Monday, December 1

I’ve been thinking about a lot of different things, as I drive around rural Kansas and Nebraska between family gatherings and places I’ve called home at one time or another: Cities, towns, churches, buildings, operating systems, software in general, trails & roads, fields & farming.

It seems to me that there’s a unifying fact about the built environment, the universe of running code, and the things we call “culture”: These are all things that people keep doing.

Yesterday, winding our way up from Kansas, we passed a farm place with a big round wooden barn still standing and well-maintained. Structures like this are rare enough to elicit comment, at this late date. In the decades since the technology of farming moved on from the patterns embodied in the wooden barn,1 the rooves were mostly left to rot, and once the roof goes it’s only a matter of time.

A barn, like most buildings, isn’t a static fact. It doesn’t just exist, or not for long anyway. It’s a kind of project. It’s something people do. So too are most of the spaces we live our lives inside.

1 For example: Horses as working animals, cows kept for milk, haylofts. When I was a child, the remnants of these patterns and the systems that contained them were still legible everywhere on the landscape. They're harder to read with every passing year.