Sunday, April 17, 2011

“The Only Thing I Ran Out Of Was Daylight”

A brief walk in the pasture this evening suggested our obsession with calendars is wholly unfounded: Spring had finally sprung, having done so—if one were still inclined to lend credence to the temporal experts—twenty-seven days late. Five o’clock brought a warm, pregnant, sweater-less sort of rain, the kind where drops plop fully off the brim of your field hat, to rest upon and stain your tee-shirt dark again the color it was once: in my instance, a royal purple. The fresh buds of the hawthorne and willow appeared neon against the rolling, gathering grey. Earlier, when there was still sun, in the silence between whacks of the hammer on the roofing of the barn, we’d all have said the grass was nearly audible, growing. The saffron-breasted robins swooped; Betty Jean appeared pleased returned to her perch over the dirt patch, despite the rain; the lambs slightly disagreeable over the amount of fresh grass granted them. The mugginess surrounded.

It is difficult each of these evenings anticipating my mood. There is such ecstasy laden in the tasks I accomplish in the day, if only I can see it—lessons and revelations and satisfactions—and yet anxiety and nervousness too often ultimately trump. I’ve awoken five of the last six mornings convinced the grass just simply will not grow, and—most futilely—no matter how much I toss and turn, it will, or will not.

Unexpectedly, however, I felt clear and present and content this evening, walking about the pasture. Our Sunday brought no day of rest but instead one of hurried, barn labor. The hurry, however, was for good measure, for today was a great instant of transformation. There are those moments in any worthwhile project where, when compared to the amount of labor, one makes disproportionately vast visual progress. It is as if the previous hours of seemingly fruitless work are saved up, as on account, and withdrawn all at once with a few good strokes of the hammer or masterful arrangement of rafter. I cannot claim though that it was my stored labor that exploded forth this afternoon, instead that of a few good builders, each with worn, leather tool belt, steady framing hammer, and splintered hands; mine, these barn days, has been more of an auxiliary role, to ensure that there are nails enough or that seventy-eight and five-eighths really is the measurement. Standing underneath the sixteen locus posts that push mightily out of the ground, I believe one easily feels the tremendous love that has been poured into this building by, at this point, nearly three dozen pairs of hands. I fear that with all they’ve given, the nail-pullers and soup-stewers and gravel-pounders and tractor-drivers and wood-deliverers and design-drawers and rafter-hangers and ladder-climbers will not feel all the deep gratitude I have for their assistance and that is due them. Perhaps the barn alone, as monument, will say what needs be said.

As a dramatic and fitting end, we six raced this afternoon against the gathering rain, flinging and screwing down metal sheeting for our roof. It felt a bit like running about with stew pots catching the drip from leaky roofs, but in a much more substantial and, in the end, permanent way. There are still two or three more sheets of plywood to nail down, three hundred and sixty square feet of metal roofing to screw, some assorted nuts and bolts to tighten, but in the meantime—now that there is a roof—chickens arriving Thursday to brood, hay to store, a work bench to build, animal stalls to raise: ah! the blessings of shelter.


  1. Matthew. I am so happy for you. I know how hard work farming can be . As you know my Dad did what you a doing in Mont. I was there and I remember the long days he put in to make it a working ranch.

    Go luck honey. And my the sun shine down on your land and on you.

    Aunt Moclie

  2. Wonderful, poetic description about creating a beautiful, sculptural structure, made all the more meaningful through the hard work involved with the process of creation. Congratulations and much love,