On December 7, 2022

Exploring the forests under moonlight

By Merisa Sherman

It was dark as I pulled into the parking lot, but a beautiful glow from the almost full moon lit up the trees that surrounded the lot. The clouds prevented a perfectly clear night, giving the sky an almost eiry Halloween feeling — even though we are almost two months past. With temperatures in the 40s, it certainly doesn’t feel like winter, but the only thing that means is that the footwear I’m wearing is a lot lighter and more comfortable.

Some Decembers, I would have skis on my feet at this given location, but not this time. I had new hiking sneakers on that I had bought on sale illegally – meaning that I bought myself something after Nov. 1, the official stop buy date in our family for the holidays. But my other ones were hurting me and these were on a super Black Friday sale.

Anyways, the parking lot started to fill up with headlamps as the ladies gathered their belongings from the trunks and backseats of their cars. More cars pulled in and more headlamps bounced around in the parking lots. It was like a collection of fireflies, but with jackets and yaktrax instead of wings.

As the ladies finished their prep, they gathered in the huddle underneath the one overhead lamp left on this late in the evening. We were definitely a mishmashed group, with a cacophony of gear and approaches to adventuring in the night, but that is what makes this group so wonderfully fun. Some wore hats with down jackets bundled up to their chin, while others looked like they were out for an evening stroll down Church Street. I loved it.

Because the ladies had gathered. Gathered as a group to explore the Vermont forests in the dark under a moonlit sky. On the open trail, we never even needed our headlamps except to double check the shiny spots for black ice so we could walk around rather than end up on our bums. But it was beautiful, this group of women walking someplace together that individually we might not ever experience.

And the conversation just flowed. Women who had never met each other before that night, joined in conversation from one topic to another. As we ascended the mountain, we found common ground with each of our new adventure buddies and found the differences so very interesting.

We were women from all over New England, who had chosen to live in the Killington area at one point in our lives and for so many different reasons. It was fascinating. While our reasons for being here were often severe different, the love we had for the area and the adventures available here were very, very similar. At one point, I even overheard someone say that those the home office would never be able to comprehend that the woman hiking in the woods at night is the same woman they see on the company zoom calls and in the rare in person meetings.

Many years ago, I first read a most wonderful anthropologic study by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, “Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archtype.”  It was a study of stories, of folklore passed down by grandmothers and mothers for generations. But she also points out how these stories have morphed over the years, changing these women from the powerful crone filled with all the knowledge of nature and the world to the weakened, disconnected from the earth and subservient to a system that objectifies the female form.

I wish I could remember when I read this book because it changed the way I look at life. After having read this, I began to recommit myself to nature and listen to the world around me. I started walking in the woods, at all hours of the day and observing what was around me rather than burying myself in the songs on my walkman. I strove to be outside everyday and gather the knowledge that comes from paying attention to my surroundings.

Now, I can definitely admit to having no knowledge of herblore and that no one is knocking on my door for some potion, but I know the earth around me. I know the trees and the rocks in these mountains, where they are, how they have changed over the years and I listen when the forest talks to me. I can feel the spirit of the mountains deep in my bones and that connection makes me stronger. Because, in every woman, lives “a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity and ageless knowing.”

While in many parts the world, the Wild Woman is becoming extinct, in Vermont we bring this woman forward. We surround ourselves with wise women and the earth, and we celebrate. Together. By walking through the forest at night.

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