Aug 16, 2013

Reality Check

R O A D    T R I P    P A R T 3!


I am hoping that this week has been good to you and that you have a great weekend ahead of you, as well. The last two posts have been about our little visit to what I call "Amish Land" an area in Ohio that is the largest population of Amish in the United States. Another name I have for this area is "Fairyland" as the entire time we were there, the entire environment seemed almost like a movie set.

On my last post, I promised you that I would write about our most memorable event. It involves an Amish family that in someway, I just fell in love with for so many reasons.

This adventure begins at the farm above. This is the only real photo of the farm that I have of my memorable moment. It starts with our day, a special list in our hand, given to us by an inn owner, who was raised Mennonite and her husband was Amish. She grew up in the area and knew all "the good places" to go and visit and a few on the list included actual homes/farms of the Amish that craft baskets or other wares to be sold. Most of these items are sold at the local stores, but they will sell their items directly from their house as well. Trouble is, a lot of them don't advertise on their property, or if they do, it is a very humble sign, easily passed while in a moving car.

We arrive at the "red farm" and turn onto the dirt road, leading up to the house. I put my camera down on the floor of the truck, so I wouldn't alarm any of the property owners with my big ole' lens poking up over the dashboard. But, boy, do I have to tell about DYING to take photos!!!  

I will do my best to describe what I saw, as you can only imagine how much I wish I could have snapped away....I did manage to sneak in a quick photo of their huge line of laundry as we drove past it, on the dirt road. The house was still not in sight quite yet....

My barber husband pulls up slowly and to my left is a huge, white farmhouse, and to my right are several huge, red out buildings and barns. Fencing, trees, a wagon...the entire "set" was there, just unbelievably beautiful.

But just as we parked, we looked up (and I am SO glad I didn't miss this next site)...we looked into the yard of this huge farmhouse, and there was a big old oak tree, and under it, a mother and her ten (yes ten!) children sitting in the shade, all of them barefoot, making baskets. Now, I am really DYING that I can't snap such a serene and beautiful moment.

She hears us, and puts her basket down, and comes up to greet us. She is small, very pretty, big, big eyes, dressed all in dark navy dress, and it closed with straight pins - no buttons or hooks! I swear, if I was a guy, it would have looked like I was ogling her chest, but I was studying how neatly she had her straight pins - those sewing pins that are so common - that is what was closing the front of her dress. She had her little cap on, and most importantly, she was wearing a huge, very welcoming smile. The pic below is part of her farm on the right (and maybe the left, too, I don't know). I took this pic as we were hunting on the map for her home, and just at the top of the hill, on the right, is where we would be turning onto her dirt road, but little did I know when I snapped this pic that I was actually getting a little bit of her home area. Once we turned right, we drove down a bit, past those buildings on the right, and her house would have been down, past these building, on the left.

She greets us and I believe her name was Rebecca (?) but not sure about that. We tell her that "Loretta sent us" and she is very happy to have us look at her baskets. I point at the tree where her basket laid, and said it looked like she was busy. She said she was just taking in the cool shade on a warm day, and she was teaching some of the younger ones how to make baskets.

We turn to go to her farmhouse, and we walk under a HUGE and very old grape vine that is just filled with grapes. The vine is on an arbor that covers the entire length of the sidewalk and we make comments about how beautiful it is. She stops and smiles and looks up at the grapes and agrees and says it is very old. I admire her for not taking something she has probably walked under a 1000 times for granted. She looked at the vine as if she were seeing for the first time. I think I enjoyed watching her enjoy her own vine, than the vine itself.

These are not her grapes, as I said, I couldn't take any pics of her home and area, but these we saw later, and these are just about the size of her vine, except her vine was covering an arbor the entire length of the sidewalk to her front porch.  What a treat to walk under such a beautiful arbor every day!

She motions us over the big front porch, which is filled baskets. Her little ones stay close to her legs, and two, hang tight to her skirt, but never take their huge, blue eyes off us. She then invites us into her home, and the front room has two large tables on it and some shelves that hold all her baskets.

