Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Writing, Teaching, Language, Landscape, Life


Syrian Refugees—To close our doors grants victory to the terrorists

Syrian refugee with her children © Costas Metaxkis, AFP Getty Images

Syrian refugee with her children © Costas Metaxkis, AFP Getty Images

The waves toss the boat from one side to the other. I know within the boat are many more people, much more weight, than the boat was designed to hold. My eyes scan the endless water on all sides in hopes of seeing land across its expanse. My three young children huddle beside me. None of us can swim. I’ve chosen to put my children and myself in this place, because my homeland has been destroyed, family killed, nothing is left of our home, but rubble, blood, the dreams it once held, and the memories of what once was and will never be. I have no money, no idea where we’re going other than the hope of a safe place, something now impossible in my homeland.

Back in my own kitchen, I read of the Syrian refugees and try to imagine the horror necessary to drive people make this choice. I sit surrounded by easy to reach food, family photos, electricity and water, walls and windows between me and the elements and try to imagine a life so desperate to force people to leave behind homes, bank accounts, warmth, family treasures, roots, their entire world and walk to the edge of a sea, often with their children, to climb aboard a small boat to head out across the sea.

Half of all the pre-war population of Syria—11 million people—have been killed or forced to flee their homes. More than half are children. We have all seen the photo of young Aylan Kurdi’s body on the beach, drowned along with his mother and brother. In the month following Aylan’s death, 77 more children that we know of, drowned.

It is impossible to read of the tragedy in Paris, to look at the photos of those killed and those left behind, and not weep and experience a visceral response. The terrorists who inflicted theses horrors on Paris and the world deserve to be caught and held responsible. ISIS must be eliminated. The pain, suffering, and deaths created by this organization must be stopped.

Yet, to imagine that the terrorists who committed the horrors in Paris somehow reflect the whole of Syrian refugees supports the terrorists’ wishes and perpetuates the tragedy. This notion extends terrorists’ reach beyond Syria’s borders to victimize the refugees, already casualties of war and terrorism in their homeland, again. In the calls for war, the fact that ISIS grew in direct response from the US invasion of Iraq has been lost.

Around the US, officials announce the closing of their borders to Syrian refugees in response to the terrorist acts in Paris. One wonders if these officials truly believe the terrorists in Paris to be a reflection of all Syrians, or if the tragedy is now being exploited to cloak xenophobia. To imagine that the terrorist cells reflect the Syrian population as a whole is the equivalent of holding American Timothy McVeigh, responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing and 168 deaths, as a reflection of all Americans.

Syrian refugees are desperate for and deserve the chance to create a new life for their children. If we close our doors, not only do we grant victory to the terrorists, we aid them in their cause.

The waves toss the boat from one side to the other…

Dawn Wink is an educator and writer whose work explores the tensions and beauty of language, culture, and place. Her latest book, Meadowlark.




A Tree of Books

Dawn Wink:

A Tree of Books! What a beautiful tradition Ashley Wolff has created here. I am grateful that she included how to make the tiny books. This will be a new ritual in our family. I think I’ll make the kids’ and my favorite books through the years. Thank you, Ashley!

Originally posted on Ashley Wolff :


I know–Waaaaay too early for Christmas, but that’s when these things get done. And it’s kinda fun making tree decorations on a blustery November day. And, of course, it’s for a good cause!

My fantastically talented and philanthropic neighbor, Warren Kimble, urged me to join him in creating a tree for the Sheldon Museum Christmas benefit, so of course I said yes.

It took me forever to think of a fun way to decorate my very attractive faux tree, but with the deadline looming, I finally made up my mind.

I make books for a living, so why not a Tree of Books?


I followed the directions for the no sew, no adhesive book and made a whole bunch of these. I did use a glue stick to paste the letter to the  mini books.

I began with plain copy paper for the pages. I’ll show some of my…

View original 98 more words


Día de los Muertos – Day of the Dead

Pan de muerto - decorated by Wynn

Pan de muerto – decorated by Wynn

Calavera masks

Calavera masks

‘Tis the season in our family to celebrate Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead. Time to honor loved ones who have passed. Time to lay out a trail of marigold petals for the spirits to follow back home and to the altar. Time to create the altar with photos, foods, drink, and treasures. Our house fills with calaveras (skulls), even more than the usual.

Noé's parents, Amadeo y Manuela Villarreal

Noé’s parents, Amadeo y Manuela Villarreal

A time to remember loved ones and the gift of their presence in our lives. Photos of Noé’s parents, both of our grandparents, and dear friends who have passed grace the altar. Noé tells stories of his parents, who raised five children while working as migrant farm workers throughout the U.S.  “No matter where we were working,” Noé says, “and a lot of times we lived in abandoned barns or buildings, Mom always made a home for us.” His stories of his parents always seem to end in laughter. Never much one for Halloween, Dia de los Muertos is an integral beat in the rhythms and structures of our our family.

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo

Last night Noé and I returned from one of the best Halloweens I can remember – an evening with dear friends, passing out candy to the little ones, and the night ended with us sitting around a fire pit under the stars, the guitars came out, and we sang old songs, including Silver Wings, which is forever intertwined with singing around campfires after funerals during the years of the Cascabel ranch. I still cannot hear without tears. A song especially appropriate on the eve of Dia de los Muertos. We came home and I made the dough for the traditional pan de muerto (bread of the dead), which needs to be refrigerated overnight. I use Frida Kahlo’s recipe: 

Pan de Muerto title

Pan de muerto recipe 2

This morning over coffee, I shaped the dough into the small round balls, with bones of dough criss-crossing the top. Wynn, as she has for the past decade plus, decorated the breads. 

Ready to bake

Ashley Wolff

Ashley Wolff

In this time to remember loved ones who have passed, artist, author, and dear friend Ashley Wolff  created stunning images of her beloved dog, Tula, and other loved animals who had passed. Ashley writes, “This year my Dia de los Muertos altar will be packed with color and light to honor my beloved dead.”



The Ghost of Seabiscuit

The Ghost of Seabiscuit

Ashley's altar

Ashley’s altar

After the rains.

After the rains.

We’ve received unseasonal rains in the past few weeks. I can hardly believe that I look outside to still see all flowers blooming. This rose just bloomed yesterday. This will go on this year’s altar.

The sweet scent of vanilla and cinnamon of the freshly baked pan de muerto fills the house. Wyatt looked forward to the annual pan de muerto every year. He was raised with these Dia los los Muertos traditions and rituals of our family. He’s off to college now. We were lucky enough to see our favorite university student when he came home for a rock -climbing competition in two weeks ago. After finishing this piece, I’m going to wrap up a few of the pan de muerto to send off to him in his dorm. 

Dia de los muertos—a time to celebrate and cherish life. 

With Wyatt.

With Wyatt.






Tony Hillerman Writers Conference 2015

Dawn Wink, Jann Arrington-Wolcott, Anne Hillerman, Jean Schaumberg

I am over the moon to be included again in this year’s Tony Hillerman Writers Conference. Wordharvest  just sent out this update about the conference. I’m so glad to share with you. We hope you will join us at the conference!

Tony Hillerman Writers Conference MCs

We are delighted to introduce the two fabulous women who will share MC duties with Anne Hillerman this year. 

Dawn Wink and Jann Arrington-Wolcott have a long association with the
Tony Hillerman Writers Conference and we are delighted that they will join us in November.

Dawn Wink is a writer and educator whose work explores the beauty and tensions of place, culture, and language. She is Director and Associate Professor of the Department of Education at Santa Fe Community College. Her books include Teaching Passionately; Raven’s Time; Wild Waters; and Meadowlark: A Novel, inspired by the stories that her mother told about her great-grandmother who lived on a ranch in South Dakota. Dawn was MC for last year’s New Book/New Author Breakfast. Her next book, Love Stones, will be published in early 2016.

