Monday, May 19, 2014

Remembering the Mourning Barn

For the past 30 years or so, the barn that stood on Marine Drive just south of town has been Stanwood's community message board. I'm told that it started out as a place to celebrate graduating seniors or promote favorite causes, but over the years the walls of the barn became the place to pay tribute to the many people in the area who died too young. Some folks call it the Mourning Barn.

Every now and then, as we'd travel on Marine Drive between Stanwood and Warm Beach, we'd discover a new name had appeared on the barn. Seldom did I catch the paint crew in the act, but their handiwork was evidence of the grief they could not hold inside. Most recently the barn's walls had become memorials for more than teens as the whole north wall was once painted for a child, the victim of an accidental shooting, and later for a mom who succumbed to cancer.

For many years the barn sat idle and it was showing severe signs of aging. The derelict old barn, loved by many, had become dangerously delicate, near death itself. Layer upon layer of paint, both inside and out, seemed to be all that was holding it together. It was deemed unsafe and would have to come down.

A professional was called in to deconstruct the barn, carefully salvaging all that could be salvaged with a plan to create a permanent memorial in the future. People came to watch the deconstruction, each with their own interest in the mourning barn.

Kyle and Anna Porter were among those at the deconstruction. Kyle is a videographer and he and Anna were there to capture the stories of the barn and share them through a documentary.

I was there too, getting a few last pictures of the photogenic barn. Kyle and I talked; Anna and I talked. And later they contacted me. Would you be willing to appear on camera for our documentary? they asked.

How on earth could I possibly add to the film, I wondered. I didn't even know anyone personally whose name was on that barn! I had been saddened every time there was a new name, and I had felt a bit of the loss that the family and friends felt, but there was nothing tangible I could contribute.  Still, I agreed to meet with Anna and Kyle to discuss the barn.

What a great team, those two! We chatted like old friends as we talked about the barn and about life. Kyle is the son of Anna and David Porter, whose interest over the years has been sustainability, especially in the home construction. Their business is called PorterWorks. But they are multi-talened, and Kyle's expertise in music and video production make this video project a natural for them.

We sat in their deep green demonstration home on the shores of Puget Sound. (I was relieved to learn that it was actually on land, and not in the sound, as Google Maps indicated!) As Anna and Kyle and I talked I began to catch their vision for the video, and by the time I left their home I knew that I would like to be a part of their project.

Last week our home became their studio.

It was only slightly nerve-wracking to have two cameras and a microphone in my living room, pointing directly at me! In her chair near the cameras Anna asked me questions and drew thoughts out of me about my "relationship with the barn." That's what she called it. As a person from the community, how did I feel about the barn? Why did it matter to me? (Obviously it mattered, she said, as I'd written about it and taken photos of it on more than one occasion.) Sometimes from behind the camera Kyle would ask a question or make a comment. They have good minds. They are articulate and know how to get to the deeper matters. The experience helped me find words for elusive thoughts  that I hadn't been able to pull together before.

And so I will be on a documentary! Kyle anticipates it will be ready in the fall. I am honored to have been invited to participate and to get to know Anna and Kyle. They are professional, warm, and honest. They are people of integrity. They made the experience a pleasure.

Thank you, Anna and Kyle Porter, for helping our community as we reflect on the barn that has been such a part of our lives.


mkelly33 said...

I have passed by for years and felt touched by those who have shared life both good and sad. Reading this story became today's highlight for me.

Ginger Kauffman said...

I'm so glad you found me, mkelly33, and that the post was meaningful to you. I think the documentary will be really meaningful and am looking forward to its completion.

Patty Hall said...

What a great opportunity! I never painted on that barn, there were names of classmates and friends of my daughters'. The barn was a very special feature of our community... Sadly, I'm not sure there is anything that can take it's place.

Ginger Kauffman said...

Patty, having raised your kids here you probably knew a lot of the families for whom the barn has special meaning. You're right about it being a special feature of our community. Maybe the permanent memorial, when it comes together, will still offer the same kind of opportunity for people to deal with their loss. Let's hope so.

AnnaPorter said...

Thank you Ginger once again for your eloquence and lovely photos. And thank you for your kind words. The feelings are mutual; we felt honored that you agreed to be a part of our project and that you are sharing that experience with the world!

Ginger Kauffman said...

Thank you Anna an Kyle. I'm still enjoying the memories of that very nice day that you were here for the interview!