A Stelmuž? Oak in a Montana Forest
Lithuania is a magical country sprinkled with majestic castles, faery forests, and flowery meadows. She has wisdom flowing through her rivers. Lithuania’s spirit is an old one: beauty and strife pepper her history, and her experiences feed these rivers. Although she’s seen hardship; tyrants trying to rule her serene countryside, she always remains stoic, perseverant, and loyal to what it is to be Lithuania. You’ll hear her people say “Ži?riu pro rožinius akinius”: look at the world through pink glasses. These words speak to the piece of her character that remains positive, even in the face of turmoil. Lithuania is a small country, yet REGAL in it’s patriotism and magnificent in it’s beauty.
The same can be said of my friend who was born there.
When Akvilina Rieger walked into my office for this interview, a smile naturally crossed my lips. Her presence is a warm hug, and I relish it’s comforting embrace. I’m certain everyone smiles when they meet with Akvilina, but I smiled because she perfectly depicted the picture of the swan I always see when I think of her. She was styled in all white: her ebony hair and eyes contrasting the brightness. She seems to float gracefully on her path, but beneath the calm surface, her feet are kicking, her wheels turning, and ACTION is driving her forward. She projects a sense of purity: white light piercing a night sky, and people flock to her to bask in the starlight.
Akvilina was born into a REVOLUTION. She grew up hearing stories of her family members in exile; forced from their Lithuanian homes and relocated to Siberia where they slept in the dirt. They were meant to BREAK, to forget their heritage, and adopt a new language and way of being. The roots of Lithuanians never break from the Mother Land, and her family persevered. She personally experienced what it feels like to have a government control her actions, words, and belief system, but this merely added fuel to her fiery spirit, and she learned to bloom in desert sand. Akvilina knows what it takes to hand pump her water for the day and use the outdoor restroom down the hill. She also knows what it takes to speak out for her family and her people to make a better life for her country.
As a teenager, Akvilina’s conservative father sought out advise from a Lithuanian healer. She recalls hearing a premonition that “water will separate your family” and from this experience, developed an apprehension towards water. Years later, she crossed the ocean to America, and it wasn’t until her roots were already deep in the Montana soil that she realized this premonition wasn’t one of death, but of her new LIFE.
Lithuania will always flow through her veins, but Akvilina came to our country seeking the American Dream. She recalls that “Americans are the most gracious hosts” and, every single day, takes action to repay this gesture by pouring kindness into those around her. She’s active within our community: demonstrating leadership, providing guidance and resources, and teaching her unique perspective about money. She tells the story of her humble beginnings to shape a new attitude towards finances and tells the secrets of how she cultivates her blessed American Dream.
Akvilina is a Stelmuž?, a Lithuanian Oak, who travels the world planting her roots everywhere she goes. She soaks up the beauty of the land she’s in that day and holds it in her spirit. Her experiences bring her a deep wisdom, growing with every ring in her core. A conversation with her is always a vacation to a far-off place, and she has this remarkable power of bringing back a piece of her journey to be enjoyed by everyone. Every place she visits becomes her home for that slice of time, and she BELONGS everywhere she goes.
From Akvilina, I’ve learned that keeping myself grounded is the way to reach the stars. I strive to be like that Stelmuž?: roots deep in the forest floor, soaking up the wisdom of Mother Nature, and GROWING towards epic heights to touch the sky. I’m learning to sport my rose-colored glasses every day to see the beauty in everything and everybody around me. I’m learning how to be a beacon, always shining, even in my darkest moments.
I can’t help but be immensely grateful to Akvilina for being a part of my life. She was the inspiration for this writing series. I’m not convinced she knows the impact she has on those around her…she’s too humble, and it just adds to her remarkable character. I’m grateful for all the lessons, all the conversations, all the light that Akvilina shines. I feel so blessed to know her, let alone call her friend.
Thank you, Akvilina