Why We Should Let Winter Into Our Lives

Leonora Oldfield reviews Katherine May’s book ‘Wintering’, which encourages us to embrace the darker months of the year.

In a recent Joe Wicks podcast, Fearne Cotton says ‘Nothing blooms all year round’.

It is a statement of the obvious but it is too often forgotten in relation to the mental health of humans. We are bombarded with messages of positivity. We must be happy. We must be positive. But how real is this?

Katherine May pushed her own mental health to breaking point with a crammed working schedule as Programme Director for Creative Writing at Canterbury Christ Church University, alongside becoming a mother for the first time.

Wintering by Katherine May book cover

Her workload increased as she took on more for fear that ‘I would never find my feet again after I had my son’ and she admits that she ‘didn’t cope when pregnant’ nor ‘with a baby’.

Signed off work by her GP, she is forced to reconsider her way of being through ‘slowing down and letting spare time expand’. She explores the notion of ‘wintering’, talking to Finns, who start preparing for Winter in August (they don’t see the sun from November to January in parts of Norway) and she talks to people who have lived through illness, isolation and despair.

She discovers the joys of wild swimming on the Kent coast in the depths of Winter and the benefits of saunas. She reads, she walks, she cooks. Eventually she emerges from Winter into Spring.

I found this book reassuring and comforting. Life is uncertain, it changes all the time. The only thing in our control is the way we respond to events.I have heard it all before, but May’s writing and arguments are compelling. I am reminded that life is not about sparkling all the time. It is ok not to be ok.

  • Wintering – How I Learned to Flourish When Life Became Frozen by Katherine May is available on Amazon 
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