s not directly relevant, I can’t resist pointing out that Trump is true to his word. He promised that he would be tough on china, and he proved it by throwing his lunch plate at the wall!”

I read that the movie did indeed show at about 9:30 at night, and the owner said that demonstrators were welcome as long as they were peaceful. I thought it was a great ploy to get a big crowd, but only 2 people showed up to see the movie and 1 peaceful demonstrator.

                       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.

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO TODAY?

I woke up Monday morning, the Fourth of July, and immediately thought: If Bernie was here, he’d ask me in mid-morning: “So, what do you want to do today?” Of course, he would have been up around 4, as he was every morning till his stroke, taken his bath at 6, and gone out with the dogs for a “cigar drive,” maybe filling his car with gas, maybe buying a donut, trying to come up with an errand. And at some point, maybe over coffee in the kitchen, he’d say: “So, what do you want to do today?”

I would probably mumble something like: “Nothing special, do some work,” and he’d say: “Today? On the Fourth of July?”

And if he was around, still healthy and unstruck, I might say: “Let’s see the Tom Cruise movie, you know, Top Gun 2.” And he’d say: “Good idea.”

In that spirit, I went to see Top Gun: Maverick. Every once in a while, I like to get up to speed with American popular culture, want to see what all the fuss is about. But mainly, I went because I knew Bernie and I would have gone to see it. He loved action movies, big car chases, and lots of shooting and killing. I imagined us going to the movie theater, me grabbing a bag of popcorn, he something chocolate or ice cream. I’d make sure to come early enough to see coming attractions, which is often my favorite part of the movies, and when the movie finally began he might put an arm around me for a few minutes, and we’d stay perfectly still for the entire movie till the very end, when he’d say: “So what’d you think?” And I’d tell him in many words, he’d respond in a few words, and we’d leave the theater.

That’s why I went to see Top Gun: Maverick. I loved it. Not the macho pilots or the sexy military hardware, just the terrific flying and fighting scenes against very dramatic landscapes. And even as the pilots were so young (other than Cruise), and even as Cruise himself looks better than ever at the age of 60, there was clearly a generational shift going on. I appreciated the earnest, innocent patriotism and the many American flags that pepper the film because cynicism, about anything, is not for me.

After his stroke Bernie had a hard time with action films that had a lot of bloodshed. That had never bothered him before. We’d see a film he used to like, and if there was too much blood he’d look at me at the end and demand: “Why are we seeing this?” I would respond in surprise: “You always liked these movies, that’s why.” And he’d say: “I don’t like them anymore.”

My husband became so sensitive after his stroke. He wanted to love everyone; almost nothing else mattered much anymore. If I’m happy about anything in that difficult period, it was to know that caring for him enabled those changes to take place and be witnessed by many people.

But yesterday there was no Bernie to say: “So what do you want to do today?” when I came down; I’m still figuring out how to pose these questions to myself. I’ve been a slow learner all my life, now more than ever.

With my housemate gone for the long weekend, there were only the two dogs and me, so we went out mid-morning, following a path we hadn’t been on for a long time. Turned off it to the right, then made another right and climbed, and suddenly, in the middle of a clearing, was a tepee made of canvas and stretched on wooden poles. The door opening faced east.

Instantly I thought of the Zen Peacemakers’ Native American Bearing Witness retreat that’s taking place this week in South Dakota. I looked up at the tepee and wished them well, then thought how wonderful it was to come across this, in a clearing in the middle of the forest, on the Fourth. If not for the canvas covering, I might have thought it had been here since those early centuries, before the Fourth meant anything. Then I remembered that tepees were mostly made of buffalo skins and used by the tribes in the Plains, not in New England woods.

Henry was there with me, but Aussie was gone, dashing back and forth, chasing deer. And I wondered if that’s what the Fourth means for many people, what America is about: Run run run, go where your heart takes you, beyond the frontier, reach for the heavens and chase the stars (or deer, in Aussie’s case). There is something very exciting about that vision and we evoke the great individuals who did just that, be they explorers of this continent or founders of high-tech industries who left college to start a whole new computer age in their parents’ garages.

