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Winter: A Spiritual Biography of the Season

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Explore how the dormancy and difficulty of winter can be a time of spiritual preparation and transformation. For many, winter is a time of postponed activity--and of shoveling snow, navigating ice, and trying to keep warm. What can easily be forgotten in winter's cold and occasional dreariness is that it can also be a time of shoring up, of purity, praise, delight, and play Explore how the dormancy and difficulty of winter can be a time of spiritual preparation and transformation. For many, winter is a time of postponed activity--and of shoveling snow, navigating ice, and trying to keep warm. What can easily be forgotten in winter's cold and occasional dreariness is that it can also be a time of shoring up, of purity, praise, delight, and play. In thirty stirring pieces--from translated Sanskrit and Hebrew poems to Henry David Thoreau and Basho, Jane Kenyon, John Updike, Kathleen Norris, and Annie Dillard--we share in the recognition of winter's hardships and celebrate the glory of winter as a spiritual gift--a quiet time in the rhythm of life, a time of thoughtfulness, of looking forward, and of unexpected hope. Examining our retreat and hibernation from the world, and our ultimate breaking free from icy paralysis, these inspiring selections help us express and understand our own personal reaction to wintertime. They show us the way from the cold of this season to the warmth of the human soul.


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Explore how the dormancy and difficulty of winter can be a time of spiritual preparation and transformation. For many, winter is a time of postponed activity--and of shoveling snow, navigating ice, and trying to keep warm. What can easily be forgotten in winter's cold and occasional dreariness is that it can also be a time of shoring up, of purity, praise, delight, and play Explore how the dormancy and difficulty of winter can be a time of spiritual preparation and transformation. For many, winter is a time of postponed activity--and of shoveling snow, navigating ice, and trying to keep warm. What can easily be forgotten in winter's cold and occasional dreariness is that it can also be a time of shoring up, of purity, praise, delight, and play. In thirty stirring pieces--from translated Sanskrit and Hebrew poems to Henry David Thoreau and Basho, Jane Kenyon, John Updike, Kathleen Norris, and Annie Dillard--we share in the recognition of winter's hardships and celebrate the glory of winter as a spiritual gift--a quiet time in the rhythm of life, a time of thoughtfulness, of looking forward, and of unexpected hope. Examining our retreat and hibernation from the world, and our ultimate breaking free from icy paralysis, these inspiring selections help us express and understand our own personal reaction to wintertime. They show us the way from the cold of this season to the warmth of the human soul.

30 review for Winter: A Spiritual Biography of the Season

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I picked this up for $1 at a used bookstore and put it aside for a wintry day. (I should be careful what I ask for.) We were without power for 26 hours during an ice storm so I decided to chill my mind as well by reading about winter. On the one hand, I appreciate the work of the editors in compiling and grouping the essays and poems into five sections. On the other hand the introductions to each 1-3 page selection were completely unnecessary, often longer than the selections themselves, and I fo I picked this up for $1 at a used bookstore and put it aside for a wintry day. (I should be careful what I ask for.) We were without power for 26 hours during an ice storm so I decided to chill my mind as well by reading about winter. On the one hand, I appreciate the work of the editors in compiling and grouping the essays and poems into five sections. On the other hand the introductions to each 1-3 page selection were completely unnecessary, often longer than the selections themselves, and I found them to be a negative piece to the puzzle. After a few I simply skipped them. I will probably keep this on hand to be a cold weather companion. The best surprise was Barry Lopez, whose essay on the Arctic was chilling and beautifully written. John Updike provided me with a better experience than I've had from him, and also this quotation: "Cold challenges the blood; it sets the cheeks to tingling and the brain to percolating. By making the indoors cozy, it encourages intellectual activity. On the map of Europe, the statistics for readership go down as the latitude becomes southerly; a warm climate invites citizens outdoors, to the sidewalk cafe, the promenade, the brain-lulling beach. I like winter because it locks me indoors with my books, my word processor, and my clear and brittle thoughts."Annie Dillard has several features in this book, and this was a section of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek."I bloom indoors in the winter like a forced forsythia; I come in to come out. At night I read and write, and things I have never understood become clear; I reap the harvest of the rest of the year's planting."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Michaela

    This wasn't as lyrical or uplifting as I expected and the editors introduction to each piece added very little and probably detracted. However, there was one short story about a young man and his grandfather who resides in a nursing home that was beautiful and heart-breaking and worth the read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mikaela

    "Winter" is a book you never truly finish reading. Like the other three volumes in this four volume series, it's a book you savor throughout the season. An essay a week or every two weeks, so that the poetry and wisdom of the writers has time to seep into the soul. Winter is neither vilified nor divinized in this collection: love her or hate her, you'll find an essay to fit the mood of the day. I happen to love winter ~ especially those cold, snowy days in the woods and the fields. Not so much wh "Winter" is a book you never truly finish reading. Like the other three volumes in this four volume series, it's a book you savor throughout the season. An essay a week or every two weeks, so that the poetry and wisdom of the writers has time to seep into the soul. Winter is neither vilified nor divinized in this collection: love her or hate her, you'll find an essay to fit the mood of the day. I happen to love winter ~ especially those cold, snowy days in the woods and the fields. Not so much when I have to risk life and limb driving in it. I rarely give 5 stars ~ you have to really impress me with grammar, content, and lyrical prose (for non-fiction). Maybe not all the essays make the cut, but enough do that this book earns all 5.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nikki

