Seasonal Skies - Workshop 1

Published: 4 November 2022

This diary entry shares some recent news from the LwS project. We share an activity from the workshop that you can try out yourself--and share with us and others on social media or by email.

 a participant of the Wintering Well workshop looks up through trees at a wintery sky using their sky frame to reflect on the way the skies make them feel

It’s that season. Last Sunday, the clocks changed. For me, it marks the time when dusk falls before I finish work—and when I force myself out for lunchtime walks to get a few glances of sun.

Unsurprisingly, it seems like talk about SAD is everywhere right now. At the table beside me in the café, they were talking about how the mornings are the hardest. On the bus, someone discovered they’d run out of Vitamin-D supplements. The annual news stories about SAD are beginning to appear too: the greyer days have put a damper on the sudden interest in summertime SAD earlier this year, with new articles warning of a possible peak of SAD in November.

The ‘Living with SAD’ project made its own contribution with a short piece in The Herald Scotland and an interview with BBC Radio Scotland (at 1:41) announcing our plans for a Wintering Well workshop series this winter: over the course of the season, we will lead 6 outdoor creative workshops with 18 participants to share and explore experiences of SAD in Scotland as well as creative and reflective techniques for living better, fuller lives in the colder seasons.

This past weekend, aware of the challenges the clock-change could cause, we held our first workshop in the Southside of Glasgow, entitled “My Patch of Seasonal Sky”. As the participants gathered with warm drinks under the large skylight in the workshop room, there was a palpable energy, excitement and nervousness about what the workshop had in store. As people shared their reasons for joining the workshops—to learn from others with similar experiences, to find acknowledgement, to share problems and find solutions—the conversation and community sparked to life.

The core of the workshop was a creative activity facilitated by artist Alec Finlay and geographer Hayden Lorimer about observing and responding to the sky: participants were given large ‘sky frames’ to take outside and observe the sky above them.

Of course, it began to rain buckets as soon as we got outside.

a glimpse through one of the sky frames to reveal a creamy white and gray sky with a slight slow of blocked sunlight

But this was one of the surprises that came up in our conversations afterwards: the frames and the sky-watching exercise made us look up at a time when our instinct is to hunker down. As one participant told me, it made her realise how far up the clouds actually were—they normally feel right down around her head. Some found their patch of sky ‘glowing’, ‘changing’ and even ‘uplifting’, but others described how their skies were ‘curdled’, an ‘eggshell’ or a ‘prison’ too.

The workshop offered a space to talk through, compare and share those experiences though. It wasn’t that everyone needed to suddenly love ‘their patch of sky’: the workshop gave space and support for people to work through their experiences together and to take forward practices of observing, reflecting and talking about the environment and its effects on us. In the weeks leading up to Workshop 2, participants will begin a wintertime journal to record and share their experiences of the winter and wintertime sky.

an excerpt from a field notebook showing sketches of participants describing their experience of the winter sky using gestures to show 'up up up' and puting a topic 'behind them'

We had a tremendous expression of interest for the workshops, which we take as a ‘good’ sign that our approach might be useful for many people. We’ve decided to share activities from our workshops online through the project diary for anyone who would like to try them out at home.

To try the ‘My patch of seasonal sky’ activity yourself, take 10-20 minutes this week to explore an outdoor area near your home and consider what different views and viewpoints of the sky you can find. Try to find one in particular that engaged you—positively or negatively—and reflect on how it makes you feel; what it makes you think; and what your first responses are to the sky. Jot these ideas down in your own wintertime journal, then over the coming weeks use your journal to keep note of specific things:

  • the kinds of things you are observing about the seasonal sky 
  • (e.g. colours, textures, tones, movements, changes, moods, phases) 
  • if a new habit of spending a little bit of time contemplating the sky overhead is allowing you to notice different things about the light 
  • how wee spells of “sky-observing” are making you feel, ideally on a day-to-day basis
  • if “sky-observing” is an activity that is changing the way you feel about spending time out-of-doors  
  • if there are things that you feel are getting in the way of you spending some time with the sky

You can share these experiences with others or keep them to yourself. You could upload a photo of your patch of sky to social media with the hashtag #WinteringWell or #LivingwithSAD if you’d like to share your skies with us.

If you’d like to hear about more activities or resources, or to share any thoughts or questions about the activity, you can contact the project team by emailing me at


First published: 4 November 2022