With Love, Chehalis, Your Caretaker.
These past three years we came to know you, Barn. Your grand matronly stature commanded our complete attention from day one. While your mood did seem to shift with the change of seasons, the magnitude of your presence was as still as the roots of the trees you are made of. You the Cathedral, You the heartbeat, You the great Lady of Halo Hill. Even in brokenness, you remain the centerpiece matriarch. It’s difficult to imagine how life would be without you. Hopefully we’ll never need to know.
It was raining lightly on Christmas Eve morning, the sky smudged the color of pewter after several days of wet snow, followed by ice. Under the pressure of melting and freezing rain the gutters of the old barn twisted and bent further down than ever before, resembling arthritic fingers. The sun was nowhere in sight. Inside our shabby yellow farmhouse we shut our windows and doors tight. From the kitchen we wished our friends in Boston a Merry Christmas by cell phone. It was during that conversation, while the pumpkin pie baked in the oven, that our barn was brought to her knees.
Perhaps you can imagine the gravity of this moment. We, the caretakers of this barn were holding out for the right moment to address the restoration. She stood her ground in the full moonlight at our wedding in the June of 2013. She was the subject of many photo shoots and the barn swallows put on a flabbergasting show most people never get to see outside of a real barn. Nearly everyone who came to visit the farm asked, “Can I go in the barn?” We always said yes. Still, it came to this harsh calamity. We ran out of time way ahead of schedule.
And like a hospice patient who dies the moment you step out of the room to get another cup of coffee, she made the choice to do this act alone. Like a grandmother, she knew if we witnessed the great collapse it would be too much to take. So many of the old barns make their final exits alone, in the middle of a field on a wet and icy night.
We didn't hear a sound, though it must have been wrenchingly loud as Noah’s Arc snapped into pieces. She was a jewel. A giant. A cathedral. An ocean liner. An epic. It’s proper that I stop everything to write an elegy as her corpse rests, heavy and out of breath, but lighter somehow, now that’s she’s slouched half-way to the ground.
We console ourselves with thoughts of rebuilding the old barn. We go through the motions of telling the romantic version of the story. We ask our friends, “So, shall we build an Artist's Cathedral? Shall the new barn stand in Goliath’s footprints? Shall we build a basilica from which to see the night sky? Will she become home for a shiny black horse, some emus and goats? Should the barn have many glass windows? And if so, what would those windows look like?
Maybe our restoration dreams exist as a compensation for the sadness we feel every time we look at the broken barn. If we lose her forever, how naked will our little cluster of buildings feel when the rubble gets cleaned up, when the ghost of her titanic majesty is a latent image burnt onto the memory of what used to be, or might have been.
Now we must move forward with the thought, "Save what can be saved."
This story is not over! The Barn at Halo Hill Farm may have a comeback like no other! Join our Barn Addict community for updates on this barn and many others.
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