Recently I met a person who loves barns. I must admit to a certain pull myself, having grown up on a farm and owning hundreds of sensory memories of a proud old multi-generational barn on a working farm. I sense as much as recall a cathedral like space with dust motes from the hay floating in beams of sun shooting through the cracks between weathered boards, the massive creaking presence of draft horses in ancient stalls, the spring arrival of wobbly wet pink-nosed calves, the warm winter breath of dozens of contented cows, all the mysteries of things growing, work accomplished, the passage of the seasons marked by tasks of animal husbandry, field work, harvest. Oh my, I'm there this morning.
There was a much-panned movie a number of years ago - The Bridges of Madison County. I don't recall the story but I remember the film did a good job of creating a sense of loss (a bit soppy and maudlin, true, but the visceral sense that something is going and it hurts). I feel that way about barns. As I drive around Hastings (or any) County I see countless skeletal barns going back to the soil, themselves harvested for barn wood or whatever is left of value. So much earnest planning, such toil in the construction, immeasurable work accomplished for several generations, now irrelevant. Beautiful in their grief.
I draw comfort from this one thing, in my country drives - Hastings County has a fine and viable farming community still, and there are wonderfully well-kept and prosperous barns on those very same nostalgic drives. So I take some comfort in knowing that this way of life will continue in some form for some folks, because, as they say on the highway sign "If you ate today, (you) thank a farmer."