J.W., we called him for short, was referring to me learning how to play the fiddle and that it would be best if I had somewhere to practice, lest I drive my wife crazy with the horrible sounds of a beginner fiddle player in the house.
“No,” I respectfully replied.
“Well, you better build one or you won’t be married long,” he said, and laughed before refocusing on where we had left off in our lesson that evening.
As a matter of fact, I had already begun adding onto the original section of barn I had built years before, unsure of how it might be used. I now had a reason to make part of the new addition somewhere I could get out of the weather and perhaps practice my newfound instrument. So with the purpose of creating a room to play music in, the studio in the barn began to take shape. I purchased ship-lapped poplar from Foster Rives, who had cut it from local lumber and planed it in his own sawmill just down the road from the farm. I installed it after putting up the walls, roof and outer shell of the barn, completing what would be a welcome retreat. Over time, the poplar becamed naturally aged to the golden hue it displays today. The wood stove came later, moved up from the old cabin, making the studio complete.
The cold rainy days when the farm work had to be put on hold, I would eagerly retreat to the studio. There I would build a fire in the woodstove and soon, the beautiful aromas of coffee brewing in the old percolator pot mixing with that of the hickory in the fire blending with the faint smells of the sweet hay in the hayloft just outside the studio door combined to make an ambiance that would start my creative juices flowing. There in the studio, I once more revisited old talents I had unintentionally left behind; starting to paint once again after years of leaving my paint brushes in the closet. It was here that I also rediscovered my writing, after years of leaving the pen lie dormant, with the occasional story that might rise to the surface, perculating like the coffee in the pot on top of the wood stove. And, of course, I would practice my fiddle, alone and away from ears that might be bothered by the slowly diminishing sour notes that had once been produced in abundance in my early days of learning.
Inside the upstairs room in the barn, strains of music wafted from the CD player. Songs were played according to the activity I was performing which accompanied my subconscious as I worked either on portraits, landscapes, stories for my book or just playing along on the fiddle. This was my home-away-from-home. Outside the windows, the world would present itself as the farm around me lived out its daily routine, regardless of the elements. As the rain pitter-pattered down, the cows might lie lazily underneath the cover of the trees that stood near the chicken coop. The chickens would cluck and crow, scratching the ground paying no mind to the nearby bovine neighbors as they walked about their runs, safe from the world and uncaring of the weather. Their only cares being that they might find a morsel of protein wiggling about in the dark earth.
Inside the comfort of the studio, I watched the seasons pass; winter, spring, summer and fall, safe from their temperature extremes, yet thankful that each were tranquil in their own right. Eventually, when my children were old enough, they would join me in the room up in the barn to paint, play music or just warm themselves by the woodstove if the opportunity presented itself. At times, I would cook meals in the cast iron skillet on the stove top, making the room come alive with smells of fried sausage or bacon. To me, there aren’t any restaurants to which I am aware that can compare to a home cooked meal on an old wood stove. As I would sit back in the easy chair and savor the delectable morsels of food, the air would still linger with the soothing smell of fresh cooked food, wood smoke and hot fresh coffee still bubbling up in the percolator.
Yes, the barn studio is someplace I will miss once we move. It is someplace that the kids will undoubtedly never forget, knowing that it too became a retreat to which they could go to reinvent themselves and become one with their inner person. We all need a place to go where life can be left at the door, where we may once again turn our thoughts inward and be at peace with our soul; giving ourselves to the gifts with which God has blessed us.
May we never forget our studio in the barn.