Stories Behind the News
November 1, 2009

I once visited the farm and mail-order bookstore of an Amish author named David Wagler. An intelligent man with traditional white beard and a habit of challenging whatever you said, he wrote and self-published his own books.

Amish - Stories Behind the NewsDavid also was a contributor to the weekly Amish newspaper called The Budget, a collection of newsy letters written by a designated reporter from each Amish community across North America (and one or two in South America as well). The weekly letters, which usually start out with the weather, keep far-flung relatives and friends abreast of each Amish community’s births, deaths, visits, travels and other important events. Some people call The Budget the “Amish Internet,” and a recent NY Times article likened it to blogging and Twitter.

An excerpt from The Budget, from my book Visits with the Amish:
LUDINGTON, MI
Nov. 25—27º this morning with a light blanket of snow on the ground again, and sunshine. Received the snow yesterday.

The non-Amish neighbor bought a heifer recently at a sale, which seemed to have been someone’s pet. But it did not want to yield to authority and butted him down, in over the electric fence. Thankfully he wasn’t seriously hurt.

AmishUsually the letters follow a regular formula, but David Wagler liked to pepper his with long discourses on the moral dilemmas Amishmen face as they walk a fine line between the “English” and Amish worlds. Much to his dismay, the editor of The Budget usually cut these discourses out. But David had the last word—he gathered them into a thick book, Stories Behind the News, which every Amish person I ever met seemed to be reading.

I think of this blog a little like that. In my books and magazine articles I write about green and healthy topics, but there’s always so much more that I want to say. This blog serves as an outlet for my compulsive need to interview cool people wherever I go. In the past—true confessions here—I’ve been in Italy or California or anywhere, Iowa, and found myself gripped by the thought, “I’ve got  to write about this!”

Sadly, once I get home I don’t always have the time to query a magazine, or worse, the magazine I’m thinking of rejects my idea. So there I am with photos and recorded interviews and notebooks stuffed with observations and ideas—and nowhere to put it (not to mention that I’ve wasted the other person’s valuable time). So now I can ask them if they want to appear in my blog—and from there I can always take it to the level of an article or book.

One thing I want to be clear about—I’m not setting myself up as a person who is perfectly healthy or already living a completely green and sustainable lifestyle (just one look at my raggedy garden will tell you that I have a long ways to go in the green department!). Like many of you, I’m on a very personal journey to make my life more healthy inside and out. And I’m hoping that by connecting with you, we can help each other live a more sustainable life.

1 Comment »

  1. Sweet story about David, and you brought it home to your writing theme. That urge to write is why there are so many blogs out there. The fact that anyone can now publish on the Internet is so cool! What a change from 20 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago, 1000 years ago, 5000 years ago!

    Comment by Ellen Finkelstein — November 24, 2009 @ 7:03 pm

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