Rilke reverenced winter as: “Suddenly to be healed again and aware that the very ground of my being — my mind and spirit — was given time and space in which to go on growing,” he wrote to a grief-stricken young woman who had reached out to him for consolation. “In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer,” Albert Camus wrote a generation later in his stunning essays about travel, which are meditations on . Camus soon became the second-youngest Nobel laureate of all crash with an unused train ticket to the same destination in his pocket. We are not invincible. But in how we of the soul, we find the summer of our strength and the bloom of our fragile aliveness.
That is what Katherine May explores in( ) — a gorgeous book, a great book, a layered book of uncommon sensitivity and substance, drawn from May’s own experience of living through a profound and disquieting winter of life. She writes:
[Since childhood], we are taught to ignore sadness, to stuff it down into our suitcases and pretend it isn’t there. As adults, we often have to learn to. That is wintering. It is the active acceptance of sadness. It is the practice of . It is the courage to stare down the of our experience and to commit to healing them the best we can. Wintering is a moment of intuition; our true needs are felt keenly as a knife.
Like happiness — which, as, is a skill we incrementally master as we grow older — sadness, May reminds us, is also a skill: There are self-punishing ways to be sad and self-salving ways to be painful. In skillful wintering, we the difference between the two. Rilke, who wintered amply and wisely, knew that — winters of the spirit come in various sizes and cycles, each meaningful, all cumulative in their soul-sculpting beneficence. May writes:
When you start tuning in to winter, you realize that wesome big, some small… Some winters creep up on us so slowly that they have infiltrated every part of our lives before we truly feel them.
To get better at wintering, we. We tend to imagine that our lives are linear, but they are cyclical.