A Therapeutic Escape in Any Season - Road Trippin' To New York's Amish Communities

Friday, October 16, 2020

 Even before Covid invited itself into life as we knew it, I had found the local Amish communities a place of peaceful refuge from life's chaos.  I've never had a conversation with a member of the Amish, and all of my experience with them has been from the passenger seat of our moving car as we travel slowly past their farms.  Yet there's something about our road trips through these communities that grounds me and comforts me, sometimes even when I don't feel the chaos erupting in me, I still feel a sense of calm wash over me almost as soon as catch the first glimpse.  You can imagine that these past six months have given me plenty of reason for anxiousness as it probably has you too, so our visits have been fairly regular.  This post will be a photo essay with photos from June to October combined with some interesting Amish tradition.  I hope this road trip by proxy will give you the same peaceful calm it brings me.

It is well known that the Amish lead a simple life, one without modern conveniences like electricity, indoor plumbing, telephones, etc.....  They live their life according to their religious beliefs and therefore many of their customs stem from the Bible and the Commandments.  They believe Sundays are for worship so no work is carried out on Sunday, and their roadside stands are covered with signs that say, "no Sunday sales".  I was thrilled that one of our recent visits was on a Saturday because I found a great new source for pumpkins and root vegetables.  Small butternut and delicata squash were 2 for $1.00 at one stand and 3 for $1.00 at another.  

Vanity is frowned upon by the Amish.  Clothing is simple, often dark colored.  Women have 4 dresses...one for wear, one for wash, one for dress, one for spare.  Their heads are covered and considered sacred to the Lord. Married women wear black prayer caps (bonnets) symbolizing their marital status, single girls wear white bonnets.  Buttons are not used on clothing as they may be viewed as showy.  Velcro and zippers are also not permitted.   Men's trousers have a button fly and their suit coats have no buttons or collars because those are reminiscent of military uniforms which pacifist Amish reject. Women and children are often barefoot around the farm.
In keeping with the vanity, posed photos are frowned upon (described as graven images).  Dolls don't have faces.  The Amish men shave until they are married at which time they grow a beard but not a moustache because a moustache is also representative of the military.  A man who doesn't marry continues to shave until he turns 40 at which time he begins to grow a beard symbolizing his transition to manhood.  I could make a joke here about men and maturity, but I'll refrain.

Children attend school until they complete the 8th grade.  School is taught by single Amish women.  After the 8th grade, vocational training begins.  Women are never allowed to preach or hold any church positions.  Church is held in homes, not churches.  The above photo is a beautiful example of an Amish schoolhouse.  Amish are baptized when they are 16-25 when young adults can make their own decision about whether or not to be baptized or leave the religion.  During baptism, one hand is often covering the face as a symbol of humility.

Since farm life consumes so much time throughout the season, weddings often take place in November or December.  Amish do not wear wedding rings or any jewelry.  Having a big family is considered a blessing from God.  The larger the family, the more helpers there are to tend the farm and gardens.

Our local Amish communities seem to be growing and expanding.  My favorites are in Amsterdam, Glen, Mohawk, Palatine and Stone Arabia.  A couple of these photos (the more modest farms) are in the community in Whitehall.  I certainly don't aspire to be Amish, nor do I for a minute think I'd ever be able to sacrifice modern conveniences, work as hard, or even live without indoor plumbing, but there is something to be said for their commitment to simplicity and devotion to God.  Witnessing that is definitely an inspiration and a reminder to keep priorities in order and focus on what matters in life.  Living without social media must surely be beneficial in maintaining focus on right and wrong, truth vs  deception.  What I am sure of is being in the car with my spouse, insulated from reality and tv, even for a few hours is more and more what the doctor ordered.  It's also a 'no-mask required' activity and who doesn't love that?  I'd like to say that I won't need the escape as much after Election Day is over, but I'm old enough to know that controversy and chaos comes in many forms and will probably still be present long after #46 has been decided.  In the meantime, if you need an escape from whatever is weighing on your mind, try my brand of therapy and see if you don't feel better lickety split!  

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