Wednesday, April 05, 2006
I didn’t know what it was when I first saw it. The first words out of my mouth were something like, “What the hell…” From a mile away, the unobstructed and irregular horizon of the high desert was cleanly broken by a massive gabled roof. As I drove closer I could see that the conventional roof was not attached to conventional walls, but rather was simply resting on the ground, as if a giant tornado had blown it off of a building miles away, and, with some degree of gentleness, set it down. A closer look revealed that foundation and walls were nothing more than a notch cut into a small mound of earth; the roof simply straddled this gouged-out terrain.
The aged roof was made of spaced wooden slats covered with dried grasses and straw. There were several places where the blanket of organic material was thinning or had blown off completely. Outside light filtered through the balding roof and softly illuminated the inside—saturating every inch of the building’s interior.
Mysterious explanations came to my mind regarding the structure’s existence. It reminded me of the giant airdock in my hometown of Akron, Ohio. The airdock once produced the world’s largest helium-filled airships. I imagined the glittering silver of a new blimp inching its way out of this isolated barn-like structure on a sunny, summer morning. I also contemplated a secret military structure—a dilapidated-looking disguise that housed some kind of sterile, high-tech gadgetry related to a secret weapon in the ground below. Now aimless cattle wandered through its huge, permanently propped-open doors.
As I walked toward the center of the old barn, a small group of pigeons rose from the earthen floor that was covered with dried manure and straw. They escaped my approach by flying in between the exposed slats above. The sound of their flapping wings was quickly absorbed, and a calming silence returned to blanket the interior like a thick down quilt.
The interior was stripped with the exception of occasional orange bailing twine clumps, scattered tumbleweeds and shredded black visqueen littering the floor. The zenith rose approximately 30 feet, while the earthen walls measured about 12 feet high. A rusted, decommissioned air conditioner hung from the wall opposite the giant doors—it was slightly larger than a portable home air conditioner. Dwarfed by the cavernous space, it was surely doomed from the start in its attempt to cool the giant structure.
Since that first visit, various agriculture-oriented sources have informed me that the colossal building is probably a silage barn. I have become rather obsessed with the building’s existence. What’s so fascinating about a silage barn, I keep on asking myself?
Maybe I’ve stumbled onto a sacred place—a cathedral of sorts. Its large doors are akin to the doors of a church like Notre Dame, while the gaping holes in the ceiling are nature’s interpretation of stained glass windows—the light is as glorious. The rising pigeons translate to incense and, thus, the Holy Spirit. And the rusted air conditioner suspended halfway up the wall at the opposite end might be the crucifix or cross that often looms over the alter.
I don’t think there is anything unusual about our inclination to designate as sacred various creations of nature. What then would be so unusual if nature were to sanctify our creations—such as the silage barn?
As I walked out of the run-down edifice during a recent visit, I heard the loud mooing of unseen cattle from nearby farms—an almost scream-like lowing. On that hot autumn day, perhaps they longed for the cool sanctuary of the silage barn.