Where I live in rural SW Wisconsin there is not much diversity unless you count the Amish. They mostly keep to themselves and the rest of us respect their privacy and appreciate that we live in a country where we are “Free to worship.” The Merry Green Marvel carried six Amish parents and their 19 children on a night drive from their farms in Wisconsin down through Chicago to SW Michigan. It’s late August and the work of planting and tending to crops has been given a two day pause before the fields begin to golden as they move toward harvest. I remember this time of year when my folks scraped enough money together back in 1966 and loaded four of their children into a Chevy Impala. Sustaining ourselves on bologna sandwiches and braunschweiger with saltines we made it out of the tall corn country of Iowa and lifted our gaze to the wonders of Yellowstone.
As the bus driver for this Marvel bus, I get to feel the thrill of this lifted gaze over and over as adventures unfold, trip after trip. Imagine waking these dear Amish folks who strive to be “plain” so as to give God the greater glory. From their sleeper coach beds they rise with the first bend of light over the Easterly horizon. They gather up the babies and little ones and move as one across the beach to feel the power of Lake Michigan wave to land. There was no scattering with each child answering their own call to thrill. They stood together as is their way, well before others arrived with towels, beach chairs and tanning lotion. Their lifted gaze took in the pink blush painting the edges of Great Lake clouds as the sun pushed the brush.
Hearts full we went onto the farmhouse where many families had gathered for this reunion. Men kissed men. Women kissed women as is the tradition of the “Holy Kiss” to convey the joy of being in fellowship. I was invited to join them to sing in the basement of the farm house. Relieved that I didn’t have to have a bowl haircut to join I cleared my voice. We sang hymns from a hymn book with women and girls on one side and men and boys on the other. Anyone could call out a song and page number and we would all join in.
I remember the tingle of being under my dad’s arm on a boat ride on Jenny Lake looking up at the Gran Tetons. I feel that same tingle here in the farmhouse basement singing with the Amish. Male voices holding the bottom steady and the feminine soaring above forming a holy confluence flowing as one out of the basement out into the Michigan blueberry fields “Precious memories, unseen angels sent from somewhere to my soul...how they linger, how they ever flood my soul…” It is good to get together.