I look admiringly at all of her baskets, and comment on how beautiful they are. Right then, one of her little boys, no taller than my knee, taps me on my leg and holds up a little basket to show me. His big blue eyes and blond curly hair stole my heart. The mother tells me that he is showing a basket that he made himself. I examine the basket very carefully and bend over and tell him that this is a wonderfully made basket! He grins and runs and gets another little basket and holds it up to me. I take it and exclaim that I can't believe he can make such things at such a young age and I tell him it is so very beautiful.

The mother had been talking to my barber husband, and she glances over and laughs and tells me that he now just playing with me, that he didn't make that basket, he just likes showing them. She smiles and says something to the boy in their language, and very obediently, he goes right to her and leans against her leg.

Of course, while inside, I try to take sneak peeks of the home, not wanting to be rude. But I just loved her home! So very clean, simple - but in a very good way - and very warm and inviting, for it being so sparse. How I wanted to open the doors in the room and look all around!! Polished wooden floors, gray/blue paint trim and white walls. Nothing hanging up, but some very beautiful chairs are around the room.

Above is a pic of a farm not far from Rebecca's and how lucky to have been there to see the cattle crossing the road!

We all go outside to the porch and take a look at all the baskets again and my barber husband asks her if where he parked is okay, or in the way? She glances out, smiling, all happy, and tells us our truck is fine. She says her husband and cousins should be coming back soon so they can "thrash the field" this afternoon. I watch the barefoot children play in the yard, nearby, and found it so charming that their mother was barefoot as well. So proper, and friendly, and yet, she is barefoot, enjoying the cool grass under the tree, I am sure.

As I look at all the children, not loud at all, but just playing nicely, I make the comment to her that she must really stay busy and cook a lot! She misunderstood me and she thought I was referring to her cousins staying for dinner, and the extra work that would be for her. So she replies, "Oh, no. Not really extra work. I cook everyday so much, that two more men don't make a difference. Besides, I already made two extra pies, a pudding, and two chickens are roasting...." And she says it all so matter-of-factly, but so happily. I look at her, and she doesn't look tired at all, in fact, she looks really refreshed. It isn't even noon and I glance over at the long line of laundry that she has already washed and hung up in addition to all the cooking she already made that morning! 

I smile and tell her how much I love her dress (I would find antique buttons to sew on, I think I would pass on the straight pins!) And I tell her how cute the children's clothes are too. She smiles very happily and thanks me, and I ask her if she made them. "Oh yes, I sew all the clothes for my family." She tells me again, very matter-of-factly, and so humbly, as she ruffles the blond curls of the little boy leaning against her.

And my not-so-humble barber husband, points at my dress and happily tells the young mother, "My wife made her dress too! She is learning to sew again and she made that..." I smile, very happy that he is so proud of me and my "sewing" while also noting how we just don't even come close to the word "humble" like she does so very effortlessly. But I know my barber husband is just proud of my "jumper dress" that I made out of a linen curtain....another story for later. 

She smiles at my dress and asks if I sew a lot? And I explain that I am just taking it up again, but I enjoy it. She smiles brightly at me, with our common bond. She gives some instructions in her language to one the children and the little girl runs off somewhere. I am just in awe at her simple ease with herself, her children, and she seems so at peace...and so energetic! 

We finally choose a large blanket basket (and as I type this, I realize I don't even have a pic of it to show you!) and she is very pleased, as it is the largest basket she has. We are more than happy to pay for this craft, and meet the woman who made it.

She calls to her boys to get a little pull wagon so they can roll it out for us to the truck. And off they ran, all happy to be of assistance to the strangers on their front porch. I am realizing that our visit is almost over, and how I wish it could have lasted longer. I would have loved to spent the afternoon with her, learning how to make a basket and ask her probably a zillion questions, as I am always so curious about other cultures and love to learn about people.

