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  • Writer's pictureJeanne Christie

Forest Bathing by Moonlight

A person stands in front of a path of moonlight shining across a section of Casco Bay.
Full Moon on Casco Bay

Summer has fled and fall will soon be a distant memory. But the November full moon will stay with me.

The November full moon is called the Beaver Moon because this is the time of year that beavers are retiring to their lodges for the winter where they will rest and occasionally swim under the ice to their submerged food stores of branches and other woody tree parts. It is also called the Frost Moon or Freezing Moon because the nights are colder now. The Anishinaabe called it the Whitefish Moon because whitefish spawn late in the year.

On Friday night it was clear and cold and windy until the sun eased below the horizon. Then the wind stopped, the moon rose, and as it made its way into the sky, the colors dimmed to muted greys and black.

It was my first time leading a full moon forest bathing walk and I was looking forward to it. I’ve lead night walks for many years teaching people about their night vision and the many wonders of the forest at night. But a forest therapy guided walk is a sensory walk—an opportunity to become wholly immersed in our surroundings as the sun sets and the moon rises. We have to adapt. At night the parts of our eyes cannot see color. The world turns black and white. Our other senses become keener. Smells, sounds, the feel of the earth beneath our feet; all these become more necessary—because we are relying on them. Our flashlights are stowed away for now.

The moon is just above the horizon. The sky is not quite dark, but a dusky shade of blue.
Moonrise November 2021 on a trail at Crescent Beach

We wandered slowly looking at the outlines of tree branches against the sky as the light changed. Occasionally a bird would flit among the small trees along the path. When we reached Crescent beach full darkness had descended and our quiet footsteps were accompanied by the sounds of waves bumping against the shore. The moon created a road of moonlight across the bay.

But words are inadequate. The last full moon of 2021 is December 18. It will appear full a couple days before and after too. Learn what time the moon will rise in your area. Bundle up. Bring a thermos of hot cocoa or cider and find a place in a forest or field or along a shore with a good view of the eastern sky to sit and watch the moon rise. Enjoy!

Clouds are colored mauve and blue by the moon shining behind it.
The moon lights a cloud from behind.

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