Category Archives: zen moments

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)
Did you like this? Subscribe to the blog. (It's free!)

It’s the End of RimaRama As We Know It

It’s difficult to write a blog post after you’ve been truant for going on two months. I don’t have a particularly good reason for my absence, only that life got busy and I became preoccupied with other pursuits. I started this blog five years ago when I was home alone with two very small children most of the day. It was a way to exercise one of my favorite muscles (the writing muscle) and to document the life of my young family with all of its joys, humor and frustrations.

You know where this is going, right?

My children are older, sentient beings now, and it doesn’t feel right to write about them with wild abandon like I used to. (And that leaves me with only the P-Dawg for potential writing fodder.) Meanwhile, my interests and those things that I always thought defined me have changed. For as long as I can remember, I thought the only thing I was ever good at, that I ever really wanted to do, was to write. This blog – and all of your kind words of encouragement – gave me self-confidence in that regard. Showing up here every week opened doors for me and eventually led me to do something I never thought I had it in me to do: to write a book.

I wrote a humorous, RimaRama style memoir (that’s “mem-wah”) about my experience growing up American, but mired deeply in the culture of my immigrant family. I wrote it with the intention of kindofsortofmaybe trying to get it published, as all good bloggers-turned-memoirists do. I wrote and edited and re-wrote and re-edited for upwards of a year. I asked a few trusted people to read it and give me feedback, and when I felt that I couldn’t make my book any better, I started querying literary agents, hoping with my entire heart and fearing with my entire soul that someone would ask to have a look.

And someone did. A few agents asked for the first few chapters, and then for the entire manuscript. For several weeks I waited with bated breath, cautiously optimistic that someone might bite. As the weeks turned to months, I re-negotiated my feelings on the whole endeavor and thought that even if no one offered me representation, I’d at least get constructive feedback on the manuscript.

That was back in September. I haven’t heard back from any of the agents who have my full, from which I’ve drawn the natural conclusion that my book was such a disappointment to those few brave souls who agreed to have a look, that they are too disgusted even to respond with a friendly “no thanks.”

But Dear Readers, I am not bitter. Really, I’m not. See, the cheesy beauty of it all (a realization at which I’ll admit it took me awhile to arrive) is that writing that book was worth it because through it, I wrote myself. It seems simplistic to say that writing the story of one’s life illuminates and solidifies one’s true self, but there it is. And here’s the other thing: maybe not every Tom, Dick and Harry or book club in America needs to read it.

While clinging to the dream of life as a published writer like a cat in an inspirational poster, I discovered that I really like art. Not just looking at it, but making it myself. And the urgent need I used to feel to sit in front of a computer daily and bleed words was replaced, bit by bit, with an all-consuming desire to create visual beauty rather than written truth.

That’s where I am now. Forgive me for being so long-winded about it all, but what I want to tell you, since many of you have been reading my words for several years now, it not that I want to stop writing altogether, but that I want to allow myself the freedom to write differently, and about different things. I’d like to turn this space into a place to document my creative projects and pursuits. And I’d like the freedom of a blog where sometimes, I just “call it in.

That’s not to say I won’t post the occasional story or anecdote, but I’d also like, on occasion, to simply upload a photograph or two and be done with it. It won’t be the RimaRama you’re used to. (But it probably won’t totally suck.)

Still, I feel that I owe you, my faithful readers, a warning that I’m about to change direction.

I’m going to follow my bliss, and I’d love it if you stayed, but I’ll understand if you go.

Did you like this? Subscribe to the blog. (It's free!)

The First Rule of Hiking is “Stay on the Trail”

“Stay on the trail, kids! The first rule of hiking is ‘Stay on the Trail’.”

“You’ll know it because it’s been cleared of brush.”

“Isn’t it beautiful here, guys? Just imagine! This is what Ohio looked like when only the Native Americans lived here.”

“Wait up.”

“JONAS, STAY AWAY FROM THAT LEDGE!”

“Look at that tree.”

“Watch out for poison ivy.”

“Stop waving those sticks around. It’s always funny until someone loses an eye.”

“JONAS, GET AWAY FROM THAT LEDGE! Do you want to fall and crack your head open?”

“Wait up.”

“Wait up.”

“Wait up!”

“Don’t touch that. It could be poison ivy.”

“Let’s stop here for a rest and to look at the beauty of nature.”

“Seriously, guys, what did I tell you about those sticks?”

“No, no snacks.”

“Because we just ate breakfast. Besides, it’s not like we’re climbing Mount Everest.”

