About the barn

When you rummage around an old barn, you never know what you’ll turn up. And that’s the premise here.

For 21 years, we owned a small barn behind our house in a small northern New England city. Technically, it was a carriage house, though I find that phrase a tad pretentious. Ours was definitely funky, even once we added a mother-in-law apartment on half of the first floor, along with the German mother-in-law and her constant flow of Wagnerian opera. Similar structures of many varied colors, uses, and conditions are found tucked in around town, especially in its older neighborhoods. Blessedly, our renovations created easy access to the old hayloft, which then became a three-season retreat for me, a place where I’d read and reflect as well as some crucial space that allowed me to unpack much writing that appeared years earlier in the literary small press scene in addition to previously unpublished notes, correspondence, and drafts hammered out in my zig-zag journey through life. That’s what I’ve been sharing with you, along with a raft of fresh work.

Jnana Hodson
Jnana Hodson

When I launched this blog at the end of 2011, I wasn’t sure if it would be a Quaker voice that also embraced poetry, or a poetry ‘zine that drew on Quaker faith and practice. What’s evolved is a shuffling of personal encounters, public affairs, home and garden, arts and letters, digital photography from around New England, and a smattering of newspaper trade confessions. Many of the posts spring from my native Midwest as well as my sojourns in the Pacific Northwest and Mid-Atlantic states where I’ve also lived and labored.

Increasingly, the entries turned to touting my latest appearances as a novelist. My stories delve into everything from teen angst, food trends, self-identifies, death and a search for meaning in life, spirituality and romance, family business and personal career decisions, to guerrilla economics and bohemian lifestyles. Let’s just say I’ve known some colorful characters who’ve shaped my emotions and thoughts. 

These days the blog’s also drawing heavily on my latest book, a history of Dover Friends Meeting and its wider community, as well as my new adventures now that we’ve made the hard decision to downsize and move on up the coast to a remote fishing village in Downeast Maine, a place that also has a lively arts scene.

Oh, my, you’d never believe all that we discovered we’d stuffed into the barn or how much won’t fit in our new place. The fresh encounters will continue to add to what you find here, even if I no longer own a real barn. Well, my red barn has evolved into a metaphor, anyway, and that part remains. 

Over the years, the Barn has welcomed folks from around the world who keep stopping by to visit. Feel free to pull up a chair, sit back, and join in for a spell. I trust you’ll find some quirky conversation and spiritual refreshment, maybe straight from the garden of the imagination, or even a can of sardines. (Our fishing village was once the Sardine Capital of the World.) Pipe up with your own comments whenever you’re moved, reblog anything that fits, and please invite your online neighbors to join us. Here’s hoping we meet often!

79 thoughts on “About the barn

  1. I’ve just stumbled across this blog, still being very much a learner driver. The words Quaker and poet pressed my buttons, and I’m looking forward to following you. my blog is http://www.valeriedavies.com, and like you, I feel my writing is influenced by – if not the inner light at any rate, by a spark! though I’m not a poet and not a Quaker, not a seeker either, but a finder!

  2. Jnana, I love Nicholson Baker too 🙂 the red barn reminds me of Nicholson’s main character’s barn in “The Anthologist”, which if you haven’t read, DO IT ! 🙂 I learned about you from Ingrid Hall’s interview 🙂

    1. Get yourself ready for Baker’s newest novel, out in a couple more weeks. “Traveling Sprinkler” picks up on “The Anthologist.”
      At least my barn hasn’t had a corner collapse under the weight of too many books, the way his did. We should note, though, that his barn is bigger, holding that many more volumes.

  3. Hello Jnana, Nice to see your ‘barn’. Incidentally, the word ‘jnana’ as you rightly said, from sanskrit, is also written as ‘gyana’, the ‘g’ pronounced exactly as we would pronounce the ‘gg’ portion of the word ‘egg’. It means ‘knowledge’ usually used to denote knowledge of the soul. In Hindu philosophy, there are three paths (yoga) prescribed to attain ‘mukhti’ (self-realization) that is the aim of all spiritual pursuits – gyana, bhakti and karma (path of knowledge, path of devotion and path of duty). Having been an editor and having, as I can make out, widely traveled, I presume you are on the path of knowledge (gyana). Nice reading your intro. Thank you for dropping by my blog (asianmail.wordpress.com). Have a great day!

