Slow down, rest, and allow the natural, necessary process of quiescence - quietness, stillness, inactivity and dormancy. Winter is our time to yield into quiescence, it is an essential process of regeneration. We cannot continue to grow crops in the same patch of soil year after year, the earth needs a fallow period to be restored to vital fertility, to nourish vibrant new life. We too, need to allow ourselves this grace of the natural cycles. We need winter for wintering.
“Life meanders like a path through the woods. We have seasons when we flourish and seasons when the leaves fall from us, revealing our bare bones. Given time, they grow again.” - Katherine May
Wintering is a term coined by Katherine May, as the title to her book about the power of rest and retreat in difficult times. She relates these periods to the very real and viscerally felt fallow time of winter. Fallow is a period when the land is left uncultivated, untouched, to rest. It is a necessary season to restore the fertility of the land. We too, need to have our fallow seasons. Both for the regeneration of our bodies and our minds.
“Rest should be part of the simple rhythm of our day, and of our week, and of our year… I don’t think we know what rest even is anymore.” - Katherine May
Some of us adore the winter season, sitting by the fire, hot chocolates and cosy layers. Yet for many of us the long period of cold and dark can be an unnerving time of endurance. Our animal bodies and sensitive minds are deeply affected by the temperatures that make us recoil and contract. As well as the lack of light that makes us unable to function for the regular long hours of the day. This is natural.
“Doing these deeply unfashionable things – slowing down, letting your spare time expand, getting enough sleep, resting – is a radical act now but it’s essential.” - Katherine May
Wintering can also be a metaphor for a season in our lives when we fall into the dark and cold of life, even in the midst of warmer, lighter seasons. It could be metaphor for depression, prolonged feelings of hopelessness or failure, pain or grief at any time of life. A valuable part of Wintering is not just to make peace with and eventually love winter, but also to make peace with our dark moods, emotions, and thoughts - the fallow seasons of our lives when everything is quiescent.
“That is wintering. It is the active acceptance of sadness. It is the practice of allowing ourselves to feel it as a need.” - Katherine May
In our hyper productive culture it is normal to hide our sensitivity, our dark moods, our emotionally bleak nature - our fallow seasons. It is not socially acceptable to reveal our suffering; it is an inconvenience to feel sad. This is slowly changing as the brave ones are beginning to tell their stories and share their whole experiences, they are not met with rejection but with a sigh of relief and the warmth of recognition. We all have our periods of wintering, and they are necessary for our growth.
"Wintering brings about some of the most profound and insightful moments of our human experience, and wisdom resides in those who have wintered.” - Katherine May
Why is it normal in our culture to feel shameful about taking time to rest? It is one of the deeply disturbing customs of our time that we only allow ourselves time to rest when we discover we have an illness. Katherine May knew for a long time that living her ‘normal’ way of life felt wrong before she was diagnosed with an illness to legitimize her need for rest. This is absurd. We are of nature, not separate from it, nature lives in cycles, and so must we.
Write down in your journal one thing that you must leave to go fallow, one ritual that you can do every week this season to embrace Wintering, and one thing that is quiescent, lying dormant inside of you, waiting for the fertile soil of your life to be regenerated before it can bloom. Listen to our QUIESCENT recording for a more meditative "reading" experience. Be sure to sign up to our e-newsletters to learn more about holistic health, slow living, receive herbal medicine monographs, and be the first to hear about our latest workshops and apothecary creations. Sign up here and get 10%off your first order with us. Thank you for reading.
Ethnobotanist & Co-founder,