Aesthetics of Dilapidation

The Graceful Lines of Decay
The Graceful Lines of Decay

I stopped by for a while yesterday afternoon for a picnic north of town, and kept returning my gaze to the lines of a gracefully dilapidated barn on the crest of hill above us.

Finally, I could stand it no longer when the moon appear briefly in a break in the clouds just off the edge of the sloping rusted roof, and ran for my camera. By the time I got back to the vantage point for a few shots, the moon–of course–had disappeared behind low clouds, an image composition in mind only.

I couldn’t help thinking: this one is beyond the efforts of my friend Ron Campbell to preserve in any kind of former glory with his pen and ink. The pity.

The functional metal barns that replace these rapidly disappearing wooden structures will not be worth even a passing glance from a photographer’s eye another generation hence. They will serve the purpose of keeping the rain off the grain, hay and farm equipment, but aesthetically, our future in agricultural architectural aesthetics are not likely to hold up well to the past.


About fred

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

3 comments:

  1. Gramma has a couple of places like that on her property. The uncles keep threatening to burn them in the fall. The uncles are not artists.
    100 years in the future, some photographer will be taking shots of the moon over a rusted out barn, and will be waxing poetic about how the new plastic barns won’t be as picturesque. They’ll fall. They’ll always fall.

  2. The funny thing about these old barns is, even after they fall they still provide materials around the farm…At least all the ones I grew up on and around.

    I helped my grandfather pull tin off of the roof of an old barn that had blown down back in the ’70’s. All of the tin, rusted or not, ended up in projects around the place in the months that fallowed.

    If we have gotten too good for that level of resourcefulness, then it’s time we relearned the lessons of our grandfathers.

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