  4. It’s always great to stop at the red barn, Jnana, where peace seems to have followed you along that zig-zagging journey. I do my zig-zag wandering through Myrtle Beach now days, and sometimes that journey gets me in trouble with the locals, but the trip is most enjoyable, as you know so well. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and artful pieces. Just wondering. Did your book title Hippie Drum have anything to do with Neil Young’s Hippie Dream. I’m betting so. He is an idol of mine. Often inspires my writing. Have a great holiday season, my friend.

    1. I always love to hear warm thoughts and welcome friends to rest a spell here between spurts on the journey.
      I went through several possible titles for the novel, including Hippie Dream, which I found was also a lovely short movie, before settling on Hippie Drum as one that had not been taken. Hope you didn’t put any money on the table, though, because Neil Diamond hadn’t crossed my mind, I was just running through some permutations from Hippie Farm.
      But he’s right, it ain’t over for some of us, despite the excess at the time. Glad to hear the trip is most enjoyable, and thanks for stopping by the Barn.

  5. I grew up in an old farmhouse that had become enveloped in the city. I was the only kid who grew up playing in the rafters of a barn.
    Thank you for the follow, and I look forward to reading your work!

  6. Thank you for you like today on my blog, Tide Line Still Life. As a retired Quaker educator, I am certain that my decades of involvement with Quaker education have greatly influenced how I view the tideline, as well as the world. I am the daughter of a Quaker educator, parent and grandparent to students, as well as a former teacher and administrator myself. A very long lineage!

  7. Jnana, thank you for the courtesy of your visit and for an opportunity to join you here. There is much for me to learn and enjoy here, and I look forward to it.

  8. Thanks so much Jnana for calling into our blog From Ethiopia, with love’ – we really appreciate it. I’m looking forward to exploring your blog a little more – you write beautifully.

  9. Floating softly down the sun splashed brook, I bumped against a lovely rock. Stopping then to stretch my mind, I founda smile that mirrored mine.


    Tio Stib

  10. Thanks for your like. I stopped by to take a glimpse of your blog and was pleasantly surprised to note your Quaker/yoga/writing blend. I came from the opposite side, first becoming a Christian during the Jesus people 60’s revival then much later in my 50’s discovering yoga while living in China for my body’s sake. I now love to blend the two listening to a wide range of devotional music as I do my stretches. Nice “meeting you”.

    1. I love the idea of having folks drop by the barn, no matter where they are around the world. Everyone seems to be sharing incredible stories, along with invitations to their own online homes.

  11. thanks for stopping by my blog. I don’t know much about quakers and other things you write about but I will use your blog as an opportunity to learn more.

  12. Hi there Jnana´s, glad you stopped by my little crazy blog. Just found another fellow blogger with writing experience that I can learn from. I do take notes from all of you so in a way is like committing petty theft.

    I like the diversity of your blog.

  13. Thank you so much for liking my article on Meditation. I love writing about Yoga and Spirituality. Regards!

  14. Thank you for following my blog. I found yours by “accident”. I use that word in quotes because I don’t really believe in “accidents”. Yours gave me reason to look up Quakerism. I describe my faith as “Heretic Christian”. Not much chance of encountering Quakers in Texas, yet I find myself intrigued by your faith and outlook. Again, thanks for following. For now, my blog becomes repetitive because I am trying to persuade people to see a dear friend as “human”. There are posts that are “off topic” but, mostly, they are for her.

    1. Writers are always advised to know their audience. Usually, what is meant is a demographic.
      I love the idea of that being a specific person, with the proviso that the rest of us might join in.
      Or, in your case, extending that a bit, to be built around a specific person.
      You have me remembering another blogger, a teen who gave her sister a voice that way before heading off to college.

