This week I’m reviewing two books with the same main title: Wintering. Monday, I reviewed Wintering: A Season With Geese by Stephen Rutt.
There is so much interest in this book in our COVID-stymied world that I pulled up the Amazon sample and read it. I thought it was essays–that’s why I bought it. Essays, like short stories, have been “working” for me for a change. That it is more memoir turned out to be just fine.
“Wintering is a season in the cold. It is a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of outsider….However it arrives, wintering is usually involuntary, lonely, and deeply painful. Yet it is also inevitable.”
(p. 10, Kindle edition)
The subtitle–The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, really spoke to me. Rest (sleep) and retreat (stay home) is what I, an introvert, naturally do in difficult times. I’ve never been upset to miss a party or an event with crowds. COVID, were it not for the people dying, would be pretty much perfect life for me.
“Winter is not the death of life cycle, but its crucible.” (p. 14)
Katherine May’s “winter” begins when her hale, hardy, husband is suddenly hospitalized and nearly dies. Now, wait! This isn’t an Oprah book! That’s about as depressing as it gets. Katherine’s struggles are along the same curve as most of ours. She is a mother of a little boy, was a college professor, is a writer, and has a struggle with depression. She begins to identify ways people survive their “winters”–whether physical winters (weather) or sad, lonely, or depressed times (mental). By telling these stories and, in the best womanly fashion relating her own trials and tribulations to those stories–even trying their methods of coping, we get the full picture.
I highlighted so many quotes, made notes, nodded and “yes”-ed and “yep”-ed all through this book. She strayed over into what I call “the precious” only a very few times, and only when discussing her little boy. (His name is “Bert” which in the USA would be a “please kick me sign” of a name, but “Bertie” is a very popular name in the UK–like “Archie” or “Wilf” or “Alfie” all of which dumbfound Americans).
The story that meant the most to me was a woman who suffered so badly from depression and hypermania her life was all but unlivable to her. Wanting to be “fixed” by medication she sought a revamp from her doctor. He told her he could “tweak” meds but it would not “fix” her.
“This isn’t about you getting fixed,” he said. “This is about you living the best life you can within the parameters that you have.”
This statement profoundly changed her life. She stopped trying to be like others. She discovered by chance that it severe cold offered her the greatest relief. Cold, icy water swims–frigid water swims, to be exact. The kind of swims air force pilots the world over are trained to “survive” are what gave her back her life.
I absorbed, as much as “read” this book. The stories moved me, educated me, and connected me to the season of winter. One of the beauties of reading seasonally, like eating in season, is that as I write this I am looking out my home office window at my snow-covered front yard. It increases the connection. It also moved me that author Katherine May [things may be labeled differently in the UK–I think in the USA we may not be using this anymore] has a diagnosis of Asperger s Syndrome and lives the life, as much as possible, that works just for her. This is a rare gift. Too many people cannot do this (not only do to financial realities–which impact the author), but through real or imagined pressure to conform to a societal norm that may not even exist.
Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May