Dip your toes into author Katherine May’s comforting memoir, Wintering, with us. A gentle exploration of how to lean into the “fallow” periods in life, it reflects on ways to recharge, repair and find solace in nature, making it the perfect tonic to carry you through to spring.
Thrown into turmoil by illness and family strife, May documents her year-long journey through a literal and spiritual ‘winter’ to brighter days in this poignant meditation on weathering life’s storms.
Whether it’s her descriptions of the high that swimming in the freezing sea brings or the lessons she learns from a hibernating dormouse, May’s writing about the healing powers of the natural world aligns perfectly with our founding conviction that time outside makes us feel better inside – and that nature offers the ultimate balm for frayed nerves.
The refuge May finds in simple rituals – reading, baking, resting – chimes with our focus on kindness and self-care, too. Be it a restorative bath or a contemplative moment accompanied by botanical scent, we’re all for embracing a slower pace.
Read on for a flavour of this beautiful book, and let her curative words carry you through to the coming spring…
[From Wintering, by Katharine May]
Our knowledge of winter is a fragment of childhood, almost innate: we learn about it in the surprising cluster of novels and fairy tales that are set in the snow. All the careful preparations that animals make to endure the cold, foodless months; hibernation and migration, deciduous trees dropping leaves. This is no accident. The changes that take place in winter are a kind of alchemy, an enchantment performed by ordinary creatures to survive: dormice laying on fat to hibernate; swallows navigating to South Africa; trees blazing out the final weeks of autumn. It is all very well to survive the abundant months of the spring and summer, but in winter, we witness the full glory of nature flourishing in lean times.
Plants and animals don’t fight the winter; they don’t pretend it’s not happening and attempt to carry on living the same lives that they lived in the summer. They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through.
Winter is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximising scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency and vanishing from sight; but that’s where the transformation occurs. Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible.
Once we stop wishing it were summer, winter can be a glorious season when the world takes on a sparse beauty, and even the pavements sparkle. It’s a time for reflection and recuperation, for slow replenishment, for putting your house in order.
In this book, I set out to understand winter by talking to those who know it intimately: the Finns who start preparing to winter in August, for example; or the people of Tromsø in Norway who don’t see the sun from November to January. I will meet people who have lived through illness, failure, isolation and despair, and have come out renewed, and the people who work most closely with the brutal processes of the natural world. I’ll explore how to prepare for winter, how to endure its bleakest days, and, finally, how to emerge again into the spring.
Doing those deeply unfashionable things – slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting – are radical acts these days, but they are essential. This is a crossroads we all know, a moment when you need to shed a skin. If you do, you’ll expose all those painful nerve endings, and feel so raw that you’ll need to take care of yourself for a while. If you don’t, then that old skin will harden around you.
It’s one of the most important choices you’ll ever make.