Stories from the Muddy

Please feel free to email me anytime with questions or additional story elements.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Machines That Made Our World

Sonny shows us some of the vintage equipment used on his farm and in the Moapa Valley.

<A HREF=" SRC="" ALT="Protected by Copyscape Online Copyright Protection" TITLE="Protected by Copyscape Plagiarism Checker - Do not copy content from this page." WIDTH="88" HEIGHT="31" BORDER="0"></A>

Friday, November 5, 2010

Times and Seasons

Sonny gives a tour of the old barn he and his dad designed in 1945.

<A HREF=" SRC="" ALT="Protected by Copyscape Online Copyright Protection" TITLE="Protected by Copyscape Plagiarism Checker - Do not copy content from this page." WIDTH="88" HEIGHT="31" BORDER="0"></A>

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Raindrops on Roses

By Naomi Lewis

               When I arrived in Paisley, Scotland, Cassie told me my bed had arrived, but we had to build it.  First we dragged the delivery boxes up the stairs.  Between scratching our heads over diagrams and singing “My Favorite Things,” with a twist of a screwdriver here and a hand-pounding there, a sturdy metal frame bunk bed took shape, filling the better part of my bedroom.  The bed was ingenious, as are many of Britain’s appliances, with a futon cushion for a mattress and I believe some of the magic of “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.”  All it took was a push for the bottom bunk to turn it into a sofa for day use, perfect for reading, writing in my journal or petting the cat.

             My first evening in Paisley, Frank brought home dinner – fish and chips to die for.  I felt guilty eating such a delicious meal in front of Cass and Frank, since they are both gluten intolerant and ate something much less appetizing.  When I went upstairs to bed, I found it made with four soft pillows and a pretty white comforter.  I fell asleep to the evening trains.  I couldn’t see them for the trees, but they were a familiar lullaby as I fell asleep in a foreign place.  I grew up near where a train passed twice a day and it has always been a comforting sound, reminding me of the security of family love.

               The next day, we rushed to Polmonds before closing so Frank and Cass could eat the wheat-free fish and chips they served once a month.  Later we drove to Bannockburn, the site of the decisive battle for Scotland’s freedom from England.  I would have loved to roll down that glorious grassy hill.  

Wallace statue at Bannockburn
           We drove on to Stirling and Falkirk, sites of other battles and beautiful stone castles.  I was reminded, people of every country and time want their freedom.  We always have to fight for it.  On the way home, as Cassie played small practice bagpipes in the back seat, I began whistling a tune.  Frank asked me what it was.  I told him I made it up.  They thought it sounded like a Highland lament and Cassie played it beautifully on her bagpipes.

            June 5th we started early for Loch Lomond, narrow in its nestled hills, misty on the mountain tops.  I never stopped marveling at all the water in and around Scotland.  Next stop Inveraray, the kind of town one hopes to see in this life – sweet, quaint, accessed by a bridge, surrounded by water and hills whose roots are hidden in the depths of Loch Fyne where ancient history, legends, myths, and humor have grown out of the morning mist.

Inveraray, Scotland

           Inveraray is a fairy tale town with a fairy tale castle where artisans still make by hand the metal pins for kilts.  While I was there, I was privileged to buy a rain cap of authentic Inveraray plaid.  The sales woman told me it wasn’t out yet and if I saw someone wearing the pattern, it came from their store.  Charles and Camilla were due the next weekend to re-launch the plaid that hadn’t been made for many years.  

Inveraray Castle

           Frank stopped outside Kilmartin in a spritz of rain to look at the standing stones.  He and I walked in the mist and tried not to step on sheep droppings. 


An arch looking out on Loch Fyne, Inveraray

Kilmartin Church

           Kilmartin was another sweet village with a church and graveyard full of Templar gravestones, the answer to a mystery I’ve researched for one of my screenplays. 

Bridge into Inveraray

Inveraray, the town


Bridge Over The Atlantic, Isle of Seil

             Continuing north, we three travelers arrived at Easedale on the Isle of Seil, crossing the majestic stone Bridge Over The Atlantic.  I had never thought about where the Atlantic ended, but it ended there in that part of Scotland.  The view of the islands and grassy hills was so overwhelming I couldn’t take it all in.  I wanted to put my arms around it all.  I looked out to sea and thought about a lady standing in a bay holding up a torch in her hand. 

