Sam Radford

May 4, 2021

Book Notes: “Wintering” by Katherine May

I mentioned that I was reading Wintering a few weeks ago. And I did something I never normally do: recommended a book I hadn’t yet read. Thankfully, having now read the book, I am not going to need to withdraw said recommendation! 

May’s book is a beautiful and evocative rumination on winter. Using both literal and metaphorical reflections, she navigates poetically through the wonders and trials of winter. 

It’s tempting to view winter negatively.  But winter is good! It may not be a time when we flourish. And it’s not a season of high productivity. But it is still full of life in its own way. As May writes, ’transformation is the business of winter’.

It may all be happening out of sight, but winter changes us and prepares us. In May’s words:

Life goes on abundantly in winter, and this is where changes are made that usher us into future glories.

Sadly, when our lives are going through a period of winter, many of us feel the need to hide it. Because we perceive it as a negative season, we either try and avoid it all together or, when that fails, prevent anyone around us from knowing.

As a result, it’s a season many of us traverse through alone. Often cowering under shame.

But without winter, there can be no spring. And, try as we might, life cannot all be lived in spring and summer. We’ll burnout. We need to go through autumn and winter in order to thrive again. It’s normal and healthy! The sooner we learn to respect the seasons of life, the sooner we’ll discover what true flourishing looks like.

If like me, you’ve tried to resist winter at times, this book will encourage you to embrace it. To learn its lessons. To make space for the types of growth that can only happen out of sight.

You’ll be inspired too by May’s stories and insights into the animals and trees and plants and how they change through winter; how this bleakest of seasons can still be so full of life.

Let me finish with a quote from the epilogue, capturing the essence of this book:

At its base this is not a book about beauty, but about reality. It is about noticing what’s going on, and living it. That’s what the natural world does: it carries on surviving. Sometimes it flourishes – lays on fat, garlands itself in leaves, makes abundant honey – and sometimes it pares back to the very basics of existence in order to keep living. It doesn’t do this once, resentfully, assuming that one day it will get things right and everything will smooth out. It winters in cycles, again and again, forever and ever. For plants and animals, winter is part of the job. The same is true for humans. 

So grab a nice hot drink. Settle down into your favourite chair. And slow down for a while. Let this book walk you through winter.

–Sam

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