Selections from the pages of Serenity Cafe Magazine

"Wintering" with Katherine May

“Some winters happen in the sun,” says writer Katherine May in the opening chapter of Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times. The term Winter is the metaphor she uses for those dark and difficult times that we all experience. Winter comes in varying degrees of severity. As with nature, so with us, some winters are chilly and short lived; others are deeply cold and harsh, seeming to go on forever. 

We suffer the small winters of job losses, unfulfilled goals, and friendships or romances that don’t work out during our lives. Each time this happens, a “certain something” in us is saddened and feels diminished. But, if we imagine ourselves as a jigsaw puzzle, then these are simply a few small pieces missing. If the larger aspects of our identity are in place and we are in a healthy emotional and psychic space, these smaller winters pass quickly—usually replaced by a new job, a new goal, or a new romance. We are sad for a time and then find our way back into the world with renewed energy and determination. We let go and we move forward.

But Wintering with a capital W is another experience altogether. It is a place of confusion and withdrawal from the common world. It is a psychic-emotional and physical isolation that lasts longer. 

‘‘There are gaps in the mesh of the everyday world, and sometimes they open up and you fall through them into Somewhere Else. Somewhere Else runs at a different pace to the here and now, where everyone else carries on.’’

This Somewhere Else is a different emotional landscape beyond the normal time and place existence we’re used to. When we lose those closest to us or we lose a part of ourselves that holds deep meaning—a puzzle piece of us that is a large part of our identity structure—we are diminished beyond our own rational understanding. It’s as if we can feel ourselves shrinking, disappearing in some way, and we shut down. It is what the older folks would call “A Hard Winter.”

‘‘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 or a life event such as bereavement or the birth of a child; perhaps it comes from a humiliation or failure. Perhaps you’re in a period of transition and have temporarily fallen between two worlds…. However it arrives, wintering is usually involuntary, lonely, and deeply painful.’’

This Winter feels like drowning in a meaningless void. A shadow crosses over and merges into us—a deep grief or a dreaded fear runs through us. An unraveling of our known world begins. Terrified and dazed, we cannot find our footing or take the next step. We are in a Hard Winter; we’re entering the Somewhere Else that May describes—and we are alone in the cold. 

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times covers a period of 7 months in May's life, with chapters arranged from September through March.  The challenging period starts with a joyful celebration of her 40th birthday where her husband complains of feeling ill. He is hospitalized later that evening—his appendix bursting before doctors can operate. 

May, having recently given notice at her academic job, with the intention of focusing on creative pursuits, soon finds herself ill—eventually being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disorder.  Her son, only six years old, is struggling too. Bullying at school leads May to consider homeschooling. The summer dreams of creative pursuits quickly dissipate into darker visions of challenge and hardship.

One of the endearing elements of Wintering is May's personal honesty. "As one of the many girls of my age whose autism went undiagnosed, I spent a childhood permanently out in the cold," she writes. She suffered a major depression at 17, but, finally diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, "I saw the chance to make myself new again." And she found “the seed of the will to live.” We are listening to a person familiar with Winter. Hers is a voice we can trust. 

As the book unfolds, May approaches these times of sadness and challenge with a great deal of self-compassion (and encourages us to do the same). She accepts that such periods are normal and even necessary in life. As someone interested in the world of nature and it’s rhythms, she finds lessons there that guide her through the sadness. 

Winter in the human soul can mirror winter in nature—it can be a time of rest and contemplation; it can bring out the best in us; it can teach us the value of others and ourselves—it can be a time of healing, of learning to endure. 

May helps us see that, like we trust Spring to return each year, we can learn to trust nature to heal us, and bring us renewal. To help us become ready to live again. ◊

Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times   

By Katherine May

Riverhead Books, New York, 2020  $24.00 US

Reviewer: M. Colleen Mullins

This review originally appeared in the Spring-Summer 2022 issue of Serenity Cafe Magazine. Reprinted by permission.

Photo Credits: Winter Scene, Courtesy of Andre Benz/Unsplash; Book Cover, Courtesy of Marissa Mullins.


Showcase Artist: Kevon Dooley

Artist Kevon Dooley sat down with us at The Ritz-Carlton Atlanta in October 2020, at the height of the first COVID-19 Lockdown, to talk about the American Foster Care System, his work encouraging and advocating for children, and his artistic Urban Wear clothing line.

Colleen Mullins You’re currently an up-and-coming artist living near Atlanta. You have a successful Instagram account and followers, and a new sports car. But there’s a lot more to your story. Tell us a little about your background.

Kevon Dooley Okay. I’m originally from Tampa, Florida. I was born in Hillsborough County and went into the foster care system at about 7 years old. I was from a broken family and going into foster care was heartbreaking for me. My birth mom is deceased and I don’t really talk to my birth father. A lot of kids go into the system and become victims of it. Right now, I’m focused on trying to stay positive and to motivate younger people to understand that you can still be successful, no matter what your background is. I’m currently doing fashion design and I enjoy painting. I want to do photography, and I want to get into acting soon.