          We ate a picnic and enjoyed the sunshine and view from the little park.  It clouded over and was delightfully cool.  If one doesn’t like the weather here, wait a few minutes and it changes.  There is a little bit of every kind of weather each day and seems to rain or mist almost every night.  We were so near Oban, we drove up and stopped on the Corniche to let Murphy and Jack wade in the ocean.

Paintbrush on the Isle of Seil
Cassie playing her bagpipes at Largs
           A misting rain on the way back was refreshing to a desert girl like me.  We stopped at a smoky pub for an authentic supper of beef tatties.  It turned out to be hamburger in gravy with mashed potatoes -
very good eating, but I missed my vegetables.

               Another day of adventures started at Largs down the coast from Paisley.  The dogs had fun chasing sticks into the ocean and Cassie played her bagpipes. 

            At Ayr, the birthplace of poet Robert Burns, we ate a bite and enjoyed the sky and clouds - an incomparable landscape.

Ayr, Scotland

            Back in Paisley, Frank took me to see the Wallace Memorial and his birthplace at Endersley.  As I was taking pictures, an older lady walked across the street with a beautifully illustrated color pamphlet and asked if I had one.  Since I didn’t, she gave it to me.  When I told her I was from Las Vegas, she told me she had been there in 1983 and 1988 and commented about the size of America.

In the Highlands I couldn't make a squeek




<A HREF=" SRC="" ALT="Protected by Copyscape Online Copyright Protection" TITLE="Protected by Copyscape Plagiarism Checker - Do not copy content from this page." WIDTH="88" HEIGHT="31" BORDER="0"></A>

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


By Naomi Lewis

            A few days after I arrived in Warsaw, my friends began their vacation.  Monika’s brother, Jacek, came to drive us to her country home in the Mazury Lakes district of northern Poland.  I can never in good conscience complain about U.S. highways again.
          The main thoroughfare between Warsaw and Gdansk, a Baltic Coast recreational area, is a two lane highway.  There is no such thing as a freeway.  I was told they know how to make them, but they don't, and they skimp on the roads they do build, as it was described to me, so they can pave someone’s driveway and make extra money.

          Now, the two lanes between Warsaw and Gdansk are deeply rutted from all the truck traffic.  If you get caught in a rut and need to get out, heaven help you.  The Poles want to get where they’re going as fast as people with four or six or eight lanes, so they have devised a passing lane down the middle.  It's invisible, but the Poles agree it's there.  Drivers coming toward you at 120 km an hour with their brights on, assume you'll move over onto the shoulder so they can pass the car in front of them.  This is not crazy, as I was told, it's normal!  It's Polish!

          Polish semi trucks travel as fast as U.S. trucks or faster with half the room to navigate.  It's terrifying. I felt I was caught in a loop of Mr. Toads Ride, praying and holding on to the handle bar on the ceiling of Monika’s compact car.

           To make it even trickier,  when people are passing you down the middle and there's a car coming from the other direction passing the car in front of them, there are two passing lanes down the middle and the cars with the right of way move over onto both shoulders.  Now, if you add the guy riding his bicycle on the shoulder, or the huge, ancient trees bordering the shoulder, or a horse-drawn cart full of somebody's family riding on the shoulder, or maybe just a guy out for a stroll, you get the idea of what it’s like to drive in Poland.  But I’m not finished.  Now...add curvy and hilly.

Wheat field near Naria
            Okay, country roads.  These are also two lanes, but full of potholes on the edges, next to the 200 year old trees that aren't moving.  People drive down the middle of the road from both directions, and when a car approaches from the other direction, the alternative to a head-on collision is to swerve the last moment to miss them.  I mean last moment, then dart back to the center.  The cars rock so badly, you might think you're riding in a cartoon car, if you can picture it. 

           When I thought I couldn't take any more, the light would splash golden and breathtaking through the clouds that kept us cool across the wheat fields ready to harvest. And the air, was so cool and fresh, free of pollution.  I didn't see any smoke stacks from industry.  I don't know where they are, but there aren't any between Warsaw and the north.

