Dwellings & Shelters - Workshop 2

Published: 15 November 2022

Diary #4 reflects on our experiences in the second Wintering Well workshop as we explored practical ways to build bettr winter spaces.

a scale of rainbow shows where the sun sits behind a wall of grey clouds in winter

This morning, the sky was blotted with thick, grey clouds. I scrambled to get my phone though when I spotted a shard of rainbow tracking the sun’s position behind them.

The experience made me think of one of our Wintering Well participants, who has been using her Seasonal Diary to record the colour of the sky each day. This past weekend, we met for our second Wintering Well workshop, entitled ‘My Sort of Winter Place’, and the workshop participants had their first chance to share and compare their Seasonal Diaries and experiences watching the sky over the past 2 weeks. This participant held up her journal to show a page of scribbled blue squares, fading from stormy to frosty to crisp to limpid, with lines of written reflections beside them. Her approach, she explained, had been to look for ‘that small sliver of blue’ each day, even when the sky seemed uniformly cloud covered.

For the project team, the opportunity to hear about participants’ experience with their initial Seasonal Diary-keeping is hugely encouraging. Everyone is approaching this exercise in their own way: many getting down words, others drawing and photographing lots of images, some finding it a new habit that’s difficult to keep up with at times. But vitally everyone is responding positively to the extra push to tilt their chin and “look skywards”, observing changes in the weather and the season, to notice more than the shades of grey so many of us tend to imagine when thinking of winter skies.

In addition to reflecting on their experiences over the previous weeks, our workshop participants have also been given a chance to talk about the wintertime changes that can happen closer to home. We’ve discussed the sorts of outdoor spaces that they like to inhabit during the winter and what they might be able to change to make these spaces more hospitable winter shelters to spend time in. Our creative activity this week was designed to get participants thinking about practices of ‘dwelling’ outdoors and how finding and making simple shelters might make the prospect of being outdoors more pleasurable.

In the interests of experiment, we set out into Glasgow’s Hidden Gardens, carrying some little people in our pockets. These toy-figurines were to be the residents in the miniature winter sun-shelters built by workshop participants. Working in pairs, we discussed what it is that makes a good winter sun-shelter. There was lively conversation about location, elevation, the journey of the sun across the sky, whether this was to be a place for sitting, standing, camping, foraging or chatting. What emerged from the leaf litter and craft materials were leafy bowers and camouflaged nooks; a berry-topped tower (with its very own plastic-cup “sitooterie”) and a stacked-stick nordic kata. Some shelters were designed to let as much light in as possible. Others were nestled down in the undergrowth. There were sites of independence, and spots for gathering in the company of others. Languages of sheltering were traded and compared. How does the Scots ‘coorie’ sit with the Danish ‘hygge’?


a small hand-made shelter under fern leaves brightened by a carpet of ginkgo leaves

The shelters our participants fashioned are detailed, expressive and cathartic. But they’re not just idyllic dream-homes; and when a couple of excitable kids rattled by with a suggestion that they might trample the roof in, not even that idyllic! By working with what we could find and thinking aloud together, workshop participants reflected on the ways we can re-make little bits of our local outdoors more amenable for spells of wintertime dwelling that generate wellbeing. In the coming weeks, our participants will be out looking for new places near-to-home where they might experiment with some extra time spent dwelling out-of-doors.

As in most of the discussions and activities so far, we realise that everyone will find their own approach to identifying a new ‘Winter Place’, or building their own Winter Palace! This is a big part of what is making the workshops so exciting: they are a space to share different experiences of the winter and SAD, where everyone gets to learn from those different experiences, generating new ideas and lending support.

You can join the search for new ‘winter places’ too. Over the next week, why not try looking for places that provide shelter, light, companionship, rest or whatever else you’re looking for this winter? Or perhaps you see a site you’d like to become better-suited for winter dwelling. What is it missing? Are there any changes you can make to your home or local neighbourhood to make them into better wintertime shelters? If you’d like to share your experiences, feel free to send reflections, photos or even video-tours of your chosen spaces to the project email (shawn.bodden@glasgow.ac.uk) or share them via social media with the hashtags #WinteringWell or #LivingwithSAD.







First published: 15 November 2022