Barns and Brownstones

Barns and Brownstones

I live in an area where old barns stand among the backdrop. While this implies a countrified community, this same area is also surrounded by cities, strip malls, and freeways that are bursting at the seams!

I suppose the certainty of suburban sprawl best explains why I’m drawn to the beauty of old barns. They seem to stand stoically among the imposition of youth and uncertainty of change. It’s like their worn and withered walls echo the anecdotes of evolvement, subtly whitewashed by the hands of time. 

But, thanks to the people of preservation, what remains of this area’s precious open space is fiercely protected! New neighborhoods now nestle up to nostalgia, where orchards and outbuildings adorn crowded corridors. It’s common to see stylish stucco homes neighboring aged A-frames, once home to animals and alfalfa.

My infatuation with old barns is a case of loving only for looks, as it’s the exterior that draws me in. To be clear, I don’t mean literally “in,” as the inside of an old barn is often brimming with bats and bugs! But, despite this minor flaw, I love gazing at the outside of old barns. The walls resonate with a reminiscence of happier days and simpler times. I find myself wanting to wrap my arms around their broken beauty and whisper, “Hang in there a little longer. Some of us are bent, too, and we’re counting on you to stay strong.”

Staring at these structures makes me feel so good that I always slow the car, often stopping if the romance of good lighting lures when traveling their adjacent roads. This love affair is evident by the labeling on my camera’s memory cards, “Old barns, DO NOT REMOVE.” These are the megabytes I can’t muster the strength to destroy with death by deletion. 

But, I take comfort in knowing that other people are also afflicted with BGOD, Barn-Gazing-Obsessive-Disorder. These folks are willing to pay good money for artsy photos and paintings of the solitary structures. It’s even become trendy to install a rustic barn door inside an upscale home.

Once, while searching the web for images of old barns, I stumbled upon a site called The National Barn Alliance. Of course, curiosity captured me as I read, “We are coordinating preservation efforts to save America’s Historic Barns.” What is this wonderful non-profit, and who are these people? The next sentence answered that question: “Our members are farmers, city dwellers, historical groups, and lots of folks who just love barns.”

My eyes were reading faster than my mind could comprehend when they caught sight of something about the NBA. I nearly fell off my chair, anticipating an alliance with my favorite basketball players, who must also love barns. Images of a shirtless Steph Curry posing by a backlit barn flashed before it was clear that NBA is an acronym for National Barn Alliance. The writers of their website might want to rethink that verbiage. I’m sure others have experienced this same letdown when learning that no professional basketball players are involved in preserving old barns.

Of the many barns in my area, I do have a favorite. I’ll drive below the speed limit when approaching its vicinity to admire its beauty for a few seconds longer. I owe this favorite barn a great debt of gratitude as I bet it’s saved me a few hundred bucks and time spent answering, “M’am, do you know how fast you were going?” I’d be tempted to reply, “Yes, Officer, and I was making record time before you stopped me to answer this question.”

Sadly, my favorite barn is in pretty bad shape. The front door hangs askew, and the interior is exposed, so I succumb to temptation and sneak a peek. Unlike the others, this is the only barn where what’s on the inside matters more than its outward appearance. For it’s there, I may find the ghost of my younger self, playing with a friend, tossing hay toward where her outstretched arms stood waiting. Her parents owned the property where it’s housed, along with the horses and barn animals that went with it. I don’t know what happened to that family, my friend, or the animals. But I can still see them. Their faces flash before me whenever I drive by that barn. 

I’m cognizant that the hands of time are not constant. So, for now, I’ll stay in the space between past and present, where old barns beckon and I always hear their call. When pictures speak a thousand words, offering comfort and condolence to times long gone by. A place where I accept there is no cure for my BGOD, yet find relief and contentment in that fact. It’s here where I’ll admire an old barn’s beauty, not only with the click of my camera but deep in my core, in a special space between city and country that I call home.

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