Apr 16 2021

Book: Wintering

I listened to Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times on Audible over the past week. It was spectacular.

Danielle Morrill recommended it to me. We had an intense up and down journey together with Mattermark, which was doing great until we made a fundamentally bad decision around the company’s strategic direction. The ride down, especially against the backdrop of what I expect would have been a success if we hadn’t made that strategic decision, was extremely challenging. We both learned from it, and it’s been awesome to see the journey that Danielle has been on since.

While I often run without listening to anything, I’ll occasionally listen to a book on Audible on long runs. I started Wintering last week during a run at Hall Ranch. I did another run at Hall Ranch the next day and listened to some more. I run a long loop from my house around McIntosh Lake in the dark and almost finished it two nights ago. Yesterday, I did a few miles in a classic Boulder spring snowstorm at the end of the day and finished it up.

Danielle recommended that I listen to it rather than read it, which turned out to be a great recommendation. The narrator (Rebecca Lee) was incredible. There was so much emotional impact and resonance that I thought it was the author (Katherine May) for a while until I looked it up.

Our entire species has been wintering since the Covid crisis hit. We are just starting to emerge from a literal winter, although the four inches of snow that fell at my house yesterday one of the last gasps of winter trying to hold on. Of course, whether we want to or not, personal winters often appear out of nowhere, even in the summertime.

There’s a paragraph from an NPR interview that sums up whatever review of the book I could write.

Wintering is refreshingly free of self-pitying navel-gazing and trite exhortations to buck up. In fact, May complains about a culture in which we are “endlessly cheerleading ourselves into positivity while erasing the dirty underside of real life…The subtext of these messages is clear: Misery is not an option.” Although she agrees that “Happiness is the greatest skill we’ll ever learn,” she insists that it’s also important to learn about sadness. What she calls wintering is “the active acceptance of sadness.”

I love the phrase “the active acceptance of sadness.” It’s a thing. It’s part of life. I can be for an hour or years. Passively accepting it or actively denying it makes it worse. Actively accepting it is profound.