My Totally Kickass Scratch-N-Sniff Vestal Virgin Notebook

You cannot tell just how awesome this notebook is by looking at the picture, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Birute Notebook 2

I made it using a cool photo transfer technique I found instructions for here. The photo is one I took during our trip to Lithuania, of a statue of the legendary priestess/vestal virgin Birutė. But the best part about the notebook is that it’s burnished with beeswax so it smells like your močiutė’s house on Easter egg decorating day!

Birutė is famous for her altruism and beauty and the fact that she mothered Vytautas the Great.  She had sworn herself to chastity and to the guarding of the flame on the altar to the goddess Praurimė, but it seems that she ditched it after either being abducted by or willingly marrying (accounts vary) the country’s then ruler, Kęstutis. After she died (sometime in the 1300s, I think), there emerged quite a Cult of Birutė in Lithuania and people worshipped her, as well as legitimate pagan deities, by the hill where she’s buried in the town of Palanga.

Palanga is one of Lithuania’s most popular resort towns on the Baltic Sea. The statue of Birute is near her alleged burial place and where the ruins of the old pagan temple and astrological observatory once stood. At some point the Roman Catholic church built a shrine to Mary there, presumably to dissuade the heathen Lithuanians from relapsing. Now there is a kind of Neo-Pagan-Christian-Botanical Garden mashup situation going on there, but it’s very pretty.

Palangos Observatory

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Posted in creative life, Lithuania, Lithuania Trip 2013, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

You Know How This Ends

On Saturday I was in a very bad mood, and it got so that I finally had to obey the voice in my head telling me to go for a walk. (The voice is a combination of my mother and Anne Lamott.)

When you’re in a bad mood, you never want to follow the voice in your head telling you to go for a walk. You’re like, Screw you, outdoors, with your obnoxious sunshine and your stupid invigorating breezes. Let me just sit here refreshing my Facebook feed every 2.5 seconds and picking at my cuticles until they bleed.

You have to put on a pair of socks to go outdoors in Cleveland in snowy November, but even before that you have to get up off the couch. You have to worry about running into the neighbor who yelled at your kid four years ago, and the neighbor who will talk about himself for an hour if you let him, and the House with the Big Dog. You know that Big Dog house is protected by invisible fencing, but you are willing to bet money that it’s only a matter of time before the system malfunctions just as you are walking past.

Worse than any of these things is the notion that going for a walk might actually make you feel better, and you simply cannot have that.

Still, I bundled up in full snow gear, grabbed my iPod, and began a slow trudge down the sidewalk, which was still mostly covered in 3-4 inches of snow. I had to put on a pair of sunglasses because it was preternaturally sunny, and if there’s one thing I have never been able to abide, it’s a sunny winter’s day.

“That’s because you’ve never been skiing in Tahoe,” my friend V has told me.

“It’s ridiculous,” says the P-Dawg.

“Where did I go wrong? (My mom.)

It was so sunny that even wearing my purple knockoff Wayfarer sunglasses, I had to look down to avoid being struck by a migraine or unrealistic expectations about the essential goodness of mankind. But I cranked up Pat Benetar and continued putting one foot in front of the other, and after a few minutes I felt like I could stand to have a look around. The cold air was invigorating, and the sunshine took the edge off so that eventually I removed my tassle hat and unzipped my parka one eighth of an inch.

By this time I was hoofing it on a cleared towpath that runs alongside of a golf course. There were a few people out jogging, and I made eye contact with them.

It didn’t kill me.

I got a few ideas about prints I want to make and words I want to write. I saw some things around me that could be construed as beautiful and worthy and true.

I felt . . . good.

And I had to admit that the walk was winning.

However, this didn’t stop me from turning around on my heel after hitting the twenty minute mark for which I’d set an alarm on my iPhone, and heading for home. I may be Thoreau in training, but I still have an anti winter sunshine reputation to uphold.

(This photo is not from my walk.)
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Posted in nature | 3 Comments

Step Aside, Katniss

SlibinaiWhen the Twin Brothers Rama and I were kids, we used to have an LP recording of some very disturbing Lithuanian folk tales. Not only were they read by a woman who sounded like the evil stepmother herself, but the stories always seemed to involve orphaned children, wolves or dragons, and someone who narrowly missed getting skinned alive.

Many of these tales also featured some variation of a sister with numerous brothers, and the sister was always being abandoned or getting herself into a pickle from which the brothers had to save her. One classic example is the story of “Devyniąbrolė,” which literally translates to “Sister of Nine Brothers.”

That’s right, folks. The girl didn’t have a proper name, except in relation to the men in her life.

Anyway, one day Sister of Nine Brothers got married and went to live with her husband. But man, did she miss those brothers, who were probably subsisting on Spaghetti-os straight out of the can and wearing the same pair of pants as the day she had left them. So after obtaining permission from her husband, she rounded up nine skeins of linen from which she planned to make each brother a shirt, baked exactly nine buns, and set off for a visit.

But on the way she was intercepted by a NINE HEADED DRAGON, who upended her carriage and ate her horse and forced her up a tree. Sister of Nine Brothers pelted the nine headed dragon with her skeins of linen and her freshly baked buns, but to no avail. The dragon kept gnawing on the tree trunk and chanting that he was going to kill her.

Specifically, he said, “Devyniąbrole! Devyniąbrole! Aš tave pjausiu!” (Sister of Nine Brothers! Sister of Nine Brothers! I am going to slaughter you!”)

