Aug 1, 2007

On Red Barns and the Yearning for Simplicity

(Marcellus, MI) We passed this old barn on some back road in the middle of nowhere, perhaps 30 minutes south of Kalamazoo. It seemed to stand like a crimson billboard against the summer sky, a vivid marker for both voluntary simplicity and for the not-so-distant past.

I would have liked to spend an hour or two with the owners of this structure, whose holdings included at least several hundred acres of land and two additional buildings, but my need to return to the city and one of my sources of income, the income that allows me to visit rural settings such as this and wish I could embrace such an unhurried lifestyle.

A pair of kids with wagons waved at us as we approached, our car a relative novelty on this gravel road. I wondered if they shared my valuation of their idyllic surroundings, or if they envied the strangers who waved back at them from the SUV.

So we zipped along this county road, having to settle for these momentary glances at the simpler life that was simultaneously yards and light-years away from us. Our Suburban felt like a mobile cage, ostensibly carrying us to our destination but also representing the same forces that compel us to work multiple jobs, deny ourselves rest, and spend money on items we really do not need.

And the red barn was soon just a speck on the horizon behind us until it disappeared from view altogether. I turned up the radio in an attempt to drown out these unproductive thoughts, these yearnings for a simplicity that is warily viewed by many people as subversive to the catechism handed down from on high by the gods of hypercapitalist consumerism.


Man with the Muck-rake said...

Simplicity. Exactly, but only a mirage, Mike, in this consumer-driven culture.

It makes one wonder if Americans are wearing blinders, opaque to foolishness that they are pursuing.

Anonymous said...


If you enjoy the simplicity of red barns, you might also be interested in this . . .

My husband's family is from Wisconsin and I've seen quite a few of these barns when we go to visit his family there.

The Screaming Nutcase said...

I'll bet many kids who grew up around these barns see the cities as shining jewels. It seems to be human nature to think the grass is greener.

Some of the people who rail the loudest against our modern conveniences have never done a hard day's labor in their lives....