           The night we drove north, we ended up in a pitch black Hansel and Gretel forest.  There were no street lights in Morag, the nearby town to cheer us on. We arrived at Naria at and Monika showed me my room.  It had been closed and smelled musty.  I was well-travelled and used to landing in unfamiliar places, but that night, I sat on the edge of my little bed a long time with my miniature flashlight clutched in my hands.  I knew I would come to love that room as my refuge after I put myself in the context of the house and neighborhood, but that first night, I was scared to the bone.  I prayed I would fall asleep quickly and I did.  It may be the first time in my life I truly knew what it meant to "Lie down unto the Lord."  When I awakened, light flooded through my window and I found out which direction was east.  Upon reflection, I thought I knew something of what Jonah must have felt in the "belly of the whale."

There are more storks in Poland than any other country

          I was reading the Old Testament that summer.  I don't know how the Lord does this, it happened several times on my journey, but when I opened my scriptures, I just happened to have arrived at Joshua 1:9, "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."

<A HREF=" SRC="" ALT="Protected by Copyscape Online Copyright Protection" TITLE="Protected by Copyscape Plagiarism Checker - Do not copy content from this page." WIDTH="88" HEIGHT="31" BORDER="0"></A>

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Train Not Taken

By Naomi Lewis

I spent the summer of 2005 in England, Scotland, Wales, Poland and Lithuania, doing family history research and visiting long-time friends.  On Monday, July 4th, I missed the fireworks and usual American festivities, but was well paid.  I boarded a train at Strawberry Hill for Vauxhall, thinking that’s where I would change trains for King’s Cross, but when I arrived, I found the only way into central London was by tube/underground.  I hated to travel by tube.  I liked to watch the buildings and trees blur past me.  Minutes passed as I stood at the top of the stairs.  I couldn’t talk myself into descending.  I wonder now if it was a premonition, but my destination was through that tunnel and there were no above ground connections and there was nothing I could do about it.  I finally took a deep breath and followed the crowd into the underground.

King’s Cross Station was in the neighborhood of my great grandfather Arthur’s childhood and the current location of the Family History Centre, and I thought, possibly the depository of records of my relatives.  Arthur had immigrated to the United States in 1882 at age fourteen, but he stayed in touch with his father and two brothers who remained in England.

The story came down through our family that Arthur received a letter from his oldest brother, John, telling him he was being trained to ride camels in the Sahara.  In other words, he was being trained to fight in the Boer War in South Africa.  Since that was the last letter my great grandfather ever received from his brother, the American side of the family concluded that John had gone to the Boer War and died.  That was the story I heard growing up.  That was the story in our family for more than a hundred years.  It was my self-imposed mission, while I was in London, to find out the truth.

I was relieved when I arrived at King’s Cross Station safely.  Following a map, I wound through the streets until I found the Centre.  After a lucky search, I found Arthur’s brother John, who had been a London Constable, his wife and six children, in the newly released 1901 census.  The Boer War ended in 1899, which reasonably led me to believe, John had not died in the Boer War.  There had to be another explanation for the lack of letters.  A feeling I had since I was a teenager that I had living relatives still in England was suddenly stronger than ever.

Kew, the National Archives

I planned to leave London three days later, on Thursday for Scotland.  The next day, I spent at Kew, the National Archives, looking for pension records which I didn’t find.  I was disappointed because they contained physical descriptions and I wanted to know something about John’s appearance as well as find an address.  I went back home to Twickenham where I was staying with friends.  Suddenly, I felt a distinct impression my work was finished and I should not linger.  I hurried to pack my bags, preparing to leave for Paisley, the next day.

I dragged my bag to Strawberry Hill Station about 7:30 Wednesday morning, caught a loaded train to Vauxhall and stood long moments in the underground at King’s Cross Station, waiting for a train that had enough room to board.  The trains were so crowded with morning commuters, there was no room to board.  I felt sorry for people who spent their mornings and evenings in tunnels.  I was very uncomfortable and couldn’t wait to get out of the underground, but made myself think the best of it –  after all, those folks went through that routine twice a day.  I made myself breathe and relax. 

Finally, I was able to push my luggage onto a train speeding for Euston Station, my jumping off point for Scotland.  I boarded the above-ground train for Carlisle at 9:45.  I enjoyed a lovely, peaceful ride through an incomparable, hilly countryside.  The gentleman who sat across the table was an 85 year old WWII veteran, dressed in a smart red military uniform with four ribbons and medals on his chest.  He was traveling from an old soldier’s hospital in Chelsea for a two week holiday in Blackpool.  I gave him a piece of Walker’s Scottish shortbread.  He said, “It had a wonderful taste.”  He had never eaten it before.  I thanked him for his part in WWII.  He looked back at me shyly.  He had been at Dunquerque and still had shrapnel in his head.

