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.
To those accustomed to instant everything, such a life seems impossibly hard and, well, dull. And yet, you cannot spend time among the Amish and not think these people know something we don't.
The Amish culture is most alien to us moderns in its patriarchal family structure. The battle of the sexes doesn't exist, as gender and sex are not allowed to be controversial. Men have ultimate moral authority, and few would disagree that life is balanced unfairly for females, who often work double shifts, both helping with outdoor chores and tending to home and children.
Even the rules against mechanization get tweaked to benefit male-dominated enterprises, while those that might lighten women's load are rigidly denied. The rationale is that compromises can be made as long as they benefit the Amish culture. Business is business, even here, and the Amish are widely recognized as savvy and entrepreneurial.
What is most striking about the Amish, in stark contrast to the broader American culture, is the centrality of family, the involvement of children in nearly all activities, and the concentration of most activities in the home - from birth to death, including eating, leisure, social functions and even church. While we leave sticky notes and voicemails as family members head in different directions, the Amish don't stray far from home or each other.
Life is certainly not perfect. Amish are also human. They have some problems, including alcoholism as well as other health concerns, such as polio, possibly associated with their suspicion of vaccinations.
But as odd as the Amish life may seem to us, ours is beyond weird to them. What we take for granted as rights and choices are mortal sins to them. Divorce is taboo and abortion unheard of. Children aren't shuttled off to day care, and the elderly die at home with family.
Somewhere between our ways and theirs is perhaps a different way that might make ours a saner world.