Views on Winter - Workshop 4

Published: 17 January 2023

After a long break over the holidays, Diary #6 reflects on an online gathering for the Winter Solstice and our most recent workshop 'A Winter Room of My Making'.

moody sky behind a winter tree

It’s been some time since our last project update. December was busy, as so often is the case. We deliberately planned for a longer gap between our third and fourth workshops for just this reason. Many of the respondents in our 2022 Big SAD Survey, for instance, indicate that the holiday season can be a difficult time. It comes with extra demands on time and lowered energy — and often pressure to be cheery, enthusiastic, and sociable when our mood may be exactly the opposite! While the Wintering Well workshops have enabled many positive conversations and sharing of experiences, we’re also mindful that this is due to the time and effort our participants have put in. So, we decided it would be a good idea to avoid scheduling a workshop during the holiday season allowing everyone a bit of a break — but at the same time, we wanted to find a small way for our workshop community to support one another over the holidays.

This was how we came to the idea for a small online gathering on December 21st to mark the year’s Winter Solstice and the hinge point in the year where we once again turn toward the lighter months. Many of the activities we’ve designed for the Wintering Well workshops are about observing and acknowledging the changing season and marking the slow journey back to the sunnier season — a small way to counter the feeling of unending grey that can be easy to slip into after another day of rain. The Winter Solstice can be easy to overlook, but it’s such a significant date for anyone following the sun. So we gathered together to mark the occasion, inviting everyone to share a favourite light or wintering space in their home. The longest night of the year was brightened by candles and light boxes, conversation about the comparative benefits of cod liver oil and orange juice, and exchanges of winter-themed songs and poetry-readings—with some even responding to the unique dreich of a Glasgow winter.

Wee Josie's nose is frozen as well
Wee Josie's frozen nose is skintit
..............Winter's diabolic, intit?

The Solstice gathering was a timely reminder of the benefits of taking small moments for reflection, or conversation, or to open the curtains, or to rearrange some furniture — even if sometimes it’s just as an act of resistance to stick it to winter! During the holidays, we also asked our participants to try writing a 'Letter to Winter’, and the desire to admonish winter was certainly one feeling that emerged with intensity during this activity.

We had the chance to listen to one another’s letters when we gathered again for Workshop #4. Some of the correspondence was pithy and to the point: “Dear Winter, F*** off”. Others worked through their relationship to many of winter’s more specific guises: in the cold and stern Cailleach who reminds us that dormancy is a part of Spring’s renewal and rebirth; in the precarity of burst pipes and spiralling heating bills; in the grey-grey-grey and rain-rain-rain, but also in the warm blankets, chats with friends, ‘good food and shitty snacks’, drawing, writing, singing, and resting. One participant declared these to be weapons against winter. War can be waged through a promise to struggle on, to keep searching for little ways to make life better during the darker months, to make those small changes to surroundings, to add a little light here-and-there.

It made a fitting segueway to our second activity for the day, an invitation to design a room at home for wintering well. To introduce the exercise, Alec shared some photos of the spectacular view from his living room window, showing us the magenta-and-orange sunrises stretched above the cityscape which he makes a point to acknowledge and welcome each morning. He reminded us that our homes are more than the spaces they contain, and this makes them deeply comforting and intensely vulnerable. Alec invited participants to think of ways they can transform their rooms into Solariums during the winter months, be this through cosy candles and light-catching mirrors or new routines and companionship. All are ways to invite the outside world in and look for new ways to inhabit the winter.

a picture of empty bottles hung on sticks in a community garden used to suspend protective netting over seedlings

The purpose of the exercise was to focus on small changes and brief moments rather than a complete exercise in redesign. While sketching and describing their rooms, our participants thought of candles long since packed-away that could be dug out and favourite window-seats to use, or make. Some shared ways they have already been working to make a room their own, be this through occasional rearranging of the furniture, or by repainting the ceiling a favourite, full yellow.

In the interval before our next workshop, we’ve asked participants to take their plans an extra step further, by realising one or two ideas, and to share experiences of a new habit (like taking a photo from the window each morning) or the look that a new houseplant can create.

If you’ve been finding winter hard this past month, you too could try making your own room for the season. We’d love to hear from you (at if you’ve found anything that helps lift your mood; any advice you’d like to share with others; or just questions about what you might try. You might also try taking a few moments to write your own Letter to Winter, thinking about what you would tell the season if you had the chance.

One thing we’ve already realised from our workshop conversations is that a letter doesn’t have to be written all at once. Words are things you can grow slowly, dwelling on the message they convey as you go about your day. Maybe writing a letter to winter can be a project for the rest of the season—and an opportunity to face the challenges of winter life. We’d love to hear your thoughts, realisations or frustrations if you do!

And if you’re looking for ways to break up the long grey of January, you might look for occasions like the Winter Solstice to mark the journey toward Spring. One of our participants routinely makes their own calendar of significant holidays and astronomical events. Such events might offer ways to observe the changing of the season—or you could make and share a calendar of your own—as the lighter months draw nearer.

First published: 17 January 2023