Our world is changing so rapidly that travel has taken on new dimensions. On my recent trip to the States, along with visiting family and good friends and seeing many familiar places, I was fascinated by some of the pronounced changes I found, even since I was there five years ago.
I first visited the States in 1966, shortly after leaving art school. Originally I was to visit for two years, but two years turned into twenty-eight. The United States is where I raised my children and started my career as an artist. In 1994, I returned to the UK/Europe.
This time around it felt as if I was seeing everything through a clearer and more focused lens and with that came great pleasure.
One of the highlights of my trip was to visit my son Jarrod and his partner Kendle on their farm in Nottingham, Pennsylvania.
The horse farm in Nottingham Pennsylvania where I visited Jarrod and Kendle. Nestled into the Pennsylvania countryside, with a River running by it, the farm is beautiful. Jarrod took me for a tour on the Gator. It was such a happy day – and I was reminded of how much I love the countryside and of course all the animals………..
Along with being a superb cook Kendle trains horses for dressage. On this day she had just finished a training session with her friend Sarah. The three bordering farms are owned by Amish families and although I have been in that part of the world before, and once lived in a house built by the Amish, this was my first experience to observe first hand the ‘plain’ lifestyle chosen by this community of people.
Amish children playing behind their house across the road from Jarrod and Kendle’s farmThe Amish children (who speak Pennsylvania Dutch until the age of six), have never experienced TV, computers or mobile phones. Within their tightly bound community it is believed that technology weakens the family structure. It is also part of their belief that the conveniences the rest of us use, create inequality. Kendle’s mother, (a fellow artist and friend I have known since 1974) walked with me to one of the neighbours to purchase some flowers. A group of about seven Amish men were sitting on the porch in front of their house. I introduced myself as Jarrod’s Mother….and from there we had a really interesting conversation. I would have liked to talk with them for much longer. It was one of their holidays, which is why the men were not working. Children were playing happily and women were preparing food. At that moment in time, the world seemed to be a very simple and beautiful place.
The Amish don’t use electricity or tractors…rather they farm the land in the old way. Called the ‘Plain’ lifestyle – this is not an easy way of life, however, since 1989 the population has more than doubled in America and Canada from 100.000 to an estimated 251.000 today. Researches estimate the population will double again to half a million within about 21 years. This is down to large families and their settlements spreading around the States…from New York, to Missouri, Wyoming, Montana and Oklahoma. However, the strongest growth is on the east coast, with five new settlements in Maine all less than twelve years old.
A father and his two sons arriving in their horse and buggy for the holiday festivities. Having escaped religious persecution in Germany about three hundred years ago the Amish accepted William Penn’s offer of religious freedom as part of Penn’s ‘Holy Experiment’ of religious tolerance.
Love and compassion towards others is their life’s theme. Vengeance and revenge is to be left to God. Living in this way was demonstrated to the full in 2006 when ten Amish girls aged six to thirteen were shot at the West Nickel Mines Amish School. Immediately after this awful happening, the Amish not only looked after their own but immediately forgave the murderer, offering help and support to his family. The press at that time couldn’t understand it………We could learn so much from others.
The Amish are very industrious. Along with farming, they are involved with many cottage industries – furniture making, cattle auctions, selling plants, vegetables, baked goods, and of course the beautiful quilts made by the women.
An Amish quilt auction…..these are works of art. Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed myself on the farm and look forward to returning for a longer period in 2020 when I can paint more and hopefully have more conversations with the Amish.
Jarrod and Kendle had a lovely party for me – with tons of good food and friends I have known for many years plus some new friends….it was a joy.
And then there were the animals ….oh how I love being in a place with lots of animals:) This duck has known Jarrod since the moment it was born…it follows him everywhere. There was Shiela the dog, several wonderful cats, ducks, chickens, horses, and so on…..again all of this means lots of work, but from my point of view – it’s more than worth while.
Kendle and Jarrod are now going to have an Air B’n B on the farm.
There is so much to do and see…and an excellent place for special interest groups, such as artists, writers, walkers, kayaking, etc. More about this to come.
Today, I finish with a watercolour chicken from the farm…..
And of course, some magical hummingbirds….watercolour/gouache