New Lanark worker housing

What a different world we would live in without the superhuman efforts of men like him.  I arrived in Glasgow and changed trains for Paisley.  The next day, July 7, I decided to use my Britrail pass and have an adventure at New Lanark, a very progressive 18th century mill town where its builder, Robert Owen, set up a water wheel, started a school and built good housing out of cut stone for his workers, very unusual for the time.


At nine a.m., I was enroute when I received a frantic call from my friend, Cassie, with whom I was staying in Paisley, wanting to know where I was.  Then she told me, “King’s Cross Station has been bombed, please be careful.”  Later, I received a text message telling me there were six bombings in London that morning.                       

Two days that very week, I had been in the underground at King’s Cross at 9 a.m.  If I had left London on Thursday, as I planned, that’s where I would have been during the attacks.  I would at the very least have been greatly inconvenienced and had to drag my heavy luggage back to Twickenham, but there could have been a much more devastating outcome.  In this case, the train not taken, made all the difference. 

<A HREF=" SRC="" ALT="Protected by Copyscape Online Copyright Protection" TITLE="Protected by Copyscape Plagiarism Checker - Do not copy content from this page." WIDTH="88" HEIGHT="31" BORDER="0"></A>

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Dark and Stormy Night

By Naomi Lewis

              I spent two weeks in the wild Mazury Lakes district of northern Poland before I realized I was a city girl.  I couldn’t take one more day of country living in a foreign country.  Monika, my long-time friend, had a beautiful country estate. Everything was comfortable.  I think I was just too far from the airport.  I began to feel stranded at the end of the rainbow. 

Warsaw apartment at Latchorzew
            Monika was gracious enough to let me spend several days in her Warsaw condo while her family enjoyed the rest of their country vacation.  So I was alone one night when a storm of Biblical proportions ripped through Warsaw.  Curtains were suddenly sucked out of rooms to wave at the sky.  Open doors and windows banged until I thought they would be ripped off their hinges.
               The staircase to Monika’s room in the loft on the second floor didn’t have a banister and the wooden stairs were steep.  I had never ventured there with my questionable knees, but with her windows slamming above me, I swallowed hard and climbed hands and feet together.  The climb wasn’t as bad as I reckoned the descent would be.  I came down on my behind.

               The lightning was a fireworks display, lasting hours.  Thunder I didn't mind, but lightning was too much like the judgment of God to be comfortable.  Once I had secured the doors and windows all over the apartment, I looked out to see what was happening in the neighborhood.  The rain was a torrent, reminding me of the endless waters plunging over the cliffs at Niagara Falls, obscuring the houses across the street, only yards away.  I hid from the lightning in an alcove in front of the bathroom where there were no windows.  The apartment was full of sky lights, I prayed would hold.

               In such a conflagration, I thought it would be a miracle if the lights stayed on.  Five minutes later, the power went off.  Not only did the lights go out, but the water system failed.  Faucets only gurgled.  Toilets wouldn’t flush.  I couldn’t wash my hands.  Fortunately, growing up in the desert, I was accustomed to carrying drinking water everywhere I went, more than I needed, much to the amusement of my Polish friends, who mocked me, with “This isn’t the desert.  This isn’t Las Vegas.”  I was trained to be prepared and I was.  I was glad.  I had plenty of drinking water, the necessities bread, soup, cookies and I could cook on the gas stove.

               However, without power, I didn’t have the internet or television to inform me how large an area was affected by the storm.  I wondered if such a storm would create a local emergency.  Was the whole country inundated?  With my imagination spiraling, I wondered if it were a pan-European event.  The storm was so severe I began to believe it was the beginning of an apocalypse and I was a long way from home.  I switched on my transistor radio.  I thought it a good sign that several stations were on the air, presumably playing their usual fare, though I couldn't understand the Polish commentary.

