When I was very young putting up hay was a way for most young men to make a little spending money. A person could drive through the country at certain times of the year and the fields were lined from one end to the other with rows and rows of square bales of hay. The farmers would be seen with huge stacks of perfectly compressed blocks of cut and dried grasses of various types towering over tractors or pickup trucks on their way to a barn. It wasn’t really uncommon to a couple of the older boys riding on top of the stack as the vehicle drifted carefully across the fields while two more boys tossed more bales up to add to the stack. The unloading process was just as laborious with the boys on top of the stack tossing the bales back down or directly into the barn for storage.
Sometime in the late 70s or early 80s I started seeing the large round bales like you see in the feature image. My grandfather began remarking on how his poor cows wouldn’t be able to have a square meal. The iconic large stack of square bales disappeared into the past. ( I’m sure that there’s still some around however I haven’t seen it for decades). The crew of three or four teenage boys was replaced by a tractor with a fork lift attachment. The round bales turned out to be a be a better deal for the farmer because of the labor costs but every time I see the round bales I get nostalgic for the view of acres and acres perfectly lined up rectangular blocks on contour with the landscape.
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It’s said that photographers work with two main elements. Light and Time. I suppose that’s why so many of my writings emphasizes the observation of time. Tonight I’m looking at another version of my favorite old barn and I began to think about how quickly all of our tomorrows become yesterdays. It seems that I was just blogging about how much I was looking forward to Springtime and this morning I saw the leaves falling on my lawn. When I was a kid summer seemed to last a lifetime and today I blink my eyes and it’s almost gone. Sure we’ve had some unseasonably warm weather but the light is fading fast. A few years ago I was in a gym and one of the other men in the locker room made the same observation about how fast the summer went by. His friend answered that when they were only six years old summer was 1/6 of their lives. Now they’re sixty years old and summer was only 1/60 of their lives. The passage of time was relative to the age of the observer.
We live in the moment but moments pass so quickly and we are left with a collection of yesterdays. We can plan what we want tomorrow to become but we only have now to bend time and forge the now into a yesterday worth collecting. Mistakes will be made. It’s inevitable. Many of us are trying so hard to go back and fix the errors that we are losing the now and the opportunity for a new and better yesterday. You see, the old cliche about building a better tomorrow is just that. A cliche. All we can really do is use our now in the best way possible and hope that when we are finished with it that it matures into a better yesterday. A yesterday that is captured by the lens of memory and added to a fine collection which can be shared with those we love.
What is it that we love about very old things? I like nothing more than stumbling upon an old well weathered piece of wood or a rusty hunk of iron. Last night I talked about God’s perspective of time and how time carries us along as it flows. Tonight I’m thinking about our perspective. As time pulls us ever closer towards a destiny we cannot see clearly we can only measure the progress by looking back. Those things were once shiny and new now serve as landmarks. The old rusted trucks, crumbling stone and this old barn are like anchors that help us navigate the raging river of time. It’s even better if there’s a personal connection with the object. I have to wonder if anyone ever passes this barn and relives a special moment? Was there a first kiss that happened here? Was this the place where a spark grew into true love and then into a family? Was this the place where a parent answered a child’s important questions about life’s mysteries while doing the daily chores? Did a grandparent tell stories about when the parent was a kid? Do these stories still echo across the river of time? Yes. I think that they do. These very old things are the sentinels of memories that are still being made today.
This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.
– Gollum’s Time Riddle, J.R.R Tolkien
About tonight’s image. The truck is part of another old drilling rig. This one is in Victor, West Virginia. It’s been in this spot for as long as I can remember. I have watched it erode away from the effects of time and I suppose it was that observation that inspired tonight’s post.
I have been thinking a great deal about the passage of time and the true nature of eternity. I’m not sure that Gollum had it right. We perceive time from the perspective of a mortal. This means that we see the flow of time from the inside of the flow. We’re carried along with the current like a cork on the river with little or no control over the speed or direction of travel. We see only the river with its peaks and valleys. But God sees time from the outside. He sees where the flow starts and where it it ends. He knows our exact position at what we perceive as any given moment. He knows where the current will carry us. In God’s eyes, there is no difference between yesterday, today and tomorrow. Sometimes when we’re praying and searching for an answer we wonder why God hasn’t answered or why he allows suffering to go on for so long. I think that the truth is that he’s already acted on our behalf but the flow of time hasn’t carried us there yet. And, that if he had acted in the wrong spot the flow of time would have carried us away from his provision. It’s all a matter of perspective.
A good farm tractor is a lifetime investment. That old machine may not be as sleek as a new sports car but it will serve you well long after the sports car has rusted out. I remember when my grandfather bought this one in the early 70s and my uncle still uses it today. It’s hauled tons and tons of hay. It’s plowed gardens. It’s cleared the snow and ice from the long driveway and the public road.
A few years ago I was being interviewed for a new position and the interviewer asked what kind of car would best describe my personality. I’m sure that he was thinking about race cars, minivans and the normal cars you see on the highway. My answer? I want to be a tractor. The piece of equipment that you keep for a lifetime.