Now just a memory, I savor the beauty of our lush summer and its peaceful, pastoral setting. My wife and I live in a verdant valley dominated on either side of the beautiful Iowa River by heavily forested bluffs. The soil here is considered the richest in the world, found elsewhere only in the Ukraine. We live within the confines of a 25,000 acre game preserve, where deer, ducks, geese, swans, bald eagles, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, the occasional cougar and bobcat, and countless other animal species make their homes amid abundant supplies of food and water. Also located within this preserve are several areas considered sacred by Native Americans in the region. Evidence of their ancestors in the form of arrow heads, spears, pottery, and beads is offered up by the soil along streams and in plowed fields.

Visitors to our gardens often comment on the beauty of our village and the surrounding countryside. South Amana, which is known for its beautiful gardens, was recently named the third most beautiful community in the state by the Keep Iowa Beautiful Foundation, an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, Inc. The other six villages of our former communal society feel a bit slighted by this honor, and rightly so, since they all have a charm and beauty of their own.

I'd like to share with you several poems I've written that reflect the inspiration drawn from the beauty and peace that surrounds me, as illustrated by my photos below. Click on photos to enlarge.


From bluff to bluff: Iowa River Valley


Amid the confusion of
the day,
I seek solace in
the primeval peace of
your forested hills, in
the ancient song of
your pristine streams, in
the echoes of
a distant time that reverberate in
the pieces of painted pot I pull from
your damp earth.

Let me record your ancient melodies in my heart,
so that I may play them
again and again until
they become
the symphony of
my soul.


My soul takes wing and,
gliding through the
dances with the fireflies on a distant, dusky hill.

Firefly Night II

Artist: Robin Street-Morris
(click here to enlarge)


Fields of ripening grain near South Amana


Crystal clear stream near
South Amana


Pristine pond in forest above South Amana


Native American pottery shards


Wild crab apples ripen in the early autumn sunshine


Trumpeter swan with cygnets


White-tail deer


Entering South Amana on a hazy summer day

Summer Treasures

But a pale shadow of its
summer glory,
leaf askew
and seed head heavy,
the garden hunkers down
to brace itself against
the bluster of
cold and ice that is winter.

Was it not just yesterday that I
caressed the soft-petaled rose in passing?
Savored the sweet scent of honeysuckle
drifting over the sill?
Plucked a determined weed amidst the
mossy stones?

I can still hear the cicada as it
drones its raspy song from a nearby oak, still
feel the heat of the sun-baked soil on
my bare feet, see
the firefly in my mind's eye as it
performs for me its luminous dance
on the breezes of a soft summer night.

These are the treasures of summer
that shall sustain me, that I have harvested
against the coming chill, until
once more the brightening ray
brings news of earth's awakening.

All poems © Larry Rettig 2005

Unauthorized use prohibited


South Amana gothic: Potting shed


Typical South Amana residence with expansive lawn and garden


Brick granary converted to residence, studio, and gallery


Billows of 'Jewelweed,' Impatiens pallida, frame an unusual local garden planted almost exclusively in native flora


Main entrance to a local garden


Lush plantings in a local garden


Local garden with poppies and daisies

South Amana sunrise

Thanks to Robin Street-Morris for permission to use her beautiful work that
captures perfectly the mood of my Evensong poem. For more about Robin
and her art, please click here.

o For more information on communal South Amana and its sister villages,
please click here.

o Tourist information on the Amana Colonies is available here.

Photos of swans and deer courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

© Larry Rettig 2008