Sunday, April 24, 2011


WHAT COULD BE MORE SATISFYING on a damp, misty morning than sweeping out a barn? On Saturday I answered my friend, Bill’s call for a work party
at the Kalyx Center. The Kalyx Center has a barn and a house, both lovingly moved onto Bill’s land in Willow Branch Township. The barn is a venue for various events—Contra Dances, Weddings, Concerts, Reunions. He is getting ready to host an event, and called for friends, far and wide to join him in the preparations. I like to go to Bill’s work parties. They are an equal balance of work and party.

Fascinating people show up with remarkable food. I brought bread, of course, the laziest thing in the world for me to make, but I also got to eat quiche (one small slice each of fiddlehead fern quiche and morel mushroom quiche) and pie and marinated tofu, and various fruits and vegetables.
It was an indoor kind of spring morning, so when Bill gave me the choice of clearing brush along the driveway or clearing out the barn, I chose the barn. It’s a big, red barn constructed with wooden pegs. Years ago Bill and friends dismantled it and carried it piece by piece to his farm where they rebuilt it. It is a historic barn, but with some lovely additions. The barn doors slide open to reveal huge walls of glass, the panes artistically arranged in a symmetry of panels, with unimposing strips of stained glass adding just a hint of color. The basketball hoop at one end and the oak floor make the barn feel like a gymnasium or a dance hall. The stained glass makes it feel holy.

First we made some space in the lofts and stacked the stackable chairs, pushing other chairs to the periphery of the room to open up space. The corrugated tin roof has openings, which let in pinholes of light, but which also let in the rain, so we had to be careful not to move the dozens of buckets placed carefully to catch the drips on rainy days. Once we had cleared out the center of the barn we began to sweep. The prairie winds make sure a lot of dust blows through an old barn, and beginning at one end of the floor, I make big circles of clean and smaller circles of dust to be brushed into the dustpans. As I sweep, one of Bill’s friends assembles a space heater, another clears away the brush outside. Bill moves more furniture, and eventually we all break for quiche, admiring the sun coming through the big windows onto the newly clean floor.

I find on a table a tiny medicine bottle with a miniature bouquet—a little spike of grape hyacinth next to a minuscule, red maple sapling. Maple saplings are springing up all over my yard at this time of year, but I would never have thought to pull one for a bouquet, or to pair the burgundy colored leaves with the deep blue balls of the grape hyacinth. These pairings of color and texture make me happy, and Bill tells me that his friends picked them last week, and here they are still fresh! It strikes me that the leaves of the spring maple sapling are the same red as the adult leaves will be in the fall. The symmetry makes me smile again. I return to my broom and find myself still smiling with the shared work and shared food; the shared stories and common goals. I don’t think I can make it to Bill’s event, but we’re all interested in creating community and fostering culture.

It’s okay if the barn leaks a little, or if the dust blows in again after we have swept the whole thing out. There will always be more work parties, more quiche, more pies, more friends. Community nurtures community and builds upon itself.
Work in Beauty; Sweep in Peace; Blessed Be.

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