There is a peaceful place you can find if you drive past the malls and stores bustling with holiday shoppers. It is beyond the houses with candles in the windows, lights in the pines and smoke curling from the chimneys. Keep going, past the snow-covered fields and quiet barns, and you'll find it — a place where you can find the true peace of the season.
A hike under the light of the full moon on ground covered with a mantle of white is my favorite thing to do in the natural world. Whether it is December's "cold" moon, January's "wolf" moon or February's "snow" moon, there is no other time in my life where I feel totally at peace in the natural world, the silence only occasionally broken by the distant hoot of an owl or branches scraping against each other in the wind.
Although any field, deep forest or patch of woods will do, I always like to go on my moonlight stroll to a place where there is a view of a city in the distance. The Granby Land Trust's Mary Edwards Mountain Property, with its view of Springfield and Mount Tom, was the perfect place to go on the eve of the full cold moon – a December rarity for the past few years.
When I first wrote about the 200-acre preserve tucked away in the northwest corner of town, I described it as having the spirit of the late Mary Edwards running through it. And that spirit, on a bitter cold December night, felt no different than on my hot and steamy July 2008 visit.
As I left the comfort of my warm car and crunched my way across the crusty snow, the moonlight turned the landscape into a field of tiny diamonds. Trees, stripped of their summer leaves and autumn color, cast skeletal shadows across the barren landscape. The sky above was void of all stars except for the brightest planets.
With the moon slowly coming up over the horizon, the snowy field was illuminated with the warm city lights of Springfield and Holyoke laying a frosty glow in the valley. A line of footprints led me into the forest to a huge boulder known as "Mary's Rock." As I stood alone on the rock, I looked out upon the distant town and city lights swallowed up in the vastness of the night.
Hiking under the full moon dates back to my childhood and a lonely pond in the middle of the woods. I spent each winter waiting for the perfect moonlit night to go ice skating. With my skates slung over my shoulder, I dashed into the forest, with every sound echoing in the cold night. Whether the bright moon was illuminating the ice in a snow-less forest or turning night into day reflecting off the sparkling snow cover, the peace and quiet of those frosty nights is something I will never forget.
The late New York Times outdoors columnist Hal Borland once wrote: "No night is quite so dark as it seems, once you explore it; no night is without its familiar voices, once you are prepared to listen." So hike the natural world by the light of a full moon this winter and find your own peace on earth.
The Mary Edwards Mountain Property is located along Mountain Road (Route 539) west of its junction with Route 189. A parking area is located west of Donahue Road. Visit http://www.granbylandtrust.org/MaryEdwardsTrailGdFinal2.pdf for a map of the preserve.Copyright © 2015, CT Now