9th January, 2022

Review: Wintering by Katherine May (Riverhead Books)

As Forrest Gump already said: "Life is like a box of chocolate. You never know what you're gonna get." Or as the synopsis of Katherine May's books explains: "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."

I began reading this book in late November so, even though it is only 250 pages long, it took me a while to finish it. I took my time on purpose, because I wanted to give this memoir the attention it deserves while also trying to already implement some of May's basic ideas into my own life. The concept of wintering is generally described as an involuntary dark time in life when everything slows down out of necessity - a time that can be challenging and even depressing. However, as May explores the many ways in which we can take the good out of times like these, I started thinking about selfcare and the little things that we often take for granted. What I took away from this wonderful book was not just the thought that life is a cyclical journey from bad to good to bad to good times over and over again. I also took away the lesson to be more mindful of the good things in general, to appreciate them more, to enjoy the tiny moments of bliss - even if they are just somethings as banal as a warm ray of sunshine on your face on an otherwise rainy day. May refers to ideas from literature, mythology, and the natural world, offering instruction on the transformative power of rest and retreat. From solstice celebrations and dormice hibernation, C.S. Lewis and Sylvia Plath, swimming in icy waters and sailing arctic seas - May finds illumination in many different ways.

Wintering is a book that will make you think about your own strategies of dealing with fallow times. In our world, where it is expected to always "push through" and where most people tend to find distraction from their real problems, May's memoir invites us to change how we relate to our own tough 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."

Rating: 5/5 stars

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