Category Archives: secrets

Who’s That Girl

IMG_4344Recently in the mirror I started noticing something about my face. Mainly that it wasn’t what it used to be, beauty-wise, and specifically that it looked tired.

At first I thought it was simply a matter of staying up too late binge watching Scandal on Netflix, even though it’s turning into musical beds just like my mom always said Falcon Crest did in 1983.

I started making an effort to go to bed earlier and eat more salmon, but still my face looked the same. Eventually it dawned on me that what I was dealing with was less an issue of fatigue and more an issue of this is what I look like now that I’m almost forty-two.

In the next instant I realized that I was just going to keep on looking more and more tired until eventually one day I would die.

The fact of mortality didn’t alarm me nearly as much as the idea of a permanent double chin. It’s one thing to know that you’re going to get older, another entirely to see it manifest on your face.

I don’t really want to look young forever – that would be weird. One day I would like my appearance to belie the wisdom I hope to have gained within, or at least give me free license to shush people loudly.

Still, the realization that time truly marches on is daunting. Not only because we are vain, but because every new wrinkle removes us farther from the age at which we believed that we could do or be anything we wanted.

Despite having written a blog post about it, I’m not actually that depressed about looking older. I mean, I wish I looked better than I do first thing in the morning, around noon, at dinnertime and also right before bed, but I count myself lucky that I don’t have more pressing concerns.

I guess I’m just sort of surprised that it really happens – that one day you literally wake up and the person you see in the mirror does not match up with the person you percieve yourself to be.

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Yes, Virginia. There is a Spiritual Vortex in Lithuania

At the end of our stay in Vilnius, my aunt Ona’s husband arrived to drive us to our next destination, the spa town of Druskininkai in southern Lithuania. Ona and Kostas don’t even live in Vilnius, but they insisted on chauffeuring us so we wouldn’t have to rent a car.

How generous are the Lithuanians? Very generous.

We were hoping to stop and pick some mushrooms on the way (there is very good ‘shrooming in the area around Druskininkai) but the weather had been dry and there was no fungi in sight. Instead, Kostas asked if we’d like to make a short side trip to a place called “Merkin?s Piramid?” (the Pyramid of Merkin?), which was very close to our final destination.

“A pyramid? There’s a pyramid in Lithuania?” My attention was immediately piqued.

“Not big pyramid, like Egypt. Smoll pyramid,” Kostas explained. “Is spiritual place.”

“Like a church?” I asked.

“Not church, but spiritual energija, yes? Is guy, Paulius, very good guy, he built own two hands this pyramid. God told. Very special energy, people come all over Lithuania for healing.”

“You mean, it’s like a SPIRITUAL VORTEX?”

I have always wanted to visit a spiritual vortex.

“We stop, you see,” Kostas said.

So we turned off the main road and drove down a little towpath through a pine forest to the homestead of a man named Paulius. (A sidenote concerning Lithuanian towpaths: you think there is no way under God’s blue sky that your Audi sedan and the oncoming truck could both make it out of the towpath alive. But, nine times out of ten, you’d be wrong!)

So this guy, Paulius, received a message from heaven as a child telling him that a particular spot on his parents’ property was exceptional, and that he should build a pyramid over it where the special healing energy could be harnessed. It took him years, but he finally built the structure and the dome around it was completed just a few years ago.

merkines piramide

Merkin?s Piramid?

I especially love the juxtaposition of the traditional wooden homestead with the futuristic glass dome. It’s a good metaphor for the state of Lithuania today – a country clinging to its ancient roots while striving to be as modern a contender as possible.

There is no charge to get in (the structure was built with the help of private donations) and the holy well water available inside the dome is free, too.

Which is a good thing, because it was hotter than blazes inside that pyramid.

meditating

Meditating

under the pyramid

Kostas and Some Ladies Under the Pyramid.

So did I feel the energy, you ask?

Well, yes and no. Because it was easily one hundred degrees inside the dome, I found it hard to differentiate between feelings of unity with all of creation and plain old climate induced light-headedness. But there was very peaceful, new age type of music playing and the acoustics inside the dome are phenomenal, which definitely added to the ambiance. I sent up some prayers for all the people who come here to be healed.

Maybe that’s how it works?

Afterwards, I walked a bit around the grounds, which are beautiful, while the children played on one of the wooden play structures ubiquitous to the country of Lithuania (playgrounds are everywhere – it’s great.) I saw Paulius himself working in a field and began to make my way over. After reading the history of the pyramid that’s posted on the grounds, I was still unclear as to how, exactly, he received his mandate and what, exactly, God told him.

I really wanted to know.

I patiently waited to talk to him while a couple of other tourists monopolized his time, but after awhile I got bored just standing there waiting, plus there were a lot of bees who liked my scent in that field. So I left without getting the answer to the meaning of life, which I regret.

merkines kryziai

Crosses Near the Pyramid

These crosses near the pyramid are another example of the mingling of old and new in Lithuania. (Paulius is Catholic, but for some reason the Church has not sanctioned his activities with regards to the Pyramid.)

Whether there’s something going on here or not, it’s definitely a beautiful, serene place to visit.