The little boys return with a little pull wagon and load the large basket on it and start to push it down the sidewalk. Rebecca thanks us and waves good-bye and her attention immediately goes to her other children an she talks to them in her language. The children seem just as curious about us, as we are about them...I saw several looking over their shoulder at us as we left.

The littlest girl, about two or three tagged along side me, and her little toes were coming very close to the wagon wheels, so I warned her to stay back some. I said this twice, before I realized she didn't understand English yet. So, I just bent down and scooped her up, out of the way of the rolling wagon and she just grinned at me as I placed her out of the way and tousled her blond curls to say good-bye. I have no idea what happened to her little cap, but I have a good idea that finding her cap is like in our culture, trying to find a baby's missing sock. Seems like babies always are pulling off only one sock and losing it. I have a feeling that hunting down the toddler's cap, is very much like a lost comes off when the little girl feels like it, and where it ends up, is probably anyone's guess.

We sit in our truck and I glance over at the beautiful farmhouse and then down at my camera, and I am so tempted....but wait! The little fairyland event isn't over yet. We have to wait and give room for the big wagon with two huge horses, being driven up the little dirt road by a little boy! Now this was too much.

Since we were already down the dirt road some, I quickly snapped a photo, as they were at a distance. We had to back up, as we realized they were coming up our way! And I managed to get one more pic. These pics do no justice to the entire scene, though.

If only you could see just how young and little these little boys were. We sat in the truck and the one waved to us as he very easily maneuvered past us and to the red barn. We sat and watched (I call it being curious, others might say "nosey") and out came some Amish men, beards and all, pulling out some very old tractor equipment or an engine of some sorts. My barber husband craned his neck, as he was now dying to go over to the men and watch them hook up this farm "machine" thing...

It was time to really leave now, and I watched behind me, like a little kid with her nose pressed against the back window of the truck and watched the huge family just go about their daily business of living.

I wanted so badly, one photo of the place, and I wasn't paying attention, that we were at the end of the road, and so I pulled out my camera, trying to snap at least one photo memory of such a nice visit. I didn't get anything but a crooked, blurry house and fence...or so I thought...

To my joy and surprise, when I got home and downloaded my photos, what do I see peeking out of the doorway? An Amish boy! I think this was one of her cousins? He didn't look like her children. I barely saw him, as he is in the shadows, just as curious about us as we are about them. I lightened the shadow up a bit to see him better, and I have to say, this is probably my favorite photo. What a nice way to end our visit...that this boy found us worthy of a "peek" and all along, I wanted so badly to "peek" more into their lives as well. 

We might have more in common than we realize.

After I got home and relived the visit through my pics, I kept going back to our visit with Rebecca and her ten children. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why I was so enamored with her. It wasn't until a few days later, while admiring our new basket, did it hit me why I found her so fascinating.

In our blog-obssesed, reality-show, tell all, announce all, advertise our talents, become-a-star-overnight with You Tube culture....I think I found it so amazing to come in contact with a very talented, very beautiful, very hard-working, but seemingly very happy woman who has zero interest in "showing" what she is capable of doing. Here she is, a young, beautiful, mother of ten, who sews, cooks, creates crafts - all without electricity - and she has no need or desire to "show" others her talents. 

She is a walking, living, breathing "reality star" with no design for any spotlight. Not even a small one. Heck, I had to ask her if she made all those clothes...she never once came out and told me until I asked! 

This very talented, loving, welcoming woman has no website, Facebook page, nor blog. This very caring mother of ten doesn't have a reality show about raising all those kids (again, without electricity....!). She didn't hand me a beautifully designed business card either. Her humble basket-for-sale sign nailed to the tree didn't even have her name on it. She is not competing for "followers" and she doesn't lose sleep about all the other baskets that are for sale in the area either. She knows she does a good job, and actually, that is all that really matters.

She knows.

  And when I look at her long line of laundry, I don't see just clothes or hard work. I actually see a big family hanging out together, with a mother who cares enough to see that her family has the best that she has to offer them.

