I took a several day trip to Indiana’s Amish country, and on my journey encountered many nature spirits who strongly identified with the local culture. The Amish live simple lives close to the earth. They have great respect for their animals, for plants, and for each other.
The Amish migrated to America several centuries ago, seeking religious and cultural freedom. William Penn, the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania, invited the Amish to settle in that territory, and so they did for some time before many ventured further west.
I myself was raised as a Philadelphia Quaker. Like the Amish, we are known as the plain people, although we are not as strict. I was missing my childhood’s Quaker energy so, living now in the Chicago area, I decided a trip to Indiana was just the thing to do!
Indiana’s Northern Amish country stretches through the towns of Elkhart, Goshen, Nappanee, Middlebury, Bristol and Shipshewanaa. This area of Indiana is hillier than other parts – more like the Pennsylvania landscape. The country barns and farms hearken back as well to the old ways.
This area has an annual summer long exhibit of quilted gardens and quilt patterns on building walls. The designs are somewhat similar to the Pennsylvania Deutsch Hex signs. Stretching over a 90 mile route, 33 sites display colorful geometric quilt patterns. The route winds you through glorious miles of the beautifully upkept working farms of the Amish and their “English” neighbors.
I went to photograph the quilts. But here and there nature spirits called out to me to take their photos. So I occasionally went off track – and got some wonderful photos of elf royalty (they have the elongated head with the smooth long curved nose, very fine features, and very gentle and peaceful). There were some strong masculine heroic images in a tree near a famous local site where escaped slaves had been protected from Southern bounty hunters. I also got some lyrical photos of Amish people who frequented a local Mill. The picturesque Bonneyville Mill of Middlebury, shown here, was founded in 1830 and served the community as a gathering spot and grain mill.
I love photographing trees who have grown up near some type of significant action; the tree spirits very often manifest in their images some story or energy they saw at that location. Sometimes it is because they loved the energy; sometimes it is because they are attempting to either ground, hold in place or correct an energy.
In this case the spirits were all seeking to emulate the plain kindness of the plain people who must have visited the mill often. There is a magnificent Alpha Tree that stands by the pond and roadway entrypoint to the mill itself. It was calling on me to share its story.
The first story I saw was a collection of three images of an Amish family – the petite mother in a bonnet, the father with a full beard, and up above a small child.
Then, above that tableau, another had been fashioned. This one was of another Amish gentleman with beard and wearing a tall hat. (Only married Amish men can wear beards and Amish women wear bonnets). Above him is a self-portrait of the nature spirit resident in the tree itself.
When you look at these images, you will find other images as well.
So – here you have a wonderful alpha tree, holding energy for this area for hundreds of years, and seeking to ground and share its knowledge and energy with all who pass by. Just one more piece of help from our friendly wisdom keepers – the trees!
– Atala Toy, Nature Spirit Photographer
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