               When the lightning came more sporadically, I ventured out of my retreat in the alcove to look out the windows again.  By then I could see the houses across the street and the woods beyond.  The neighborhood seemed calm.  I saw a lone candle flickering in the window of a house a couple doors down.  I took some comfort in the fact that my house wasn’t the only one out of power.  Being a professional communicator all my working life, I found it frustrating not having information at my fingertips.  I felt the agony of not being able to communicate in the local language or understand the communications that were available.

               As the hours wore on, neighbors ventured out, several with boats on top of their cars.  That made me wonder.  It was the weekend, but did they know something I didn’t?  I didn’t know.  I took some comfort I was in an upstairs apartment in case a dam broke or something else equally devastating.

               With the power out, I thought the phones were dead and didn’t even try to use them.  So when a phone rang, it was a jolt.  As it turned out one of the phones was not electric, and Monika was able to get through.  They had been swimming at the lake and hadn't seen the news, so she couldn't tell me what was happening either, but told me where the candles and matches were.  I had my little flashlight I carried everywhere, so I was okay, and I had extra batteries, but a little general light was comforting.

Across the street after the storm
                When it was time for sleep, I just made myself go to bed.  The lights came back on at 7:30 the next morning after being off fourteen hours.  As it turned out, that storm was not a big event by Polish standards, but it could have been.  I'm a great believer in being prepared for contingencies and if I hadn’t been, that difficult night, I would have been further traumatized.  I thought about how fragile our lives are and how much we depend on the grid.  If the storm had created a crisis, sanitation would have quickly become a problem, electric trains couldn't run, eventually buses would stop when they couldn't pump gas, planes wouldn't fly, and on and on, everything was affected by a lack of electricity.

                The sun came up as big as you please as if nothing had happened, but plenty had gone on in my mind that dark and stormy night.  

<A HREF=" SRC="" ALT="Protected by Copyscape Online Copyright Protection" TITLE="Protected by Copyscape Plagiarism Checker - Do not copy content from this page." WIDTH="88" HEIGHT="31" BORDER="0"></A>

Meining/Preikschat and the Lithuanian Connection

By Naomi Lewis

Betty Louise Meining Gentry Lewis
Betty Louise Meining Gentry Lewis always thought her father Otto Meining's family came from Germany.  In the 1970's while I was researching different family lines in Salt Lake City, I told an aid at the Family History Center what my great aunt Emma told me, that her folks, John Meining and Emma Snyder, spoke Litosh.  The woman said if they spoke Litoish, they were from Lithuania.  There was a great deal of confusion in my mind about Germany, Prussia, and Lithuania.  The area has a very complex history.

Otto Albert Meining Betty Louise's Father

            Aunt Emma Gates, Otto's sister, and the wife of Grandma Gentry's brother, Herschel, gave me the address of her cousin Gertrude Abrat, in Dayton, Ohio, who was in possession of the family Bible.  I wrote her a letter to learn what I could about that part of the family.

Emma Snyder Meining

            In 1976, I was in Columbus, Ohio, staying with my friends Rosa and Larry Stolz, waiting for my second album, "Seagulls and Sunflowers," to be pressed in Cincinnati. One fine day, Rosa and I drove to Dayton to visit Gertude Abrat.  Gertrude was the daughter of Anna Preischat and Christ Abrat.  Gertrude and her sister took us to lunch and we visited.  From Gertrude, I learned a little bit about the Meining's and first heard about the Preikschat family.  I found out my mother's great grandfather, John Preikschat, was born in Smalininkai, Lithuania.  Now the Litosh, Litoish, East Prussia, Lithuania story was coming together.  John Meining's wife was Emma Snyder Meining.
John Meining

            In about 1870, while John Preikschat was in Kaiser Wilhelm's Navy and on his ship, the SMS Weissenburg, a Brandenburg class battleship, Emma delivered their first son and named him John Meining, keeping her maiden name as his surname.  John and Emma's later children, Albert, Bertha, Anna, and Maria were surnamed Preikschat.  I found pictures of the Brandenburg on the internet.  In the summer of 2006 while at the family history center in Salt Lake City, I found John and Emma's marriage certificate, John Preikschat and family immigration papers, and John Meining's naturalization papers

John Preikschat on the SMS Weissenburg
            According to information given to me by Gertrude Abrat, John Preikschat died in a Russian prison camp in 1916.  I wish I knew these details.  Did they immigrate to America, then John and Anna and one son, Albert, go back to the homeland?  There is a story here because Anna Meining Preikschat died in Germany in 1935.

