The new moon rides in a haze of cloud, and the mountain on the horizon holds the last of the twilight. I’ve never seen the sky like this at home before. The slope looks translucent and vast, out in the dark along the Hoosic River. And I’m looking for times like this … time to breathe.

The holiday season this year seems to have come quickly and quietly. As I walk through downtowns, feeling for the rhythm of the season, I’m not finding lavish performances, but local shops gather energy, and they can still surprise me.

I came to Windy Hill for winterberry and apples for homemade pie and found eight or ten kinds, some familiar and some I’d never seen before — macouns and mutsus and golden fruit.

What draws me in this year is what feels natural. What keeps me in touch with life. You may find this holiday space leaning toward scents and textures, woodsmoke, beeswax smelling of honey, balsam fir. You may find acoustic music from many parts of the world, and work made by hand, and stories … the kinds of stories that revolve around people holding each other, owls in the winter woods, courage and wonder and the essences of things.

They are the kinds of stories I think of when I follow the burning torches down the old road at the Mount, into the woods in the dark. Light sifts like snow through the pine needles, and I imagine the mythic beings who might come to meet me here, dancing to the clear tones of the music.

Familiar celebrations are returning outdoors, and some are expanding — and the lights are on at Naumkeag. Come down to North Adams or Williamstown for their holiday walk, and you might hear the draft horses and catch a ride in a carriage …

For a look at some highlights I’m finding as I explore, holiday events and stories, scroll on down.
Fir trees shine with green and blue lights at Winterlights at Naumkeag.
Photo by Kate Abbott

Winterlights dance in the dark at Naumkeag

It’s full moon, and I’m walking up the hill on the old road across the fields, so I can see the hilltop above me steeped in light. The fruit trees are glowing red and gold. Naumkeag in Winterlights is bright as penny candy.

Tonight is one of those zany changes in plans that turn into serendipity — I’m here for a press walk-through, and I can’t find the right way in, so I leave the car on the main road and come up through the cemetery. … The house is above me on the hill, and I can see the whole sweep of thousand of lights.

Dorothy and Mark Alford's family chooses a tree at Crane Hill Tree Farm.
Photo by Susan Geller

Tree farms open with balsam and hot cocoa

The grass is frost-scuffed, and the afternoon light gives the bare trees a glow. We park in the field by the barn and walk up the hill carrying a bow saw. The air smells of balsam.

The baby trees on the fringes come up to our knees, but we are in among the larger ones, circling them to look from all angles. If you have ever chosen a Christmas tree with family and friends, you know this conversation — is it tall enough? You can just reach the top. It’s a little uneven, but we can shape it …

Berkshire tree farms grow spruce, fir and pine
An oil lamp burns along the entrance road at the Mount in NightWood.
Photo by Kate Abbott

NightWood glimmers with music at the Mount

The flame streams sideways in the wind. The bowl of the torch is gleaming copper — it’s an oil lamp, essentially the same as the lamps that burned in Constantinople 2000 years ago, or in the temple of the Macabees. A procession of them coil along the old dirt road here, into the dark. It’s a cold night with a full moon, and NightWood has come back to the Mount.

The lights stretch away until they’re pinpricks hidden in the trees. I’m at the top of the path through the woods to Edith Wharton’s gardens, and I can hear my own footsteps on hard-packed earth …

Firelight and music transform NightWood

For our latest holiday stories and events, have a look below …

Holiday happenings coming up …

Daphnis and Chloe whisper in a sculpture at the Clark Art Institute. Photo courtesy of the Clark
Feb 12 2023 @ 1:00 pm
Make a Valentine’s Day card for your sweetheart, friend, or family member and leave with a unique artwork that uses images from the Clark’s collection.

Berkshire holiday stories