Simple, Quiet Beauty

Hi Friends!

Dark, storm clouds threatened overhead very early on the Summer Solstice as my husband packed up our car. (Meanwhile, I took just a moment to make our online donation to “The Longest Day” fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association. It made my heart feel so good to help fund the care, support, and research so desperately needed in the fight to end Alzheimer’s disease.) Moments later, we drove off to spend “The Longest Day” and the next few days doing something we LOVE, while honoring special people we LOVE. It was a perfect way to celebrate our wedding anniversary! The reason was LOVEa whole lot of LOVE!

We set off in search of simple, quiet beauty, a bit of adventure, small town charm, and perhaps some antiquing, too! As we headed south, heavy rains accompanied us throughout our three-hour drive. Rain was also predicted for the next few days. We hoped for the best as we watched the skies.

Our destination was Amish Country in Central Illinois. Over the years, we have enjoyed visiting Amish areas in Indiana. It would be so interesting to learn more about the Amish people living in our home state. We thought you might like to come along…

This beautiful, quiet region is filled with Amish farms, picturesque small towns with brick-lined streets, quaint antique shops, fun places to eat, and the friendliest people ever. The towns of Arcola, Arthur, and Tuscola, just a few miles apart, welcomed us… and the rain stopped just moments after we arrived! 🙂

 

Amish families moved from Pennsylvania and Indiana to Central Illinois, beginning in 1865, in search of more affordable land and wide-open spaces. Today there are more than 5,500 Amish people living in this area surrounded by large corn and soybean fields, stretching as far as the eye can see.

The Amish people are a very close-knit community. They are hardworking farm families, who often run small, creative, home-based businesses. Roadside wooden signs welcome visitors to quilt shops, woodworking shops, herb shops, bakeries, and more in Amish homes. The Amish are very friendly and open to answering questions about their simple lifestyle.

Religion guides all aspects of Amish life. They have chosen to live a life that is separate from the world. The Amish believe in peace and nonviolence and do not pass judgement on outsiders. They don’t fully accept the modern conveniences that we take for granted. By choosing not to use electricity, they are able to avoid many of the temptations that would impact their family lives. The Amish people value simplicity over convenience and comfort.

In this area, typical Amish farms are approximately 80 acres. The average Illinois Amish family has six children. When a young, Amish couple gets married, they are usually gifted with a parcel of land to farm, from one of their fathers.

We frequently traveled the winding, country road between Arcola, through the tiny hamlet of Chesterville, to Arthur. It warmed my heart each time we passed road signs reminding drivers to be cautious of slow-moving buggies. The familiar ‘clip-clop’ of the horse and buggy feels like a gentle reminder to savor life at a slower pace.

Most of the country roads have wide shoulders that serve as buggy lanes. For safety, the Amish people use battery-powered lights on their buggies. We always used caution whenever following a buggy and slowly passed them with care so we didn’t frighten the horse. We also saw many Amish people riding bicycles on warm, Summer days. Although the Amish people don’t own cars, they do accept rides in other people’s vehicles when necessary.

Each Amish farmhouse we passed had a large tank to store gas or diesel fuel to power their generators. They use bottled gas to operate their water heaters, modern stoves, and refrigerators. Gas lanterns and oil lamps light their homes.

Telephones are not permitted in Amish homes. We noticed wooden phone booths at the end of some driveways, near the road, shared by neighbors for emergencies and business. Today some Amish people have cell phones that can also be used outside their homes.

Families play games, build puzzles, do schoolwork, and read together in the evenings. No musical instruments are played in the homes for that would be worldly. As with all farm families, it is an “early to bed, early to rise” lifestyle.

 

In this area, families are “House Amish.” They gather in homes to hold their Sunday church services. There are 22 church districts in the area surrounding Arthur. When Amish families gather together, they speak their first language, a German dialect.

Horse-power is so important on Amish farms. Farmers drive teams of 6-8 horses to farm their rich land. Their tractors have metal wheels without rubber tires. In recent years, available farmland has become both expensive and scarce in Central Illinois. So, many Amish farmers have also taken on a trade.

In the evenings, we noticed Amish buggies hitched in the parking lot of several businesses in towns. After the farm work is done for the day, some Amish people may supplement their income by working in town for a few hours.

In addition to large farm fields, Amish homes also have big vegetable gardens and fruit trees. Beachy’s Bulk Foods sells everything else that a family might need to prepare meals and preserve fruits and vegetables for the Winter season.

As we drove along the country roads, we noticed every clothesline was filled with plain, dark colored pants, shirts, and dresses. Amish women work hard using wringer washers to do their laundry.

