Monday, July 6, 2009


i visited a beautiful old barn in cavan township just east of peterborough.

there's a silence in barns similar to that in a church. the light sometimes bursts and sometimes simply whispers through windows and cracks. doorways that have seen seasons come and go. have held out winter storms and held in summer cool. have seen life's noisy arrival and its quiet departure.

john updike wrote beautifully about a barn . . . .

"a barn, in a day, is a small night. the splinters of light between the dry shingles pierce the high roof like stars, and the rafters and crossbeams and built-in ladders seem, until your eyes adjust, as mysterious as the branches of a haunted forest. david entered silently .... the smell of old straw scratched his sinuses.... the mouths of empty bins gaped like caves. rusty oddments of farming — coils of baling wire, some spare tines for a harrow, a handleless shovel — hung on nails driven here and there in the thick wood. he stood stock-still a minute; it took a while to separate the cooing of the pigeons from the rustling in his ears. when he had focused on the cooing, it flooded the vast interior with its throaty, bubbling outpour: there seemed no other sound. they were up behind the beams. what light there was leaked through the shingles and the dirty glass windows at the far end and the small round holes, about as big as basketballs, high on the opposite stone side walls, under the ridge of the roof."
from the story “pigeon feathers.”


Amelia said...

I love old barns. I love to take pictures of them and have a stack of different barns that I have photographed. They don't build barns like they used to.

I really liked this description that you used:

"the light sometimes bursts and sometimes simply whispers through windows and cracks."

Beautiful. Makes me want to put on a summer's day dress (IF I had one!) and run out to an old barn and get lost in it for the day.

steven said...

hi amelia, this barn was massive and filled with all sorts of old treasures. the smell of old wood and hay and animals long gone . . . . . . steven

The Weaver of Grass said...

Lovely photographs and one of my favourite writers steven - I do agree about the silence in barns - we have several on the farm and they are lovely places.

steven said...

thanks weaver. i somehow knew you'd feel at home with this posting!!! i remember as a boy, my gandad (a methodist minster) had a circuit that took him through parts of rural cheshire. he had a friend who had a farm and it was a rare magic treat when we got to visit him and collect the eggs, go out for a ride in the landrover and especially to spend time in the barns. have a peaceful day. steven

Delwyn said...

Hi Steven

I noticed in you reply to W of G that your grandfather lived in Cheshire. My husband's roots go back there to Tatton Park - now a working farm of the Historical Trust and a great tourist draw card. The Tattons and the Egertons intermarried and it was the Egertons who were the last owners of the property.
One of the Tattons, a dentist, emigrated to Nelson, New Zealand, in the 1850s but his records have been difficult to trace. These days a good genealogist could do the leg work more easily. My husband's mother was in possession of the family bible and some of the doomsday books relating to the family. One day we may do the homework required.

The barn pictures are great and when you were talking I could smell the hay and have been wrinkling my nose in response.

I grew up in a culture of wool sheds not barns and they smell very different...

Your story has brought to mind that delightful novel 'Along came a Dog, by Meindert Dejong, first published in 1959, about a big black dog in search of a home.

She also wrote 'The Wheel on the School' set in a small Dutch fishing village - both absolutely delightful reads.
Thanks for stirring up these responses...

Happy days

steven said...

hi delwyn, i too lived in cheshire - i was born in an area of manchester called stretford (in lancashire) and we moved to altrincham in cheshire when i was very very little. i got to visit tatton park once possibly twice when i was very young. i remember feeling like i was trespassing because it was so very different from where i was growing up. you might want to do the legwork and discover that you have inherited a fortune - or perhaps a free pass to tatton park!!!! i am grateful that you mention those two books and i'll be googling them asap. have a peaceful day. steven