Kathleen Parker

CHARM, Ohio - More appropriate names are hard to come by. In Charm, situated among the rolling hills of Holmes County - the largest Amish settlement in the country - life is postcard perfect and, yes, charming.

It is also, shall we say, a bit odd. Start here:

Imagine a world with no noise. Without sound except for wind, birds, the occasional dog or the clopping of horse hooves against pavement. A world without even the hum of a refrigerator, or the sloshing of a dishwasher, or the buzzer indicating that the dryer has finished with the sheets.

Not far from Akron as the crow flies - and a relatively few miles from city bustle as Google Earth would show - Charm is worlds away from the "here and now" most of us experience. Small black buggies that resemble oversized boxes pulled by retired racehorses are as commonplace as tourists' cars.

Indeed, moving into Amish country is like stepping across a threshold into another dimension, a place where time stopped a couple of centuries ago. Anyone familiar with the movie "Witness," starring Harrison Ford, knows the scenery: women in long dresses and bonnets, bearded men in overalls or black pants and white shirts.

The Amish, who neither watch television nor attend movies, and generally shun most of modernity, weren't pleased when Hollywood - the ultimate den of iniquity - profited by exploiting their culture. Nevertheless, the movie, filmed in 1984 in Lancaster County, Pa., gave outsiders a peek at what can only be described as amazing: early America perfectly preserved in a technological age.

I was allowed a close-up glimpse while visiting Kent State University's Tuscarawas campus in nearby New Philadelphia. Thanks to a generous "English" couple - what the Amish call the rest of us - who have ties with the Amish community, I was able to spend time in an Amish home.

My first comment to our hostess, Mary Yoder, was to note the silence, quiet so complete you can hear cells dividing.

"Some people can't handle it," she said matter-of-factly.

Most people probably couldn't handle much of Amish life. No electricity, no telephone, no cars, no computers, no CDs or cell phones, no iPods, no Internet, no makeup, no tasteful highlights, no jewelry, no Manolos. Plain doesn't come any plainer than this.

Nor life more arduous. We who work by sitting at computers and talking on phones don't know from work - the kind that involves milking cows, baling hay, building barns, shoeing horses, canning, sewing, cooking, and giving birth at home and often. The Amish, who pile their plates with noodles and potatoes, laugh at the idea of "health clubs," where people get on treadmills and lift weights to work off carbs.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Kathleen Parker's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.