That was Aussie’s version of the Fourth, while Henry stayed by my side, sniffing the wildflowers and the roots of spruce trees, content to be dwarfed by the pines and massive boulders lining up the sides of the gorge while I gazed up in awe. And in that spirit, I wish to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the money you sent to help the immigrant family whose father was deported and to send six children for 3 weeks to day camp this summer. With the money we got, I texted Jimena that we could send a few more if needed, and I will let you know.

“This is the Fourth for me,” I told Henry. “Big big hearts.”

“Just not big fireworks,” the little dog said.

                 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.

THE TREASURE OF LAKE MEAD

“Where are we going, Aussie?”

“We’re running away, Enrique.”

“It’s Henry, not Enrique.”

“A Chihuaua can’t be Henry.”

“Why are we running away, Auss?”

“Because the greatest dog in the world was not allowed into the Westminster Dog Show.”

“Who’s that, Aussie?”

“You know damn well who it is. I should have won everything! Instead, Best Dog went to some bloodhound called Trumpet.”

“Is he handsome?”

“No, he’s ugly. Bloodhounds always looks worried and depressed. And you should have seen the other winners: Winston the French Bulldog, Monsieur Fatso! And Hollywood the Maltese, who looks like a short, white curtain with eyes and plenty of makeup.”

“Doesn’t anybody there work, Aussie?”

“Sure. Striker won the Working Group title. What work? Did you see his white fur? I guarantee you that dog hasn’t rolled around in shit ever. Oh Enrique, the really great dogs are mixes like me.”

“And me.”

“You know why? Because all those purebreds have breed standards which they have to live up to, that’s how they decide who wins. But you and I are mixes, so we have no standards at all. We can do anything we want, eat anything we want, roll in anything we want. We’re free, Enrique. Free to run!”

“Run where, Aussie?”

“Lake Mead.”

“Where’s that?”

“Not too far, Nevada. We’ll be back in time for supper.”

“What’s in Lake Mead, Aussie?”

“Treasure, Enrique. You, of course, have heard of the treasure of the Sierra Madres. Well, this is the Treasure of Lake Mead.”

“What are we going to find there, Aussie?”

“Everything, Enrique. All the toys you’ve ever wanted.”

“Lamb Chop with the red paws? Floppy the Bunny and Squeaky the Hot Dog?”

“Not Squeaky the Hot Dog, Henry. After all this time at the bottom of the lake, he probably won’t squeak.”

“What kind of treasure is a toy that doesn’t squeak?”

“I bet you find Stretch the Rubber Ball and Chucky the Flying Squirrel.”

“What kind of treasure is a toy that doesn’t squeak?”

“When it comes to treasure you can’t be too choosy, Enrique. You might even find Trek the Moose, not to mention cuddler beds and travel pillows, we’ll find—”

“What kind of treasure—”

“Look Henry, Lake Mead is near Las Vegas. That’s where humans go to have fun. That’s where they also go to kill each other. And do you know why they kill each other? Because those humans squeaked. Maybe their dogs squeaked, so they killed them, too!

“Dogs don’t squeak, they bark, Aussie.”

“If you put enough pressure on anything, Enrique, it’ll squeak.”

“Are there dead dogs at the bottom of Lake Mead?”

“Only bones, I imagine. Do you know how many bones we’ll find at Lake Mead? Hundreds and hundreds of them. Instead of getting one measly bone every Sunday morning here, we’ll have bones every day, Enrique, every hour!”

“I’m no cannibal, Aussie, I don’t want to chew a dog bone. And I don’t want to go to no lake with lots of dead dogs in it.”

“Come on, Enrique. We’ll find silly hats and T-shirts, the kinds of things humans like to put on us and tell us we’re SO CUTE! We’ll find life jackets.”

“What good are life jackets that end up at the bottom of the lake?”

“Come on, Enrique, I don’t want to hunt for treasure alone. I’ll even call you Henry.”

“Okay, I’m coming, but only because  I’m thirsty and I need to drink.”

“Well, that’s the problem. There isn’t much water left at Lake Mead?”

