I’m not sure what it is about them. Their size. Their utilitarian structure. The peak of their roofs. Their setting usually away from the road. Whatever it is, I love barns.
I dream of owning one some day and turning it into my house, the frames of the walls and ceiling becoming my own timberframe. Or maybe I will build a true timberframe house that is inspired by a barn, a lofted living room the centerpiece. Or perhaps on my farm I will simply have a barn, an old one that has held cows for milking, and I will tuck my office in the loft so I can look out over the acres that are finally mine.
A barn is a symbolic thing for me. It’s a space where all the tools of a farm are kept – animals, tractors, food. It’s the storage space that makes the rest of the farm viable. Here on this farm, the historic barn was the grist mill where a horse turned a wheel to crush the grain that the slaves had harvested. In friends’ barns, they milk the cows for the food that is their livelihood. Precious things are kept and done in barns.
Despite their utilitarian nature, good barns are also beautiful, as are most things that are done with our hands. There is a functionality that lends grace to their shape. That structure isn’t hidden either; the beams and joints, are right there, exposed. There’s a bareness, a boldness that is confident in what is built. No need for sheet-rock or for more paint than is required to keep the structure sound. Just load-bearing posts and trusses and the stalls to safe-guard the animals.
Barns are like writing. They have something to say, something to do, and the best ones accomplish that task with strength and beauty. I can see why writer and farmer Jenna Woginrich calls the longing to farm “Barnheart.” (I think this applies to writers as well; only we call it “Wordheart.”)
I can also see why many barns are red, born of blood, like writing.