A couple of weeks ago my mother and I made a two-night visit to Holmes County, Ohio, an area with the largest Amish community in the country. We stayed at Mel and Mary’s Cottages, where we’ve been going for 12 years, and had our usual lovely time. Our last day there was also the last official day of summer. It was pleasantly warm and sunny; miraculous considering the rain that showered us the previous couple of days and the deluge we rode through on the way home.
I respect the protocol that says you don’t take photos of the Amish people’s faces or snap them at an angle that would allow someone to identify the individual by his or her face. My photo here was taken from very far away, and I cropped in a little closer just to give the photo more interest. I’m ridiculously enchanted by the scenes of farmers with their enormous percheron horses tending their fields. We saw some gorgeous scenes of wagons heaped high with cornstalks trundling toward the barns. Amish country is full of vignettes like that, which is why I guess people like us keep going back. Not to gawk but to appreciate. I like to get out on the backroads that are barely paved paths, that the tourists don’t frequent and where the Amish are simply going about their daily lives. I love to see the barefoot kids playing baseball in the yards, the boys in straw hats, the girls in their bonnets. I love the neat but bounteous flower gardens, the colorful (though plain) dresses strung on drying lines on wash day, the variety of buggies and spritely horses clopping along the roads. We get to the Holmes County area only about once every two years, and usually only in the fall. It’s a treasured time I always look forward to, then look back on with fondness.
NUDGE: The photo above is of an Amish farmer and an Amish farm on the last day of summer, but don’t worry about treating the content literally unless you want to. Gaze at the photo and write down whatever comes into your mind, even if your thoughts seem to be going off on a tangent from what the picture shows. Write a poem, essay, blog post, or journal entry based on your notes.
Another approach is to plunge right in, writing a description of the scene and then exploring from there. Imagine the temperature, the fragrances, the feel of the sun, the sounds. Write from the viewpoint of the farmer. Write from the viewpoint of the horses. Stand inside the farmhouse, looking out one of the windows, and write from that perspective. Try on the personae of various people who might be viewing this scene: a tourist, another farmer, a child riding by on a school bus, a shopper at a produce stand buying pumpkins and cheese.
Making a photo nudge work for you means climbing into the photo, feeling your way beyond the perimeters of the scene pictured, seeing the subject through a whole crowd of different eyes.