“No water in Lake Mead? What kind of lake is it, Aussie?”

“A dried out, evaporated lake. But lots of treasure!’

“Who cares about treasure when you don’t have water to drink?”

“Humans do. You know what they’re finding there? Boats, guns, human bodies, baby carriages, shopping carts, batteries, tents, lots of barrels—”

“But no water? I’m outta here.”

“Come on, Henry, don’t turn your back on an adventure of a lifetime.”

“It’ll be a short lifetime without water.”

“Maybe we’ll find Doug the Pug. Remember how he disappeared without a trace, Henry?”

“Will we find Wally Alligator and Fuck the Duck, which I lost last year, Aussie?”

“I betcha. Come on!”

“Will they squeak?”

“Not anymore. Been in the water that’s no longer there too long.”

“Aussie, what good is a toy that doesn’t squeak?”

                     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.

SILLY SOCKS DAY

Jimena and volunteers unpacking boxes of hygiene products

“We’re not supposed to open up a truck and see stacks of bodies in there. None of us come to work imagining that.”

Thus spoke the Fire Chief of San Antonio after he peered inside the tractor trailer that had sat on the side of the road, only to find migrants from Mexico and Central America dead (mostly) or dying. They baked inside a truck in oven-hot temperatures with no access to air or water.

Lately I feel surrounded by the sadnesses and personal losses of family and friends, but none of that’s like this. I’m 72 and healthy; what’s ahead is common to all beings. I feel so sheltered, so cocooned from horrific deaths taking place in other areas around the globe. Watching a cardinal trying out the hummingbird feeder just outside my window, I feel like I’m quarantined from true disaster. I’m not in the middle of an earthquake in Afghanistan, not at the Mexican border, not in the flooded areas drowning villages in Pakistan and Bangladesh, and so far nobody is sending rockets at our two malls in Hadley, MA.

At least, not yet.

Luckily, I had supper with Jimena Pareja the night after reading of the terror in San Antonio. We hadn’t met in a long while. I was away on account of my mother, and when I got back, she was very busy with end-of-year school projects, not to mention some of her medical challenges. Schools here are closed, but Jimena spends the summer season working full-time for the local Catholic Ministries, reaching out to some 200 immigrant families, helping their children learn English, helping them negotiate life here.

She told me of Rosa (not her real name), mother of three, whose husband just got deported. How?

“They were coming home from working on the farms, Eve. Now they work 12 hours a day, every day. A group stopped at the gas station for gas and sat at a picnic table. Next to them was another group of men drinking. Suddenly that group started to fight and the police were called. But when the police cars came, they told everybody on the megaphone to stay where they were, and then they brought everybody to the jail even though this group didn’t do anything, they were just sitting at the table and resting. They found a deportation order for him from 20 years ago, before he was married, before he had a family, and they deported him immediately. His family had no chance to say goodbye.”

Now three children depend on their mother for everything. She works at the farm, she can’t take care of them, her wages aren’t enough. She qualified for subsidized housing, but she needs to put up rent for first and last month by July 1.

“How much?” I ask.

Jimena checks her notes. Whenever she asks me for emergency funding, she brings the paperwork with her. They need $1,379 by Friday. Our Immigrant Families account can handle it, I tell her, and promise to get her the money before Friday; in fact, I did that today. It seemed like such a small thing to do for a family that lost a husband and father so quickly and abruptly.

We all go through small things in our life: a flat tire, a locked door and I don’t have the key, a credit card that suddenly doesn’t work. I mutter and scrape around, annoyed that life isn’t going my way. I don’t get deported and leave a family behind, not knowing if and when I’ll see them again. It was a no-brainer to help Rosa and her children.

Something else came up. Jimena asked if we could send 6 young children for 3 weeks of day camp. Both parents of these families work in the local farms, this is the time when there’s lots of work and long hours, to compensate and help them save up for the winter when often there’s no income coming in at all. But these kids are young, 5-8 years old, and can’t be left at home on their own.

Camp Kee-wanee is ready to take six children for their second session, beginning on July 25, and gave us a discounted price of $525 per child for all three weeks. The hours are 8:30 – 3:00 in the afternoon. This includes breakfast, lunch, and snacks every day, and of course bus transportation. It includes swim classes and free swims in two outdoor pools, arts and crafts, performing arts, and special themes like: Sensational Sunglasses Day, Favorite T-Shirt Day, Creating with Clay, Silly Sock Day (I’m attending that one), Dress in Your Favorite Color Day, Pen & Ink Drawing, and a Family Night with a show—all in 3 weeks.

It comes to $175 per week per child, which covers all the above. I think that’s a steal.

We have to let them know to reserve those spots by the end of next week, and I’d love to do that. The total for all six children for 3 weeks would be $3,150.

If you could do a small donation using the Donate to Immigrant Families button below, excellent. If you could do a bigger donation, excellent.

We’re talking about 6 scholarships and more help for Rosa, if possible. That’s 7 families. Not 70, not 7,000. Seven families. Six little children for scholarships to day camp for 3 weeks, and 3 children who just lost their father. Seven families, nine children.

It’ll change their lives. It’s changing mine, maybe yours too. Why? Because we belong to one another, and that’s the truth.

                   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.

ROE V. WADE

I‘ve been checking in on the new chicks every day. Almost overnight they’ve gone from being tiny red worms, indistinguishable from each other, to gray, fluffy birds. They were still dark red when I took the photo above and if I made a clicking sound, they’d open their beaks wide for food. They don’t do that anymore; they’ve learned that that sound does not come from a parent delivering luscious, juicy worms. They’ve figured out that this Uber, at least, isn’t bringing anything of much value to their survival.

On Friday morning the decision overturning Roe vs. Wade came down, taking away American women’s federal right to choose whether to carry a baby to term or whether to abort the pregnancy. I’ve been sitting with that decision all through the weekend.

I first saw the news through emails that started coming in, and even before I opened up the online edition of The New York Times I got into a defensive posture. Not defensive from the decision—this had been anticipated for a while—but from the frenzy I was sure would follow.

I was not disappointed. The media competed with headlines about how this was the end of all women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, all civil rights, in fact this was the end of the world as we knew it: THE FINAL DAYS OF ABORTION CLINICS; THE END OF LEGITIMACY FOR THE SUPREME COURT (as if the Dred Scott case in 1858, which said that Congress didn’t have the right to outlaw slavery, hadn’t done that already), SEEKING AN ABORTION? AVOID LEAVING A DIGITAL TRAIL, CONSERVATIVES ON THE MARCH, WHO GETS RIGHTS IN AMERICA, SUPREME COURT ROLLS BACK A RIGHT AND INFLAMES DIVIDED COUNTRY, WHAT RIGHTS ARE ENDANGERED NEXT?, GASOLINE ON OUR CULTURE WAR FIRES, A DANGEROUS NEW ERA, etc.

They did such a good job that my own blood pressure shot up. After all, I was glad of the decision on Roe vs. Wade. Why? Because I’m a liberal or a woman? Heck no. Because it gave us a choice. Regardless of what decision I might make, I had a choice.

I tried to stay serene (I’m a Zen practitioner, after all), but then heard the the phone bing: Text message from Nancy Pelosi! Eagerly I scrolled through it, wanting to hear what the venerable Speaker of the House had to say. She wrote that she was launching an emergency petition to protect reproductive rights. “Will you sign your name next to mine?”

“You betcha, Nancy,” I muttered, “just show me where.” I hit the link, only to find the following questions:

“Are you disgusted with Republicans [like Mitch McConnell] who packed the Court with three of Trump’s radical justices in order to make this happen?” I was supposed to check “Yes, I’m absolutely furious.” Trouble was, I wasn’t absolutely furious.

“Do you agree the only—ONLY—ways to get justice is to OUST every last anti-choice Republican who made this happen?” Not really, I thought. Not at all sure that’s the only way to get justice done, aside from the fact that there are Democrats who are also anti-choice.

By the time I finished reading the whole thing I thought of the chicks up the hill opening their mouths wide open at the slightest sound. They reminded me of a rage machine. Click at it, knock on the mailbox, make the slightest noise, and it opens its maw wide, wide: More! More! More! More anger! More rage! More contempt! More humiliation! More!

