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No-one escapes winter and that’s not a bad thing

How are you wintering this challenging season?

The snow, the rain, the cold, the isolation, is it getting you down?

Winter can be a difficult time, one who’s effect shouldn’t be underestimated; but it can also be a season of rest and growth, when our roots reach deeper to stabilize the new dreams we’ll chase after come spring.

In her best-selling book, Wintering, Katherine May highlights the inevitability of winter in our lives, meaning the season when the world slows down and retreats inward, but also the life seasons when we experience a more personal retreat.

These are the times, she writes, when we’re ill, between jobs, feeling grief and loss, or facing other life-changing events that demand our full focus.

May’s message is that, though we may try to avoid these winters, that won’t work. It’s better to embrace them, acknowledging and allowing them to touch us as they will, and ultimately, use them for the opportunity to rest and repair ourselves that they bring.

We may fear it, but we’re not alone in our winters, May says. Never that, for winter touches everyone.

“We like to imagine,” she writes, “that it’s possible for life to be one eternal summer, and that we have uniquely failed to achieve that for ourselves. We dream of an equatorial habitat, forever close to the sun; an endless, unvarying high season. But life’s not like that.”

Life, including winter, is cyclical, she says, and returns regularly.

This message isn’t meant to be fatalistic, but an acknowledgement of the important role that the season - a time of scaling back, culling what’s not needed, and seeding a new time - plays.

“We have seasons when we flourish and seasons when the leaves fall from us, revealing our bare bones. Given time, they grow again,” May notes.

May’s book is a window into her own journey through a personal winter, paired with an exploration of the unique beauty the season holds. She writes about trips to the Arctic to see the Northern Lights, cold-weathering swimming, and how humans and other species prepare for colder, less-abundant times.

Mostly, May calls us to be present to winter, an incredibly timely message now as we all experience some degree of wintering in our lives.

Like all seasons, winter will end, she notes, by which she doesn’t so much mean just wait and you’ll get through it, as she does, pay attention, don’t miss what’s beautiful and meaningful here.

Whether your winter is due to the time of year we’re in, the pandemic and isolation it has brought, or a particularly challenging life event, there will be benefits for you. From this space, you can emerge stronger and able to share your new gifts with others.

“We who have wintered have learned some things,” May writes. “We sing it out like birds. We let our voices fill the air.”

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