The Third Something

122 / Hibernation Contemplation

As the nights draw in, I’m learning the value of some intentional wintering.

Macro shot of a snowflake, by Aaron Burden, via Unsplash

Photo by Aaron Burden, via Unsplash

“Winter can be a glorious season when the world takes on a sparse beauty, and even the pavements sparkle.”

Katherine May


For the past two winters, I’ve lived in a kind of forced hibernation.

A national lockdown in November 2020 and a bout of Covid last Christmas meant I spent much of the season living a quiet life at home.

This spring, as restrictions eased, C & I were two coiled springs, eager to bounce out into the world again. Tentatively at first, I took a trip to Sweden; then we went back to Paris twice and took a grown-up vacation in Italy; in September a wedding in the south of France, and a week at the New York Times building in Manhattan; and last weekend a sunrise swim in the Irish Sea just south of Dublin.

I think it was a packed summer precisely because of the hibernation that preceded it: there was a pent-up energy like a dammed river.

But now, as the nights grow long again, I’m exhausted and I find myself yearning to hibernate.

It occurs to me that there is a very natural, seasonal rhythm here (just ask any tortoise). But, of course, our frenzied 21st century way of life pulls us in the other direction: we spend our winters as frenetically as we do our summers, running from event to event, flights for Thanksgiving and Christmas, new year’s parties and (for some) a February voyage to a warmer clime — trying to do everything!

“The problem with ‘everything’”, writes Katherine May, “is it ends up looking an awful lot like ‘nothing’: just one long haze of frantic activity, with all the meaning sheared away.”

That quote is from her book Wintering which I have been reading this week, arguing for the importance of “a season in the cold”. Here’s her definition of wintering:

“It’s a time for reflection and recuperation, for slow replenishment, for putting your house in order.”

Katherine May

My house could do with some order. For the first time, I am going to intentionally retreat for the winter months. I’m going to spend more time at home, reading and drawing, tidying up, sleeping in, cooking, saving money and planning.

Sure enough, the spring will coil again.

Life has winters too

Katherine May’s argument is really about the seasonal nature of our lives, with its longer ups and downs.

“Wintering is a season in the cold. It is a fallow period in life when you’re cut off from the world, feeling rejected, sidelined, blocked from progress, or cast into the role of an outsider. Perhaps it results from an illness; perhaps from the a life event such as a bereavement or the birth of a child; perhaps it comes from humiliation or failure.”

This is very familiar to me and my own four-year winter, triggered by a creative failure, is something I have written about frequently in this newsletter.

Ironically, although I am hunkering down this winter — creatively and emotionally, I’m emerging from my hibernation.

You can expect more newsletters from me in the weeks and months ahead — and in a couple of weeks, I’m publishing my debut short story collection!

I’ll tell you all about that in the next letter.

While it’s getting chilly outside, in my heart it’s spring!

Until another Sunday soon,

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