I am willing to bet that in Rebecca's house, there is no such thing as "guest towels" or "the good china for company" or "guest soaps" either.  To her, her family gets the best of what she can offer, and if the outside world never really finds out about how beautiful she is, or talented with the thread and needle, or crafting baskets, or how she can whip up "two pies and an extra pudding" so effortlessly on a wood stove...things we in "reality show" world would find so amazing. 

Her world is her reality. She feels no need to "show" her reality because she is busy living it - happily. 

And that is what I think I took away from this very memorable visit with Rebecca. She is busy just living her life. 

While her life might be so hard in so many ways (no air conditioning, washing clothes by hand, cooking on a wood stove in the summer, sewing all the clothes....), she also has the joy of doing, creating, and living her life to the best of her ability with no blogging, Facebook, website, or You Tube influences that can, at times, wrongly convince her that she isn't "doing enough," or "talented enough," or "pretty enough," or "smart enough" to do all that she is doing. We don't like to admit it, but I haven't met a woman yet who hasn't admitted that too many visits on Facebook or lingering on beautiful blogs during a time she isn't feeling up to par, can have its negative affects as much as positive. Rebecca doesn't have the influences of magazines, talk shows, or celebrities reminding her constantly that there is "more" to life, and she better not miss out! She doesn't have commercials or billboards reminding her she is getting older, and looks are important.

What a joy that must be. 

And what a joy for me to be so simply reminded that being content with my life, as is, is really just fine.

May you find joy to live your life as you desire. And may you also have no desire to prove to others or seek validation, that your life is really just fine, as is.

from my house to your house,



Low Tide High Style said...

We are so very fortunate to have a large Amish and Mennonite community here locally so I completely understand what you are saying. What a beautiful post and reminder that a life well lived is better than one others "think" has been well lived!


Burlap Luxe said...

Elizabeth, this post had me at Farm and Basket sign hanging from a tree. You tell it like a country novel, capturing the essence of all that filled your spirit in telling it.
I felt as if I were there with you needing not look at pictures but a glance of each new photo and taking my eyes right back to your words. I would love to see your basket, and so would have loved to have walked the halls and open spaces of her home.
My mothers home was very primitive farmhouse chairs hanging from shaker peg boards tressal tables and and step back hutches housing her salt glazed pottery and yellow ware that she herself used as once would have been used on their farms. Quilts lay out for warmth and practicality tired worn out colours that only a Minnesota farm girl would love.
Now that my mom lives in California she has never left her farm girl life.

I always wanted to live like the Amish, it's their simple ways and family values that capture my soul. Amazing day you had spending time on Rebecca's farm and her 10 kids must have been awwww! Inspiring. To walk and hang out the closes sounds so dreamy does it not? Her day is so full, it only shows us with the right kind of time management we to can step into her shoes or bare feet and do and accomplish a beautiful day.

Elizabeth, this is how I kind of think of you, much like a Amish women, one who studies life and the values taken from it. Your handi work, your cheese making, butter, breads, pies, crafting beauty and listening to each piece and the stories they tell.
Even though we have modern things that keep us in the loop! It's the small in living we so value holding onto it soulfully.

You my dear sweet friend have made my night a more peaceful one, my heart can rest on your experience with the Amish and what you are passing onto us.
I often look at blogging as to impower others to see a simple thing of old and the beauty it adds, or the beauty in the bendable rules in designing around found and salvaged pieces, much like the Amish resources they have in seeing beauty in what they re image in their craft.

Thank you girl, wish to see your frock you sewed up for yourself, your basket, and your business with the outcome of all the sorting and simplifying you were doing in your home with all your mess :))

Love your home and it's beauty in the depth of grey's and rustic whites.

Lots of love to you and your loved one!


Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Dear Elizabeth! I AM SO IMPRESSED!

