Echos in the Rafters
Updated: Feb 18, 2021
My mother’s barn has been the holder of many things - Bicycles, books, sleds, storage, trouble.
At one point, I think it served as the home for a handful of horses and cows, but that was well before I got there.
The main floor, once an open plan with high ceilings and a rickety staircase waiting to collapse, now serves as an art studio and showroom.
The hayloft lays claim to the leftovers of my childhood.
I’ve been visiting that top section a lot lately: hauling boxes up into storage, hunting for camping gear, inhaling the fresh wood scent of renovations, surveying the quiet, sweating.
It’s both a calming place, and an eerie one with a rather harrowing resume, having seen and survived the1938 New England hurricane, multiple lightning strikes, and the building and destruction of an entire colony of paper wasps.
Once, the man who came to plow the snow from our driveway dubbed the barn a “place of sadness”, informing my mum that the same building they stood in front of while discussing my parents’ impending divorce, had witnessed a suicide by hanging in the 1960s.
A quarter of a century later, my parents live within walking distance of one another and the rope marking the end of a man’s life still hangs quietly from the rafters. There’s a strange pull towards reverence for this rope, marking the memory of a man I do not know, whose story I can’t seem to track down.
Today, as I walk up into the attic to shuffle around some more boxes, something whizzes by. At first, I think the winged thing is a sparrow. Closer inspection reveals otherwise:
There’s a bat in the hayloft.
The bat flies around in frenzied circles - surveying the leftovers, passing by the storage room my dad built, nodding to the old school projects riddled with misspellings, zooming over old things that aren't quite ready to go yet. I pause to watch it for a few laps before quietly backing down the stairs, relinquishing the place where 1938 sees 1960something meets 1995 collides into now.
In Somatics, we use the word fascia to describe the interlocking web of connective tissue that surrounds bone, muscle, nerves, organs, and blood vessels.
In architecture, this same word references a different kind of protective structure, naming the visible band under a roof’s edge that seals a building’s interior off from the outside.
Both forms separate and stabilize, protect and preserve.
Sometimes, perhaps, they take their job descriptions too seriously.
Places are made of many pieces. They bridge histories and lend a hand in the tenacity of stories. They serve as homeopathic memories for the lost and cradle clues to the passage of time. They become the best hiding places and, at the same time, the most revealing museums.
My barn is no exception; it is bound by connective tissue.
Returning to the ground floor, I take one more scan of the ceiling, the walls, my hands,
(Have I forgotten something?
Am I missing someone? )
while the bat's elliptical thrum ushers me out the door.