first solo sailing

First Solo Sail

It is a luxury for most people to quit their job and spend a summer on the lake reading, writing, painting, and of course, honing their sailing skills. Indeed, I count myself among those people—but that is exactly what I'm doing this summer.

It was a calm afternoon when I arrived at my family's cottage on Lake Charlevoix in Northern Michigan. Without any wind to tempt me towards the water, I spent the time unpacking and setting up my workspace. The next morning was equally calm, and so after fixing a hearty Sunday breakfast, I sat myself down in front of the computer, anxious to start crossing things off my To Do list.

It wasn't long before the American flags that line the shore up and down the lake stood erect in a brisk breeze, drawing my gaze away from the computer and out the windows toward the little Victoria 18 tied to a buoy just beyond the drop-off.

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mushrooming Lithuania


My favorite word in Lithuanian, grybauti, means “to go mushrooming.” In English, the meaning is simple and to the point, but in Lithuanian, the sentiment of the word is much more poetic. I didn't fully understand it until recently, when some friends put me in a pair of rubber boots, handed me a basket and a knife, and drove to a “secret spot” some 20km outside of Vilnius on a cold, damp morning.

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A community art project on Užupio Independence Day

Artists, Angels & Alcoholics: Escape for a Day to Užupis

In Lithuanian, the word užupis means “beyond the river,” though the Vilnelė River, which divides Užupis from the Vilnius Old Town, is more of a winding creek. In 1997, a group of bohemian artists and writers declared the neighborhood independent and founded the People’s Republic of Užupis. Independence Day is April 1st, and a sign marking the entrance to the district features four distinct symbols including a smiley face and the Mona Lisa warning you of “art ahead.”

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Vytautas Landsbergis Epp Group

Reflections on Kovo 11-ąją

March 11, 2010 (Kovo 11-ąją), celebrates the 20th anniversary of modern-day, independent Lithuania; though it was nearly three and a half tumultuous years before the last Soviet troops retreated to Moscow. On this day I reflect on my first trip to Lithuania, and all the things I could not have done if it were not for those brave men and women who stood up to the Supreme Soviet and declared their independence.

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Queen Charlotte’s Artistic Awakening

There are ducks in New Zealand that mate for life. I don't remember their name. The female has a white head, and the male a black one and we first saw them while kayaking in Milford Sound. In Christchurch, they stroll through the Botanic Gardens in pairs, resting in the sun on the banks of the Avon River.

Christchurch has been accused of being "too English"... but that is precisely what I like about it. A European city of turn-of-the-century stone buildings with cozy sidewalk cafes and quaint English punts taking tourists along the river, situated on the shore of the South Pacific and protected on the west by the Southern Alps.

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blu as bro whakapapa new zealand

It’s Blue As, Bro!

I spent the 2009 Southern Hemisphere winter coaching young ski racers at Turoa Ski Area on the south side of Mt. Ruapehu, New Zealand.

Mt. Ruapehu is famous for its crazy, nasty weather and I got a taste of it last Friday. At the base of the ski area, it was raining, but at the top of the first lift, it was snowing with visibility limited to about fifty meters. We'd already missed two days that week due to bad weather, so we had to take what we could get. At least it wasn't windy.

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Sunset on the Baltic Sea

Iki Pasimatymo, Lietuva!*

After more than five years of living, working, and enjoying life in Vilnius, it is time for me to move on. By the time this magazine goes to press, I’ll already be in New Zealand, where I will spend the “summer” coaching a local ski club. I do intend to return next winter to Lithuania to coach the Kalnų Ereliai ski team and hopefully to resume writing this column, but for the moment, it’s time for this little lietuvaitė to pack her bags and learn to speak Kiwi.

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marijonas mikutavicius

Trys Milijonai*

Since much of my winter is spent out of Lithuania, I spend spring getting in touch with friends and catching up on all the activities I’ve missed.

As long as I can remember, on April 1st the weather is always warm and what better way to start the spring than by celebrating Užupio Independence Day. On the bridge, we were greeted by “immigration agents” dressed in white jumpsuits and 3D glasses waiting to stamp our passports. Yes, that’s right, you can get an authentic Užupis visa, good for a one day visit! The atmosphere was festive on the patio of Užupio Kavinė where residents and visitors mingled with plastic cups of “imported” Švyturys. Live music went on long into the evening. We clutched our beers and sang along with the rag-tag group of “jazz” musicians playing Lucky Man.

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Welcome to the Užupio Res Publika! Don't forget your passport!

Užupis Independence Day

It's not an April Fool's joke: Residents of the tiny Republic of Užupis, which lays just beyond the River Vilnelė, take their Independence Day very seriously. It all starts with the border patrol on the Užupis Bridge. Dressed in white jumpsuits and 3D glasses, "immigration agents" wait to stamp your passport. Yes, that's right, you can get an authentic Užupis visa, good for a one day visit!

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Out and about in Vilnius.

Lithuanian for Beginners

When I was hired at Cosmopolitan magazine a week after arriving in Lithuania in December 2003, I told the editor-in-chief, "Don't worry, my Lithuanian is a little rusty, but I'll be back to speaking fluently in a few weeks." That, at best, was wishful thinking.

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