Dylan Thomas, razing barns, and stargazing with an in-law

dylan thomas

A young Dylan Thomas

Spring 2009, I had almost finished tearing down a massive 4,000 square foot barn in a city east of here.  I had survived a brutal winter in a camper and managed to stay warm sleeping in a 0 degree bag usually without heat except what I got from the camper oven. For months, I had worked on that barn, pummeling it with hammer and crowbar, and that spring, I was close to actually getting the project done.  What once was walls and roof, was now posts and trusses, a wooden, skeletal body now eerily standing over the pasture on which it had been built.  Metal roofing had already been removed and sunlight shone down on the scattered refuse of boards ridden with nails and piles of paper insulation.

Needless to say, I’m a bit crazy and passionate and this project was solely my own doing.  The barn was free and I had a dream to resurrect it on land that I owned up North, a dream that is still coming to fruition.  Currently it sits in two semi trailers parked on my property, and soon it seems, it will be a dream fulfilled.

So I’m a crazy dreamer and frequently, I’m also a bit of a contrarian.  I don’t know why but I argue a lot:  philosophy, theology, and politics etcetera, etcetera.  Something in debate gives me a fire in my gut, and I just go to it, arguing the point.  It’s not a part of my personality that I like a whole lot, but change is hard.

I’ve got a brother-in-law that is of similar ilk.  Not crazy, but he just likes to argue. There was a day that spring that he had come to help me pull nails from boards.  I was used to being alone on the project and it was a welcome change to have someone along, especially someone that argued as much I did.  Work, of course, really didn’t get done much that day, but politics, philosophies, and religion did.

That night when it got dark the stars were out in amazing clarity, like lit confetti in the sky.  I was incredibly tired from a week of hugely rewarding, but very intense manual labor, and as I ate my food in the camper all I can remember is my brother-in-law talking to me rapidly and extensively about dark matter or black holes or galaxies.  The stars in a sense had ended our arguments and he had something better to discuss.

I was reminded that night of a poem that has hung in my house, ever since my wife and I have lived here–one by Dylan Thomas:

Out of a war of wits, when folly of words
Was the world’s to me, and syllables
Fell as hard as whips on an old wound
My brain came crying into the fresh light,
Called for a confessor but there was none
To purge after the wits fight,
And I was dumb struck by the sun.
Praise that my body be whole, I’ve limbs,
Not stumps after the hour of battle,
For the body’s brittle and the skin’s white
Praise that only the wits are hurt after the wits fight
Overwhelmed by the sun, with a torn brain
I stand beneath the clouds confessional,
After the perils of friend’s talk
Reach asking arms up to the milky sky,
After of volley of questions and replies
Lift wit-hurt head for the sun to sympathize,
And the sun heals, closing sore eyes.
It is good that the sun shine,
And after it has sunk, the sane moon,
For out of a house of matchboard and stone
Where men would argue till the stars be green,
It is good to step onto the earth alone,
And be struck dumb, if only for a time.

Today I was sitting outside watching the birds in the trees and listening to them sing, which made me think about my life and how strange and wonderful it all is.  That this earth is here at all is amazing.  That I am alive, able to perceive, and think about the things of this earth is even more amazing.  Today, I am in complete and utter awe of this existence and the earth that I set my feet upon–struck dumb, if only for a time.

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2 Responses to Dylan Thomas, razing barns, and stargazing with an in-law

  1. S says:

    It’s okay, you can say it. Your brother-in-law is crazy.

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