Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times
February 15, 2021 5:33 PM - by May, Katherine - Subscribe

“Wintering is a season in the cold. It is a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider. Perhaps it results from an illness or a life event such as a bereavement or the birth of a child; perhaps it comes from a humiliation or failure....However it arrives, wintering is usually involuntary, lonely, and deeply painful.” Katherine May's memoir, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, reflects on what she has learned about this life season: not avoidance, but acceptance of its inevitability, and the ways she has found to soften its impact.

Review from The Guardian: "It is a personal, original and wayward examination of the idea that, as humans, we have – and need to have – our fallow seasons, that we must learn to revel in days when the light is low."

Vulture: "Like meditation or free-range jogging, Wintering is both meandering and disciplined. It’s a memoir in the tradition of Darkness Visible or The Year of Magical Thinking, with May joining a lineage of authors writing through misery in hopes of (a) wresting control of it, or (b) stepping away from it, or (c) manufacturing a second type of misery — the misery of writing — as a decoy to trick the first. This book has to be the most accidentally fortuitous publishing event in recent history."

Kirkus Reviews: "In an intimate meditation on solitude and transformation, English journalist, essayist, and fiction writer May reflects on changes that occur, in nature and in one’s sense of self, during the cold, dark season."
posted by MonkeyToes (2 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This was a worthwhile read. I am not a fan of autobiographies or self-help books, and this is neither: it's reflective, using some personal experiences to lay out her attempt to name this period of a life. It offers her imperfect search for ways to accept and gentle it without prodding readers into particular answers. It's an essay, a try, and it's beautifully written. I liked the way May articulates how difficult this season can feel: "We must stop believing that these times in our lives are somehow silly, a failure of nerve, a lack of willpower. We must stop trying to ignore them or dispose of them. They are real, and they are asking something of us. We must learn to invite the winter in. We may never choose to winter, but we can choose how.” No forced jolliness here (and she notes how social media can make it worse, as "You got this!" reassurances begin to feel oppressive). She's been through depression. And low periods. But this time, she is keeping a record, however meandering, of her efforts to stay vital: baking; slightly fancy meals; coloring; canning. Candles and tea. Walks. A trip to Iceland. Sleep. Religious services. Druids. Sauna. Cold-water swimming. Noticing the natural world. It's not about self-improvement. It's about staying alive while apart.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:58 PM on February 15, 2021 [3 favorites]

I don't have nearly as many hour-long drives as I used to, but I was very fortunate to be trailering to some horse thingie on a Sunday a few weeks ago and caught the hour-long On Being episode that focused on this memoir. It definitely grabbed my attention and I enjoyed the interview a great deal. I huffed a little "yeah right!" at the interviewer's intro that described winter as a time to "slow down, rest, retreat." (you've got a wood stove, you know what I mean!) Last year during the winter months I did actually manage to read a book ; maybe this would be a good one to take up with what's left of this season.
posted by drlith at 6:29 AM on February 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

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