Wintering | Katherine May

Summary of: Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times
By: Katherine May


Dive into the transformative lessons of ‘Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times’ by Katherine May, who shares how she embraced a new approach for dealing with personal challenges after a series of life-altering events. In this book summary, you will explore the importance of acknowledging the cyclical nature of human life, adopting the lessons from the natural world, and learning to prepare for and manage our own personal winters. The key themes you’ll discover include: accepting challenging periods in life, fostering community and resilience, and the role of rituals in dark times.

Embracing Wintering

In “Wintering,” author Katherine May shares how her life was upended by a slew of personal challenges, including her husband’s life-threatening illness, her Crohn’s diagnosis, and her son’s bullying. Through her experience, May learned to appreciate the value of wintering, a time when plants and animals slow down, rest, and regenerate. May argues that humans, too, need to embrace wintering, to take a step back from their lives to recharge and transform. In a world that prizes productivity and constant activity, May’s message serves as a reminder that challenging periods are natural and necessary.

Preparing for Winter: A Mindful Approach

Winter can be long and hard; it pays to be prepared. From Finns in Finland to people living in milder climes, winter preparations can bring its own benefits. When summer starts to end, one should begin to prepare. Engaging in slow, mindful work that creates space for reflection, like kneading dough or untangling fairy lights, can bring seasonality back into everyday life. Preparing for winter doesn’t mean pushing the cold away, but rather gathering the resources to face it.

Embracing Winter’s Call to Rest

In modern society, we resist the cold and dark of winter through indoor heating and artificial light, ignoring the natural invitation to rest that it offers. However, animals like dormice and badgers hibernate or enter a state of torpor during winter, signaling that this is a time to rest. Before the Industrial Revolution, humans also slept in shifts during long winter nights. Even now, studies show that our bodies are hardwired for periods of wakefulness during the night. By embracing winter’s call to sleep longer and allowing ourselves to linger in our dreams and meditate in the state between sleeping and wakefulness, we can experience benefits to our health and well-being.

The Power of Winter Rituals

Winter rituals are more than just celebrations, they help create solidarity and community in dark times. While most people only have a few milestones to mark the year, the Druidic calendar is patterned after the Wheel of the Year, with rituals observed every six weeks. Winter rituals are often focused on community and solidarity, recognizing that winter is a hard and brutal time. But any form of ritual connected to the calendar makes welcome space for us both to measure the passing of time and to pause and reflect. You don’t need to be a druid, or even religious, to partake in wintertime rituals. The key thing is to cultivate connection with the world, ensuring you don’t observe the darkest moments of the year alone.

Misunderstood Wolves

Wolves have been unfairly typecast as wintery villains. This summary explores the history of wolves and their depiction in popular culture. The author argues that wolves are misunderstood and unfairly feared, and encourages readers to reflect on their own wasteful habits rather than placing blame on these creatures.

Wolves have a bad reputation as wintery villains in popular culture, particularly in literature. However, this association is not accurate. Wolves are often depicted as evil foot soldiers or ominous omens of catastrophe, but they are much more complex than that. Wolves are loving partners and parents, and typically only hunt livestock during times of extreme scarcity.

Despite their positive traits, wolves have a dark history with humans. In pre-industrial times, wolves were common in both the United Kingdom and the continent, and often hunted villagers’ livestock due to hunger and lack of prey. As a species, they were widely despised and hunted. In 1272, King Edward decreed their extermination from England. By 1509, they were all but extinct.

Today, the global wolf population stands at around 300,000, with 12,000 estimated to roam Europe. Wolves are unfairly typecast as meanness and hunger symbols, but this stereotype is incorrect. They live and travel in devoted family packs, and are only driven to eat livestock during times of extreme scarcity.

So why do wolves scare us? Naturalist Barry Lopez suggests that wolves have a feast-or-famine mentality, eating and killing more than they need to prepare for the next lean time. Humans share this quality; we consume far beyond what we need and have disastrous impacts on the environment. Perhaps our loathing of wolves stems from seeing our own worst appetites reflected in them.

Ultimately, wolves are misunderstood and unfairly feared. Instead of being scared of literal or metaphorical wolves, we should reflect on our own wasteful habits and work towards a more sustainable future.

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