A favorite poem

selfportraitwinter

Self-portrait in woods near home on a winter day.

Hello! Warm greetings in the new year 2017. I’ve been quite active of late and have let some time go by with no new posting. I’ll begin anew today, in remembrance of January 13, 1991, (26 years ago) Lithuania’s Defenders of Freedom Day, with thoughts of a favorite poet of mine, Al Žolynas.

The author was first brought to my attention by my aunt who subscribed to Lituanus, a journal of Lithuanian culture and history. I remember her cutting the poem out of the book to share with me some thirteen years ago. It reminded her of family. She later gave me the Lituanus containing the poem, neatly taped back in place. I’ve read it many times since. Last year I searched for Mr. Žolynas online and was very surprised to locate him. I asked about our favorite poem, One More Attempt At Self-Definition. He generously agreed to my request in sharing his poem, and seemed genuinely happy it would please me so. His writing depicts a deep understanding of his subject matter. Another of his thoughtful poems, At My Father’s Ancestral Farm, (near Šunskai, Lithuania) he speaks dearly of family and home in both past and present tense. Pulling out one of my old maps, I pinpoint Šunskai. Just south, I find the region of my own ancestor’s homeland. A nice connection.

It’s wonderful to imagine a place through the words of another. Creative profound words that bring visuals to life as though we are walking in their footsteps. This is what comes to mind when I read his poems. I’m half Lithuanian and half Scottish. Growing up with family traditions are meaningful, especially at the holidays. My great-grandparents (mom’s side) lived in a heavily forested area by the Merkys River in Merkinė, the southern region of Lithuania. Mushrooming and farming were part of daily life. They were gatherers, steadfast and strong–nature lovers who thrived, fought, and died in the forests that sustained them. You can read more about my family history here ~ Kudarauskas

Over the years I’ve collected numerous personal artifacts from Lithuania including a large selection of books, photographs, little paintings, prints, amber jewelry, ceramics, and a variety of wooden sculptures and wall hangings. Many of my hand-carved pieces are signed and dated. These amazing artworks are a fond reminder of my heritage that will stay alive in my heart forever. They all have a story to tell…

woodenfigurines

Wooden treasures clustered together on the dresser with a picture of my grandmother, Monika.

“My wooden figurines rest atop a family dresser in my home. They are reflections of the spirits that once created them, standing now as the strong-willed souls they were. Chip, chip chip, they came to life, my wooden carvings with the sorrowful eyes. I am greeted each day and reminded… Labas (hello) you are here.”
Love and Peace,

Robin

* Thank you Al Žolynas for allowing me to share your beautiful poem ~ enjoy everyone.

ONE MORE ATTEMPT AT SELF-DEFINITION
By Al Žolynas

*Reprinted with permission by the author

I come from a tribe of nature worshippers,
pantheists, believers in fairies, forest sprites, and
wood nymphs,
who heard devils in their windmills,
met them in the woods, cloven-hooved
and dapper gentlemen of the night,
who named the god of thunder,
who praised and glorified bread, dark rye waving
waist-high out of the earth,
and held it sacred, wasting not a crumb, who
spent afternoons mushrooming in forests of pine,
fir, and birch, who transferred Jesus
from his wooden cross, transformed him
into a wood-carved, worrying peasant,
raised him on a wooden pole above the crossroads
where he sat with infinite patience
in rain and snow, wooden legs apart,
wooden elbows on wooden knees,
wooden chin in wooden hand,
worrying and sorrowing for the world…
these people who named their sons and daughters
after amber, rue, fir tree, dawn, storm,
and the only people I know who have a diminutive
form for God Himself—Dievulis, “God-my-little-buddy.”

Any wonder I catch myself speaking
to trees, flowers, bushes—these eucalyptus so far
from Eastern Europe—or that I bend down to the earth,
gather pebbles, acorns, leaves, boles, bring
them home, enshrine them on mantelpieces or above
porcelain fixtures in corners, any wonder
I grow nervous in rooms
and must step outside and touch a tree,
or sink my toes in the dirt, or watch the birds fly by.

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