Our rainy Spring in Illinois has been very welcome to our farmers. Instead of “Knee-high by the Fourth of July,” the cornstalks were already shoulder-high by the third week of June.

It was fascinating to learn about Amish wedding traditions. November is the most popular month for Amish weddings. During Spring, Summer, and Fall there is too much work and little time for wedding celebrations. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the the usual days for Amish weddings, since they are the least busy days during their week. An Amish wedding takes place in the bride’s home with a four-hour ceremony. There are no rings, flowers, photos, caterers, or kisses. Typically, more than two hundred guests are invited to celebrate the happy couple!

 

“Amish people are not backwards, nor ‘stuck in the past.’

They are constantly adjusting to the pressures of the world

and striving to maintain their belief and culture.”

“It is a very delicate balance between tradition and change”.

~ National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom

We enjoyed every moment of our visit to Amish Country. I have much more to share in future posts, including several ‘hidden gems’ in the area. One of our most cherished memories is the kindness of everyone we met along the way.

The motto of the town of Arthur (population 2,200) is “You are a stranger only once.” There is so much to discover in this patchwork quilt of quiet, simple beauty and we relish the chance to learn more. We are already planning our next visit!

Although we kept our rain gear close at hand, we felt so fortunate to have dry weather for our adventures. While we were away, my garden soaked up three more inches of rain. It was a delight to find the ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangeas in full bloom when we arrived home!

I enjoyed slower-paced days the following week

without turning my computer on! 🙂

Where do you find simple, quiet beauty?

Happy Independence Day to all of our American friends

as we celebrate family, friends, and freedom!

 

Make each day sparkle!

♡ Dawn

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Together Again!

 

Hi Friends!

A-n-t-i-c-i-p-a-t-i-o-n can be a wonderful thing! The months and weeks leading up to the big day were filled with excitement and making plans. When September finally arrived, it was time to prepare a cozy, welcoming guest room for our very special friend.

Let’s start at the very beginning of this story…

The seeds of our very special friendship were sown 39 years ago. My Uncle Bill (who had moved to Germany, after serving in Vietnam) knew that his co-worker and friend would be passing through Chicago on a tour with her parents. He asked Iris to bring a packet of photos for us. We were so grateful for her kindness! So, my mother, my brother, and I met Iris and her parents at the Blackstone Hotel on a Sunday afternoon, in March. It was a day that would change lives forever!

Our families felt a friendship begin to sprout that afternoon, as Iris translated for all of us. There was so much to talk about as we got to know one another. Iris and I both felt a warm connection beginning to take root that day. We were both the same age and curious about the world. We promised to write letters to one another. As we parted ways, I told her, “If you’d ever like to come visit again, you are always welcome to stay with us!”

Just a few months later, Iris came back for an extended visit! 🙂  🙂

Our friendship began to blossom as Iris became a special part of our family and my circle of friends. My teaching career was just beginning and my dreams were just beginning to come true! The following summer, I went to visit Iris for several weeks. She lives in a beautiful city in southwest Germany, near the Black Forest. I felt so blessed to be welcomed into her family and her circle of friends during that wonderful summer in 1979.

Our special friendship has flourished as three decades have passed.  Since we were both single, footloose, and fancy-free, we were so fortunate to share our travel dreams together. Iris often came to visit me (during the even-numbered years) and I often visited her (during the odd-numbered years). Oh, the exciting adventures we have had together!!

Dear friends, together again!  🙂 🙂

(Full disclosure:  In the Munich beer garden, I just was holding the huge beer for a photo op! Beer has never been my ‘cup of tea.’ 🙂 )

Cars, buses, boats, trains, and planes have helped us to explore America and Europe together. In between our visits, letters, postcards, and phone calls were the water and sunshine that kept us close. I will always remember writing a letter and waiting weeks for a reply via overseas airmail. How fortunate we are to stay close so easily now, via email and occasional Skype visits!  🙂

Both of our lives have grown busier over the past several years. Yet, Iris and I have always kept one another very close at heart. I was so excited to introduce my husband to Iris (and all of my German family and friends), when we visited Germany five years ago to celebrate my Renaissance (the ‘R’ word that I use for Retirement)!  True friends, together again! 

Over the years, I have always grown Irises in my Friendship Garden, as I dreamed of another visit with my perennial friend. I carefully tended the yellow and purple blossoms as our friendship continued to grow and blossom.

Can you imagine the happiness that we all felt as we awaited a mid-September visit from our dear friend, Iris?

