Tuesday, July 7, 2009
A, B and K spent the last week in Milwaukee with their grandparents. They had a wonderful time and loved having the undivided attention of two fun adults who love them dearly. J and I drove up to get them and spent a few days seeing family. There are two main routes from Nashville to Milwaukee: one takes you straight up 65 through Louisville and Indianapolis, the other goes through Paducah and small town Illinois. On both drives, you see plenty of rolling farmland, dotted with red barns.
Our drive back was exceptionally long (more on that in another post), so I had plenty of time to stare out the window at fields of corn and soybeans, dotted here and there with red barns. Being me, it only took so long for me to wonder why barns are painted red. The red stands out so nicely on the green fields, giving a little burst of color as you pass each farm. I liked the way they marked the place as we drove along and gave the scenery a consistent theme. But surely the barns weren't painted red purely for my viewing pleasure.
The more barns we passed, the more I wondered why so many of them are red. There was the occasional weathered, unpainted barn (often with a patch of dull red to indicate the barn had once matched its counterparts) or a white one, but nearly all I saw were red. Why? I found this article and a few others on why barns are painted red. Essentially, this tradition began because the rust mixed in with the paint protected the barn. Long after paints were made to resist the weather, farmers continued to paint them red out of tradition.
I'm a big fan of tradition. I want the same cookies every Christmas, the same dressing every Thanksgiving, two cups of coffee every morning. Like anything, tradition can be taken too far. But I like the tradition of red barns. I like that something that started functional is now maintained for largely aesthetic reasons. It makes me wonder what traditions I uphold in my life that began from a functional need, but have remained simply because I like them. And I hope I can look back on my life and see where I've chosen to maintain some things simply because they bring beauty to the landscape around me.