Fragmented Thoughts


Over the weekend I read Wintering: The power of rest and retreat in difficult times by Katherine May. It's a mix of memoir, nature writing and (the good kind of) self-help.

Reading this now got me reflecting on both the experiences of the past year and my own period of wintering which marked the transition between an old life and the new.

I bookmarked a few pages to return to both for the ideas and rhythm of the writing.

The starkness of winter can reveal colours that we would otherwise miss. I once watched a fox cross a frosty field, her coat shining against the gloom. Walking in the bare winter woodland, I am also surrounded by astonishing foxy reds: the burnish of bracken, its dry fronds twisted to lacework; the crimson leaves left on brambles; the last remaining berries on honeysuckle; and orangey clusters of rosehips. The iconic holly, its boughs so thoroughly raided each Christmas. There is also the bright yellow of gorse on heathland, glowing on until spring comes, the stately evergreens, and the tangle of green leaves that remain unnoticed on the ground. Life goes on, abundantly, in winter, and this is where changes are made that usher us into future glories. (from p. 81)

Some people thrive on a little sleep deprivation, but I do not. I now know that I can achieve far more after nine hours than I can in the spare time afforded by a short night. Sleeping is my sanity, my luxury, my addiction. (from p. 86-7)

I clear the surface of my desk and make a pool of light with my lamp. I go off to fetch matches and light a candle. One light is steady and sure, the other uncertain and flickering. I open my notebook and work between these two poles. On balance, it's where I prefer to be: somewhere in the middle. Certainty is a dead space, in which there's no more room to grow. Wavering is painful. I'm glad to be travelling between the two. (from p. 94)

In our winter, a transformation happened. We read, and we worked, and we problem-solved, and we found new solutions. We changed our focus away from pushing through with normal life and towards making a new one. When everything is broken, everything is up for grabs. That's the gift of winter: it's irresistible. Change will happen in its wake, whether we like it or not. We can come out of it wearing a different coat. (from p. 140)

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A running list of all the books I read in 2021.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Finished 25 February. I like Dumas' writing style and I did enjoy reading this; it's a ripping yarn. However, it's far too long! Given that it was originally published in serial format (like Dickens) there's speculation that he was paid by the word... and it shows.

Wintering: The Power of Retreat and Rest in Difficult Times by Katherine May. Finished 28 February. I devoured this in just a few days (which is practically unheard of for me). It's beautifully written, poetic in places. A winning combination of memoir, nature writing and thoughtful advice on how to prepare for winters of our own.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. Finsihed 4 March. A quick read but nevertheless this packs a punch. The ease and subtlety of the writing makes the more brutal aspects of the story feel even more shocking.

The Green Road by Anne Enright. Finished 13 March.

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe. Finished 21 March.

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake. Finshed 11 April. This has been on my reading list probably since I watched the BBC adaptation in the early 2000s. I'd always been slightly apprehensive of it, but I don't know why. I really enjoyed it!

Lowborn by Kerry Hudson. Finished 19 April.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. Finished 23 April.

Tags: #reading #books

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