Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May
While not something we do a lot, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times is an intriguing companion book to all things hygge.
First, it reminds us about literal winter and the importance of finding comfort and warmth during the darkness of the season.
Second, it makes an incredible analogy for the mental and emotional darkness that overcomes us once in a while and how it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Winter is not a bad thing. Winter is a time when the land can recharge.
There are many times in our lives when we go through a Winter. For many of us, COVID-19 has been two years of winter. Instead of lamenting our times of loss, our times of unproductivity, we recognize it is our time to recuperate and reinvigorate ourselves.
Katherine May writes a compelling memoir sharing with us a time in her that filled with pain. In sharing this painful period in her life with us, we gain a new perspective on what these painful moments can mean to us.
Coming through the pandemic many of us thought we’d accomplish so much but the reality is we survived. We hibernated and huddled up with loved ones and survived. We allowed ourselves to just be. We gained weight, we didn’t learn new languages, we baked too much sourdough, we didn’t start our side hustles, and we may have experimented too much with fermented foods.
And none of it is something we should feel shame or remorse over. Our spring is coming.
Summary of the Book
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 break up, 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.
What Wintering Meant To Me
I do not have a diagnosed mental illness. I am not depressed with a capital D. I am the run-of-the-mill sort who has low periods and high periods. I have many friends who do have a diagnosis for depression and need to treat it with prescriptions and therapy.
At times, being the run-of-the-mill sort who goes through a low period in life, it feels like I am exactly the person who is supposed to “snap out of it.” I don’t have a biochemistry excuse for any of it. Yet…
Reading Wintering gave me that moment of “oh, wait, this is natural” which I desperately needed. It is normal and potentially healthy to “winter” once in a while. Slip into low-energy mode, shut out the world, and let the winter pass over me as I hibernate, preparing to emerge in a springtime hungry and energized.