I recently made a road trip to Shipshewana IN…someplace I had wanted to visit for a long time. I was not disappointed.
My trip overlapped the annual Shipshewana Quilt Festival by one day, but to be honest, I avoided the festival. I spend a lot of time with quilters at work. I’ve been to expos and festivals. What I really wanted to do was experience what was truly unique to Shipshewana. (Don’t worry, of course I visited the quilt shops…more to come on that!)
It’s Amish country as you may very well know. I was careful not to take any pictures of them, but they do not mind a pic from a distance or shots of their homes or buggies. ( I asked.) I took several carriage rides and asked many questions. They use cell phones for business and rely on solar panels and wind turbines for electricity although many of them also have propane or natural gas at home.
Spending time in this pastoral setting really reinforced to me the hazards of modern living: speeding cars with impatient and intolerant drivers, over-reliance on technology, and the toll the lack of fresh air and exercise takes on our modern bodies. All Amish, at least those in Indiana, ride bikes or take the carriages. Horses look healthy and are a way of life for them. So many Amish live and work in the town, I really expected them to hide from tourists. But frankly, they are friendly, willing to talk about their lifestyle and very open and gracious…but private where any person or family would be private.
The way they decide whether or not to tolerate a technology is whether it will reinforce or tear down the community. Cars will always be out, because it is a way for anyone to escape community rather than build it. Same with TV’s and computers and phones. But they live in a real world where they have to make a living so cell phones for business or compressors to help milk the cows are tolerated.
I took a tour of an Amish house, sat and ate a home cooked meal with a family, saw them milk cows, toured the farm and was genuinely warmly welcomed. I visited the Menno-Hof, a guided tour museum of the history of the Anabaptists.
This farmhouse actually looks a lot like my grandparents’ farmhouse in Wisconsin.
In this photo, the carriages were parked at a house funeral for a well-known elderly gentleman. What a lovely site. And life goes on.