I finally finished Katherine May‘s Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times. I say “finally,” because while I normally read fast, I savored this book. Saved it for bedtime each night, snuggled up under our three fleece blankets (we keep our house very cold), with book light to allow dark to curl and nestle around me.
Wintering was loaned to me by a friend, and so instead of taking pencil to it like I do my own books, I kept a pad of sticky notes nearby.
I love winter. Have as far back as memory goes. I think this love may come from my Northern European and Russian ancestors, people to whom winter was a devout reality. (My parents and sister do not love it, so perhaps I received a quadruple genetic dose.) This pandemic year, and the last two months of it in particular, have felt like May’s idea of wintering to me—more than at any other time in my life. My list of life’s recent tough items likely looks like many people’s.
Wintering, May says, can happen throughout the year. She calls it, “a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world … sidelined,” resulting from a “an illness or life event,” “a period of transition,” or—my favorite—a falling “between worlds.” May speaks of wintering, however, as inevitable, vital, and true. She tells us “wisdom resides in those who have wintered,” and that, something I have believed my whole life: “the cold renders everything exquisite.” That it offers us “liminal spaces to inhabit.”
As someone who feels most at home, most true, in liminal spaces both abstract and concrete—places many folks (and definitely society at large) tend to find odd and even dangerous, I got this book. Better yet, it got me.
There’s no better time to read Wintering than in the true winter of this pandemic year.