Prayers at Maple Tree Medows

Prayers at Maple Tree Medows
Three Rivers, MI

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Morning Prayers at Maple Tree Meadows

I preserve holy
sanctuary. Here swallows
greet morn. Light and prayer.

We sat in our silent morning meditation
facing the barn of Maple Tree Meadows.
The swallows also lined up, facing us.
When the sun broke the clouds, they suddenly swooped.
Then they slipped back into the barn eves
and were gone.

How lovely are all the places of your dwelling, El Shaddai!

Even the sparrow finds a home in Your presence,
and the swallow finds a place to build a nest for herself,
where she may also lay her young --
on your very altars, El Shaddai!
Blessed are all creatures who dwell in your presence,
always singing your praise.

(from Psalm 84, Swallow's Next: a feminist reading of the Psalms,
by Marchiene Vroon Rienstra)

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Q-ueen of Barn Stories -- Q Road by Bonnie Jo Campbell

Q Road is the novel to read for rich layers barn stories in southwest Michigan-- stories that I have previously not heard. What a wonderful read!

Bonnie Jo Campbell's 2002 novel is narrative archeology of the land and gardeners and farmers of Kalamazoo area where Campbell grew up and now lives. Potawatomi tales and the centennial barn's secrets speak as the stories of farmer's failing livelihoods leak from stalwart hearts and twisted loves.

This is pure treasure for Story Barn. As I have photographed beams of equally old barns, I have never heard that suggestion that Potawatomi people may have helped raise these timbers, as Campbell suggests. Their exodus in 1840 and the mounds they leave behind frame the story with shadows I have always wanted to see.

Here is a summary:

Greenland Township, Michigan: On the same acres where farmers once displaced Potawatomi Indians, suburban developers now supplant farmers and prefab homes spring up in last year's cornfields. All along Q Road -- or "Queer Road," as the locals call it -- the old, rural life collides weirdly with the new.

With a cast of lovingly rendered eccentrics and a powerful sense of place, Q Road is a lively tale of nature and human desire that alters the landscape of contemporary fiction.

As I re-enter the Story Barn project I hope to find ways to connect with Campbell. She was awarded the National Book Award for Once Upon a River, set also in Kalamazoo area.

Read Q Road. Let me know what you hear.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Three funerals -- one the result of murder and two old age -- ended the harvest season for this pastor. So Story Barn lay fallow. Buried under other things. The barns I saw on this gray day also lay fallow. Hmmm.... So the story continues as this urban pastor continues to learn in 2012 the stories of the land upon which my people live and work -- as told by their barns.


In Constantine, MI, the Seed Corn Capital of the World, it is the fallow season.

The fields are fallow. Snow drifts and dusts and melts in the fields, and then drifts and dusts some more. Some fields are seeded with winter wheat, resting. Some are soil bound snug by peas, green nitrogen, sprouted and decomposing into humus. Some are stubble. Stubble.

Barns lie quiet. Storage barns at Pioneer hold 950,000 bushels of seed corn, remaining from the three million bushels processed, waiting to be ordered, bagged, shipped and planted.

Villa-Miller’s machinery is stored, dry, enclosed for this season while this seed corn farmer spends the fallow season visiting with in-laws in Costa Rica and checking commodities.

But the other barns sleep. They have been sleeping for decades. They sleep the sleep of death.

How long can a field lie fallow yet remain waiting, fertile? It can take five hundred to one thousand years for an inch of soil to form.

Yet in one generation, just since the 1980’s, a family seed corn farm's barn can die. They fall along the roads each season, some caught by wind, by fire, by water. First the roof caves, then the beams lean, and finally the gaping doors close on themselves. A final breath and they are gone.

Seeds die to live.
They enter the soil’s darkness, and moist, only there can they be born again.

Is it so with barns, with farming?