Jann Arrington-Wolcott is a third-generation New Mexican. Her colorful family tree includes a frontier sheriff grandfather, a Harvey Girl grandmother, a native American great-grandmother, a Methodist minister great-grandfather, and “an assortment of horse-thieves and train-robbers—a great mix of sinners and saints.” Jann is the author of the thriller Brujo, and an award-winning coffee table book, Christmas Celebration: Santa Fe Traditions, Crafts, and Foods. Her long-awaited thriller, Deathmark, made its debut in 2014. Eye of the Raven, the revision of, Brujo, is scheduled for a November 2015 release.

Visit www.wordharvest.com and register for the
2015 Tony Hillerman Writers Conference.

We hope to see you there.

Anne and Jean

Conference Tips

DRESS SUGGESTIONS: Dress casually and be comfortable. Wear your jeans if you want to. We will. You might want to have a light jacket or sweater while sitting in the sessions. Conference room temperatures vary. Bring something business dressy for the Saturday banquet.

WEATHER IN NOVEMBER: Winter weather will be settling in but days are normally sunny and clear. Nights can be cold. Dress in layers when you go out. Santa Fe is at an altitude of 7,000 feet. If you are not used to the high altitude give yourself time to acclimate. Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and be mindful of alcohol consumption. It will get to you much quicker than at lower altitudes.

We look forward to seeing you at the 2015 Tony Hillerman Writers Conference
November 5 – 7 – Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza, 100 Sandoval Street


Rhythms of Season

Feathered hollyhock

Feathered hollyhock

It’s been a biblical sort of summer — lots of water and wine.

Water and wine.

Water and wine.

We moved in May into a home with a blank canvas for a yard. The past months have been a flurry of planting and watering and more planting and watering. The open canvas of dirt beckoned a paintbrush to add hollyhocks, hummingbird mint, zinnias, lilacs, perennials of all colors and shapes, climbing roses and rose bushes, lilacs, aspens, apricot and apple trees, cottonwoods and locusts. Noé said living with me this summer was like living with a badger—every time he looked out a window, dirt was flying!

Candle to water.We planted trees by moonlight. I started each day watering by 5:00 am. The morning rhythm included slipping on a robe, candles, coffee, pull on boots, step outside, inhale stars, pull up the handle of the hose, water, come in to write, back outside to water. Coming home from work, I headed straight to the hose, ruined some very nice heels, and started the rotation of watering all.

Bouquet for class.

Bouquet for class.

The flying dirt, the watering, the planting and more planting represented the physical sinking of roots in an unexpected move—the human craving of familiar rhythms, which in the summer for me means giving bouquets grown in my garden.  

Boots and shovel.

Boots and shovel.

In the last 20 years, the ground around our home has gone untended. We cleared and raked, thinned and hauled. My boots worn into comfort, scuffed and scraped, on the ranch held the cholla thorns mostly at bay and walked many, many miles this summer. So much of my life is spent in front of a computer—I welcomed the physical exertion and sweat of walking, hauling, loading, and digging outside. Actually, it felt great!

“Make hay while the sun shines,” took on new meaning. This summer was about doing as much as possible outside. Indoor projects can be done during winter months. 

Noé - Last load.

Noé – Last load.

A hawk came to visit as I watered one evening.

Hawk at sunset.

Hawk at sunset.

The rhythms of summer included a wedding, exquisite in detail and overflowing with love.

Wedding table.

Wedding table.

Amor papel picado

Plants in writing room for the winter.

Plants in writing room for the winter.

I just brought in the inside plants to live in my writing room for the winter. This marked the deepening of a season. We anticipate the first frost soon.

I look forward to the brightness and life of these flowers, when all outside is frozen and grey. I study the new plants each morning and evening and wonder what the spring will bring.

 I hope the wild sunflower seeds, gathered from along the highway and roads, and tossed around our property will take root.

