After the horrendous events of this past week, I plan to lighten the mood a bit and talk about a book and an author that I have fallen in love with. The book is An Amish Holiday and contains two stories within its pages. The first is, An Amish Christmas and the second is A Plain & Fancy Christmas.
The author is Cynthia Keller. I know nothing about her except what the last page of the book says: She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children. It must be the Connecticut tie that makes me love her writing. :-)
I have to assume that at some point Ms. Keller lived among the Amish because she seems to know their ways far more than would you or I. I like to read a book where I learn something and I have certainly learned a lot from this book. I was in Amish country once, and saw the horse-drawn wagons stop at a grocery store then move on down the street. I have to admit I gawked at them.
An Amish Christmas is about a dysfunctional family in North Carolina--mother, father, daughter and two sons--who, through a twist of fate, end up living with an Amish family in Pennsylvania. We watch them as they learn to slow down, extricate themselves from cell phones, iPods, television, schedules, all the things they once thought were important, and begin to live in harmony with each other and their surroundings. Here’s an excerpt:
Meg shivered in the cold morning air as she dressed. Tucking in her shirt, she felt something in one of her pants pockets. She reached in to discover the refrigerator magnet she had taken from the house as she walked out the door in Charlotte.
Esse Quam videri. To be, rather than to seem.
She stared at it. The motto had been her inspiration for so long, as she tried to feel the way she thought she should be, rather than just to seem to feel it. Now she saw it in a completely different way. These people, Catherine and David and even their young children, had shown her what it meant to be rather than to seem. They didn’t talk about what they did, how they felt about it, or what it meant. They knew how to just be. They knew what they valued: religion, community, work. They followed those values, and as a result they were completely genuine in everything they did.
The second story, A Plain & Fancy Christmas, tells of two babies accidentally switched at birth, one to Amish parents and one to New York City parents. The girls, both named Rachel, grow up feeling out of place; the one brought up in the city longs for a quieter, more peaceful life and the girl brought up in the Amish community wishes she had more excitement in her life. The girls eventually meet and, well, you just have to read the book to find out what happens.
Quote of the day: The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware. Henry Miller