Good morning. Judging by the number of television programmes on the subject, the properties we own and the houses we live in are close to a national obsession. And our houses – if these programmes are to be believed – make an important statement about what sort of people we are – or would like to be.
Which is maybe why recently in the Black Forest in Southern Germany, one of the things that most powerfully struck me was the sheer size of the older farm buildings: huge cathedral-like structures which seem to grow out of the hillsides with spectacular roofs: huge single sweeps of wooden shingles outside and vast open spaces inside. Under these single roofs are barns, animal sheds, workshops, dairies, living quarters for the farmer and all sorts of other rooms and spaces. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Which prompted me to wonder: what were these buildings saying about the people that built them? What vision of themselves drove farmers to put up structures like that instead of the kind of houses and barns that you tend to find elsewhere.
And the simple answer is that the buildings are not about the farmers – they are about the land. The trees in the Black Forest are so huge that it actually makes more sense to use them as they are than it would to cut them up to make smaller buildings. They are just perfect for making these gigantic structures. There are actually many other practical advantages for the farmers in getting everything under one roof, but without the trees to start with it would be pretty difficult to achieve. The people there just went with nature and used what was to hand.
In a world where so many of us seem anxious to create monuments to ourselves or our money, it’s refreshing to see what magnificent results happen when humble people just make solid practical use of what they’re given.
Father, open our eyes to the gifts with which you surround us, make us inventive in grasping them and grateful for the opportunity. Amen.