Wintering

Let me be the first to admit that it’s strange to write a blog about this, on the cusp of summer.

But there are some books and some conversations that beg to be shared, and here is one.

This past weekend, I packed up my dog Zoe, some snacks, lots of sweatpants and my hammock, and decamped to Michigan for a couple of days of R&R. I intentionally packed light (or light for me!): no iPad, no computer, and only two books. Plus puzzles and the latest edition of Midwest Living magazine. I knew that I needed a break: from stuff, from chores, from the relentless concerns of our time that the news cycle presents to me in bright flashing type every hour, every minute.

I needed time to simply BE. To taste my food, to stare at the sky. To take a walk without rushing to get back for something else.

One book I brought was a novel. The other was a recommendation from a friend: Wintering, by Katherine May.

It’s a slim little book, nonfiction, and published in 2020 so we can all be forgiven if we haven’t heard of it, like I hadn’t. But it is important, and continues the thought I had from my last blog: that we’re all still navigating trauma, and healing from it.

This book talks about winter as a season that we experience in life – emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually. Not just a time when the thermometer dips and we go reaching for wool socks – but those same things played out in our hearts and minds and bodies.

Sometimes, you can see these winters coming a mile off – the death of a loved one after a long illness, perhaps – and sometimes they startle you with their suddenness: the loss of a job, or a health crisis.

What I found helpful about this book wasn’t just naming the winter for what it is, but the way that Katherine leans on different traditions to help teach us how we can prepare for winters and how we can navigate them when they do come.

She goes to the Arctic Circle and sees the northern lights; she starts cold-water swimming in the freezing waters off the English coast; she visits Stonehenge at the winter solstice and even attends a Santa Lucia service at a local church. She interacts with cultures and traditions that have a particular experience of winter, and she learns from them.

I encourage you to find the book and read it in its entirety, but for now, here are a few thoughts from it that I will carry with me in this season and in my next winter:

Winter invites us to draw inward. To tend to our homes, to care for what has been neglected or overlooked during a busy summer season – to repair what is broken, to dust off old treasures, to linger over ideas or meals or conversations.

Winter allows, even encourages, us to rest more. Longer evenings, colder temperatures, draw us to earlier bedtimes and slower days.

Winter shows us, with its sparseness and harshness, how to look for and find light and hope in the smallest of ways. The beauty of a fresh snowfall. The warmth of a mug of cocoa. The hope of a robin’s song.

These are all physical and practical ideas, but they speak to inner realities. When I’m going through a spiritual winter, I do need less activity and more contemplation. Less busyness and more rest. Less striving and more simplicity.

I hope you’ll look this up, and read it too. And I hope it will help in your next wintering.

yours,

Pastor Jen

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