My tires crunch down their gravel drive at a measly eight-miles-per hour. Every time I make this trip, I keep a sharp eye out for old-fashioned bicycles laid quickly (never carelessly) beside the way. As far as I can see, rows of corn tickle the horizon—just where clear, blue sky kisses the sun-scorched fields.
It’s amazing how resilient these crops are. They are not brilliant green anymore, instead coated with a fine layer of dust and bronzed by the unrelenting sun. Still, they stretch up, seemingly proud of their singular role in life.
Nearer to my destination, the three-sided barn at the end of the drive, the fields are filled with wild flowers and a various structures dot the landscape. To me, the untrained eye, they seem cluttered with monstrous, obsolete equipment. To the Amish who tend these lands, they are bread and butter, familiar as the backs of their own hands. The children are as comfortable on a tractor as on they are on their father’s knee.
I park just in front of the second three-sided building. Inside, it is lined with rows and rows of garlic bulbs. But I enter the most inviting structure, the one filled with colorful produce: rosy tomatoes, bulbous potatoes, the crispiest cucumbers you’ve ever tasted, okra, eggplant, peaches and more corn.
No light bulbs hang from the ceiling. No fans massage the muggy air or coax a comfortable breeze. Sarah stands smiling at me, “Hello.” Her Pennsylvania Dutch never fails to make me grin in return. “Hi.”
I always feel a bit worldly when I enter Sarah’s world. It’s strange, because for once I’m not embarrassed by my lack of fashion sense, but humbled by my apparent gaudiness and excess. Sarah seems so content; the front of her dress is pinned neatly together. Her hair is always plaited in unassuming braids, parted in the middle and wrapped multiple times around her head. No makeup, but her cheeks have the “sun-kissed” look I read about in magazines: “How to get that perfect glow with a drugstore bronzer.”
Sarah tallies my purchases on a calculator, hands me my change and we agree to see each other next time. When she turns to cross the gravel drive back to her un-air conditioned home, I notice her feet. They are large—not peculiarly long, but thick, toughened by work and play—use.
Living near an Amish community has piqued my interest. So I read, “The Amish believe that the vast changes that modern, ergo English, society has seen over the past two centuries is detrimental to both spiritual and family life…The Amish recognize this shift in priority and choose to separate themselves from the modern world in this way.” (Tree of Life)
And I wonder—what am I supposed to learn here? It seems there’s so much more here than merely enjoying the fruit of the Amish’s dedicated labor. There’s something to this idea of pulling away from the world, of forsaking all the drama and deification of beauty. There’s something so lovely about hard work, unpolished toes and a simple smile. There’s something inviable in that kind of unpolished perfection.
Wrestling for Rest, by Abby Kelly
Why We Overeat, by Constance Rhodes
Battling Negative Media Influences, video resource