Wintering by Katherine May
An intimate, revelatory book exploring the ways we can care for and repair ourselves when life knocks us down.
Sometimes you slip through the cracks: unforeseen circumstances like an abrupt illness, the death of a loved one, a breakup, or a job loss can derail a life. These periods of dislocation can be lonely and unexpected. For May, her husband fell ill, her son stopped attending school, and her own medical issues led her to leave a demanding job. Wintering explores how she not only endured this painful time but embraced the singular opportunities it offered.
A moving personal narrative shot through with lessons from literature, mythology, and the natural world, May’s story offers instruction on the transformative power of rest and retreat. Illumination emerges from many sources: solstice celebrations and dormice hibernation, C.S. Lewis and Sylvia Plath swimming in icy waters, and sailing arctic seas.
Ultimately Wintering invites us to change how we relate to our own fallow times. May models an active acceptance of sadness and finds nourishment in deep retreat, joy in the hushed beauty of winter, and encouragement in understanding life as cyclical, not linear. A secular mystic, May forms a guiding philosophy for transforming the hardships that arise before the ushering in of a new season.
November 10th, 2020
Non-Fiction Self Help/Memoir/Mental Health
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This book…while small, is quite mighty and offers powerful wisdom about “wintering” as a verb. We all have harder seasons of life, both literally and figuratively, and learning to lean into these darker times can actually be a good thing.
While reading, I had to stop myself many times from taking my marker and highlighting passage after passage, because it is just felt too beautiful to mark up, but maybe that is part of the problem in itself.
Through personal narrative, author Katherine May shares “the transformative power of rest and retreat…and invites us to change how we relate to our own fallow times.”
Even though our lives have slowed down in many ways during the last year, there is still the quiet worry…of feeling like we aren’t good enough, at work or at home, as partners, as parents, as friends, and as people. While this pandemic has affected us all, some much more than others, it has united in many ways through this prolonged season of wintering.
“If we don’t allow ourselves the fundamental honesty of our own sadness, then we miss an important cue to adapt…There will be moments when we’re riding high and moments when we can’t bear to get out of bed. Both are normal. Both in fact, require a little perspective.” –Katherine May, Wintering
Acknowledging the hard, our missteps and worries not only within ourselves but with each other open the door. Not only for us to see more of the good, but also to have more compassion for ourselves, real connection with one another, and more awareness for the world around us. Acknowledging the dark also allows us for closure and the ability to usher in a new season when it comes.
If happiness is a skill, then sadness is, too. Perhaps through all those years at school, or perhaps through other terrors, we are taught to ignore sadness, to stuff it down into our satchels and pretend it isn’t there. As adults, we often have to learn to hear the clarity of its call. That is wintering. It is the active acceptance of sadness. It is the practice of allowing ourselves to feel it as a need. It is the courage to stare down the worst parts of our experience and to commit to healing them the best we can. Wintering is a moment of intuition, our true needs felt keenly as a knife.-Katherine May, Wintering
*Thank you to Phoenix Books, where I purchased this copy
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