From and Arm's Length...
A few years back, before we sold the family homestead, I took some random video shots of the inside of Dad's barn. We always called it "the barn," but it was really more of a huge tool shed that Dad built the second year we owned the property. The story of how we settled the land and made it our home is told in many chapters beginning here. That first year we cleared parts of the heavily wooded land, and Dad set aside the straightest logs to build the barn, which was finished just before the first snow of '69. That winter, we sometimes spent the night "roughin' it" in the barn as Dad used to call it...just for fun.
The barn (which years later was deemed a work of art by the building inspector) became home to more and more stuff over time. Through the decades, it housed three different tractors, and though at first glance it looks a mess, in many respects (along with Mom's attic) it was the most familiar time capsule of my life for forty years.
When Dad died in '95, we continued using the work space in the barn, but many of the corners and overhead areas and the countless things that hung here and there remained untouched for fifteen years. Barns are like that.
As we anticipated selling the house and property, I knew that this familiar space with its smell of rope and creosote and sawdust and chainsaw oil would soon be a place for someone else to use as they saw fit, so I shot some footage, which remained untouched in my video files for three years. I knew at the time that I wanted to use this Newman piece from The Natural called, "A Father Makes a Difference." It has no lyrics, but its title gives meaning to every measure. The poem is something I wrote, framed, and gave to Dad on Father's Day 1994 (not knowing it would be our last). I first posted the lines six years ago.
I see my father’s hands in mine—
…not in my clasp
but in the flesh and form and line
…of span and grasp.
It’s not the look that came with age.
…I see that when
my lamp-lit fingers press a page
…or hold a pen.
But when my grip takes on a task
…or holds a tool,
my palms and fingers seem to ask
…if as a rule,
hard work alone gives hands their worth—
…not just their pain.
If so, then sweat must mix with earth
…as well as rain
to dampen new-sown dreams and seep
...into the soil
where hope takes root in things that keep
… and call for toil.
But who am I to talk of such…
…hard work I mean…
I’ve not attempted half as much
…as what I’ve seen,
and what I’ve done is only more
…or less child’s play
(like completing a morning’s chore
…that takes all day).
…I’ve had to rise
to the call of some endeavor
I’d never do…or even try.
…And when It’s done,
I stretch my arms toward the sky
…and setting sun,
and in the glow I almost see
…my father’s strength—
his hands are there (or seem to be)
…from an arm’s length.
(8/4 count) © Copyright 1994, Patterns of Ink
By the way, I did get the yard work done and the tomatoes planted, but I must admit it was a case of "completing a morning's chore that takes all day."
For more pictures of the barn and its former suroundings, click this link to the November 2008 Archives.