Early morning frost tints the ground white. The orchard is still, waiting for the frozen fog to lift. I open the heavy crossed arms of the cast-iron woodstove, let down the door and peer inside. Piles of cold ash – thin, grey weightless remnants of last night’s blaze, are of too little substance to be gathered up – flakes that dissolve into a fine grey mist at the slightest touch, unlike the hard, brown dirt clods shaken loose from the deep treads of my boots that I sweep daily into neat little piles.
Outside, the dead leaves keep coming. There is no stopping them from falling on the lawn. Our home, which butts up against a yard of large diesel trucks, used to be a dairy farm – front yard the pasture for grazing and the red barn where the cows got milked. Now the barn is home to our landlord’s odd collection of vintage cars and rusty junk. Yet a pair of barn owls finds the abandoned barn to their liking, and raises a family or two every summer, filling the night air with the vibrant hissing of their young.
Inside the neglected barn dusty cobwebs cover the ceilings and walls. Outside, vertical siding planks are faded and worn with spots of gray wood showing through. The planks pull apart from one another readily, leaving black gaps in between like old teeth rotting and getting ready to fall out. Adorned with rusty corrugated roofing sheets of cold rolled steel panels about to peel off, the roof clatters to the big-band sound of windy afternoons.
Outside, long, snaky tendrils of thorny blackberry swaddle the cabs of a dozen big-rig trucks now abandoned in the yard. Rain-soaked turkeys slink past brown tangles of vine in the sleeping vineyard. A lone frog croaks to the strengthening wind just outside my window. Hard packed dirt of the lane softens to mud and tire tracks melt to puddles. Yesterday’s yardwork comes undone as wet piles of dead brown leaves rearrange themselves across the lawn.