As every Midwesterner knows, February is when it gets real. The cold sets in, the snows come, and with every gray, dreary day winter feels as if it will never end. Whether by coincidence or not, we recently listened to the On Being podcast episode featuring Katharine May, “How Wintering Replenishes” and thought it was full of timely ideas.
Katherine May defines her concept of “Wintering” as “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.”
Describing the necessities of sleep and spare time as “deeply unfashionable” is as funny as it is spot-on. Isn’t it odd how we resist these basic life needs? Even when shorter days and longer nights make more rest seasonally (and biologically) appropriate, we still struggle against natural rhythms.
May draws the comparison; “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.”
It often seems as if modern life goes out of its way to ignore nature and natural rhythms. We live by the clock, by obligations, to-dos, and by scheduled tasks. During these blustery and monochromatic Ohio days, perhaps we can slow down a bit and synch (or sink) ourselves with and into the pace of the season, allowing for some space and some gentleness.
May beautifully explains “the changes that take place in winter are a kind of alchemy, an enchantment performed by ordinary creatures to survive.”
This calls to mind a period of hibernation and renewal. Wintering is not a permanent state of being but a season or a phase, one which, as May discusses, will likely repeat again and again throughout our lives.
May shares the lessons learned during her child’s struggles in school by saying “…we had to spend some time together, learning to Winter, teaching him how to acknowledge this time and to see it as a narrative arc, almost: to see it as something that wasn’t permanent, but it was a process he was working through, and he was learning something about himself and what he needed.”
The recognition and acceptance of Wintering as a phase deserving of rest and leniency is a learning process. May challenges us to consciously recognize the need to retreat and then allow for ourselves a period of Wintering, of rest and replenishment.
I wish for you peace in each day and joy in your body.
Here is the link to the On Being podcast episode number 1,012 with Katharine May, “How Wintering Replenishes” from 1-21-21.