Friday, September 28, 2012

There's a moment when traveling down Rt. 30 toward Lancaster a vista opens of green, fertile farmland and you are stunned by the beauty of the landscape. It is not pure nature. The landscape is man made, but it seems as if you have entered a mythic realm like Tolkien’s shire. Tolkien would recognize in the Plain Folk many of the qualities of his beloved hobbits.Family, love and care for the land, food plain and simple but so good.

(See Wikipedia for a good breakdown of the various Plain Folk [Lancaster County alone has 30 variants of the Amish]).

There is a tension between the touristy, commercial Lancaster and the back road farming communities just off the highway. The Amish are no strangers to the blandishments of the modern world. These are not isolated folks. But they have chosen to remain in the world but apart.

My weekend began with the Friday night pasta dinner and 5K. Hot air balloons went up all through dinner. My niece and nephew ran the 5K and it was great fun seeing them coming in with the Amish children who ran.

Saturday, unfortunately, was the last of the warm, muggy days and it wasn’t a pretty day, and because of threaten storms no balloons, but the course – what a delight. At the start, the crowd around me was relaxed and friendly. The course wound through a late summer landscape and Amish farmers watched our passing. How strange we must seem to them. The water stations were great fun especially the children who were a special delight. One of my favorite things on the 13 mile trip through that farmland were the children lined up on a fence and at the water stops calling out water and Gatorade, Gatorade.

We passed a quartet of horses at the edge of a field of corn and having recently ridden a Belgian mare I thought I recognized the breed. Are those Belgians I called out. The farmer didn’t answer but an Amish man standing near by did, “Yes, and very fine ones they are”. I’m guessing the farmer couldn’t boast on his horse but his friend could. A little further on there were two young men with a team of animals. Are they donkeys I asked – no mules. When shortly after another teenager came down the road with a team I shouted out “Mules?” - Yes. Wow, I getting to be an agricultural expert.

Another favorite was when we turned onto a country lane (Red Lane?). It was a narrow, crushed stone and suddenly I saw a very large banner for Rita’s Water Ice. It seemed so alien and out of place, but just past it was a table manned by teenagers giving out water ice. What a treat! But how they got the ice there and kept it cold is a mystery. However, it seemed to capture the magic of this weekend – the marvelous combination of English and Amish sensibilities. I doubt if I ever enjoyed a water ice so much.

After finishing – getting a great medal and some refreshment I thought to leave but the line of cars was so long I walked back and listen to the gospel group playing and sat thru the awards. I was glad I did. The music was excellent and it was nice to see the diverse runners get their prizes.

Saturday afternoon we went to the barbecue hosted by the local fire company (turns out the Amish can be volunteer fireman). Almost everyone there were plain folk. What a wonderful atmosphere there was. I found the mixture of an ordinary barbecue with folks who otherwise have rejected much of the 21sth Century intriguing. I had such of good time I asked to be directed to a member of the fire company because I wanted to make a donation, but was told no they just wanted everyone to have a good time, an enjoyable time. Well I did – a very good time. Of the dozens of half marathons I have done it was my favorite ever. I have mix feelings now. I want to tell everyone I know how great it was and do it and at the same time I want to keep it the small intimate experience I had. Selfish I know but there it is. Those of us lucky enough to have run the 2012 event had a very special experience – thanks to everyone who made it possible.

No comments: