The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times

256 pages

English language

Published Dec. 3, 2020 by Penguin Publishing Group.


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4 stars (6 reviews)

Sometimes you slip through the cracks: unforeseen circumstances like an abrupt illness, the death of a loved one, a break up, or a job loss can derail a life. These periods of dislocation can be lonely and unexpected. For May, her husband fell ill, her son stopped attending school, and her own medical issues led her to leave a demanding job. Wintering explores how she not only endured this painful time, but embraced the singular opportunities it offered.

A moving personal narrative shot through with lessons from literature, mythology, and the natural world, May's story offers instruction on the transformative power of rest and retreat. Illumination emerges from many sources: solstice celebrations and dormice hibernation, C.S. Lewis and Sylvia Plath, swimming in icy waters and sailing arctic seas.

Ultimately Wintering invites us to change how we relate to our own fallow times. May models an active acceptance of sadness and …

6 editions

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

3 stars

Calling low points in life "wintering" definitely attracted me to this book. I like the cyclical aspect of the metaphor, its opposition with the notion of an eternal summer that we should aspire to even though it's impossible, but after reading this book, I have mixed feelings about it.

On one hand, I highlighted several passages, on the other hand most of the time the author's sensitivity or comparisons did nothing for me. I felt like the book remained a collection of loosely connected autobiographical passages, comparisons with animals like dormice, robins or wolves, and a few interviews of people who went through their own winters. But it never became more than the sum of its parts.

Review of 'Wintering' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

It's a lovely book to read for the season. Wintering is not just about how we survive winter - it's about how we survive when our life "winters" and we need to rest. Society doesn't really easily support those who need to recuperate, but Mays argues this isn't something that may happen - it's part of the natural cycle of life. Just as animals winter, so do humans. As part of her exploration, she catalogs some winter celebrations, including celebrating Yule at Stonehenge with the pagans, Saint Lucia's celebration, seeing the Aurora Borealis in person, and, of course, she discusses the practice of hygge.

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3 stars
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4 stars