Dancing in the Loft

On Saturday I roamed the farm where I grew up, camera swinging from my neck, lens cap tucked in my pocket, eyes peeled for texture and angles; soul searching, too, I suppose, for memories, for clues to who I am…even why I am who I am.I studied flaking paint on aging sheds, slowly stripped by winter wind and snow down to raw wood, warping.Near the barn stand gates in disuse, leaning, rotting, rusting.I photographed two old tractors parked under an overhang.Every once in a while, Dad would let me lean against the fender and ride with him into the fields. I gripped the edges, petrified I’d fall. I’d feel the Bush Hog® power to life and the blades engage, spinning, hacking down weeds.The tractors sit quietly in the barn lot, parked in the spot where Black Angus cattle used to eat from the manger.I stepped gingerly into the barn, on the lookout for spiders, swallows, mice and ‘coons. An old box car ladder was mounted to the wall years ago, maybe a hundred years ago, for farmers to get to the loft. I climbed it.In the filtered, cloudy midday light, I studied the floorboards coated with a loose, thin layer of chaff mingled with bird droppings and layers of dust. Later my sister-in-law scolded me for going up there, thinking it can’t be good for a person with asthma.One look at the loft and I remembered an afternoon in the ’80s when I carried up my silver boom box and turned on the radio waiting for “Footloose.” Within a few short minutes, it played. And I danced. The loft was almost empty, so I spun and leaped and it’s a wonder I didn’t slam a shoe right through the rickety boards.A shaft of deep yellow afternoon sun streaked straight in as the sun set that day. I remember the shape defined by the window, how I danced through the beam, stirring up chaff, until I was sweating and spent. When the song ended, I sagged to the floor.All these years later, I lifted and placed my feet slowly, deliberately, careful not to stir up dust. I am long removed from the days of dancing in the loft; I climbed back down, wondering how long it’s been since my dad kept cattle, when secure gates were critical……when bright white out buildings stood straight, boards nailed secure……when the tractor rumbled down the lane to hack down weeds.I was prowling in the weeds out by the tool shed, focusing on old red fuel tanks and the corrugated roof of the dog house when my brother showed up to help my dad move some soil and cinder blocks.While he emptied the wheelbarrow of rainwater and shoveled some soil, I was out looking for myself.I pondered questions from the most recent PhotoPlay assignment at The High Calling:

  1. Who made up your DNA?
  2. Where do you come from?
  3. What object is precious to your past?
  4. What memory resonates most deeply?
  5. What moment in history marks your childhood?

In the barn lot and loft, I’d hoped for a flood of vignettes and strong emotions. A psychological epiphany would be fun to report.No vignettes. No powerful emotions. No epiphany.No clues to who or why I am.Only the dancing.Dancing in the loft.Alone.On In Around buttonAll content and images are copyrighted © 2011 Ann Kroeker and protected by law. These images may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without written permission of Ann Kroeker.

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  • Comments

    1. I appreciated this post with beautiful photography and writing. I grew up on my grandparent’s farm and this brought back fond memories. Their farm has since been sold and an industrial park is in its place. The first time I went back and everything was torn down it was a shock. Everything seems so small when you didn’t have the orchards, the barn, the huge walnut tree with the bell and the chicken houses for perspective.

      It is good to remember where we came from. I now visit my aunt’s farm and love to be able to see the deer, though they love to eat the soybeans and pick the blackberries. Keep up the great work.

      • annkroeker says:

        My brother saw me snapping pictures and asked, “Photographing nature?”

        “No…well, yes and no. I’m photographing stuff,” I said, “all around the farm, just snapping pictures of stuff in case one day it isn’t around to snap pictures of.” Your story supports the niggling concern that I’d like to document certain “scenes” from the space.

        I’m glad you have a sweet place to visit–sounds beautiful! This year’s rotation at my parents’ farm was field corn, so I didn’t nibble any kernels. But soybeans are growing in fields all around me… :)

    2. My sister’s been in her home for 20 years. I do believe that’s the longest-tenured home in the family right now.

      I wonder what it would be like to have a sense of place that ran through generations. Thanks for this, Ann.

      And I can see you dancing in that loft :)

      • annkroeker says:

        The sense of familiar is nice–I think my kids really like going out to the farm and have their own memories now.

        My parents bought this farm when I was about eight years old, so it hasn’t been in our family, even though it’s been around as a working farm for a long, long time.

        I didn’t dance well, which is why it was probably good to be dancing alone. :)

        But the concept of Footloose, the movie, was that the characters felt oppressed by the town in various ways. Stodgy morals prohibited dancing, and that’s all the youth wanted to do. I can’t remember how it all worked out in the end, but I think the kids had a big dance and got busted by the pastor and eventually the adults came around and everyone was relatively happy.