            John Meining immigrated to Dayton, Montgomery, Ohio at the turn of the century.  I don't know if he met Emma in Europe, or after he arrived in America, but they were here by 1904.  Otto Albert, my mother's father, was born March 4, 1904, in Dayton, Montgomery, Ohio.  His siblings were Frank Gustav, Emma Bertha, our Aunt Emma, Herman August, Ida Mary, John William, and Paul.  I found several census records of this family.

John Preikschat
             While I was in Europe in 2006, I was determined to visit the village where this family originated and find something out about them.  Visiting my friend, Monika in Poland, I discovered my young friend, Jacek, Monika's brother, had supervised several construction projects in Lithuania, knew his way around, and was willing to take me.  The seven hour drive included some of the worst roads through Poland one can imagine.  Roads are better after crossing the border into Lithuania, but by the time we drove into Smalininkai, the jostling ride had done its worst on my neck and I was feeling quite ill.  The village probably hasn't changed much since my family left there more than a 100 years ago.  It was a beautiful land of green fields and trees lining both sides of the road, but there wasn't much to recommend the town.  It felt bleak to me.

Road into Smalininkai, Lithuania
           With spritzing rain all day, there wasn't anyone around.  The library was closed, and our prospects of finding out anything in this small village looked impossible.  But as is proven over and over again, nothing is impossible to the Lord.

            We drove through town one more time.  Two men who hadn't been there before, were now on the sidewalk. We stopped the car and I asked through the window if there was anyone in town who spoke English.  As one of the men leaned toward me, I smelled alcohol on his breath.  I made a snap judgment for which I hope the Lord will forgive me, that this was a lost cause, and how stupid could I be to come clear to Lithuania to find traces of a family that hadn't lived there for over 100 years.  I just wanted to go home.  As I sat there paralyzed, Jacek, who was such a blessing to me, got out of the car.  I wanted to say, "Let's just go.  Forget it, I want to get out of here," instead, I wrote two family names on a piece of paper.  "Meining, Preikschat," I said.

            The man's eyes lit up.  Nodding, he said the name, Preikschat.  To my surprise this wobbly man disappeared and reappeared moments later with a woman in tow.  I asked her if she spoke English, she told me no, but she spoke German and I understood enough German to communicate. I understood there was still a Preikschat in the village.  Our new friends piled into the back seat of the car and led us to a house. 

Old Preikschat home
            It was one of the old family houses and the woman explained to me that they built a new house and after several tries, we found it.  I was so exhausted and ill, my heart wasn't in knocking on a strangers door, but the locals did that for me and explained to the older woman who answered who we were.

            To my surprise, she indicated for us to enter her home.  I didn't want to.  It was so hard for me to walk down that dark hallway and track mud into her house.

The generous lady
              As the little man was leaving, he asked me in German if I spoke English better than German.  When I told him, yes, I was American, he stumbled out of the house.  I don't believe he had ever met an American before, nor could he figure out what I was doing there.

The Generous lady invited us to sit at a table and I quickly learned that she didn't speak English, either, so we communicated with my very rusty German. I said a silent prayer, "I don't know what to do.  How can I explain what I need to her?  Help me."  Jacek, who hadn't said a word before, began to speak to her in Polish.  She visibly came alive.  She had lived in Poland for five years and spoke fluent Polish.

            Jacek was able to tell her we wanted to find a genealogist and were interested in the family history.  She was a widow and told us her husband's uncle had gone to America. I believe that is my family line.  She went to the cupboard and came back with an envelope with an address for the office of vital records in Vilnius.  We thanked her and got up to leave.  When we arrived at the door, she called us back and went to the phone.

            She made a call to the priest who had several parishes in the area under his jurisdiction .  She coincidently worked in his office.  The priest, Father Mindaugas, spoke English and German and I was able to tell him why I was there.  He sadly explained that the Smalininkai parish records had been destroyed.  It was hard to hear after coming so far, but was information I needed to know.  Where the Lord closes a door, he opens a window.  Father Mindaugas suggested to me that some of the family records could also be in Taurage, which was under his jurisdiction.  Now I had a contact for researching the Lithuanian side of my family.  I went back to Poland believing what had happened in Lithuania was a miracle.

