My maternal grandmother was born in a farming village in Ohio and lived there until she died. I loved visiting her in the country, but I lived in towns and cities until the day I walked up the porch steps of the old farmhouse in Maine that I intended to make my home. My feeling that I was walking into Grandma Rose’s movie was strengthened by the way the past seeps into the present in rural Maine, with old stone walls, faded clapboards, ramshackle barns, abandoned farm machinery, and even fall color contributing to the effect.
Not long after I moved here, National Geographic ran an article about mass extinctions. I remember gazing out my window and trying to take in the fact that no matter how eternal the pine forest seemed, it was the mere blink of an eye in geological terms, along with the entire span of human occupation of this landscape.
Meanwhile, the residents of a neighboring town were debating a proposed land use ordinance with strict requirements for how new construction had to look. One day I was at a soccer game at the high school, which was built on land that had once been part of the same dairy farm as my house and barn. The school serves four towns, including the one that was about to vote on land use, and while I was at the game I met the woman who was pushing hardest for the new ordinance.
I agreed with some of her goals, but I also sympathized with the people who didn’t want to be constrained by her architectural preferences. Her passionate assertiveness didn’t exactly help her cause, at least with me. She gave me a pep talk while I was trying to watch the game, ending with an exhortation. “We have to preserve our heritage for future generations!” she cried.
With thoughts ranging from the National Geographic article to my own barn simmering in the back of my mind, I blurted out, “Annie, our heritage is dairy farming.”
That was the end of that conversation.
This is the last post focusing on the barn as such. Next time we’ll venture out at least as far as the old pasture, and maybe even further afield.