It’s the height of Summer here (albeit a cooler, wetter one) and I am contemplating the process of Wintering! Since the cochlear implant, I have become an enthusiastic podcast listener. And Krista’s Tippet’s On Being is a favourite. recently I listened to this one. It was about Wintering and Krista spoke with Katherine May who defines Wintering as:
the active acceptance of sadness. It is the practice of allowing ourselves to feel it as a need. It is the courage to stare down the worst parts of our experience and to commit to healing them the best we can. Wintering is a moment of intuition, our true needs felt keenly as a knife.
She acknowledges that there can be self punishing ways to be sad and self salving ways to be sad. Wintering is distinguishing between them. I loved Katherine’s descriptions of the process and the links between the metaphor of Winter and being.
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 they lived in the summer. They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through. Wintering is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximizing 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.
It’s a time for reflection and recuperation, for slow replenishment, for putting your house in order. Doing these deeply unfashionable things — slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting — is a radical act now, but it’s essential.
Having been through times of Wintering, there was a deep sense of relief and gratitude that the circumstances of my upbringing, reading, experiences etc meant that I think I was able to be sad wisely. Not necessarily through any wisdom on my own part but because those other things fell together. I was forces to see there was no other way. Sure there were the moments of kicking and screaming and rejection and denial but ultimately I think that I am learning about how to Winter. the cycles of life; the need to make rest part of every day in some form. Tippet spoke for me when she said:
I really recognized myself in some of the ways you described the self that you were reflecting on, …You were forced to stop. You were forced to go inward. You were forced to slow down and seek replenishment, as much survival as anything that would feel luxurious, as you say. And I have to say, I recognize in what you describe, also reflection I’ve been doing and would not have forced myself to this kind of stop, but that the pandemic forced. But I’m trying to take this wintering moment, both the season and in our culture, to try to get really clear in myself who I do want to be on the other side, how I want to live on the other side.
Again, I recognize myself so much. You say, “People admired me for how much I got done. I lapped it up, but felt secretly that I was only trying to keep pace with everyone else, and they seemed to be coping better.” [laughs] I felt like that all the time, for so many years of my life.
Goodness me. This all links with acknowledging my need for laziness (I still wish there was a better word! Spaciousness is growing on me). I plan to order the book and really loved both the On Being podcast and Katherine May’s own podcast here. These images are from a magical Winter morning walk on Mt Ainslie in August last year.