Wild sunflower seeds

Wild sunflower seeds

Chile ristras now replace the geraniums and flowers next to our gate.

Chile ristras.

As I look outside my the window of my writing room to see the little white lights which now give shape to the branches outside in the darkness I think of Ecclesiastes 3, “To every thing there is a season, and a time and a purpose under heaven.” 

I look forward to this new season of looking within, of deep writing, of wondering which tender roots will make it through the winter to emerge in spring.

Dawn trailer

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Wild Waters: Landscapes of Language

Tarahumara Skirts @ Curtis Doelle

The land spoke in the brilliant-colored layers of Rarámuri women’s skirts. @ Curtis Doell, 2012

Wild Waters: Landscapes of Language

                                                                                                                     Dawn Wink

          …in the bottom of a dark canyon, I stood in a shroud of voices. They spun up the canyon walls, radiating through the dusky interior…The voices were part of a complex language, a language that formed audible words as water tumbled over rocks, and one that carved sentences and stories into the stone walls that it passed…

          If you want to study water, you do not go to the Amazon or to Seattle. You come here, to the driest land. Nowhere is it drawn to such a point.

          In the desert, water is unedited, perfect.

                                     – CRAIG CHILDS, The Secret Knowledge of Water

The summer rain danced in sentences across the tin roof in the night. Shards of lightning rent the black fabric of the desert night, pulling thunder in its wake. Moisture misted in under the metal overhang, carrying the scents of creosote and wet earth. Another voice joined the staccato whispers on the roof—the rush of water down a nearby canyon. Cracks of rocks chimed into the desert’s conversation, as the water tumbled them across the canyon floor through blanket of night, rain, and thunder.

With Mom, Cascabel, 1978.

With Mom, Cascabel, 1978.

I was eight-years-old, and sat on the low stucco wall under the porch of our ranch house, my legs curled up in front of me and my back pressed against the rough stucco of the column behind. My younger brother sat across from me against the next column. Mom and Dad rocked on the front porch swing, the slow glide of the hook rubbing against the eye ring creaked its own rhythmic voice into the night. Lightning illuminated sheer bluffs rising above the river behind the house, their face lined with shadows of the crooked paths of water’s journey downward over thousands of years. The muddy, chocolate-colored waters of the nearby canyon poured into the northward bound river. The staccato whispers of rain on tin.

The desert speaks a symphony of sounds.

Fluidity. Nourishment. Destruction. Strength. Death. Life. All are commonalities that language and culture share with water. Here in the Southwest, the power of water underlies all. Agua es vida. Water is life.

Reflections of memory. Cascabel bluffs. © Joan Wink, 1983

Reflections of memory. Cascabel bluffs. © Joan Wink, 1983

I grew up with this language on a cattle ranch in a river valley framed by sheer sandstone bluffs in the Sonoran desert in the southeastern corner of Arizona. Those bluffs frame my life—then and now. The San Pedro River runs north with water through the summer monsoon season, and with luck, through January and February. Most of the year, the river is a dry bed of satin sand, lying dormant in the carved forms created by run-off after the last rain. Tiny flakes of clay bake in the sun. When the much prayed for rains arrive, the riverbed and surrounding washes spring to life. Water stained a muddy brown moves along its bed, tracing familiar curves and paths and, forging new ones. The river rises on the parched land.

Growing up, my brother and I had few rules carved in stone, and instead explored our outer and inner landscapes with relative freedom. The rules we had, though, we understood were not to be breached:

          • Never climb into the corral if there’s a bull in there.

          • Always leave a gate as you find it.

          • Never, ever enter the river or a wash if it’s running. Every summer, tales of people   swept to their deaths punctuate the media of the desert.