*******************************************************************************

This is the seventh (but far from last) post in my series “Tessmans do the Fatherland,” about my family’s recent trip to Lithuania. Here, in chronological order, are the links to the first six posts:
  1. Lithuania, Day One
  2. City Building 101: The Founding of Vilnius (Gediminas Castle)
  3. Lithuanian Vacation: What We Ate
  4. Artists Sleep on Mondays (Užupis)
  5. Blood and Sunshine (The Vilnius TV Tower Memorial Site)
  6. Zip Line Trumps Castle (Trakai Castle and Tony Resort Park)
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The Future Is Disappointing

I think this mid-life crisis business might be real. One doesn’t want to drape one’s destiny  around a looming, arbitrary number (forty, coming up in July), but as the date that wasn’t supposed to mean anything draws nearer, the funnel of possibility that was once so wide it was impossible to avoid it is getting narrower by the minute.

I keep reminding myself that the way I live my life, my way of being, means much more than the sum of my accomplishments, but I still have this nagging feeling that there are certain things I must do (write, draw, make music). At the same time I know in my very bones that I’ll never do them – not the way I want to – and that makes me profoundly sad.

I think often about the way our lives affect those of others in ways we’ll never know and could not have imagined, and sometimes that thought is enough to half-convince me it will be okay if I never publish a book or sell another piece of artwork, or live abroad, or learn to sing alto, or read Ulysses, or appear on the Daily Show as a special guest.

There’s another part to my mid-life crisis I like to keep close to my vest. I’m not sure when it started happening, but I fear I’m becoming somewhat of a recluse. It’s not that I don’t like people or want to have friends; more that I prefer solitude and the quiet introspection of daily, repetitive tasks to the trauma of picking up a telephone, making plans, sustaining conversation, putting on a pair of socks.

I don’t think it’s good for me, but the warm cocoon of my domestic dominion has some kind of built-in force field that makes it very difficult to step out.

As I write this, my husband is in the next room over, building a robot. He has decided that fishing is too emotionally draining and taken up robotics as a hobby instead.

“The future, as I see it, has been very disappointing,” he said. “By now we should be commuting to work in hovercrafts and having robots complete our daily tasks.”

“I think I’m having a mid-life crisis” I told him.

“Why do you think I’m building this robot?” he said.

Here is something I’ve discovered: life gets smaller the longer you live it, not the other way around.

I’m not depressed, in case you were wondering. And I know that if could just find a good cause to throw myself into, all of these imaginary problems would be roundly solved. Because isn’t that the ticket? Doing things for others instead of the solipsistic navel gazing I’ve been engaging in, instead?

 

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I Used To Be French

Legend has it in my famiglia that a great-great-great grandmother on my father’s side married a deserter of Napoleon’s army when it marched across the fatherland. I have always blamed this soldier personally for my short stature and the fact that I don’t possess your typical Lithuanian blond-haired, blue-eyed looks.

But the French ancestor has also served me well, especially as a conversation starter at parties.

“Hello, are you enjoying the party?”

“Yes. I am directly descended from Napoleon.”

I always chalked up the ease with which I picked up French to this particular family member, and felt pretty confident that with my beret, baguette, and striped boatneck shirt, I easily passed for a native during the time I spent living in France.

Whenever someone would comment on my impeccable accent, I would say,

“Thank you. It’s because I’m part French.”

But all of that changed last weekend.

I’d been hounding my father to write down his childhood memories of Lithuania for years, and every time I asked him how it was going, the conversation would go like this:

Hey, T?veli! Kaip tau sekasi prisiminimus rašyti?” (Hey, Dad! How’s it going with your memoirs?”)

And my dad would always tell me that he’s making good progress.

Kiek tu jau puslapi? parasiai?” (How many pages are you up to?”), I’d press him.

And he would say:

“Two paragraphs.”

But last week my Dad presented me with three single-spaced pages of his completed memoirs. He packed a lot in those pages – everything from how his family was separated while fleeing, to how he used to amuse himself in the refugee camps by picking apart detonated bombs.  I’m thrilled with it (and very grateful – a?i? T?veli!).

As a bonus, he included a family tree, which begins with the infamous French ancestor.

Whose last name was, “Felice.” Or maybe, “Feliz.”

I did a little bit of research about this surname and about the history around Napoleon’s path through Lithuania.

It turns out the name is Italian or Spanish. What’s more, Wikipedia told me that thousands of Spaniard and Portuguese conscripts deserted Napoleon’s army in Lithuania during the summer of 1812 and went on to loot, pillage, and terrorize the locals.

I took it pretty hard. It’s not that I’m not thrilled to be one-thirty-second Spanish or  Portuguese or Italian, only that for these past thirty-nine-years, I have believed myself to be one-thirty-second French. Also, my great-great-great grandfather might have been a marauder.

There would be no easy way to break it to my dad, so I went over there this afternoon and told it to him straight:

“I hate to tell you this, but we are Spanish, not French.”

He was clearly devastated.

“I wouldn’t be at all surprised,” he said.

“It’s just as I always suspected,” added Mama.

“That explains the moustache*,” my friend V said when I broke it to her.

And indeed, now that I’ve had a few days to take it in, I am very excited about my Spanish or Portuguese or Eye-talian blood. Of course, there are many things I will have to adjust accordingly (note: buy some pirate shirts and leather pants), but it does explain my fondness for paella and Spanish wine.

The only drawback so far is that the P-Dawg has started calling me, “Gomez.”

That’s the jealousy talking, right there.

The New Me

* I don’t really have a moustache.

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