OCEAN PARK, Wash. — He lives in southwest Washington state. It is clear his heart is in Lithuania. But Andrew Puzauskas is content.
The artist and poet became a Buddhist at 19 and the Zen concepts of mindfulness and balance permeate his adult life.
He has just published a second book of poetry. He hopes “Poetic States of Mind” will give readers “a warm afterglow.” It follows last year’s self-published “Journeys Backwards into Inner Space.”
Identity infiltrates many verses of the new book, subtitled “Changing As We Go.” “Exactly who I am is a decision I have postponed making,” one poem declares.
Puzauskas was born in 1942. His earliest memories are of fleeing his native Lithuania, seeking refuge in defeated Germany. The Baltic nation, which dates to 1253, was occupied by the Germans during World War I, then by the expanding Soviet Union, then by the Nazis. As World War II ended, Soviet tanks rumbled back.
“We fled. I was aged 3,” he said, unable to recall what his parents took with them. “They had very little. We went overland in a horse and carriage to Germany ... the Germans took the horse!” His mother chided him for drinking water from the same trough.
The devastated German landscape was divided into Soviet, French, American and British sectors. “There were burned-out tanks and ammo dumps,” said Puzauskas, whose family lived in refugee camps for three years.
Eventually, they resettled in England, where Puzauskas was schooled in a market town 70 miles north of London. “I loved poetry from a very early age,” he said. “My English headmaster loved poetry and would read it for us.”
Thirteen years of his boyhood passed waiting for permission to emigrate to the United States. He preserved the poetry he began scribbling as a 16-year-old when they arrived to join sponsoring relatives in Chicago. “I still feel I have a lot of poems to put out there,” he said, flipping through handwritten wads of unpublished words as thick as his fist.
He anglicized his first name and graduated from Roosevelt University with a degree in English literature. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1969 for two years. Stationed in Germany, he visited England on leave but never Lithuania, which was still under Soviet domination.
Later, Puzauskas moved to Vancouver, where his wife, Ruta, and two grown daughters still live. The GI Bill bankrolled his education. “I would model in clay and make sculpture and vessels, and learned to draw and design,” he said. “I took every art class I could possibly do, even though I didn’t think I had the skills to draw accurately.”
He worked for United Parcel Service for 19 years, marshaling trailers at Portand’s Swan Island depot. Later, he moved to Ocean Park to care for his ailing father and mother in their final years.
His modest home contains his ceramic creations and jewelry on lanyards that he sells at a booth outside a local grocery store. His bookshelves groan from the weight of nonfiction works on the search for meaning by the Dalai Lama, Khalil Gibran and Deepak Chopra.
“If I wanted to reread everything I have read, it would take 50 years and I am not going to live that long for sure,” he said.
At 78, his birthplace calls. “I would love to travel over there,” said Puzauskas, who laments he cannot translate his journalist father’s journals. “My Lithuanian is at the level of an 8 year old.”
His poetry books are published under the name Andrius Puzas. “I thought any Lithuanian seeing this would say, ‘This guy is Lithuanian!’” he said.