My Barn, Our Lives
It is a delightful rainy day up here this Sunday evening. Peaceful time alone, and I cherish it.
A fire in my wood burning stove in the barn as I write. Not all the smoke gets up the chimney, but there are plenty of other cracks and holes in this old place for the smoke to find it’s way out. The smoke leaving and drops of rain finding their way in must share the same invisible passages, each headed in different directions.
This barn smells so good. One hundred and twenty-five years of hay smells, hand tools, wood-shavings and sawdust from the old belt-driven saws and lathes and a slightly acrid scent of oiled-up 1923 Oldsmobile car parts that include wooden wheel spokes. I still, 25 years into living here, rub them with linseed oil from time to time, so they don’t dry up and crack. From somewhere below the uneven floorboards, there is just the faintest scent in this fragrant mix of what, no doubt, was last night’s defense against the coyotes or foxes that must have challenged Mr. or Ms. Skunk for dry cover under their barn.
I hear these skunks and other critters scratching around below. Maybe there are squirrels, too, beginning to horde their nuts to last through the winter snow and ice. Other sounds: Raindrops pounding on the roof with different cadences, depending upon the changing winds. On the West side, the lee side of the roof out of the wind, the rain keeps a steady rhythm, a predictable beat. To windward, the raindrops make no sense– staccato, then quiet. Blues and jazz rain music together. And the wind rattling the window frames is that old black bass-player sitting in a dark corner, sipping his gin, reminding me that the barn is the boss. This I believe.
Trough the window, I watch three deer harvesting my veggies– not earning their keep by eating the weeds while there. Can’t blame them. A younger one, a June baby no doubt, has a grapefruit size, organic red tomato in its mouth, chomping back and forth sideways, with tomato juice and seeds gushing out. I must leave some mozzarella out there next time. Surely they have found the basil already. Two other deer are in my perennial garden, doing the thorough pruning, that I never found time for this summer. My thanks to them? They are quite content, as am I.
Leaning up against the barn siding, underneath the creaky ladder to the loft, are wooden, single-plank skis with leather bindings; bamboo, one-piece fly rods and wooden golf clubs with rusted heads, all left behind long ago and seemingly held in place now by cobwebs on top of cobwebs. And there, too, a dented wire minnow trap, with ancient wooden fishing lures and rusted hooks inside. Over the years we have piled on our hockey sticks, Whifffle ball bats, graphite Adams golf clubs with their brazen logo on the bag, my Orvis and Sage four-piece (also graphite) fly rods and our tennis racquets (yes, graphite.) This corner of the barn makes no sense. This I believe.
Where the chicken coop was once connected to the barn, on the garden side in back, there is rat, head up and headed out through his hole. But motionless. I toss a ten-penny nail just behind him to hasten his exit. No movement. I walk over and look more closely. Yes, a rat. But just rawhide, petrified skin and bones. Perfectly poised. Waiting.
My barn marks her history with elegance. There are Connecticut license plates from the 1800’s nailed to the floor where the wood has worn through from the same footsteps in the same places by three generations of carpenters. Five razor-sharp, eight-foot-long scythes from harvests past, each with a single, graceful curve, hang in the rafters above me. I wonder about the breaking point of the century-year-old rusty nails that suspend these scythes above me in mid-air? Are they waiting to inflict an ancient accident in this, a modern day of weed-whackers and farm combines? Is the grim-reaper living in my barn? Or simply storing the tools of his trade? They are beautiful scythes in their hand-made design and hand-forged manufacture by men who sat right here, where I sit. I will tread lightly, but happily, in leaving this place tonight.
My barn, our lives. This, I believe.
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