Sweeping across the fluttering fields of corn silk, a firm yet caressing breeze rolls over the tiny hill. Even the slightest change in elevation in the flat north-central Ohio Valley terrain seems monumental. On a stifling day of mid-90 degree heat that late afternoon breeze cools lightly perspired brows until comfortable, or perhaps even refreshed – or as refreshed as 95 degrees can be. And, from that hill, a pastoral landscape emerges. The visual embodiment of the true American dream. Nearly 240 degree views of lush farmland for as far as the eye can see. Peppered with quaint farms. Their distance from each other suggesting their modest acreage.
Little has changed here since the region’s first immigrants built them 150 years ago when this was the great frontier. Perhaps the land is clear of its virgin forests yet it remains virtually unmolested. And also free of its local native inhabitants of which fanciful encounters were told by those immigrants – one being my three-times Great Grandfather. Lost in the “unbounded forests” as a boy, he was feared killed by wolves or Indians, but instead, protected and returned home by the latter. An unexpected and uncommon tale of optimism from American pioneers.
What is it about this hill? Why did their migration end here? And why have virtually no others found their way to this land over the last century? From here we still see the homes of our ancestors, including the cluster of buildings at the center of the first photo below. The home of my Grandfather was passed down to him through the generations. The few crisscrossing roads still bear their names – like Kafer, my two times Great Grandfather and German immigrant. These are the same names that grace the headstones of the cemetery on the hill. It’s small – like the church it accompanies and the hill itself. And the variety of names present are few. They are Klink, Kafer and Hoffsis – the latter they gave to me. St. Paul Lutheran Cemetery likely is home to more Hoffsis’ than anywhere outside of Göbrichen, Germany. Like most others of their time, their humble beginnings and humble existence in the New World, which they practiced and taught to their children, is reflected in their austere headstones. All of which are remarkably uniform though spanning more than a century.
As the high summer sun slowly dips below the horizon only the sound of the whistling late Sunday breeze breaks the silence and the neighboring grazing dairy cows provide the only company. It’s from here that those we hold dear continue to keep watch over the land which made them, and which made me, and which now has made my daughter. They too recognized the peacefulness of the hill and must have appreciated the rejuvenating westerly breeze. My times here have not always been under the most joyful of circumstances, though they have always been among the most calming and comforting in my life. This is where serenity lives.