“Wait up.”

“You think the Native Americans had juice boxes and granola bars? If a Native American got hungry, he would just go down to the lake and scoop out a fish with his bare hands.”

“No.”

“Because we’re not Native Americans.”

“Are you kidding me? We’ve only been out here for like twenty minutes.”

“JONAS STAY AWAY FROM THE LEDGE. What do I have to do, get you a collar?”

“Look at those huge boulders, kids. That right there is what the Native American kids called a ‘playground’.”

“Don’t climb on that.”

“Wait up.”

“Leaves of three, let them be.”

“No, I don’t actually know what poison ivy looks like. Ask Daddy to Google it on his phone.”

Did you like this? Subscribe to the blog. (It's free!)

I Saw a UFO

When the children and I returned to our campsite overlooking Lake Raystown in the scenic Pennsylvania foothills, it was already dark and my husband was pacing back and forth.

“Where have you guys been?” he asked me. “I was about to send out an APB.”

“P-Dawg,” I said solemnly as I took a seat by the fire, “I just had a transcendental experience.”

“Did you see a UFO?” my husband dead-panned.

“How did you know? Did you see it, too?”

Here the P-Dawg rolled his eyes. “It was just a wild guess. But go on,” he continued, in what I couldn’t help but notice was a patronizing tone of voice, “Tell me what you saw.”

“Well. You know how sometimes a person will tell you about seeing some kind of weird luminous object in the sky that is definitely not an airplane or a hot air balloon or even a weather satellite?”

“Yes . . .”

“And what you tend to do is smile and nod. Maybe you’ll say something like, ‘Wow! That’s incredible,’ but what you’re really thinking is, ‘This person is a total nut job who probably also plays D&D and goes to medieval re-enactment fairs.”

“Yes . . .”

“Well, I know how those people feel now, the ones who no one believes.”

“Okay.”

“I took the kids for a walk down by the lake and while they were having a blast with the playground all to themselves, I sat down on a nearby rock and watched the sun set between the mountains. It was a gorgeous sunset, all salmon and coral blending into lavender gray within this perfectly balanced frame of water, mountains, and clouds around it.”

“Uh-huh.”

“And I felt totally content. The sight of that beautiful sunset completely eradicated those first few not so great days of our vacation, when I had to adjust to living in squalor and taking public showers, and when our reunion with our friends got rained out and when our side storage compartment opened up on the turnpike and we lost some of our stuff.”

“Go on,” said the P-Dawg.

“And just as I was thinking about what a perfect ending that sunset was to our vacation, this ORB OF GOLDEN LIGHT came up over the top of the mountain and started moving towards me.”

“Sounds like Ball Lightning.”

“It was about half the size of a full moon, I’d say. At first I thought it was a hot air balloon or something because the edges seemed like they were burning, but as it came closer I could tell it obviously wasn’t that. It was a glowing ball of fire. And I’ll tell you something else, P-Dawg. I saw it right there in front of me plain as the nose on your face.”

“I bet it was Ball Lightning.”

“It was moving towards me, but I felt no fear. Instead I got up from my rock and started walking toward it. It was the strangest thing I’d ever seen in the sky and I just had to find out what it was.”

“Ball Lightning” the P-Dawg said.

“I did not feel as though I was in any danger. It was one of those times when you think, ‘If this is the mothership come to take me home, well then so be it. I stared at it for several minutes and just when it got close enough that I thought I’d finally be able to make out what it was, it suddenly receded into a tiny pinprick and disappeared.”

“Look up ‘Ball Lightning’,” my husband said to me.  “Also, ‘Foo Fighter’,’Saint Elmo’s Fire’ and ‘Will o’ the Wisp’. I hear it happens pretty often when the conditions are right.”

“Have you ever seen it?”

“No.”

“Well. If it’s so common, how come they never mentioned it in my Earth Science class?”

Some of you are probably wondering if the Ball Lightning had a message for me.

It did not. But on that last night of our camping trip, in the tranquil breath between day and night, in front of misty mountains against a canvas of pink light, I felt for a moment as though all was right with the world. It made our whole trip worth it.

And now whenever I walk past the microwave, it starts going automatically and my hair stands on end.

Just kidding.

 

Of course, I didn’t have my phone or camera with me. But the Ball Lightning looked something like this:

 

You can look at some of the more mundane photos from our trip on my Flickr page here. One of the kids deleted most of the photos from my camera, so I have very few pictures from the inside of the camper and the three days we spent in DC.

Did you like this? Subscribe to the blog. (It's free!)