It’s my year of reading and I’m starting strong with Wintering by Katherine May. Yes, a book about winter in the middle of winter. It sounds like going to an ice cream stand on a snowy day, sure, but it’s one of the warmest books I’ve read in a while.
“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.”
As if the title was not a giveaway, yes, this is a book about going through dark times in the literal and figurative sense. The ups-and-downs of the seasons is analagous to the ups-and-downs we all have in our lives. The essential theme being that it’s not just expected to have winters in life, times when you’re low and dormant, but that it’s essential and even something that can be appreciated.
If it sounds like a bit of a drag, don’t worry, it’s not.
“We are […] in the habit of imagining our lives to be linear; a long march from birth to death in which we mass our powers, only to surrender them again, all the while slowly losing our youthful beauty. This is a brutal untruth. Life meanders like a path through the woods. We have seasons when we flourish, and seasons when the leaves fall from us, revealing our bare bones. Given time, they grow again.“
(As a side note, there is a great article from a few year ago called As Winters Shrink, Our Discontent Grows related to this theme that I recommend)
The book is organized into “monthly” sections starting with October, November, etc and each consists of a few stories of remarkable events, habits, and rituals that humans and mother nature (or both) take part in during the season.
I learned about Iceland, sauna, bees, the druids, Stonehenge, aurora borealis, and wolves, among other fascinating thing and, AND (!) there is a section about swimming in the winter that made me smile, just because I love cold water.
“Gazing back at the water, I had the urge to do it all over again, to go back and exist in those few, crystalline seconds in the intense cold. My blood seemed to sparkle in my veins. I was certain that I could conquer it a second time around, could tolerate a little longer in that frozen claw. ‘That was brilliant,’ I gasped.”
In between all of this the author weaves their own story of a woman, mother, and wife relating to their past and present with the realization that winter is a restorative and essential element of our natural yearly cycle and, ultimately, our lives as humans.
“I am often taut with worry, and sometimes feel as though we’re only a footstep away from chaos. But I have to hold my nerve, for fear of passing on my chronic sense of unbelonging in this world. I don’t feel up to the task. I wonder, for the thousandth time this year, whether I’m good enough.”
Wintering was a surprising book and a great way to kick off 2023.