Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dvasos Church

The two pictures to the left are of a beaded artwork in the Dvasos Church in Vilnius, Lithuania. I don't know the name of the artist, but I was dazzled by the beauty of the work and thought I would share it with you. As a person who dabbles in needlework, I could imagine the hours and hours the artist put in to create this piece, and how proud she was to see it hung on the walls of this gorgeous church. (I suppose the artist might have been a "he", but it seems unlikely.) The Dvasos Church itself has an unusually colorful interior, painted bright green, pink and turquoise with gold trim; according to my guidebook it has both Rococo and Baroque elements. The top photo is of the altar.

Our Lithuanian Boy Genius (aka the love of DD's life) didn't see what all the fuss was about; evidently this church is not considered an important jewel in the Vilnian crown, but I appreciated the exuberant use of color. Most of the churches we visited were austere, painted either white or left in natural stone; to me their spareness, although beautiful, reflected a more subdued, even somber, side of the Lithuanian national experience. Dvasos Church suggests something else altogether, joy, maybe.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sculpture Gardens at the Chateau of Bois-Guilbert

My DD had the fabulous luck, during her school year in France, to be hosted by three wonderful families. The third of those was the Thierry de Pas family, who run the first Pony Club to be established in France. All summer long the pony club is hopping with kids learning to ride and care for Shetland ponies. The first morning I was there we accompanied Thierry's daughter Agathe to bring in the horses from a back pasture--what an adventure to follow more than 300 horses through narrow country lanes back to the barns of the pony club. The de Pas family were wonderful hosts and I enjoyed getting to know Thierry, his wife Delphine, and their children, in the week I spent as their guest.

Next door to the pony club, on what used to be the same estate, is the Chateau of Bois-Guilbert, owned by Thierry's brother Jean-Marc, a celebrated sculptor. Jean-Marc has established beautiful sculpture gardens at the chateau, and this summer he has organized the "Sixth Bienniale of Sculpture in the Gardens of Bois-Guilbert." (You can see more at, if you can manage your way around a site in French.)

Never being one to miss out on an opportunity, I did not neglect to visit the chateau and its gardens. The beauty of the place was breathtaking. We spent a couple of hours walking through the gardens, taking in the sculpture and its interaction with the landscape, shooting photo after photo with my iPhone, and getting more inspired by the minute.

I've posted a couple of pictures for you to enjoy as well. One is of the chateau as you approach it from the road; you will see DD and her host brother Jeremie in the foreground. Closer to the castle is a sculpture by Robert Arnoux. The other picture is of a sculpture just outside the little chapel on the estate; I believe it is by the owner, Jean-Marc de Pas. To me this sculpture reflects the aristocratic history of this wonderful place, handed down from one generation to another.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Hill of Crosses

DD and I had a wonderful trip; we met in Paris, where we spent a single night before traveling to Vilnius, Lithuania the next day. Her sweetheart Andrius, who really IS a sweetheart, showed us all over his country for the next two weeks, joined by his wonderfully hospitable parents Viktoras and Rasa as soon as they arrived from Tbilisi. Altogether this family made sure we didn't miss anything in their beautiful country; they are a real class act.

One of the most memorable places we visited in Lithuania is called the "Hill of Crosses." The way it came about is this: Back in the bad old days of the Soviet Union, a group of Lithuanian partisans were killed by the Soviet authorities and buried in unmarked graves on or near a small hill in the northern part of Lithuania. Some of the local people erected crosses on the graves, to honor the sacrifice these brave individuals had made for their country. Even though religious displays were strongly discouraged in the Soviet Union, others added crosses of their own, and the hill became full of crosses. The authorities brought in bulldozers on occasion and destroyed the crosses, but the people always returned and put up more, even after guards were posted and it became much more dangerous to do so.

Now, of course, Lithuania has won its independence and there is no penalty for putting up a cross of your own on the Hill of Crosses. There are more than 200,000 today. Some make you want to cry, like the one above, placed by a young American soldier to honor a fallen comrade. Others are kind of funny, like the one that uses children's magnetized plastic letters to convey its message. All of them together testify to the power of faith to change the course of history.

Monday, July 6, 2009

In France, ask for "wee-fee" to connect!

I'm sitting in a cafe in Rouen, France waiting for DD to join me so we can go to a meeting of the Rotary Club that sponsored her stay here during this past school year. I've been Internet-less for most of the three weeks since I left Indiana, so there's a lot of unreported news, but I'm typing with one finger, so most of it will have to wait. Let me just say that I am blessed with a wonderful daughter and am happy beyond words to be with her again. We spent two weeks in Lithuania where I got to know the young man who is the love of her life and not surprisingly, he's terrific, too.

Unfortunately, my iPhone won't let me upload any photos, so stay tuned. We leave for home this Thursday.