        But the feeling of release was there, as the kids cut loose all of their frustration.

        I think that was in me, with my own stuff, as I danced. I needed some release.

    3. I think you found quite a lot in that old barn, Ann – this small, beautiful story tells me some very dear things about you. I love the image of your dancing across that loft, feeling free, enjoying the music and the movement. Love this – thanks for it.

      • annkroeker says:

        Diana, thank you for this sweet and personal note. Feeling free–yes, that was part of it. I needed to feel some freedom at that stage in my life.

    4. “…I spun and leaped and it’s a wonder I didn’t slam a shoe right through the rickety boards…”

      We had a barn loft like that when I was a kid. I never dared to spin and leap…we gingerly tested every board, because more than once we DID go through, up to the thigh. I had forgotten that. Your words brought it back for me.

      • annkroeker says:

        Kathleen, based on your experience of busting through the boards, perhaps these boards are stronger than anyone expected? They are old, but thick. And there are gaps, but if you’re careful you can avoid the gaps.

        Thinking back, I imagine I might have limited my leaps to one or two and done a lot more spinning and shaking my head around so that my hair would fly like a rock star’s. :)

    5. “Only” dancing in the loft alone? Honey, that’s EVERYTHING! I can see the entire YA novel, set on that Indiana farm, the girl getting all Footloose up in the barn, probably with the music turned low so no one will hear.

    6. Revisiting our past brings back memories and your photos will help you hold them dear. Good to rotate the crops too. Sometimes we need to do some rotation in our lives. We often get into a rut and doing something different and not tried before can be exhilarating. We probably need to dance more, but not in the loft!

      • annkroeker says:

        I think you’re right–I was looking around the farm differently with the camera around my neck, looking at things I’ve looked at for decades, looking with photographer’s eye and a probing eye. I think you are absolutely right, that having these close-ups to study will help me explore my memories.

        And I love your comparison of crop rotation with stuff-of-life rotation, to avoid the ruts. Crop rotation adds nutrients to the soil, making it richer–perhaps when we rotate activities, our lives are richer for it?

        As for dancing, yes, I dance mostly in the kitchen, to make the kids laugh. :)

    7. i think the memory of that day was so special Ann. I have visions of myself leaping around the playroom to West Side Story. Perhaps it says something about us we have yet to figure out? :-)

    8. Ann — I can just see you up there, dancing next to your boom box. I’ve frequented a few barn lofts myself, and yes, it takes the innocence of youth not to be concerned about stepping right through the boards. Of course, all the barns I was in usually had layers of old straw and hay below if we fell through. I once jumped out of a barn loft on a dare. I wasn’t more than six or seven. Completely knocked the wind out of me. I think I might have peed my pants, too.

      • annkroeker says:

        I had my eye on some of the widest cracks…there’s not a lot of space in this loft, so I would not have had a lot of leaps. :-)

        As for the dare–I’m so impressed!

    9. Ann, do you realise how good these photos are?

      You have a beautiful eye and I am not just saying that.

      Please share more of your old photos. I really have a soft spot for rust and decriped things that others want to throw out.

      • Thank you so much for your encouragement, Claire. Wow. I’m humbled (and delighted) to know that you see something of value in them.

        I shared my old photos with HCF, in case you want to use them in some way…which feels very presumptuous, but because you asked, I put them up there.

    10. Ann, this post is superb! And the photos are breathtaking! Who knew old boards, rusty tractors and straw covered floors could evoke such emotion! I agree with Claire–you have a good eye! And, a beautiful heart that knows how to express what is inside you through the lens.


      • Bill, I am so happy to hear from you about this post, these photos…you’re right: even I didn’t expect that the photos would seem evocative. I wonder if they would be without the words?

        I’m learning, little by little. I asked my photography-loving daughter what she thought I should start trying, and she voted for people shots–candid moments capturing people having a good time.

        Just when I was starting to feel comfortable with “things that don’t move,” she suggests I try getting shots of “things that do nothing BUT move.”

        I’m trying to take your suggestions, though. You gave me three or four great tips when we were in MI, so once again, thank you for being generous with your knowledge!

    11. Poignant, beautiful read, Ann…and the photos truly are wonderful. What a sweet memory – dancing in the loft. You are lucky to have a place to go back to….a barn and and barn loft…to photograph for history. I don’t believe I’ve ever been in a barn loft.

      • Patricia, thank you for slipping over here to see the combination of words + photos as I explored at least a little of my history. I think I have many stories to tell that will reveal more of who I am both to myself and my readers.

        And now you’ve *kind of* been in a barn loft! :)

        There’s more I could try to capture there at the farm. My parents have acquired a variety of curious objects over the years from auctions. I just need time and good lighting–or I need to drag stuff to a good spot.

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