            In Kaunas, I rented two rooms for $36.  They were plain, but sufficient for the night.  I had probably 
Hotel room in Kaunus, Lithuania
the worst night of my whole European adventure in Kaunas.  I couldn't find a comfortable position for my neck, worse for the wear of the road and the stress of trying to communicate. 
            I felt very far from home that night.  I was very far from home.  As far as I ever hope to be.  Taking a shower was a challenge in a tub with a hand-held rubber hose.  What fun washing my hair with one hand.

            All the young people in Lithuania spoke English, unlike Poland.  Jacek took me to a restaurant where we had a traditional soup made of cabbage and caraway seeds.  It was delicious and scalding hot.  The bread roof over the bowl was delicious as well.  We both drank bottled water.  The whole meal cost three litu's, about $4.  Things were very inexpensive in Lithuania.

Pedestrian mall in Kaunus, Lithuania
             The next morning at Kaunas, I walked out into a huge outdoor pedestrian mall.  Two rows of trees were lined up down the middle with stores on both sides of the mall as far as I could see. I thought it must be safe to venture out with a Nivea poster shining down on me and Matthew McConaughey bigger than life smiling down from a poster for his new film, Sahara.

Mall in Vilnius, Lithuania
             We were in Vilnius by lunch time and Jacek knew a great place to eat.  The mall could have been Ceasar's Palace in Las Vegas, modern and beautiful.  We ate at a buffet where we paid for each item separately.  I couldn't get enough of bigos - (I'm not sure about the spelling) well -cooked sauerkraut with tiny pieces of sausage - a consistently delicious dish wherever I ate it.

            I fell in love with Vilnius. When all the restorations are complete, I believe the city will rival Gdansk on the Baltic coast of Poland.  I wish I could have spent more time in Vilnius.  I would rather have been there for the night than at Kaunas.

Church in Vilnius

Boats at Trakai, Lithuania
            We drove to Trakai late in the day and enjoyed the beautiful castle and lake.  The boats looked ancient and very unique, like something I would imagine sailing the Nile. 
Trakai, Lithuania

Mustard colored house


            Lithuanians are fond of mustard colored houses.  I wonder if it goes back to a time when the people worshiped the sun.

            I saw many of the Soviet farm complexes are now in ruin.  When Lithuania won its independence, the giant Soviet farms were split into family farms, but I didn't see any fences anywhere in my travels.  Farmers don't take their cows to a barn to milk them, they bring their stools and buckets to the field where their animals are tied to a stake.  When the grass is eaten  off around the stake, they move the stake.

Beauty outside Vilnius
             As we traveled in Lithuania, I realized why we're commanded to meet together often.  One lamp can light a room, but many lamps light a house, a city, a country, a world. 

           The fields were so artful and beautiful.  Golden grain was planted on all the hills and the low areas were left bright green.  It was stunning. 

            It was time to head back to Warsaw.  As we stopped for construction, I took a sunset photo of Lithuania.  I missed so many great

photos in Poland and Lithuania because there wasn't room to stop.

            Before I left the country, I saw a man raking his hay with a horse in the traditional way.

            Jacek was a trooper.  He drove us clear home to Wasrsaw as I dozed.  We arrived back at Monika's at .

            I was a little worse for wear when I returned from Lithuania.  The miles had done their worst on my neck.  I wondered how I was going to endure to the end of my journey with six weeks still ahead.  I had a fervent desire to finish what I set out to do and to go home on the date I had planned.

            I awakened that night so distressed with my neck, I thought, if we tortured our children, the way we are tortured, it would be called abuse.  It was Sunday morning, and at the Warsaw first ward we sang, "How Firm A Foundation," and I felt one of the Lord's tender mercies to me. "I am thy God and will still give thee aid, I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand."

           The Sunday School lesson came from Doctrine and Covenants Section 98:  "He giveth this promise unto you, with an immutable covenant that they shall be fulfilled and all things wherewith you have been afflicted shall work together for your good."  Could I have received a message any clearer or more personal after my thoughts in the night?  I believe God is aware of us as individuals in our individual needs and challenges.  

<A HREF=" SRC="" ALT="Protected by Copyscape Online Copyright Protection" TITLE="Protected by Copyscape Plagiarism Checker - Do not copy content from this page." WIDTH="88" HEIGHT="31" BORDER="0"></A>