“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 that they lived in the summer. They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through.

Winter 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.”

Katherine May

Last weekend, I went on a yoga retreat, one focused on honouring Winter Solstice. The women running the event decided to hold the retreat in January even though Winter Solstice is the third week in December. Their reasoning? December is an extremely busy month, and early January felt more appropriate somehow. My busyness lasted well into January, so retreating at the end of that first week was the perfect fit for me.

The day was about letting go, slowing down and getting still, something that doesn’t always come easily to many of us. Katherine May talks about this in her book, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times. While I’ve only just started reading it, the book encourages us to find joy in the quiet of winter and accept life as cyclical, not linear. She writes: In winter, I want concepts to chew over in a pool of lamplight – slow, spiritual reading, a reinforcement of the soul. Winter is a time for libraries, for the muffled quiet of book stacks, and for the scent of old pages and dust.

I’m not so sure about old pages and dust, but the idea of slow, spiritual reading and libraries definitely resonates. As I write this, the wind is howling and the rain is lashing at the skylight; it’s a day to curl up inside. Writers – probably most artists when I think about it – are comfortable with solitude. I certainly am; I need it to do my work. For the last six months or so, though, I’ve been out in the world far more than usual, and it upended my natural rhythm and definitely negatively impacted my writing. So, for me, ‘wintering,’ pulling the metaphorical shades and getting back in touch with the cyclical nature of life and of my creative muse, feels appropriate.

Not everyone likes winter; I realize that. For those of you who find this season difficult, I leave you with this quote from John Geddes:

6 thoughts on “Wintering

  1. I don’t mind winter except for the cold and the snow! But I do agree with viewing it as part of the cycle. I love being able to ignore the garden and curl up with a book on a dark, stormy winters eve.

    1. There is kind of a relief in the garden pause for me, especially this year. I’m embracing the down time and more inward stretch!

  2. I love snow days — those unexpected holidays from the usual rush of life. That’s when a good book, a cozy fire and a hot drink are guilt-free pleasures. Months of winter — not so much! I grew up in snow country and well remember how I longed to shed my winter boots and go outside in shoes.

    1. I can relate, Alice. I had less appreciation for winter those five years I lived in Winnipeg. It seemed to stretch on endlessly. Much happier with the few months we get here on the west coast.

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