Kline, David. Great Possessions: An Amish Farmer’s Journal
New York: North Point Press, 1990. 235pgs. $10.00
By Julie Hochstetler
As I sit in complete tranquility, I close the book, Great Possessions:
An Amish Farmer’s Journal and smile. David
Kline’s masterpiece has so simply yet so majestically filled my every sense and even touched my soul. Kline has captured
the true essence of nature in his book of essays and his style, subject matter, form, theme and purpose are truly the "great
possessions" of this collection.
The essays collected in this book were written over several years as
articles for the Amish magazine, Family Life. Kline’s
essays are known as "a natural history essay", or more commonly know as stories about the nature around us. David Kline
is an Amish farmer from eastern Ohio and has numerous stories to tell of the abundance of the creatures of nature that
make themselves at home on his farm or surrounding area and the everyday experiences of life on a farm. Kline’s style is
that of sensory perception, what he sees, hears, smells, touches or tastes comes to life in his essays.
A collection of forty-five essays that are divided into the four seasons:
winter, spring, summer and fall describe the
miscellaneous creatures, weather and farmland goodness Kline has experienced while tending the fields, taking a walk or
just generally observing the wonders of nature. To me, each essay calmed my rather hectic life and made me want to put
all busy things aside and just side and "wander around in nature" with David Kline. His ability to so simply, yet in accurate
scientific detail when needed, and gracefully describe the nature around him in inspiring, I even found myself wanting to
learn more about the birds he wrote about. (And believe you me, birds are of no interest in my life normally!)
The stories of the migration patterns of birds rare to Ohio were fascinating
and touching. One especially touched me.
Wings of Spring: The Canada Goose described a pair of Canadian geese that frequented Kline’s farm an how each year
they would return to prepare for a new family. A touching story of fuzzy baby geese and the lonely return of the male one
spring to find no trace of his family. Kline wrote about how after weeks of fruitless searching, the lonely goose, "even
walked up to our house and stood honking in the front yard, almost as if he wanted us to share in his grief over what befell
his family. We mourned with him."
The just as sentimental essays of Kline’s family and the experiences
they share on the farm and out in natures were also
extremely moving. Kline gives a vision of a happy family happy to share all the housework, all the chores and all the love in
the world. Stories of a father-daughter nature walk in A Spring Walk; the family contribution of the list of various birds
spotted in Listing Birds; and the threat to nature in A Farewell to Giants touches the heart and makes the reader want to
go home and take a walk to enjoy nature with those people he/ she loves.
Kline’s ability to draw in the reader with sensory description gives
this book the ambiance needed to capture the attention
of the "nine-to-fivers" that do not get the chance to experience the true beauty of nature and all it has to offer due to their
busy city life. Kline’s essay, Sugaring Time, on how to make maple syrup has the reader licking his/ her lips in
anticipation of the sugary drops of the delicious liquid being fashioned. Even a true city person can enjoy and appreciate
this collection of essays as if they had been raised on a farm and understand all that goes into making a successful farm.
Kline’s essays are the type that make us want to give thanks to the great Lord for all of the beauty his has bestowed upon
us and supplied for us to enjoy.
This collection of essays is Kline’s first published book. Kline’s second
book, Scratching the Woodchuck: Nature on an
Amish Farm is available from the University of Georgia Press Publishing Company and is a collection of nature essays
bound to leave the reader in a state of serenity, treasuring nature’s great possessions, just as Kline’s first impressive book