Strictly speaking, Katherine May's Wintering is not so much about nature per se but about finding joy in low seasons. And speaking of fallow seasons, May does not only refer to that cold and dampness we now witness outside our windows. She also – if not mostly – speaks about facing our own gloomy, sad and moody days. As May puts it, "We must learn to invite the winter in. That is what this book is about: learning to recognise the process, engage with it mindfully, even to cherish it. We may never choose to winter, but we can choose how." Reading this book is like slipping under a soft protective cover and finally finding joy in cold weather and slow days. Somewhere in between a philosophical essay and a memoir, this book may be just what you need to get through this low season and maybe, who knows, find joy in it.
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.
Praise and awards
“Proves that there is grace in letting go, stepping back and giving yourself time to repair in the dark…May is a clear-eyed observer and her language is steady, honest and accurate—capturing the sense, the beauty and the latent power of our resting landscapes.” —Wall Street Journal
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