Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ruins are Relative

My camera used to be my eyes.... Lately, it has become my mind... I take pictures of the oddest things---- clouds, the soft gray mists of morning... a spout of rainbow steam coming from a home on dawn's horizon... Am I afraid I'll forget? I love to come home and see the still, frozen shot I didn't get to fully perceive... kind of like a chapter in a good book preserving all the action, saving the best views for the soul.... I'm falling in love with my simple version of photography. I realize it is flimsy, poor quality, even absurd at times, but it's still soothing to my frazzled soul.
My neighbors have moved out and passed away years ago. I drive by this home hundreds of times a year. I live within sight, yet I never saw it like this before.

Up close or distant, old things call to me.

A long time ago in my one room school, my teacher told us to draw things with character. She informed our classes about the "beauty" in destructive forces, the value of a broken fence in a Halloween tableau, and the hidden magnetism of a rotten porch... I didn't get it, and neither did my dad. He always hated the shabby chic look, the primitive grain of gray wood, and the splintery excuses for siding found in swanky "country-style" renovations. He was one for shiny, for refinished, for refurbishing until it seemed new enough to take pride in. That's why our farm looked beautiful while he was in his prime. He used to shake his head and sigh at the broken barns, and he'd shun the calendars and coffee table books that embraced them. "That old barn had a heart," he'd tell me.... "and it's broken." I believed him. Honestly. I believe him to this day. But broken hearts are the "stuff" of movies, of art, and of living this old life from the inside out. I didn't feel well today at school, and we were slated for yet another update of our CPR skills. I just knew that puffing on resuscitation Annie would make me hurl.... so I opted to use yet more hours from my precious stash of sick days. I came home...
Something about the weather, the renewed vision I'm blessed with, and the disappointment of trading in semi-free teacher's training time for sick hours... I decided to follow my heart and travel the back road home. And, of course, the ruined barns called to me. Ruins of old houses bereft of the breath of a living family inside, remains of old structures that once held fragrant timothy hay and stalls of draft horses... a proud farmer and a new baby calf... Kinda tore at my heart to see these skeleton shells. They are simply gorgeous, the kind of beauty that makes good cover stock for books about keeping memories, guarding our past, and treasuring our nostalgia.... But, looking at them now, I can "see" them in the eyes of my childhood trips with Dad and Mom. I rode horses in front of some of these. I spent hours in the yard in others. My best friend's grandparents lived in yet another. I could... and I couldn't imagine hot cornbread and stuffed peppers from the sights I witnessed today... but I could remember them.
But these.... these hurt. The last four pictures I took from the road along my dad and grandmother's land. This is NOT just another ruined wreckage. This is my grandfather's proud barn... gently collapsing and calling its last sigh. And here stands my dad's. Hidden gratefully behind trees, shrubs, and tanks. But it's there, and I hear it criticizing me for ignoring its potential and its heritage.
Worse yet, Gramma's smoke house. Did I sleep through the years since I used to tiptoe inside and grab her little tools? Did I watch this thing crumble and not care? Where were my priorities when I still had some sense? .... and some strength.... and some hope.?????

Eggs... an old fox once stole into this hen house and evoked the wrath of my grandmother. I don't want to imagine what she'd do to the old burglar called time.
Well.... no problems solved in this post... Just a spotlight today on the ticking villain.


Lisa said...

Loved, LOVED this post Gayla. I know exactly what you mean when you say old things call to you. My grandma was a barn nut, I did not know this until Debbie told me. I love barns too. I love the little white house in your pictures. Thats the kind of home I would love to have. Only with a modern, Tuscan style kitchen of course! Thanks for sharing, love you.

Anonymous said...

aww, so many memories, so bittersweet. It is hard to realize how powerless we are against time.

I sure love that pretty white house.

Take care,
Laurie S.

Anonymous said...

As always, I, too, so enjoy your photos and words. I also like to take photos of old buildings and scenes that may not be there in the somewhat near future, in sort of an attempt to preserve them I think, but my photos are not organized or doing the real view any justice as yours do. Thanks, Gayla. - Ellen Fickewirth

Tyler said...

Nice barn pics but we, your fans, want to see more ducky pictures ~smiles

Mary Isabella and Kiley too! said...

I really loved this post, your pictures, words and the music...m.

Benita said...

wow...someone else loves to photograph old barns and countryside cottages......Each and everyone one has 100's of stories...dont you wish you could hear each amd every one...great blog....I'll visit you often...NC gurl here..

Anonymous said...


Recently came across your blog; I'm enjoying reading it very much. Loved this particular post...Old things call to me as well....always wish I could step inside and go back in time and see/hear the lives that were once there..... Thank you for this post...