We filled our precious days together with some of our very favorite activities. We enjoyed a family gathering for our traditional Pumpkin Soup dinner. My parents and Iris enjoyed a nice Skype visit across the miles. We truly relished all of our relaxing evenings spent talking and laughing on the front porch, while the cicadas and the crickets serenaded us. Dear friends, together again!  🙂  🙂

We welcomed Autumn with a visit to Amish country in Northern Indiana. Iris and I have always loved exploring the peaceful countryside near Shipshewana and Middlebury and the clip-clop sounds of the Amish horse and buggies. My husband was fascinated by his first visit to Amish country.

Signs of Autumn were everywhere, while Summer-like temperatures soared to the mid-90s (twenty-five degrees above normal!). We admired beautiful Amish quilts and handmade furniture and were tempted by yummy baked goods and preserves. We learned a great deal about the history of the Amish and Mennonite people from the interesting tour guides and multi-media presentations at the Menno-Hof . Everywhere we went, the Amish people were eager to speak German (their first language) with Iris.

We spent our second day exploring the small town of Middlebury, Indiana. We enjoyed a colorful quilt shop and a beautiful Quilt Garden. Iris visited her first covered bridge. I will always remember our visits to an Amish home and farmstead to admire their handmade quilts.

My husband and I look forward to visiting other Amish communities in the future. Iris and I promised to carry the tranquil clip-clop sound of the horse and buggies with us when life returns to its usual busyness.

We all enjoyed spending a day at a Native American Harvest Pow-Wow. Dancers and drum circles from Indian Nations across the Midwest gathered for the weekend to share their traditional dancing, drumming, music, arts, and foods. It was a nice opportunity to talk with several Native Americans. It was fascinating to learn more about their traditions and the ceremonial herbs used in their sacred fire circle. The dancers and drummers endured two days of unseasonably hot, humid weather to share their traditions and we felt so grateful for the opportunity to experience another Pow-Wow. (You might like to visit the large Red Mountain Eagle Pow-Wow with us on the Pima-Maricopa Reservation last Fall, in Arizona, here.)

The next day, we cooled off with a peaceful walk along the beaches of Lake Michigan, at Illinois Beach State Park.  Lake Michigan is one of the five Great Lakes. Its name comes from the Ojibwe word “michi-gami” (meaning ‘great water’).  During past visits, we have enjoyed sailing on Lake Michigan with dear friends!

Then it was time to share some of my favorite places closer to home. Iris and I enjoyed lovely walks in nature at a nearby Arboretum and along our native prairie. We visited nearby greenhouses to admire their expansive collection of beautiful orchids. We visited my favorite library and two favorite shopping malls. (Her suitcase was extra-full on her trip home!)

We thrive on new experiences! So, Iris sat in a sporty, red Tesla and learned all about it. She always dreamed of sitting on a Harley. So, we wandered through the Harley-Davidson dealership as a friendly salesperson answered all of our questions.  For a new taste treat, Iris enjoyed her first burrito!

We squeezed many new adventures into our time together. I will always cherish our times reminiscing (and laughing) about our adventures over the past 39 years. What fun to look through photo albums filled with happy memories of our times together in Germany (and so many places in Europe) and America!

When I look back on our 2017 visit, I will always remember three special sounds:  the clip-clop of the Amish horse and buggies, the call of the drums at the Harvest Pow-Wow, and laughterso much laughter! Our time together just overflowed with happiness and hugs!

As always, our visit flew by much too quickly. Of course, we didn’t say, “Goodbye.” Instead I promised, “Bis bald.” (“See you soon!”) Our next adventure might happen here, there, or somewhere in between. 🙂 🙂  Dear friends, together again!

 

♥♥♥

Heartfelt thanks for taking the time to visit today! It has been very quiet here on our blog for several weeks now.  With everything happening in America and beyond, it felt kind of trivial to share my words. Unbelievable wildfires, the destruction caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, Maria, and now Nate, a devastating earthquake in Mexico,…  and then the heartbreaking gun violence in Las Vegas.

Long ago, I experienced the dangers of Nature’s fury. I do know how it feels to have one’s life unexpectedly turned upside down. The effects last long after the clean-up. We cannot forget the people in Texas, Florida, and the islands. They will need our help for a long time as they put their lives back together.  If you have been affected by recent storms or are one of the brave first responders, please let us know how you are doing.

Blogging has become such an important part of my creative journey. I have been giving it a great deal of thought over the past weeks. Perhaps when times are difficult in our world, it is important to share my voice… and a little dose of sunshine! ♥♥

I’m looking forward to visiting all of my blog friends in the coming days, too. 🙂

Warmest hugs,

♡ Dawn

P.S.  This weekend we will celebrate World Cardmaking Day!  I’ll be back very soon to share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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