Textures and colors of Rarámuri @ Curtis Doell

Textures and colors of Rarámuri @ Curtis Doell

Life eventually took me away from this ranch and immersed me not in the desert, but in languages and cultures. First, to Ciudad Chihuahua, Mexico, where the land spoke in the brilliant-colored layers of skirts of the Rarámuri women, lush mango on my tongue, and the pulsing thud of headaches as I struggled to understand and be understood. On to Spain, with its language of cobalt blue Talavera tile, the taste of dense olive oil melting into toasted bread, and shape of Andalusian mosques. Then to Germany, where language breathed from the throat, rather than rolled from the tongue. Here, language spoke in heavy scents of green hills and weight of history.

Twenty years came and went. Still drawn to language, I wrapped myself in its tapestry, followed their threads, drawn to their textures, colors, and how each felt on my tongue and in my ear. I taught bilingual education in the central valley of California, where my students included the children of migrant farm workers, who spoke only Spanish in their homes, the children of English-speaking parents who wanted their children to be bilingual, and I taught the teachers who worked with these students and more.

Language felt like the fine ridges of brightly-patterned oilcloth. @Dawn Wink, 2015

Language felt like the fine ridges of brightly-patterned oilcloth. @Dawn Wink

During these years, language felt like the fine ridges of brightly-patterned oilcloth beneath my fingertips and under my coffee cup, as memories of Mexico, of laughter and of tears mixed with the air and tingling nostrils from red chile enchiladas baking in the oven, and tasted on my tongue of warm arroz con leche, sprinkled with cinnamon and raisins. These years sounded of the rustle of polished suits at parent-teacher conferences with attorneys, doctors, and professors, and the sight of newspaper print held aloft to cover the face of the person who didn’t want to hear how to teach students who came to school speaking languages other than English.

Through it all, I yearned for the desert. “My home is a red desert that trembles with spirits and bones,” writes Amy Irvine McHarg in Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land. When I read this, a wave of emotion swept over me to curl me over and leave me clutching the book to my chest. So is mine, I whispered. So is mine. Until one day twenty-five years after that night of rain dancing on the tin roof, I returned to live in the juniper and piñon dotted high desert of northern New Mexico.

Back to the land where water is life or death. Back to the desert’s symphony of sounds.

* * *

Too many seek to silence the languages of the land. “Speak English!” bark voices in the desert now. I ran along a trail through the desert and jumped a narrow trench sluiced through from the run off of the rain of the day before. Like the water cutting through the earth, the national rhetoric and tone focuses on sweeping any language other than English, or any culture not deemed as “American” in some misrepresentation of history, away with it. The word ‘bilingual’ has been expunged from the vocabulary of the Department of Education, replaced now with ‘English Language Learner.’

While we hear how in order to compete globally, our citizens need to be bilingual, apparently that only means if you’re first language is English, and then you learn a second at some later point. What historically has taken three generations to acquire regarding acquisition of English, is now expected to be done by five, six, and seven-year-olds in nine short months.

The beloved borderland of my childhood seems intent on a downhill slide into intolerance and the politics of hatred. Anti-immigration rhetoric has reached new heights, and people are dying in the deserts by the hundreds. It’s now legal for police officers to pull over any person they think might not be in the country illegally.

Stella Pope Duarte, author of If I Die In Juárez, spoke of being pulled over in Phoenix by a police officer recently, who asked her, “So, how long have you been here ma’am?”

“Well, let’s see, on my mother’s side, we’ve been here about 20,000 years, and my father’s family were some of the original founders of Tucson. How about yourself?” she asked and smiled brightly.

The wet sand crunched beneath my running shoes, as I rounded a corner and climbed the rocky trail lined with the ashy green chamisa shrubs and juniper trees. Mile six slipped behind me, sweat ran out from under my cap and down the back of my neck, my thoughts filled with the tangled, sticky, love-and-hate-filled webs of language, how rife with humanity we all are, and all that brings with it. Language cannot be dissected into a totality of mere sounds and syllables, much as many current reading programs in schools would like to do so. Language is love; Language is family; Language is memories; Language is our ancestor’s legacy to us.

Language is power.

