I can see January from our front porch.
It’s the field in front of our house, that starts where the slope of the front yard ends; void of any crops, brown with mud and mowed-over grass, untouched by a tractor since October. It’s the blanket of frost on the yard and the field and the dirt road, glistening in the rising sun, soon to melt away. It’s the red truck disappearing down the frosty driveway, leaving a cloud of exhaust hanging, suspended in the freezing air. It’s the tree line beyond the field, silhouetted against the pink morning sky, all trunks and branches and limbs, giving way to farm land on the other side. It’s the rocky creek bed that snakes through these trees, home to actual running water now, after The Year of Rain Forever and Ever, Amen.
January is the five-acre ocean of strawberries that I see on the other side of the tree line. It is tens of thousands of berry plants sleeping under beds of white row covers, whose billows and ripples under gusts of wind give it the appearance of white-capped waves on the ocean before a storm. January is the men I see, later in the day, bent over against the cold, walking the fields to check the row covers for holes, tears, and corners escaped from the rock bags that pin them to the hard ground. It’s the white wall of the open barn at the end of the old curved field, with the huge walls of logs stacked precisely by size, waiting to be burned.
January is the red roof of the picnic shelter that I see, reprieve from the sun for strawberry pickers young and old. It is towers of wooden picnic tables stacked under the shelter, awaiting the return of picnicking and picking season. January is the small house I see beyond the fields and the picnic shelter, with a hint of movement by the front door. It’s the elderly – only in numbers, not in wit – man stepping outside to retrieve the newspaper that was thrown a hundred yards down the driveway, past another barn and the shop and the greenhouse and the other house. He drives his car to get the paper, because it’s January.
January is the woodsmoke I can smell from my front porch when the wind is blowing just the right way. It is the smoke I see, through the trees, past the fields and the house and the barn and the shop, reaching over the trees and curling into the sky like a beacon of winter. It is the end of the greenhouse that is just visible, where twelve hundred tomato plants are growing, climbing towards the roof and sun and springtime. It is the glimmer of an orange Kubota through the trees, carrying wood from the barn to feed the wood stove that heats the greenhouse that grows the tomatoes.
January is the metallic flicker of cars that I can just make out between the trees, flying down the road that lies past the fields and barns and greenhouse–a sight that is far impeded by leaves nine months of the year. It is the gleam of a red truck against all the winter brown, turning gravel as it leaves the farm. It is the sun setting low on a cold field, vacant but for four deer that dive back into the trees as the red truck turns the corner towards the front porch. It is the man walking toward me whose beard and clothes permanently smell of earth and woodsmoke, because it is January.
Tonight, I can see January from my front porch. Between the trees, I see lights twinkling faintly in the distance, shining from the little house and from the street light by the shop, as if to say goodnight. Until tomorrow, that brings a new month and a front porch view that changes little by little as we, like the vines in the greenhouse, climb towards spring.