CM Give us an overview of your experience with the foster care system.

KD The system has its pro’s and cons’. It’s all about you and your personal needs. You can have a kid that comes into the system and falls victim to it. What I mean by that is sometimes the system ruins their life. Then, you can have a kid like me, comes into the system, has his head on straight. I don’t let it take away from what I want to be in life.When I first went in to the system I went and stayed with my Auntie. But she had to move out of town and Florida wouldn’t let me go with her unless she adopted me. She wasn’t ready for that yet, so I went back into the system. I was moved every couple of months, to over 20 homes total, different foster homes and group homes. I went to ten high schools, 8 to 10 middle schools. There was a lot of moving around.

CM Why did they move you so often? Do you know?

KD Only because they always move kids in foster care. We stay in group homes and stuff happens —say someone steals your stuff or there are fights—other kids pick on you and bully you, and take your stuff. So they always have to move you somewhere that will be good for you at that moment in time.

CM That’s tough! It has to be a struggle to make friends and find stability amidst so much constant change. Was it only you in most of the homes or where there other children?

KD Yeah, it’s really hard. A foster home is basically several kids living with a set of foster parents. There are usually a couple of kids in each home. A group home has like 40 kids living together. We’re sleeping in a building and every kid has their own mattress. The state hires people to come check on us basically. I’ve lived in both types.

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Article & Photographs: M. Colleen Mullins

Select Articles & Interviews

Poet Amanda Lee

Artist Carrie Irene Crosby

Artist Joshua Kochis

Showcase Poet: Amanda Lee

For me, the objective of writing is just to celebrate living. My poems are all a direct reflection of my personal experiences, and by sharing these experiences, I feel more connected to myself and to others.

Interviewer: At what age did you start writing poetry and what inspired you?

Amanda Lee: I started writing poetry at the age of 16 as a creative way for me to journal my thoughts. As a teenager, I was full of angst, and I found writing to be really therapeutic. It was a healthy outlet that allowed me to cope with my chaotic home life, and gave me a sense of control during a time in which I felt like I had little stability.

What three poets or writers have influenced you the most and why?

The first poet whom I truly felt inspired by was Kahlil Gibran. I discovered The Prophet, one day, when rummaging through my grandfather’s library, and was awestruck. I’ll admit that I didn’t read much poetry, growing up, however I thoroughly enjoyed anything philosophical, psychological, or simply thought-provoking. Influenced by my grandfather, I also discovered that I was very fond of fantasy, adventure, and science fiction. At a young age, I was introduced to books by authors such as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Damon Knight, H.G. Wells, and Ray Bradbury.

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We Are All Art

Carrie Irene Crosby

Carrie Irene Crosby is an artist, a poet, a life coach, and an innovator. Serenity Cafe asked her to talk with us about the concept of art as a transcending force. Here’s what she had to say….

I was in retail management for over 30 years and eventually realized a pattern with my employees. I was coaching all of my best people out of their positions.

If my employees had a dream, vision, or idea, I was their biggest cheerleader! For 20 years that skill worked against me until I decided to allow it to work in my favor. I made the decision to become an ICF Certified Life Coach. That has now grown into a worldwide community movement that helps everyone, regardless of their surroundings or circumstances, to always dream…And to dream big!

I have often heard that art transcends age, race, and culture and I have always wholeheartedly agreed. But what does that have to do with me? What does it mean to the me sitting here at the kitchen table writing? This cliche concept found me at a time in my life when I am aware of words and how powerful they can be.

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Behind the Scenes: Making Art, Creating Culture

Joshua Kochis

It’s a new night and you’re out for aestheticism, seeing all kinds of people doing all kinds of things in the name of creative expression. Quiet types dressed in black sip wine from plastic cups at the gallery downtown. Pretty people wearing rings bounce on their toes to ambient techno loops. Kids on skateboards take turns tagging that half pipe. Drag queens cat-walk up and down an alley turned runway, cameras going click and flash as the sun sets. Groups of busy hands are in a yard somewhere using old cardboard to make protest signs with big letters. A solitary guy stares at the empty frame of a torn-down house packed with a grid of toy cars that used to scoot on busy neighborhood streets. Two friends walk past a giant mural animating the old brick warehouse next door. These are subcultures, maybe. Outcasts if you ask the wrong person. But more than anything, they are the makings of a local art scene – and could all be happening in the same place.

The scene is dynamic and always changing. Every city has at least one, and it is a constant work in progress. It is a series of concentric circles with overlapping edges. One person can be involved in two or ten separate orbits that might not share a single defining quality. What they do have in common is that someone is expressing an idea, feeling, or style; and someone else is experiencing it.

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