Twenty years ago, while walking through a men's clothing store in" Sag Harbor, New York, Sue Bender found herself drawn to an array of old Amish quilts that served as a background to a display of tweeds. She was immediately struck by their deep, saturated colors, the geometric simplicity of their design, and their quiet power. "They spoke directly to me," she writes. "They knew something.They went straight to my heart." That was the beginning of her "journey of the spirit."
Plain and Simple, illustrated with the author's own drawings, is the gentle, eloquent story of that journey. Bender, a wife, a mother, and a dedicated artist from Berkeley, California, sought out Amish families that would allow her-one of the outsiders the Amish call the "English"-- to visit and share in their daily fives.
In language as spare and vivid as Amish art, Bender recounts her venture into an entirely different world, the seemingly timeless world of the Amish, a landscape of immense inner quiet. With an inquiring eye, she describes the months she spent in Iowa and Ohio with two Amish families. She illuminates the everyday rhythms of their world and conveys the life of the people who taught her about simplicity, commitment, and the joy of doing what you do well.
In nine chapters, as interrelated and well-crafted as a classic nine-patch Amish quilt, Bender speaks to the seeker in us all and reveals how she was drawn to -- and changed by -- the Amish values of austerity, humility, and the ordinary. "How" they live reflects what they believe" she writes. "Their life is their art!"After living and working with these people whose values were so unlike her own, Bender was able to return home and rework her "crazy quilt" life into a new pattern. "I thought I was going to learn more about their quilts," she writes, "but the quilts were only guides, leading me to what I really needed to learn, to answer a question I hadn't yet formed: "Is there another way to lead a good life?"