There must be a million stories out there as to why barns in Maine are often painted red. Some of the most outlandish reasons have been proposed, from cows needing to find their way home, to iron oxide from the death of stars eons ago, to cheap paint, to traditional ethnic colors. It’s hard to know what to believe because just as often, barns are painted white, although usually outside of Maine.
I’ve always secretly felt that barns are red out of a display of fertility. After all, the barn is where many animals are born and also die, and often there is blood involved. When I see the deep blood-red color on barns, it makes me think of the vitality of life and also of how delicate and uncertain it can be. When I think of fertility, I think of prosperity because, really, the two are one and the same. It’s only in modern times that we think of money when we think of prosperity. For most of man’s existence, prosperity was measured in fertility. The production of life was wealth.
|The production of life IS wealth.|
And so right there in the fertile green fields of the Earth, the red barns stand, surrounded by fertility and holding their own fertility within. The lush color green means fertility for plant life. The lusty color red means fertility for animal life. Join the two and you have a complete cycle of how the Earth reproduces. (It’s interesting to note as well that the traditional Christmas colors are red and green.)
When the green of the Earth enters its season of death and is covered by the white of snow, the red barn still looms in the field. Now more than ever, the splash of red is intense and dramatic. Some might even say it’s arrogant. Some might say it’s a bit of nose thumbing to the realm of Death, as if to say, “You cannot destroy me!” Even when Death takes its toll on the farm, as it poignantly does on all farms, the red barn stands bold and firm in its purpose. Eventually, Death moves on as it may not tarry too long in any one place. Residency belongs to the living.
I mark my travels by the red barns. First I come to this red barn and then that red barn. I’ll need to travel nine red barns to get my provisions. I’ll need to travel six red barns to get to the next town. I’ll need to travel three red barns to see my friend. I’ll need to travel one red barn to find my purpose.
Life is a series of red barns, you see, and it brings me great comfort to be included in their cycles.