Wednesday, September 17, 2008

From Mountain Daydreams to Amish Homes to the Old West

I have a not-so-secret desire to live somewhere near the mountains in a rustic and rural town, worlds away from the busy, crowded cities. I love the idea of essentially being in the middle of nowhere. You would think I have had my fill, growing up in a small town in the Midwest, right? When I become frustrated by the daily irritations of trying to co-exist with 8 million others, I often want to pack up and move to Montana. (I'm sure it's just as easy as that, too.) At the same time, I have to try to force myself to forget the fact that I can't stand the winter and have basically become a weather wimp. In Los Angeles, 60 degrees is FREEZING.

I then try to reason with myself that if I cannot live in my own private, mountainous reverie, I could possibly live in a house that seems as if it belongs against the backdrop of a beautiful range. I can't say that I absolutely love the idea of living in a cabin that looks as if it was built from a set of Lincoln Logs, but I can remember always being drawn to older looking homes with exposed beams and careful woodwork. I simply like simplicity. I believe it is more versatile and serves as a neutral--but certainly not boring--backdrop for any sort of design or decorating scheme. Plus, who says you can't install imported textiles and fancy appliances if it is your heart's desire?

With all this in mind, I was instantly intrigued when I came across an
article in the Wall Street Journal. It is about people who seek out Amish contractors to build their homes based largely on the craftsmanship and work ethic of these contractors. Not to mention having a home that is built faster, cheaper and better than your average run-of-the-mill contractor, at least according to the article. Beyond business, though, the article also gives a small insight into the worldview of the Amish. There is a note that scholar Erik Wesner has a blog chronicling his study of the various Amish sects and cultures. I only checked it out briefly, but his blog seems to contain a wealth of fascinating information about the history, lifestyle and future of the Amish community.

I have been a long time fan of the history and time period concerning homesteaders and pioneers, who founded the American prairies and territories of the West from roughly the 1850s through the early 1900s. I am clearly no expert, but I would venture to guess (and maybe even hope a little) that much of the cultural aspects of the contemporary, conservative Amish would somewhat resemble, or at least echo, the lives of those 150 years ago. In the near future, I look forward to roaming through the bookstore in hopes of a few great reads that will tutor me on the lives of these incredibly interesting people.

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