I just woke up to see that you left me a kind word and now to see your world here? Magic. I am a lover of country life, whether it's the French countryside or American. Your photos are generous in lighting, but most of all, the vibrancy of LIFE caught just at the right moment. Just beautiful. And I see that you did come via my dear friend Doré. All is well here, and I wish you a magical journey into autumn, that seems to be coming more rapidly than we probably want it to! But your photography I'm sure will capture it.

Thank you again for the visit, and I look forward to viewing more of your work! Anita

Brenda said...

Here in Southern Iowa, we have a growing Amish community. While our small town shrinks and loses more and more businesses around the square, the Amish are building in the countryside and opening more and more new businesses, general stores, green houses, saw mills, etc.

We recently remodeled our kitchen, and a wonderful Amish carpenter and his sons built and installed our beautiful new kitchen cupboards. The craftsmanship of those handmade cabinets amazes me each day; they are so beautiful!

I have been fortunate enough to visit Amish homes, and they are beautiful in their simplicity. And yes, the children are so sweet.

Your post was very inspiring. I may have to take a little drive into the country to mingle among our local Amish. It's a beautiful way to spend a day and appreciate a much simpler way of life.

The Rustic Victorian said...

Dear Elizabeth,
I have enjoyed my morning so much here on your blog, I read back to Easter. What a wonder you are, so skilled in writing and photography.
Thank you for sharing your road trip, and the reminder of what's important.
May God continue to bless you.

amy of studio four corners said...

what a lovely and thought provoking story you have shared...thank you...but I am dying to see a picture of that basket!

Monica said...

Dear Elizabeth,
now I really have to thank you for taking the time to write these stories for us. I've always, always dreamt of visiting an Amish community, but never did. What speaks to my soul is their simplicity. In a world that doesn't celebrate simplicity at all, these people are really to admire. I am finally welcoming simplicity into my life at 40- and it feels liberating, fulfilling, beautiful! I will be in a house all for my husband and myself, after almost three years living in temporary accommodations surrounded by stacks of boxes and all of our stuff in storage. Well, even if it's rented, and I won't be able to touch a thing nor to hang pictures on the walls, I am in love of the idea of making it our own in the simplest of ways. I so loved to read in your description of Rebecca's home that she has nothing hanging on the walls, just beautiful chairs. I will be able to hang something only where there are already nails (and there are just a few) and I have lots and lots of beautiful chairs I have collected and re- made over the years that I would love to use, and maybe, also to display something pretty on them. Yes- there's no need to make our homes and lives like "sets" for the world to admire. I have had my guest towels, guest soaps and dishers for compasny as well, and now I don't have them any more, and am not interested in having them anymore- and wonder how did I fall in the trap. I want to live like Rebecca, and offer to everyone in my home the gifts of love, beauty, care, time, serenity and joy. That's it.
I am sure your gorgeous basket will always remind you (and inspire you again and again) about that woman and her simple, soulful and happy life.
Hugs and love to you, hope your knee is mended. I have thought of you often.
Monica xox

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Kat,

I love your saying: "...that a life well lived is better than one others "think" has been well lived!" What a very timely comment that only this generation can really relate to with all our electronic sharing that goes on...very tempting to show only those few moments of "our best" or at our happiest...but sometimes, I think, we can fool ourselves and see others' "moments" as a complete life, or lifestyle....not just moments in a very real world filled with aches, disappointments, and sadness...this is why, I think, it can be at times, discouraging to view beautiful blogs when our lives are not going as we planned....too easy to view others' lives - like you say, as we "think" they are lived just because of how it is presented.

Blogs and websites are a double-edge sword - can be both encouraging and discouraging - depending on one feels on the other side of the computer screen in the moment.

Thank you for stopping by - a nice way to start my day,

Big hugs

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hello my beautiful Dore!

I am so jealous of your wonderful upbringing in your mother's beautiful home! I just loved reading your description of it. Nothing at all like the home I grew up in. And how wonderful that your mother brought "herself" to California and didn't leave it behind. How fortunate you are to have that upbringing - which now explains your ability to create your environment so simply beautiful

And I take it as big compliment being compared to the Amish - not sure if that is really accurate, but I do love the comparison :-) I think the Amish lives a life what I call "Fruitful Simplicity" They are a creative people who work with purpose, but in simple ways. I would love to live more like that and over time, I am slowly designing my life to fit my needs and desires for soon-to-be 50th year coming up in a few months. To be 50, and have a life designed and created towards "fruitful simplicity," would be wonderful.

