I got a message from my sister last night. Not one I ever wanted.
Nothing could have prepared me for this image. 400 E 2nd ave, former home to BLD studios in Columbus, Ohio, is now a rubble pile. My brain grinds a bit slow sometimes and this is one of them. Today it all sank in. It feels like learning that my first true love was brutally murdered, dismembered and tossed into the garbage. It fully defined my reality for almost a decade. I knew that building nearly as well as the men who built it. I knew its secrets. It knew mine. I could feel the souls of the men who died there. The place was alive to me. The day was filled with memories. Discovering the secret rooms. Hiding my own caches in them. The things I would never share with person, I entrusted to that structure. Now they are simply more debris. Shattered and crushed. Like the lovely dreams I would spin while walking the halls. The echoes of a century of occupation whispering in my ear. The muted clomping of heavy boots at the end of a long ago workday. Voices raised in anger laughter prayer blasphemy. The ephemeral residue of acts of gentle kindness and unspeakable cruelty. Any structure of that age is saturated with the energy of what went on there. It permeates the very fabric of its mass.
And now it’s gone. Like a missing tooth. As though it never existed. Nowhere but in the memories of those who went there.
But that was yesterday. Many yesterdays ago. Lifetimes ago in fact. To dwell there is needless sentimentality. And that only leads to death. Being stuck in the past is, by my reckoning, what has led to many of the major issues we face today. Whether as a community, a nation or simply as the human race. I remember learning of the Dadaists in post WW1 Europe or the Situationists in 60’s France calling for the museums to be burned. The great historical monuments being razed. Railing against the crushing weight of history and the ways in which that weight has held humanity down. Where the Situationists talked of the Spectacle, the Dadaists we’re captivated by the frenetic energy of life and the ways in which new technologies (mass produced automobiles and the airplane) were reshaping life. “Look forward,” they said. The past is dead. Let it pass.
The similarities are not lost on me of how my current situation rhymes with the same themes they were grappling with. While the scale and scope are obviously different to the point of being incomparable, I can see the barn fire as my own personal mini WW1 with the devastation and loss of life. But to pine for what was, to allow myself the luxury of sentimental self flagellation, would be a disservice to not only myself and Leah, but to the very memories of what was. It was a time. Mistakes were made. Victories great and small were celebrated. But that chapter has ended. A new chapter has begun.
These are the tools that will move us forward. The materials I will use to build a better world. Or at least my tiny corner of it. It took a bit of doing, but I finally managed to acquire 3 corrugated grain bins. Funny bit there. These bins were originally erected in Indiana. I bought them from a guy in Vermont, which means they actually passed within 2 miles of BLD farm while in transit, only to spend a year in Vermont before turning around and coming back to Ohio. For some reason I never really considered just exactly HOW one of these things went together. It would have been obvious if I had disassembled them, but I did not. The one I took apart in Montana some years ago was fairly straight forward. These things though… I’ve got 2 large boxes of metal bits that don’t really make a lot of sense. I got 4 drying fans and only 2 blower chutes. There are some red paddle things. Not all the ring sections are the same length. And, AND no instructions.
I’ve finalized the drawings and submitted them to the City Zoning office for permits. Then we begin again. Like the mythological Phoenix rising from the ashes of its own demise. The footprint looks a lot like what the house will eventually be. There will be more than twice the square footage of internal space and a large loafing shed for winter. This will allow for a much larger flock, of both goats and chickens, if and when I ever decide to expand.
I must mention that I have been surprised by the number of people who are shocked that I’m actually rebuilding, not only the barn, but the menagerie as well. Granted, these are people who don’t know me very well. But I’m still perplexed that anyone would think that giving up is an option after a loss like this. It must be something akin to what drives people to suicide following a bad breakup. Not rebuilding was never an option. I mean, come on, did Europe just roll over and give up? Or Japan? No. They took their licks, weighed their options and moved on. In many cases, like Japan, devastating war allowed them the space to modernize. If you’ve read all of what I’ve written, you’ll know that I see the fire as a cleansing, a chance to start over. This is me starting over, again.