Edition 12 — Wintering Review & giveaway!
This edition, Charlotte Barrett writes a lyrical and evocative review of 'Wintering' by Katherine May. We have a FREE copy of 'Wintering' to giveaway to one lucky Sprout reader!
We have an exciting giveaway to share with you this week ⚡️and a book review that takes you into another world.
After each edition of Sprout we often receive positive feedback from readers, which we loveee to read. 👩💻 We would like to thank you for your support and to invite new readers to enjoy Sprout, too. To celebrate and share, we are giving away a copy of Wintering: The power of retreat and rest in difficult times by Katherine May.
If you would like to go in the draw to win, please share Sprout with your network and invite more readers to our community. Your name will go into the draw for every new signup you recommended. You have until 19 June to forward, share, and invite as many readers as you wish. The winner will be announced on 26 June.
Charlotte Barrett is a writer and psychologist who works for the NHS. You can find her here.
Wintering: the power of rest and retreat in difficult times, by Katherine May, makes for very timely reading as we emerge from a third national lockdown in England. May describes wintering as “a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress or cast into the role of an outsider.” Sound familiar? This past year has been, to put it mildly, a difficult time. And although published before the pandemic, many of the concepts outlined in this gentle book speak to the collective experience of life under Covid restrictions.
Lockdown, and essentially the entirety of 2020 (plus half of 2021), represented an enforced retreat from everyday life. And the universal experience of this retreat is where the potential for change comes in. May highlights how “taking time out when we fall out of everyday life remains taboo”. Those of us who experience these moments are given a “pariah status”. However, as we all emerge from our collective withdrawal from normality we are given the opportunity to do things differently, to reframe the experience of solitude and rest and perhaps do things differently going forward. As May writes, “we may never choose to winter, but we can choose how.” It is this how that she explores in her writing, and it is this how that makes all the difference to the experience of retreat, and how we might best navigate potential future lockdowns and challenging periods in our lives.
The format of this memoir is interesting. Part travel narrative, part self-help guide, it is through recollection of personal experience that May outlines a variety of techniques and metaphors to support the concept of rest and retreat.
The most vivid of these for me is ‘Cold Water’, in which May recounts winter sea swims that seem “to make the blood sparkle”. A fair-weather swimmer, I have always been captivated by the idea of plunging into cold water in the depths of winter. It’s almost as though on a cellular level my body understands how invigorating and necessary this immersion will be. I’ve never managed more than a perfunctory paddle past October before; this year, inspired by descriptions of cold water forcing the swimmer into “The Moment”, obliterating all other concerns, I am determined to try and extend my summer swims into the colder months.
May acknowledges that the slowing down of activities and unplanned free time that accompanies periods of ‘wintering’ are “deeply unfashionable”. Getting comfortable with the cold season, she writes, is about reframing our notion of time as linear. If we can learn to think of our experience as cyclical, akin to the seasons, we can become more accepting of these quieter moments of sadness and difficulty. We can see these phases as inevitable parts of life to be acknowledged. In stepping back for a while, we can navigate the dip.
If I were reading Wintering pre-pandemic, much of what is espoused within these pages would have been easy to dismiss as irrelevant or even impossible. I would have thought it’s nice in theory but not applicable to me. Everything May describes is antithetical to the hectic pace of London life. This is exactly why Wintering is important to read.
As the UK is on the cusp of returning to some sort of semblance of normality, we need to guard against a return to the unhelpful habits of old. There’s a sense of learning from the experience, too: “Each time we endure the cycle, we ratchet up a notch”, she writes. It’s a perfect framework against which to situate the experience of lockdown, the sense of inevitability and our growing understanding of how to navigate the liminal space these restrictions create.
As it was, I finished Wintering last month in a state of utter depletion. I work for the NHS and this has been, unsurprisingly, an exhausting year. I have barely slept. I have been consumed by anxiety. I have experienced new depths of personal darkness that I did not think possible before. I became addicted to work. And yet I have learned things, too. I have prioritised. I think I have a better understanding now of what actually matters. And I am - very slowly - learning how to rest.
I don’t think I’d have reached this awareness if we’d had a normal 2020, and I certainly would have been less willing to accept the concept of retreat due to FOMO and a small obsession with experiencing everything London has to offer. But unhappiness is instructive. As May writes: “wisdom resides in those who have wintered”.
I recommend that you read this book to re-frame the experience of lockdown, to provide an example against which you can build periods of downtime and quietness into your routine, and for the acknowledgement that it’s okay to find things difficult and take time out. Lockdown 4.0 -- we’re ready for you.
Don’t forget, we have a FREE copy of Wintering to giveaway to a lucky reader. If you would like to go in the draw to win, please share Sprout with your network and invite more readers to our community. Your name will go into the draw for every new signup you recommended.
You have until 19 June to forward, share, and invite as many readers as you wish. The winner will be announced on 26 June.
Thanks for reading!