“The eyes are the windows to the soul.”

So the saying goes and so I’m reminded in looking over my ever-growing collection of barn photos.

Nice and symmetrical, I wonder if farmers intentionally put “faces” on their structures? They “smile” at me in so many of the photos I’ve taken. Sometimes I shy away from capturing them because I fear making the barns look corny … cartoonish. But as the reality of disappearing barns from America’s landscape takes hold, I think I’m captivated by the soul of something profoundly American … something of the back-breaking, sweaty toil that pioneered a nation … something nostalgic and slightly romantic that  I see in these cast-aside buildings.

For the Love of Barns

2 Ronnie's Barn II

For the Love of Barns

For the Love of Barns

For the Love of Barns

Now, with our blueberry adventure a few more steps in the making, (click here to catch up), not only do I have a collection of farm photos, but I have a collection of barns.  Well, I guess it’s not a collection if there’s only one … but it’s a start.

If you’ve been following my “blueberry posts,” you’ll recognize this.


Blueberry Barn II

Our barn doesn’t have a barn face, nor is it even remotely new to me. My parents bought it along with an old fixer-upper house and surrounding property over 40 years ago.  It came with some “city” lots and an old house that they hoped to restore.  Unfortunately, lack of resources and energy led to the demise of the house.  It is just a memory, and its lots sit along a two lane highway that lets people rush through the sleepy little berg. You know those small American towns … you barely hit the brake and then you’re out the other side … wondering who would want to live there.

Of all the buildings and signs of human occupation of my childhood, only the barn and a sad little shed still stand. The barn without a face .. but certainly it has a soul.

I remember the first time my siblings and I went inside.  We felt accomplished somehow.  We had grown up in a farming community, but we weren’t farmers. Barns were a sign of prestige in our minds … of stewardship of the land … a prize that came with being a farmer.

My farm-kid friends thought I was crazy to think that a barn was symbol of prestige.  To them the barn meant work … lots of work. It was where they had to buck hay, muck the horse stalls, or repair machinery on harsh winter afternoons so that  they wouldn’t be caught wanting when planting and harvest times snuck up on them. There was poop and mud and bats and earwigs and cold and … well, in a world of growing inside entertainments like TV and VCRs and Video games … no one wanted to go out to the barn … especially not to work.

I envied them.  My family didn’t have lands for harvesting food for the masses or cows to provide milk or a lifestyle that gave back season upon season upon season.

We played in our neighbor’s barn when no one was looking, but it wasn’t ours. I always pretended it was though.

Then suddenly, we had our own barn.  I remember thinking that we were cool … rich somehow in a land where pioneers and cowboys and farmers are the stuff of legends.

Probably the coolest thing about our barn was finding an owl in it.  My brother discovered him when the whole family was gathered to clean up the surrounding lots.  Right inside the door, perched at eye level, there he sat … blinking dully.

“What?!” Big brother half-yelled and backed up, startled that something living was staring him down.

Wounded (one wing hung limp), it had somehow found a refuge in our barn.  I’m ashamed to say we coaxed it out for awhile, thinking somehow, I guess that we were helping it.  He hobbled around the grass for a couple of rounds then fluttered back to his safe, small perch back in the barn.

After two days, he disappeared, but I still see his eyes every time I open the door … even all these years later.

2 Side of the Barn

These days, a feral cat lives in there.  We discovered him on one of our last trips … he yowled as we opened the door … finally jumping out the back window but only after putting up quite the ruckus.  Someone told me that he had been abandoned by some people who moved away and must have found refuge in our barn.

As I think of a reawakened life for our barn, I’ve wondered … do people even build barns anymore?  Think of what we’re missing in our culture: barn raisings, places for the messes in our lives … places to make messes so that we can grow and care for plants and livestock …places to make messes so that those plants and livestock can help others … refuges for wounded owls and feral cats.

Barns … the mess and the romance … for the love of barns.

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