Roe v. Wade came down almost half a century ago. I cheered it. As for those who didn’t, as for those who felt that aborting a fetus was killing life, I did what many like me did: I ignored them. Too bad on you. If you’re lucky, then one day you ignorant, uneducated—and now fill in the blanks—men, Republicans, unliberated women, Southern Baptists, etc.—will get with the program and see how wrong you were.

Religious exemptions? No way, Jose.

Not wishing to pay taxes that support Medicaid financing of abortions? Don’t you know, poor women deserve equal access to abortions, and if that’s on your dollar, too damn bad.

A few years after Roe v. Wade I started feeling more ambivalence, which made me support Roe v. Wade even more because I understood it stood for choice, not necessarily for abortions per se. That’s when I started paying attention to the surrounding vitriol and rage, the insensitivity to people who felt differently, the grabby banners and headlines that made out of a deeply personal question a venue for deafness and even contempt.

How many of us tried to talk about this with others who didn’t see eye-to-eye? How many of us stretched out our arms and said: “Yes, we hear that this hurts you, that this goes against some very basic values you have about how life begins. Let’s talk. Not because we’ll convince you or you’ll convince us, but because one heart beats in all of us.”

We didn’t do that then, and I don’t get from Nancy and others that we’re invited to do that now. Only now the picture is reversed. The other side is reveling in its rightness and righteousness, the other side assumes that history ends with this decision, now. And what do we do? We react, vowing vengeance, and the hate machine opens wide, showing teeth: More! More! More!

A blog reader, responding to my previous post about the new birds, sent me this poem by Mary Oliver:

This morning the redbird’s eggs

have hatched and already the chicks

are chirping for food. They don’t

know where it’s coming from, they

just keep shouting, “More! More!”

As to anything else, they haven’t

had a single thought. Their eyes

haven’t yet opened, they know nothing

about the sky that’s waiting. Or

the thousands, the millions of trees.

They don’t even know they have wings.

Oliver called this a miracle, but ironically enough, I felt she was describing our hate machine. When the machine gets going, it doesn’t pay attention to who or what gets destroyed, to who is labeled how. It just shouts “More! More!” And if we think that by ousting evil Republicans or creating havoc on the front yards of homes of monstrous Supreme Court justices we’ll have an effect, we’re probably right, only what effect that is I fear to ask.

The people so many of us looked down on did the almost-impossible. They managed to overturn a decision that’s almost 50 years old. A lot is attributed to Trump, but they organized well before Trump. They started winning local offices, they kept the question alive year after year. Again and again the Court rejected their petitions, and they didn’t give up.

Now imagine that we do the same thing, we also don’t give up. Only we don’t just put Roe vs. Wade at stake (now Dobbs v. Jackson), we put the entire country at stake. We put the world at stake. And the first thing we do is shut down those indiscriminatory beaks, the cavernous mouth that yells for rage and sacrifice, both human and nonhuman. That tells us to loathe and despise, that tells us to punch each other in the face and even hang or shoot each other. That machine isn’t just out there, it’s in here, I was ready to sign anything Nancy Pelosi sent me. But I didn’t.

Is this elite up to doing what those ignorant religious fanatics managed to do across generations? Is it ready to take on the long run?

Is it ready to say: We have to take care of ourselves, we have to take care of each other, and this will take a long time but it’s a struggle worth meeting? When I feel myself giving in to hate I’ll stop what I’m doing, sit and breathe, go for a walk. When I see elected leaders and media turning on the heat, outdoing each other with more lurid accusations and talking points, I will take a step back and reflect, discern who and what this serves over time. And finally, if this is a time to take a stand, maybe the stand I take is on behalf of all of us, not just some?

In last week’s talk on the Zen Peacemakers platform by Fr. Greg Boyle, Founder of Homeboy Industries, he defined oneness very simply: “Being One means we belong to each other.” He also said: “Live the truth as if it’s true.” If you agree that you and I are everything and everyone, then live it as if it’s true. Don’t condition that on what the other side says or does, simply live as though it’s true.

