I met an Amish girl in my dreams, to be precise she used to be Amish now she was wearing English clothes and going off with her new husband. I was kind of sad that they would no longer be Amish knowing that something cherished would be lost. But a part of it would always be inside of them, I knew She turned around from the door that they were exiting through and she came across the hardwood floor straight towards me. Then she kissed me on the cheek. And before she turned to walk away, she said to me, “ You are to write the Amish women’s story, write it with the soul, the spirit, the God and the Love, left in.”
My friend Elizabeth has left, along with a good portion of the flock of Amish whom she introduced us to. They have all flown off to Missouri, strange that they choose Mo., that is a land that I have known and loved. It is a transition getting used to her and their absence. The other day I had a chance to walk, the old path once again. The path that lead me to Elizabeth one day last autumn, that day seems so long ago.
The little bridge that I had walked over to sit at the stream beneath, this bridge has changed with Elizabeth’s departure. For you see when I used to walk over the bridge it was made of wooden planks and as I crossed it, my boots would make the boards go, clank, clank, clank as I passed over. I came to consider the clapping of the boards beneath my feet to be, metaphysically, the passageway, the transport, the crossing over from one way of life to another.
For as I walked across I was going from a world full of the whirls and the rush of modern living, into to the clip- clop, slower, simpler way of life, of the Amish.
Clank, Clank, Clank, I would cross my way over and then savor the leaf scattered path all the way down the dead end dirt lane, to Elizabeth’s house.
On the very day that she left Ohio, the bridge changed. The county men came and tore out and replaced the old wood planks with steal ones which they covered with concrete. There is no longer a flapping of wooden boards when I go over the stream, only the silence of concrete beneath my feet. And the portal that I had gone through is no longer there.
As I walked this lane last week I walked slow past the big house that the large family of Amish, who had been Elizabeth’s relatives, had left behind. Sitting now for a month with the new owners nowhere in sight. The old owners had told me that I could help myself to anything that was left from the auction.
So I strolled through the field looking at the odd assortment of machinery, cabinets, stock wateriers that were in a row where they were placed on Auction day. I guess no one had bid on them and so they were left behind. I saw lots of things but nothing that I wanted. Feeling an urge from nature I decided to visit the potty that I knew sat beside the house. It is a pretty ‘Heisley’ of yellow and has a iron pathway on the ground to its door made of some old decorative grate.
Once done there I could not resist ambling about the strangely quiet, abandoned Amish farm. It felt like a ghost town, all the familiar sounds silent, no voices, no clucking chickens, no horses snorting in the barns, no cowbell chiming from the hill. I stood on the porch to the summer kitchen and could see where they had washed their clothes in wringer washers and tubs. I peered into the pantry and I imagined how if the house were still occupied the shelves would be lined with preserves.
They left behind a rooster, I spied him near the springhouse and I wondered about his circumstances. Was he a mean rooster and hard to catch, is that why he got left behind? Was he finding enough to eat? I thought he must be so scared at night. He was little with beautiful feathers in fluorescent colors, like peacocks on his cheerful tail. He wondered for a moment if I had food and when I didn’t lift my arms he looked at me with fright and clucked nervously and fled away to hide in the brush. I said a prayer for him that he would be freed from his strife, that the new owners would come along soon.
I turned the knob on the back door of the dwelling and was surprised to find it unlocked. As if invited I entered and as soon as I did I heard, the now familiar sound, of a spring feeding the Amish house. There is something so substantial in the Amish homes being continually fed by a flowing stream. I have found that when the Amish homes are still enough, (for example during the quiet prayers before and after each meal,) it can be heard, this running water, a steady flow of water in the background amidst the everyday noise. When I first discovered it for myself it reminded me of how Jesus is eternally flowing in the center of our hearts. Though often we are too noisy to hear him.
I entered the great wide kitchen taking delight in the click of my boot heals on the hardwood floors. It was fun going about the rooms of the house, imagining myself Amish. Here I would stand at the cook stove and I would be able to see out this window to see if my man was coming down the road home. This is where we would sit and eat at a long wooden table. Sometimes in my life I had found myself craving to be Amish, although many others consider them to be stifled, I see it more as they are free, free to simply be. The more I got to know them the more I marveled at how they managed, through out time, to be in the world without being of the world.
So imagining myself as an Amish women, I wondered, would I get tired of wearing black and blue? Would I crave for some pretty gingham with flowers to sew my dresses and children’s clothing up on? Would I miss placing a bouquet of flowers in the middle of the table? The Amish think that the flowers are to be enjoyed where they grow. There is really no way to ever know if I could have been a good one, being an Amish women was not my way to go, but still I love getting to know their ways.
On my way out the back door I noticed a sunflower was sprouting in a pot by a window and I wondered if it would survive the cold spell that was coming our way. What a nice surprise it would be for the girl who entered this house, to make it a home, to find it growing there! I thought about giving it a drop of water from the pump that I knew would sit at the kitchen sink. The poor little sprout looked dry and had no way of getting water on its own. But then I thought better of it, best to go through a cold spell dry then to be cold and wet.
On the way back to the lane I paused by the boxes left on the curb for the garbage man to pick up. I noticed an Amish mans hat sticking out of one side. I reached down and pulled it out of the cardboard box. I could not resist trying it on, it felt like a perfect fit. My daughter has been gifted with dresses and bonnets from the Amish girls that had befriended her. One day she did me up, pulled back my hair and tucked it all inside of a black bonnet. I couldn’t stand it! Used to having hair around my face it felt so confining. But the black Amish man hat, plucked down on my hanging hair, it felt just right.
When I went home I was compelled to clean the hat and put a band of leather cord around the brim. I dangled my special feathers and charms that Spirit Feather gave me from the back of it. Now it looks like my Indian hat. Everyone who has seen it so far, says, where did you get that cool hat.
I don’t’ suppose any of the Amish women could decide that she was going to cover her head with a black hat instead of a black bonnet. The Amish traditions seem to me to stem from trying to keep wrong things from happening. By having things be more black and white it is sometimes easier for us humans to stay the course. It takes some of the guess work out of things.
The Amish way has been very successful, keeping traditions alive for hundreds of years. It seems to me that there is so much to learn from this. I like appreciating that in my life I have more choices to make then I would if I was a women of the Amish. But it will do me no good, if I only make the wrong decisions and do not learn to distinguish the difference between what is ego and what is love. As I walked down the lane back into my modern world with my black Amish mans hat feeling comforting in my hand, I knew that it, for some reason, was the souvenir that I choose to take home from their world into mine.
My New Hat, is in the picture of the Outhouse, hanging off the door.