Helpless and afraid, the sister sent a message to the brothers via a cuckoo bird who happened to be nearby. Unfortunately, the brothers didn’t understand what the bird was trying to tell them even though it delivered some pretty explicit tweets. Each brother in turn told the cuckoo bird to scram, until finally Sister of Nine Bothers removed her wedding ring and sent it along as a last-ditch attempt to get through to them. This third and final time (a charm!) the cuckoo bird also mentioned that the dragon was seriously almost finished chewing through the tree trunk.

Well that got the brothers’ attention. They arrived to save their sister just as the nine-headed dragon was about to pounce.

This story has always stayed with me, and not just because of the terrifying nine-headed dragon. For example, what is up with the number nine? What is the significance of there being a nine-headed dragon to correspond to the nine brothers? Are they supposed to be opposites in the dichotomy of good and evil? Are they one and the same? Or was it simply that feelings were going to be hurt if each brother didn’t have a dragon head of his own to slay?

And how is it that the brothers didn’t “understand” the cuckoo bird’s message until the sister sent the wedding ring? I read one interpretation that suggested it meant the bros weren’t about to save sistah until she renounced the other man in her life and came home to them. (Insert emoticon of choice.)

Anyway, because of my fascination with this particular folk tale, I’ been wanting to do a linocut print depicting the nine-headed dragon scene for a long time, and I finally finished it!

. . . But in my interpretation, Sister of Nine Brothers happens to have exactly nine arrows and a bow with her, and she’s a very good shot.


(This print is available for purchase here)
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Posted in linocut, Lithuania, Lithuania | 4 Comments

I, Rima, Am a Creative Genius (Just Kidding)

IMG_1909Once upon a time I became weirdly interested in the blog of a Dutch woman who lived alone, seemed to have few friends or acquaintances, and rarely left her apartment. Yet she wrote, almost daily, about every detail of her waking life. Some days the Dutch woman would opt for English breakfast tea instead of Earl Gray, or notice that the eucalyptus was especially fragrant. The day she decided to re-arrange her living room furniture was like a ratings sweep episode for me.

She never disclosed her name or revealed any truly identifying information, but she did suggest that she was writing the blog as a form of therapy. I don’t know if I was taken with it because it was such an intimate window into a life very different from mine, or if I was just waiting to see if the Dutch woman would eventually leave her apartment. But I do remember being fascinated by her descriptions of the mundane, the way that simply by recording these things, she somehow elevated their importance. One day the blog just disappeared. I worried that something had happened to the Dutch woman and felt badly that I’d never commented. (But if truth be told, I would have not known what to say – just reading her words felt like a sort of intrusion.)


A few years ago, someone suggested that I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron because it is supposed to be an excellent resource for sparking creativity and at the time I really wanted to write fiction. When I finally looked it up last week on Amazon, I saw that the book had been pretty roundly trashed as a load of new age self-help garbage. I normally love new age self-help garbage, but these reviews made even me, a person who once tried to meditate myself into an out-of-body experience, pretty wary. Plus the cover was brick red and featured a mountain with a line of geese flying in front of it.

I bought it anyway. If you are not a particularly spiritual person, The Artist’s Way will definitely turn you off. The author’s basic premise is that humans, being creations of the Creator, have an innate need to create as well. And that if you recognize that truth and beauty come from a divine source, if you are open to the idea that creating is a way of acknowledging that divinity, it (the Divine) will guide you along a creative path. I don’t think it’s anything new under the sun, but Julia Cameron does have an interesting way of presenting it.

In fact it makes a lot of sense to me. And I really need some guidance along my path because I have a compulsion to create, a crapload of ideas, a smattering of talent, a dearth of self-confidence, and almost no focus. But you can’t just read The Artist’s Way and expect Great Thoughts to float down from the heavens. You have to do actual work, such as making lists and taking yourself out on dates and writing at least three pages of stream of consciousness thoughts first thing in the morning.

And you have to do affirmations, which, as some of you may remember, utterly failed me when I lost the amber brooch my husband gave me. But apparently these affirmations are really instrumental in guiding the arc of the universe in my favor. So I’ve actually used precious minutes of this past week writing sentences like, “I, Rima, am a talented artist” ten times. I follow them up by writing, “Just kidding” ten times after, which is not part of the creative exercise.

Still, I’ve been adhering to Cameron’s course pretty faithfully for eight days now. I don’t even mind the morning pages so much because I do them in the afternoon with a cup of coffee. And I must say that I have in fact experienced a few creative stirrings and moments of serendipity. It might just be what happens when you make something a priority, but it’s also part of what prompted me to start writing again. Julia Cameron is really big on “paying attention to” and delighting in (yeah – delighting) in the world around you as a way to spark creativity, and it seems to me that there is no better way to observe, record, and delight in the mundane than through this here blog.

The Dutch woman was on to something.

So here I am, back at the keyboard, which is very crusty due to the fact that I had pretty much given my laptop over to the children for the past year or so. In that time my eldest changed a lot of settings I don’t know how to undo. For this reason the computer tells me what time it is out loud every fifteen minutes, windows blow up and disappear without warning, and every once in a while a small cartoon animal will scamper across the screen.

I’m not planning making a habit out of telling you what I had for breakfast. But I am ready once again to document the daylights out of life (at least once a week.)


P.S. I changed my profile picture to show that I am getting older.

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Posted in blogging, creative life, writing | 5 Comments