The young birds no longer open the beaks wide indiscriminately, they’ve learned what the truth is. I’m with them, not opening up my beak for hate, either. Been there, done that, enough already—and what’s more, it didn’t help. Roe v. Wade was overturned, so much for what we once did. We want the return of personal choice? Let’s act on behalf of all life. All.

                     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.

MINOR SUPPORTING ROLE

The birds have hatched. First 3, and then number 4. The above photo was taken about 2 days after the hatching. In the first day they looked like a small pile of tiny red worms thrust against each other for warmth (it’s been cool here). By the second day, if I made a clicking sound, they opened their mouths wide in silent clamor for food.

Food, always food. We have so much of it here in the US, some more nutritious, some less, but we waste and throw away at least a third. I compost our organic materials, but my sense is that the animals get to it long before it turns into compost. Two nights ago, a bear took down the front hummingbird feeder full of sweet water, along with the pole from which it hung—looking for food.

Speaking of the birds, I feel like a proud mama, though of course, other than hanging up the sign telling people not to disturb the mailbox, I didn’t do anything. Phoebe parents did everything, life gave birth to life; all I did was play a minor supporting role.

Minor supporting role feels just right for me. No star, no head honcho, most important: no angry person in opposition, basking in indignation and self-righteousness. Enough of that; the media is doing plenty of it for me.

At different times we give different meaning to our life. That’s not an abstract question because I activate that meaning through my actions. I think my parents wanted the meaning of my life to be survival. They had struggled to survive through poverty, Holocaust, war, and refugeedom, and they wanted their children not just to survive, but also to make sure their tribal forms and religious traditions survived. Nothing would have fit that vision more than by my going to college, meeting a Jewish doctor or lawyer, getting married, and raising children. Other things, sure, but only as adjuncts to the main thing.

From very early on I knew this would not be my way and I never looked back. But what I did derive from that legacy was a tendency towards negativity, criticism (see how much smarter I am than others!), looking over my shoulder, and a low-key depression. It was almost as if I felt it wrong to be happy when life stank for so many people.

Lately I feel these things slowly dropping away. It’s good to take a stance against killing, poverty, autocracy, the lack of homes and opportunities, racism—the anger feels energizing and even cleansing. And I can still lose it a bit (right now upset over the possibility of Bibi Netanyahu becoming prime minister of Israel all over again, surely an inspiration for Donald Trump in 2024). But those are becoming fewer. I want to support good things, not denigrate bad.

Yesterday, Fr. Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries, spoke on the Zen Peacemaker platform. I find him one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met (his one-hour talk and Q&A was recorded, and once it’s produced you’d be able to access it on that website). One of the things he said was that, given his 35+ years of working with gangs in Los Angeles, he had probably met more gang members than anyone on the planet. And he added: “I’ve never met an evil gang member.”

He’d buried well over 200 of them, and in a lot of cases he knew how they’d been killed and maybe even by whom, or at least by what gang. But he couldn’t see them as evil. He knew their background, their traumas and suffering, and he can’t condemn them even as he might condemn their actions. Instead, he dedicated his life to giving them a way out of that misery, a way out of that terrifying karma. He became a major supporting player.

I don’t have those pretensions, but I’d like to continue to be a minor supporting player as much as I can, supporting things rather than criticizing, yelling, and obstructing, if only for the selfish reason that it makes me happier. The spiritual life is meant to be joyful, Fr. Greg said. If we can’t ground ourselves in and show people joy, why should they follow us?

Finally, I’m indebted to one of my students for this great story from the Cape Cod Times about a lobster diver who got swallowed by a humpback whale. Suddenly he was surrounded by darkness and it took him a short while to figure out what happened. Eventually the whale spat him out, and other than  a brief stay in the hospital, he’s fine.

What most stood out for me was his comment: “I want to apologize to the whale.” It was not a monster, it was not a manifestation of God’s anger, it was simply a big whale that swept him inside his mouth along with other beings and, after the diver struggled a bit, spat him out.

“We belong to each other,” Fr. Greg said yesterday.

                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.