EXCERPT: Hills of Wheat

Chapter One

On top of the hill, surrounded by growing shoots of winter wheat that waved gently in the early April breeze, a young woman stood by herself. She wore a short-sleeved blue dress, covered with a plain white apron. Her hair was brown but barely visible as it was tucked neatly beneath a white heart-shaped prayer cap. Her eyes were shut as she felt the wind against her face, already brown from working outside. But on this day, she did not have to work. It was Sunday, a day of rest. Instead of relaxing inside the house with her family, she had felt drawn to the outdoors. Again. It was where she always retreated when she had a few spare moments. It was where she felt the closest with God.

She lifted her arms to the side, letting the breeze touch her skin. It brushed against her like gentle feathers. She smiled and began to spin around, slowly at first. The sun warmed her face while the breeze cooled it down. A laugh escaped her throat, a laugh of pure joy and happiness. Spring had almost arrived, the time of year when life was reborn on the farm. New plants, new flowers, new crops.

In just a few weeks, the winter wheat would change to a creamy light brown in color. The low rolling hill would be covered with shimmering wheat. It would glow like gold in the sun. Then, later in the summer, in the early morning hours, she would help her father and brothers plow the field, working to collect the sheaths behind the harvester, pulled by two mules, as it cut them down. The smell of the freshly cut wheat, the warmth of the sun, and the sweat of honest labor would greet her every day during that time. They would create neat rows of shocks to let the wheat dry before bringing them in for market. It was her favorite time of year.

But now, just now, as she stood among the growing wheat, she felt the birth of spring. The warmth, the sun, the upcoming harvest. She knew what it meant. For the Amish, it was a time of renewal. But for the girl, it meant much more. It was a rebirth, not just of her senses but also of her entire soul.


He was lost. That was the one thing he knew for certain. Beyond that, he did not know anything other than the fact that he was lost in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Once he had turned off the main road, everything began to look the same. The roads were long, weaving through miles of fields and farms. Each farm stood next to an even larger barn and windmill, looking like picturesque paintings against a backdrop of green fields. Cows dotted the fields, most of them black and white Holsteins. Occasionally, he would drove around a bend, hoping to find a street sign or some type of indicator as to where he was. But each bend brought him further away from the main road.He glanced at the paper in his hand with the handwritten address. But, he couldn’t even read his own writing.

He looked up in time to see the two children walking along the road and up the hill. The boy wore a straw hat and the girl a black bonnet. They had lunch pails in their hands and one was on a scooter. Both were barefoot. His old pickup truck was headed right for them. Cursing silently, he swerved, more on instinct than by need. The children didn’t even notice and continued walking. The truck wobbled and he felt a bump then, a loud rattle noise. He could hear the too familiar thump-thump of a problem.

“Aw come on,” he mumbled as he slowed down the truck. He pulled off onto the side of the road, parking halfway on a grassy hill. “Just what I need,” he said to himself and opened the door to his pickup.

As expected, he had a flat. He knew that he should have changed the tires before he left on his journey. He ran his fingers through his dark, curly hair and looked around, hoping to see another car or some inkling of civilization. But all he saw were the farms, pastures, and cows. Lots of cows. But no people and no cars. He also didn’t even see telephone lines. His cell phone battery had died less than twenty minutes after he had crossed the state line earlier in the day. This was a bad idea, he thought to himself, not for the first time that day.

With a deep sigh of resignation, he set to work changing the tire. It had been a long day, a day filled with long highways and deep emotions. Leaving Connecticut behind would begin the healing, he knew that. But it didn’t hurt any less as he left the only home he had ever known for new, unchartered territory. He knew that he needed the change, needed the fresh start. Still, he hadn’t counted on the forlorn sense of closure that increased with every mile of the journey. And now, with only a few minutes left, if he could ever find the house, the flat tire was like a slap in the face.

The sun was overhead but there was a cool breeze. He wiped the sweat from his brow and glanced at the sky. It was clear, the perfect spring day. The air was sweet, occasionally hinting at the cows in nearby pastures. But he didn’t find the odor offensive. Indeed, he was looking forward to being around the farms, away from the city and rat race he had called life. If only he could be at the house, unpacking the truck and getting situated. Instead, he was stuck on the side of the road, battling with a lug wrench and rusty lug nuts.

As he turned back to the wheel, he noticed a motion out of the corner of his eye. Leaning against the car, he covered his eyes with his hand and squinted. In the middle of the hill, a young woman stood with her arms stretched out to her side. Her face was turned toward the sun, the warmth caressing her cheeks. She wore a blue dress with a white apron covering the front. The white covering on her head completed the picture. Amish, he thought. Yet, even from this distance, he could tell she was a pretty girl. She was lean, which made her look taller than she actually was. And she was smiling to herself, unaware that she was being watched.

The moment struck him as one of peace. He was drawn to it. He hadn’t had many moments of peace in the past few years. That was what he was seeking, peace and tranquility. He needed to find that type of peace again. Somewhere along the way, it had disappeared. He thought he knew the reason why it was gone and he definitely knew the moment when it had vanished. The search for peace was the very reason he was here, on this road, lost with a flat tire. It was the reason he was watching the young woman spinning slowly on the hill that was covered with what he knew was growing crops of wheat.


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