The barn looms over me, peeling red paint on worn slats of wood. I have to reach up to pull open the door, and it rattles as I step up from the grass into the barn. The earthy smell of hay wafts toward me as my eyes adjust to the dim light flecked with dust. To my left a wall rises upwards and to the right stand long-empty horse stalls. I pass the stalls and come into the cavernous, open barn. The ceiling is flying over my head, unreachable, with a cable running along the highest beam and out the small square window at the end. My dad tells me they used to use that cable to haul bales of hay into the barn.
To my left a giant door opens to the barnyard, and beyond that stretch the fields of corn and soybeans that the neighbors farm for us now. I’m reminded of the pictures I’ve seen of someone standing in a beach house staring out at the ocean, but Iowa is my ocean and the wind makes rippling waves across the corn tassels.
Hanging in the center of the room, strung on a rope that somehow loops over that highest beam at the very top of the ceiling, is a bag full of hay. The hay swing. Halfway across the room the beams and rafters make a sort of H shape, and bales of hay stack one on top of each other, piling themselves into a staircase to reach the H’s crossbeam. A wire strung up from one side of the barn to another works as a makeshift railing, a handhold while walking across the beam.
And from there, if someone throws me the swing, I can grab hold of it and jump. Arc high into the dusty air toward the horse stalls, and then swoop back toward the open door and blue sky. I look down at the swirls of dirt on the wood floor, up at my cousins lined up along the beam waiting their turn, and back out at the door. I imagine swooping toward that door with so much force I fly right out, soaring over those rolling hills and golden fields to whatever lies beyond. To the other side of the ocean.