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Sarah's Seasons

An Amish Diary and Conversation

Martha Moore Davis

Publication Year: 1997

“Have you ever kept a diary?” With that question author Martha Davis sets out on her journey into the quietly remarkable life of an Old Order Amish woman know to us as Sarah Fisher. Sarah not only kept a diary but welcomed Martha to read it and to view the world through her eyes. The even, peaceful tenor of Sarah's diary entries and the closeness to nature of her life and work will make readers question the pace and values of their own lives, and the degree of social interconnectedness in Sarah's world will offer a model for many of us outside it.

Sarah's brief daily notations, recorded on a calendar throughout 1976 and 1977, reveal an ongoing account of her seasonal routine. In many ways the straightforward simplicity of her writing is a reflection of her life near rural Kalona, Iowa, a life filled with what Martha Davis calls look-easy tasks undertaken without the conveniences of electricity, phones, or automobiles. For Sarah, diaries are a record. “A diary can settle a question, a disagreement,” she tells Martha. “You look back and see what took place. That's history.”

Through their conversations, Martha soon discovered she had more in common with Sarah than diary writing. Though Davis lived in the mainstream culture, an “English” person as the Amish say, like Sarah she grew up on a farm in rural Iowa during the 1950s and 1960s. Like Martha, Sarah had spent several years as a teacher.

In Sarah's Seasons Martha Davis shares their common experiences and common interests—gardening, quilting, and cooking. Alongside Sarah's diary, Martha presents their shared recipes and conversations as well as reflections on her own more modern existence. Because of her friendship with Sarah, the author found a new sense of belonging to and purpose in the mainstream world. In the end, Sarah's diary becomes for Martha a meditation on time and community.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

This is an appreciative foreword written from across the distances. They are the distances that still exist between rural village life and urban life, perhaps particularly life in a city like New York. They are the distances that exist between...

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pp. xi

I am grateful to Sarah Fisher and her family for sharing and for allowing me to explore their stories. I am also indebted to Anna Swartz, whose hospitality is an example for all. Special thanks to Judy Goodwin for...

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1 Coming to Know Sarah

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pp. 1-18

I agonized over asking her. What if my question sounded too personal? Would I insult her? I knew the Old Order Amish valued their privacy away from mainstream life. At the same time, I felt an unspoken camaraderie with this Amish woman I had talked with only one other time. I had met Sarah Fisher on a visit to Fellowship School about four months earlier. I was...

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2 Sarah the Teacher: Mother and Guide

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pp. 19-42

I felt like one of the Amish teachers attending their Friday-night meeting in Sarah's community. The teacher-host for the evening invited me to sit at one of the scholars' desks and try a worksheet on arithmetic. I noticed that nearly...

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3 Sarah the Quilter:The Season of Quilting

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pp. 43-74

Hungry to talk, Sarah and the other Amish women gather to quilt. Twelve inches of snow and low temperatures have kept Sarah and the children indoors. She hasn't talked face to face with anyone but her immediate family for a...

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4 Sarah the Gardener:The Season of Growing

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pp. 75-120

I drove the car up the gravel drive, stopped next. to the bright white hitching post, and parked on the other side of Sarah's horse and buggy. The only commonality of our transportation was the color black: the Volvo sedan, the....

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5 Sarah the Entrepreneur:The Fisher Kitchens

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pp. 121-146

"I never dreamed what would happen when we began to bake. I baked myself right out of the house," Sarah said. It all started with the Farmers' Market, where local vendors rent a space and sell their garden produce, home-baked goods, and homemade crafts. As the Fishers walked....

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6 Sarah the Writer:Circle Letters and Poetry

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pp. 147-172

Sarah and I were hulling strawberries at our usual place, the picnic table under the maple tree. Before us sat twenty-five pint containers of Cardinal strawberries so large that a single berry filled a quarter cup measure. Removing the hulls was the first step in the canning process, and it gave us time to....

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pp. 173-180

Until I met Sarah, there was little I couldn't hurry in my life. In an instant, it seemed, I could revise recipes to cut cooking time, attend two volunteer meetings, clean the house, and return phone calls, aU in one evening. I thought I would....

Works Cited

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pp. 181

Selected Bur Oak Books of Related Interest

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pp. 183-184

E-ISBN-13: 9781587290442
E-ISBN-10: 1587290448
Print-ISBN-13: 9780877455967
Print-ISBN-10: 0877457425

Page Count: 198
Publication Year: 1997