For those of us in the northern hemisphere who live below the Arctic Circle, this time of the long night is also when the sun, low in the sky for much of the day, most easily floods our caves. Now more than ever we are dazzled by the play of shadows. We stretch our half-dead fingers toward the screen.
The barn is no church or synagogue; its plank siding is spaced to allow the circulation of air, not spirit. The floor in the haymow is only half there, and low beams can clobber you in the forehead. You have to watch your step. The sky peers in through a dozen knotholes.
In late afternoon, fat candles of sunlight illuminate the far wall. Golden beams bristle with splinters. Some bear the semi-circular marks of a saw blade, others, the rectilinear patchwork left by an adze. Many were recycled from older barns, reminding us, perhaps, of other necessary sacrifices: the stars, for example, that had to die in order to create the ingredients for life here on the third planet from the present star.
Louvers in lieu of windows offer no view out or in, just a prisoner’s stripes, a choice of identical horizons. High overhead, the cupola is a virtually inaccessible, floorless cell. One can get a tinge of vertigo simply by looking up at it.
The sun singles out the lone lightbulb, offered up for its delectation like the glistening eyeball of the future patron saint of blindness, whose name means light.
Outside, the sun sinks behind the goldenrod, a multitude of blowsy, rounded seedheads as if from some strange flock gone feral. Their only use for the barn is as shelter for the tractor and brush hog that keep the dark woods at bay.
The night goes great and mute.
Now one hears in every silent room
a murmuring, as if from wings.
Behold, at the threshold, standing
all in white, with lights in her hair,
Santa Lucia! Santa Lucia!
— Swedish song for St. Lucy’s Day
For more photos of the barn in Plummer’s Hollow, see here.