I am always so happy when you stop by, Dore!

And someday, I am hoping to give you a real hug, but for now, lots of cyber hugs, my dear friend.
I love you lots,


Elizabeth Maxson said...


Thank you for stopping by - and for the lovely comment. Dore is wonderful, isn't she? I am glad you liked the "road trip" as I am always fascinated with others who share their travels and personal experiences as well. And also, I am so very happy that you are doing well - I love your smiling photo and would hate to think that anything would cause your beautiful smile to fade.

Big hugs

Curtains in My Tree said...

Beautiful pictures as always when you do a blog

I am not being rude but No way could I be a Amish mother of 10 ?

I have never been there to admire their home made baskets and clothes as you but honey give me park ave LOL

I do love when I take trips to my sisters and drive by several acres of corn and soy beans growing in the fields, and the corn is beautiful this time of year in farmland in Missouri toward Lexington Mo

I want to see your basket

So glad you enjoyed your trip and sharing it with blog land


and how sweet is that barber husband? to mention you made your dress also, sweet for sure

Mary said...

Another beauteous post Elizabeth, bringing the true American countryside to my cottage here in dreary, un-Summery North Carolina! Wow, I love that area and the amazing lifestyle of the Amish - totally 360 degrees away from how most of us are living in this crazy high-tech age. I could not do it myself at this late stage of my life, but now saying that, perhaps I could. Well something similar, like returning to rural England and living in an even smaller, thatched roof cottage. In a small bucolic village with the basics. A little grocery shop, a post office, a weekly bus to town, a farmstand, a car required, no Starbucks........the kettle always ready to boil for a nice cup of tea, hollyhocks tapping at the mullioned windows, two kitties on the window sill. OMG, I'm getting all dreamy and homesick again!

OK, how about a nice pic of the basket (and your dress from a linen curtain - love the sound of that!) - you know we long to see it and what you will do with it. How about the latest on your interiors - I'm really missing seeing some beautiful decor done only the way YOU can do it!

Love you - best to dear 'barber husband' - and BTW, that birthday looming will actually be the start of your best years yet, so don't have any qualms over the number. I'll be adding 20 to your number when October is turning to red and gold - and I'll celebrate in Europe which is exciting.

Look forward to your next post - aways makes my day special.
Blessings - Mary

Carol Spinski said...

Photographed and written beautifully Sweet E. We have a growing Amish population on this side of the State and actually just a few miles from me. I think seeing them just brings a sense of immediate calmness and true respect. Living authentically and simply, is something I think we all should do more.

(((Hugs))) Carol

trash talk said...

I don't know if it's true or not, but I read once the Amish always leave a flaw/mistake in the things they make. The belief being only God can create perfection and they humble themselves before him. It's a lovely
We all yearn for a simpler life, but much like the children of Israel wanted freedom, we too also want what Egypt has to offer in the way of luxuries.
Beautiful, haunting images.
P.S. Knowing you, you showed great restraint and respect by not sneaking a camera in. I know that was tough to!

zooperson said...

What a wonderful and thoughtful post. As we seem to be more overworked and overexcited with the help from all our modern accoutrements, she by contrast seems to be accomplishing more and finding joy in doing it. Something to think about.

Kathie Truitt said...

This post made me cry! And it made me take a good long look at my own life. Every mother who has small children should read this.

sylvie said...

your blog is so so beautiful,
with georgous pictures,
really so nice,
have a nice day !

Rhonda said...

You've inspired me to live a more simple life. It can be done. Turn everything off and work with your hands. I often try weekends without all the normal interruptions and I have to say, I love it.

Blessings, Rhonda

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