Wintering & Handiwork

“There are gaps in the mesh of the everyday world, and sometimes they open 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.” ~Katherine May

Not gonna lie. I took a peak at my drafts to see if I could spin some old words into a post. Nope. All too focused on things I don’t want to talk about right now. So here goes. A quick reflection on two books. One I’m still reading, which always so tricky. And one I can’t stop reading.

I’m half way through, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, and it could go south, but I don’t think so. Just listening to Katherine May talk about the book made think it’s a book that I need to read. Very much on the topic of Burnout–a subject that brings me like a moth to a flame.

In particular this quote:

People admired me for how much I got done. I lapped it up, but felt secretly that I was only trying to keep pace with everyone else, and they seemed to be coping far better. After all, I had colleagues who regularly replied to emails after midnight, long after I was asleep. In actual fact, I was ashamed. I always thought that I, so very wise, would never succumb to work addiction. But here I am, having worked so hard and for so long that I’ve made myself sick. And worst of all, I’ve nearly forgotten how to rest (p. 23).

She goes on to discuss the eventual illness that lead her to take a break and write this book. So two things come to mind for me.

I don’t usually like listening to a writer talk about a book that I want to read before I’ve read it. Because I was in the middle of painting with watercolor, I let the podcast advance to the next episode. Once you’ve got the brush to paper, there’s no stopping on that layer. The magic of watercolor, at least in my eyes, is that it forces you to be in the moment. Once the paint dries, you can see the layer. More importantly the water to pigment ratio changes and you lose what you’re doing. Once you start, you have to stick with it.

Controlled chaos–it’s somehow really relaxing to me.

Second thing. Holymotherofgod they edit the shit out of On Being. I’ve been a fan for years, and I’ve always felt like Krista Tippett is a master interviewer–and she is–but woweeee wow they really edit that first cut to make conversation magic. If only I had an edit team like that! I’ve known they make an unedited version available, I just had never listened until this interview about Wintering. It was somehow really comforting listening to Tippett say um, stammer for her words, and interrupt her guest. That first cut is more like life, more like my watercolor painting–it made me feel better for some reason.

It’s a book I can’t stop thinking about given the time we are living through. I’ll write more once I’ve finished it. Indeed, I am in the state of a wintering after losing my furry best friend.


Another book I can’t stop thinking about is Handiwork by Sara Baume. I’m on my second reading, and it’s the perfect little book about craft, grief, and creativity. She discusses the spaces where she makes art, and how she passes her day. Ugh, it’s so much more. I’m still processing it. There is so much that speaks me in this book. It’s an artist statement in the form of a book. It’s poetry. It’s essaying. It’s a journal. It’s just beautiful. These two pages, in particular, floored me:

BETWEEN THE ACCESSIONS and retreats, the take-offs and the dissents, come rare phases of flow, of soaring (p.56).

Stephen Knott defines the concept of flow as utopia in a moment: the atemporal release and liberation from capitalist time and its schedules by intense concentration on an activity (p. 57).

There are no other words on these pages. Just these mindblowing sentences. Lots of blank spaces to think and consider. The design of the book is lovely.

I don’t want to ruin the book for you, but what she admits at the end became the invitation for me to reread it. That’s really the thing, isn’t it? That’s really what you want to do as a writer. You want to create something that makes a reader say, “Now how does this connect to the beginning again?” It’s that space between showing and telling where the work is on the reader. It’s my favorite place to be. I type of wintering.

Baume also includes photos of the birds that she created for 100 days. A bird a day.

I had already thought about painting one thing over and over again to see if I can improve. I started with house plants, but I think I’m going to take up birds. They’ve helped me on walks now that I don’t look at the ground and at the end of a leash.

So it is.

Baume says it best:

AND AFTER the finishing point, what then? (p. 185)

I suppose I’ll know 101 days from now.

About Alyson Indrunas

Always learning about instructional design, educational technology, professional development, adult education, and writing.
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