      1. *grins* I am closer to 70 than I am to being a teen, The reason I write for that person is simple. She is the first person I go to when I need someone to pray for me. If she can take my side before God, it would be less than honorable to not take her side before man. As for the rest of you joining in, feel free to do, with the proviso, not that I expect it, that she is treated with respect. Say what you will about me. Thanks again.

      2. Sounds like you’re in a precious situation. She might even be one of your “elders,” in the sense of one who keeps you in line and more faithful. We could do a long conversation on their value and workings. My favorites have been humble. indeed.

  15. Even though she is ten years younger. she might well be. I think, perhaps, we are partners. The other side is that she has told me that I am her first choice to go to for prayer. Except for the things my wife has said like “I do”, that is one of the highest compliments I have ever been paid. Yes, the situation I am in is precious.I was given a second chance several years ago. The details are unimportant except to say that it is possible to survive decades of addiction. What has come out of it are faith, gratitude, and love. Yes Sir, we could do a long conversation.

  16. Love your spirit
    Lovely Quaker man
    And a poet
    Love your barn
    God bless the artists and workers in the world
    Ingrid 🙂
    Ps: god bless the hippies of the heart. We all begin somewhere..

  17. So glad to have found your blog. I have been more and more interested in Quakerism and reading tons about it. There is no community here where I live though. I decided, since I already blog, to search for Quaker blogs and you came up. Looking forward to “digging through your barn” here!

  18. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I am a resident of Plainfield, Indiana, home of the Quakers! The Friends Meeting House on the Main Street gets some visits from us for the yearly festival and their very nice flower beds!

  19. Kia ora Jnana

    Thx for the comment on my blog; End Drug War in Aotearoa/NZ
    sounds like you are a man of knowledge, on this topic & much more

    Take Care
    Zedd in NZ 🙂

  20. Thank you so much for flattering my by following my blog. I do not routinely follow back but in your case I find myself immediately intrigued and will very much look forward to exploring your work at leisure. So welcome to mine as I welcome myself to yours!

    1. Sometimes I imagine our all living in the same community. Of course, if we could get together over coffee or a beer, we’d never get around to blogging — but what lively conversations we’d have.

      1. It’s all about balance in the end …. something I strive for but seldom achieve. Beer, coffee, wine – all should be enjoyed with lively discussion (the French are particularly good at understanding that discussion and debate are a vital part of growth) so hold that thought … where there’s a will, there’s a way so they say (whoever they may be)

    1. Somehow, seems I’ve always had intense eyes, or so people have told me in the past. They have changed over the years, though.
      Must admit it was rather strange going through my WordPress Reader and having me stare back at me!
      Michael’s done remarkable work for what seems like forever now.

  21. I stumbled into your barn last night when it came up in a search on stone soup and I am delighted to find a fellow traveller – a voice that I could so easily connect with and one that did such justice to describing the mystery and power that is the Quaker meeting for worship. My own Quaker journey as a birthright Friend, and then as an adult making an independent considered choice, has wandered and wondered – both in doubt and in awe.

    I have been challenged in recent years to find my place yet keep returning, by one path or another, to what is fundamental to who I am. In today’s world I know that it is essential that I remember to look for That of God that exists in all, for it is too easy to judge the insanity that seems to prevail. I can’t help but think that my stumble last night might be guided by a gentle push – a reminder that we all must nurture the spiritual within so we can fully involve in the journey without.

    Thank you for opening your doors wide and sharing so generously. I would that we could, in the words of my blog, put food on the table and sit down together for a time – perhaps with a glass or two of good Tasmanian pinot! Meanwhile I will quietly enjoy the Barn and voice you have placed in my head.

  22. It’sd refreshing to read a blog where the author knows how to write. I guess I belong to one of the last generations of students that were taught the proper method. Love your blog!

  23. Hello. My book, May the Owl Call Again, A Return to Poet John Meade Haines, 1924-2011, will be published by Cirque Press, Anchorage in 2023. It highlights the last 2 years of John Haines’ life with his words, writings, and “Dear Rachel” letters. You may be interested in it. If so please let me know. My email is rachelepstein2@gmail.com. 2024 will mark the 100th anniversary of his birth and I would like more people become aware of John Haines’ extraordinary contributions to American literature.

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