    One of a four-book series with lovely illustrations and selections that will help you live in the moment of winter. One to return to year after year.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    I really enjoyed this book and want to read other books about other seasons that are similar. I wish the final section had felt a little more playful. I think there are probably other sources that could have been included that would have fit the theme of "play" better but the excerpts seemed a little on the heavy side. Otherwise, I great book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kris

    Second time to read this. Some favorite writers included...Annie Dillard , E.B. white. It’s a great morning meditation read for the darkness of winteR. Glad I don’t live in the harsh SD climate anymore!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Craig

    Did not finish. This book is a collection of stories??? if you will and they seem to ramble and I did not care for it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I'm trying to read each volume in this series at the height of its season. But this was the winter of the polar vortex, and it got to be just a bit much reading about winter while battling it on a daily basis as well. That shouldn't reflect on the book itself, though, which is a fine work on its own. It's a mixture of poetry, essays, memoirs, fiction, and sacred writings gathered into five categories: winter as times of sorrow, scouring, shoring ourselves up, purity, and delight. I appreciate ho I'm trying to read each volume in this series at the height of its season. But this was the winter of the polar vortex, and it got to be just a bit much reading about winter while battling it on a daily basis as well. That shouldn't reflect on the book itself, though, which is a fine work on its own. It's a mixture of poetry, essays, memoirs, fiction, and sacred writings gathered into five categories: winter as times of sorrow, scouring, shoring ourselves up, purity, and delight. I appreciate how the mood of the book shifts from somewhat grim to upbeat: it's a good way to organize this sort of topic. My favorite selections were "Wickedness" by Ron Hansen (a good story; I may track it down to read it in its entirety one day), Rachel Carson's "Winter Haven" (winter from the perspective of ocean fish—I'm a child of the Midwest myself, and this was totally new to me), and E. B. White's "The Winter of the Great Snows" (a lighthearted take on winter from the last section of the book). Someday, I will have to try reading this book during a milder winter and see if I like it even more.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

    I love the season of winter and this was primarily essays from people who couldnt wait for it to end, so i was a little dissapointed and wishing there were more lyrical and poetic descriptions of the beauty of winter. Also the religious essays were way over my head so i skipped those. But the real gem was the nursing home story of a grandfather and grandson, it had me in tears. I was also fascinated with the section of stories of how truly horrible and cold some winters were in the past and the I love the season of winter and this was primarily essays from people who couldnt wait for it to end, so i was a little dissapointed and wishing there were more lyrical and poetic descriptions of the beauty of winter. Also the religious essays were way over my head so i skipped those. But the real gem was the nursing home story of a grandfather and grandson, it had me in tears. I was also fascinated with the section of stories of how truly horrible and cold some winters were in the past and the man getting lost in a blizzard only five feet from his doorstep..sad.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Edmund Davis-Quinn

    I am reading this a piece at a time and think it is so rich. Compelled to get it to from Amazon after really enjoying quite a few of the pieces. Anthologies that are wonderfully curated like this are a joy. Excellent and brief introductions of the author and then a short piece. I plan to get all the books in this series.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    Happened to stumble upon this at the library and decided to give it a whirl as a way to "celebrate" the subzero temperatures where I live this January. I liked the essay "Cold" by John Updike, who writes prose poetically, the best. I'll also give a shout out to Patricia Hampl for her funny peek inside the lives of Minnesota denizens who are perpetually buried in snow.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Schvejda

    Completed reading this "Winter" book sitting on the deck wearing a short-sleeved shirt ... in the Catskills! As the record warm temps continue, perhaps at some future time "Winter" will be something to be read about, rather than experienced. Weather vagaries aside, a very good anthology and a good read. On to the Spring volume!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    Collection of essays, some better than others, each with the common thread of winter. More than the book itself, I like that it inspired my own thoughts about winter and all that it represents for me. And that's the point of a book, nay? to inspire the reader's own reflection?

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dreamersemporium

    likenew

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    new

  16. 5 out of 5

    LVD

    The highlight for me is the essay by E.B. White, which so gracefully captures the New England winter. In fact, I appreciated the New England authors throughout!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Brunner

    I love winter and this book captures the essence of the season.

  18. 5 out of 5

    John Campbell

    There couldn't have been a better time for me to read this than Jan/Feb 2019, a time of loss, awaking, and restoration. ❤️

  19. 4 out of 5

    Shayna Wieferich

    Was very hit-and-miss for me. Honestly didn't even finish it. To be fair that was partially because it wasn't winter'y enough here for me to get in the mood for it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Patrick M.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kathrine

  22. 5 out of 5

    David

  23. 4 out of 5

    Shana Hormann

  24. 5 out of 5

    Karla

  25. 4 out of 5

    Margot Storti-Marron

  26. 5 out of 5

    Susan Vitale

  27. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kimalee

  29. 5 out of 5

    Christi Flagg

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kerith

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