Farmer Terry Jones contributed the following Op-Ed piece for the New Haven Register recently in recognition of the New Year, and the first full “Wolf Moon” of 2018. It’s content follows:
Seventy New Year evenings have lit the landscape of my life. Highlighted by the celestial and natural beauty of our Mother Earth, the arrival of 2018 was perhaps the most unique.
Our farmhouse is on a meadow’s edge surrounded on three sides by forest. Outdoors, the air temperature hovered near zero, and new snow blanketed the ground.
Add a clear sky and full Wolf Moon and the midnight scene of farm field and forest was profoundly beautiful. The meadows stretched away, bathed in white and bright as day. Even Orion and his faithful follower, Sirius, were nearly hidden by the brightness.
Moonlight dappled the nearby forest floor, which lay crisscrossed by the crisp, black shadows of tree trunks and limbs.
I stepped outside. For fun, I carried a book and standing at the meadow’s edge, I could clearly read by the moon’s light the print of Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden.”
The snow squeaked under foot as only it can in sub-zero temperatures. And different from most New Year beginnings was the sound of silence. No neighborhood fireworks — near or far. Humanity and nature were hunkered down for a very cold arrival of the new year, 2018.
Retreating to the warmth of our farmhouse at the edge of the woods, I sat under a shaft of moonlight spilling through the window beside Jean, my dearest friend and partner of nearly 50 years.
In a reflective spirit, we thought it fun to rest on two heirloom chairs. I sat on the colonial woven-rush seat, owned by my 5th-great grandfather, Gen. John Stark of New Hampshire.
A Revolutionary War hero, revered in the Granite State, Stark is remembered for his pithy quote, now the state motto: “Live Free or Die.” Jean settled on great-great-grandma Fanny Bunnell Jones’ well-worn Victorian rocking chair.
We shared quiet conversation mingling our thoughts with the memories we imagined these old chairs would share if only they could talk. Literally, the entire timeline of our United States since 1776 framed their existence.
Watching the moonlit world outside our window, I noticed through the woods the slim, straight shadow cast like a “moon-dial” by the tall steel shaft of the U.S. Army flagpole erected 60 years ago when the farm forest was cleared to build a Nike missile site at the height of the Cold War.
Since then, the woodlands have regrown and surrounded the flagpole, its moon shadow now lost amongst the silhouette of trees.
So many, many thoughts and memories were spawned by reflections of nature dancing on moonbeams as the wee hours of the nascent year passed while we sat on the old, historic chairs.
Because farmers tend to be practical and think in useful, real-life terms, you may wonder where this New Year’s midnight conversation led us.
RESOLUTIONS! Doctrines of hope for a better world.
Here are our guideposts for 2018. You, the thoughtful reader, may choose your order of importance.
We call our home planet “Mother Earth” for a reason. ‘Our’ mothers taught us if you make a mess, you get punished and have to clean it up. Common sense, reason, and science all dictate the importance of clean environmental practices to sustain the beauty and life-giving function of our world. Always remember: we are the caretakers and not the owners of this planet.
Invest time and resources in our children — their health, safety, and education. They are our future.
Be kind. As Dawn Hochsprung, the school principal that gave her life to her students five years ago at Sandy Hook said, “Be nice to each other…it’s all that really matters.”
Think where 2018 will take us if we cooperate on these three goals!
Terry Jones is a 5th-generation farmer in Shelton, and he serves on the Connecticut State Board of Education, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station Board of Control, and chairs Connecticut’s Working Lands Alliance.