Wintering – Life’s grimalkin, no more!

“Watching winter and really listening to its messages, we learn that effect is often disproportionate to cause; that tiny mistakes can lead to huge disasters; that life is often bloody unfair, but it carries on happening with or without our consent. We learn to look more kindly on other people’s crises, because they are so often portents of our own future.”― Katherine May

Wintering by Katherine May is the perfect book for today.

Today is the Winter Solstice 2020 – the shortest (in terms of daylight) day of the year. After that, it’s all downhill, baby, as we head into the blessedly-long days of summer.

But, until then…

I’ve been wintering since… uh… about 2014: The Year of Pain (Yikes! If the link is any indication – and it IS – then I’ve been talking about 2014 quite a lot!).

But if I’m honest with myself… it’s been more like… forever. I’ve been wintering since forever.

The difference between pre-2000 and *anything* that’s happened after is simple — the weather. Yes, seriously. Prior to 2000, I was a California girl, born and bred. After, I learned that a winter coat isn’t just for show.

  • There were days when I stood in the driveway and cried because I was afraid to drive to work in the snow.
  • In the 2013 ice storm, I slid my car through a two-and-a-half-hour drive that normally took 40 minutes.
  • Many, many times, I spent over an hour digging my car out of a snowbank in the parking lot after work.
  • I fell on my ass more than a few times, even being as careful as possible in snow boots.
  • And, there’s one day in particular… not sure what year it was… I remember crawling on the service roads – along with everyone else – during a storm so hideous, they actually sent us home from work. That *never* happened, so you know it’s serious. It was dark and blinding snow. I cannot begin to tell you how petrified I was. Fun note: The worst drivers in bad weather are the scaredy-cats.

Weather. Bad weather. For about six months out of the year. I even remember a few April’s that were buried under snow.

I mention the weather because the dark days, in particular, seem a perfect fit for sadness, grief and pain. I know that for me, the end of 2014 were dark days indeed, spent in bed, curtains pulled, in a spiral of grief that kept me dizzy for years. I am still suffering some of the consequences of sitting in bed for months-on-end.

That’s not what this book is about. I soooooo wish I’d had it back then. Or, before then. Before I’d need it. I would have known that grief can be a time of beauty and healing instead of the loathing self-pity and anger I carried. <<< Not that there isn’t a time for anger in grief. There is. Also, not the point.

In Wintering, May reminds us that life ebbs and flows, has moments of great abundance and love, and piercing sadness and pain. <<< This is a lesson that I’ve been trying to take to heart, especially over the last few years. When we forget it, we become… forgive me… life’s bitch… which sounds funny, but isn’t… being tossed and thrown around.

So, yes, I have been “wintering” but not in a healing way. Not the way May describes it. No. Not at all.

One of the most powerful ideas to come from this book – for me – is learning to accept sadness. In fact, the word “accept” is one I need to wrap my arms around and hug. This is where I generally get all muddled up. Something about “deserving”… as in: I deserve to feel bad or I do not deserve to feel bad. In fact, it’s this: Shit happens. It just does.

Wintering is a narrative, memoir and truly, self-help. It is a travel journal and personal journal, filled with stories, mythologies, and wisdom from sages, literature and the earth itself. It is a book of poetry and art. It is beautiful.

Could it be any more perfect for Winter 2020, year of the pandemic?

And so, I leave you with this lovely book that has reminded me that winter, too, has beauty, messages from our higher beings, and opportunities to learn.

Today, we enter winter. Let’s use it wisely!

Oh, and I bet you’re wondering about “grimalkin“?

See, here’s how it went: I wanted to say “Life’s bitch, no more” on my title but worried about the curse, so I asked Siri…

Another word for “bitch”…

Grimalkin came up. What the heck is that, I wondered?

  • A cat (used especially in reference to its characteristically feline qualities).
  • A spiteful old woman.

Cats are awesome but can be real turds, you know? Such attitude – cat-attude!

And, when life is tossing me around… oh, yeah… she’s a spiteful old woman.

Or, I am.

Sounded about right.

And, now for some final words from May:

“In the high summer, we want to be outside and active; in winter, we are called inside, and here we attend to all the detritus of the summer months, when we were too busy to take the necessary care. Winter is when I reorganize my bookshelves, and when I read all the books that I acquired in the previous year and failed to actually read; it is also the time when I re-read beloved novels, just for the pleasure of reacquainting myself with old friends. In summer I want big, splashy ideas and trashy novels, devoured in a garden chair, or perched on one of the wave-breaks on the beach. In winter I want concepts to chew over in a pool of lamplight; slow, spiritual reading; a re-enforcement of the soul. Winter is a time for libraries: the muffled quiet of book-stacks and the scent of old pages and dust. In winter, I can spend hours in silent pursuit of a half-understood concept, or a detail of history. There is nowhere else to be, after all.” -Katherine May


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