This season brings back memories of baling hay and storing it in the haymow. The haymow in one of the four barns on the farm where I grew up was a mysterious and inaccessible place. The ladder that provided access had rungs placed far apart, so only children who were older and stronger could climb. They would play amid the bales of straw—hiding, building forts, castles and towers. I could listen and barely see through the opening in the center of the floor. All that I could do was imagine the fun of a forbidden zone.
By the time I gained the size and strength to climb the ladder, the neighborhood children had grown too old to play haymow games, and my allergies to dust and mold paid me a day of misery for every minute in close confines with hay. Still, the haymow held an attraction for a curious explorer.
As soon as my legs could reach the tractor peddles I was allowed to work in baling season. I put the tractor in reverse and pulled the forked- together bales of hay from the hayrack up to the rail at the peak of the barn, through the large open door into the dark recesses of the haymow itself. When I heard the yell from inside the maymow, I stopped the tractor and waited for the hayforks to be tripped and the bales to fall to the floor. It was an exciting operation. Later I was assigned the task of pulling the trip cord. I knew I had reached maturity when I was allowed to insert those large steel tines of the hayfork into the bales to be lifted from the wagon, like some giant spider enfolding its prey. But I could never spend any time in the haymow itself, and my fascination with it only grew.
In the field I could load bales on the rack easily, especially when the breeze blew the dust away, but work in the haymow was off-limits.
The haymow represents to me all of those special places where mysterious activities continue unobserved and inaccessible to the rest of us. Surgery rooms, political strategy spaces, board rooms of major corporations, and scientific laboratories all hold such mysteries. Many important decisions that affect our lives are made beyond the reach of masses of people. Much of religion has been controlled in that way in past centuries, but openness and democracy has infiltrated many denominations in recent decades. Still the end of our years and the destiny of heaven remain shrouded in mystery as unfathomable as a haymow to a small child.
I hold onto a sense of mystery as one of the deep sources of wonder and joy. The vast universe and the discoveries of science call out for more exploration and determined pursuit, but they also leave much room for bewilderment. Many places are beyond our scope and capacity to understand.
We sing about the mysteries of struggle and work and the direction we are headed in the spiritual “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder.” Most people understand that the goal of the song is heaven. As for me my sights are lower. I would just like to be able to reach the haymow.