My mom had a thing for barns if the artwork that I inherited after her death is a clue. So did my mother-in-law. Two barn paintings that graced the walls of all of the houses she lived in now hang on my walls – next to my mom’s and alongside a watercolor of a barn that my husband painted when he was much younger – a kid, I suppose, somewhere between the ages of 14 and 16.
I found that one a long time ago when I was entertaining the Cleaning Muse – the zen kind of cleaning where you slip into a state of timeless enjoyment.
Where you take an entire day not to just clean, but to sort through boxes of stuff, pitching some while labeling others keepsakes and treasures. For yourself because, other than memory, these things are all you have left to define someone you loved that you will pass on to the next generation.
So that they too, can have their own moments of zen-like cleaning.
I had my husband’s rendition of a barn in a field framed and gave it to him for Christmas one year. And, after the holiday was over, we picked a spot on the wall and hung it up.
The rest of the barn collection came much later.
We now have five framed barn paintings hanging relatively close to each other in the upstairs hallway and on the wall of the stairwell. And, in the kitchen, there are two. A very small almost water-color print of three Amish children walking along the road with a red barn in the background.
That one belonged to my mom. And, not a painting, but an over-size calendar for the year 2011, hangs on the bulletin board near the wall phone. Do people still use wall phones?
There are gorgeous photographs of barns – twelve of them – on that calendar.
So, I guess you could say we have a barn theme on display. And, do you know that for the longest time, I couldn’t figure out the significance of this.
Until this past weekend.
Once again, I was placating the Cleaning Muse: the cleaning that needed to happen because I’d sold two massive oak library book cases that when completely filled with books held a total of 36 boxes.
With all of this opened up space in my house, I decided to rearrange the paintings that hang throughout the second floor. All of those barns. And, as I dusted them off and moved them around, it occurred to me that just as barns have always been used for keeping hay dry and farm animals safe …
That, in a metaphorical sense, barns have kept us safe too.
Safe from all of the real and imagined slights and injuries that can add up over time.
Safe from feeling sad, left out, from physical hurts and from broken hearts.
They offer a place to hide and wait out the storm.
Good barns were built to last. And some of them have survived 50, 75 or 100 years. Or more.
I wonder if my mom knew that? If my mother-in-law saw the connection between the physical structure and the idea that barns offer safe haven? If my husband deliberately sought the refuge-like quality that barns offer?
Did they need to be reminded that each of us has a need for finding sanctuary? And, because each of them in their own privacy, grew apart from the more accepted forms of church worship, was it easier for them to seek out this other, common-place structure?
Or was the easier explanation that they all just liked barns? [gplus count=”true” size=”Medium” ]