As the sun shone down brightly into my eyes, my stride was getting increasingly shorter. Many miles out from my day’s destination, I seemed to be out in the middle of nowhere. I was on a road that was lost in the countryside, flanked on both sides by fields of barley. As I slowly rounded the road’s corner, a very old-looking barn came into view. It was about 500 meters off the road, out in the middle of one of the fields. The barn’s paint had long ago flaked off and it stood with an ominous lean. My heart gave a slight tug as I thought about the barn, standing alone out in that field, old and forgotten.
A kind of secret of mine is that I usually have great waves of sadness when I come upon things like this – buildings or objects that lay forgotten or lost, never to be used or thought about again. When I was little, this feeling would overtake me as I grew out of certain toys that would eventually lay beneath the bed or accumulate dust on a high shelf. When I would come across these forgotten toys, a surge of pity would wash over me. Even though I obviously knew that these objects had no ability to care that they were forgotten, it seemed that I had adopted that emotion for them.
Walking off the road and into to the field the barn came into better view. As I neared it, I could tell that no one had set foot in or near it for many years. The grass had grown tall and wild around its base, and the entrance was obscured by a few inches of dirt at the bottom. After pulling open the door, I entered cautiously. The smell of musty air filled my nose, which had begun to twitch involuntarily. The barn was completely empty except for the old hay that lay strewn across the floor and a few lengths of rope dangling from the ceiling. A soft creaking noise emitted from all around as the barn seemed to sway, just slightly. The evening sun was slicing through the slats of aged wood, creating beams of golden light. In the sunlight, specks of dust spun and twirled through the air, creating the feeling of floating through the heavens among a galaxy of stars. For just a few moments, the outside world disappeared and all there was left was this barn.
I wondered about the people who had built it and how long ago it had been. I thought about how they would have had felt if they knew that what they were working so hard to create would someday stand alone and forgotten. But then I thought about all the use the barn had most likely gotten. How it had been a shelter for tractors and other farm machinery. The countless years that it provided a safe home for livestock. And how, at one point in time, it probably had shone a brilliant red, visible for miles around.
Sitting on the dirt floor, I unbuckled my pack and propped it beneath my head like a pillow. The rays of light slowly fell as the sun outside set and I watched shadows dance across the ceiling and walls. Crickets began to play their songs and the rustle from a field mouse could be heard here and there. A great swooshing noise came from above as a large brown owl fluttered in through a gap of missing wood near the ceiling. Though I knew I should be getting on with my walk, I stayed for a few minutes more. Although it had long ago been abandoned by its owners, I felt like the barn knew that it wasn’t forgotten by the wilderness around it…or by the occasional passerby, just looking for a bit of company.