Preparing for Winter

In Katherine May’s beautiful book Wintering, she describes the process of preparing for a physical winter saying:

I have spent most of my life trying to push winter away, having rarely had to truly feel its bite.

She is speaking of the physical season but continues to elaborate that most of us do not like the idea of hunkering down, hibernating, or wintering. We avoid it at all costs. This became abundantly clear throughout lockdown. People pushed back, pushed boundaries trying to piece together the life they once knew. Our American culture values hustling, even in a global pandemic, ourselves to the brink of exhaustion and then over into burnout. People wear it as a badge of honor. “I’m exhausted,” is a common phrase that is generally accepted. Perhaps this exhaustion and fatigue are because we haven’t allowed ourselves to winter.

In Wintering, May suggests that there are winter seasons in our life. Times of deep uncertainty and deep darkness where it’s hard to find the light and the warmth. Times when we have lost someone. Times when we have lost part of ourselves. Times when you are carrying for a sick family member or a newborn baby where you lose all track of time and you feel like you are walking in a different world than every other person. We can try to run from those times, but they will find us.

Wintering cannot be rushed through or timed out. Wintering overwhelms us slowly us down and obliterating our to-do lists. Wintering provides us the chance to get rest and sustenance, to dig our roots down deep into the ground, and wait for something miraculous and beautiful to bloom. The pandemic was a time for us to winter, but in a culture where wintering isn’t valued, we missed our chance. We are more exhausted than ever because not only did we not winter, we fought against the invitation with all our beings. We kept on keeping on and now as Spring dawns, we are withered and barely hanging on.

So many people I have talked to in the last two months have offered just one phrase: “I’m so tired.” I know. You’ve been fighting the against the seasons and you haven’t weathered well. Receive now these words:

Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.