* * *

San Pedro River © Annie Wilkinson

San Pedro River © Annie Wilkinson

When allowed its own life, water flows naturally. It will adapt, flow, follow the curves of the earth and rocks. It can nourish or destroy. As do languages. We are a land of many languages. We always have been. “Language expresses itself in the rivers,” writes Jay Griffths in Wild: An Elemental Journey. “Rivers flow like language—we say that someone is “fluent” in a language, their speech flows like a river. Languages, like rivers, run roughly the same course, but always change in their details; you never step into the same language twice, because the meaning has newly shifted here, a connotation has just been formed there. Rivers and language are both gloriously wild.”

The wildness of the land and the wildness of languages are intimately intertwined, the richness of one infuses the richness of the other. The loss of either diminishes the wildness of the other.

As the desert sun has warmed rocks over the centuries, the desert speaks in the language of water, of wind, and of rain. Speaks in the language of quail, and of mountain lions perched on ledges above a valley, the language of ants, of jaguars, and of blue butterflies, each named by its own unique shade. The land whispers in yucca pods rattling in the wind, and Nahuatl, Diné, Apache, Spanish, English of every brogue and lilt. The sun sets, the rocks cool, and the moon rises above the continued cadence of language and water, of the chorus yips of coyotes, murmured hushes telling loved ones good night in whatever language of the heart, and the soft gurgle of flowing water in the moonlight.

I listened to the desert.

I listened to water.

This is what I heard.



Langscape Volume 4

Langscape Volume 4

This essay was originally published in the journal Langscape, Volume 4, Issue 1, Summer 2015, The People’s Issue – Part One: Flows and Bridges.

I am especially over the moon with this publication, for Langscape’s focus on educating minds and hearts about the importance and value of biocultural diversity. The ideas from around the world, combined with the gorgeous photos and aesthetics of the journal as a whole, create a feast for the senses. For more information on their work, table of contents, how to become members, or purchase PDF or print copies, please visit their homepage here: Terralingua.

Wild Waters is a piece especially close to my own heart.



Boys on the Ranch

Luke on south porch

Luke on south porch.

This summer I read a marvelous book about boys on the cusp of adulthood growing into men. Boys in the Boat details the journey of nine boys scraping their way through the Depression and life and into the 1936 Olympics. In our life, this summer would be titled Boys on the Ranch.

Wyatt and Luke, 2001

Wyatt and Luke, 2001

Wyatt and Luke drove to the ranch to spend weeks living and working with Grammie and Bop Bop. As they headed out at 4:00 am one morning, I marveled at the different chapters of life. For 19 years, I’ve loaded up one, two, then three children into various car seats, packed around them with snacks and books, all their suitcases, loaded the dog, and headed the 28 or 14 hours north (depending on where we lived) to the ranch. For the first time in 20 years, I won’t make it to the ranch this summer. Work, the move, and life have kept my own 4:00 am headlights from heading north to South Dakota. 

This year I made Wyatt and Luke coffee, poured into thermoses, waved good-bye, and watched their headlights cut through the darkness. 

Of their time there, I received photos and brief phone calls. In the images received, the life stories of the boys shone through. 

Wyatt, Bop Bop, Grammie, Luke

Wyatt, Bop Bop, Grammie, Luke

Bop Bop and Wyatt, branding day.

Bop Bop and Wyatt, branding day.

Gone were the little boys who ran around there ranch in hats, boots, and nothing else. Gone were the boys of early teens, trying to find their way in the world. In their place, young men coming into their own walked, laughed, and worked across the prairie. 

Wyatt mowing.

Wyatt mowing.

Boys wrestled calves for branding. It had been a year since they’d done this. Better to remember in the corrals, rather than branding day. 

Boys tackling calves

Boys wrestling calves.

Boys wrestling calves.

Boys wrestling calves.

Neither of the boys ever had much use for toys, it was always about something real, a task with purpose. On a ranch, everything is real and has a purpose.  

Luke branding

Luke, branding day.

Alongside them in every chapter, my mom and dad, walked, laughed, and worked with them. 

Wyatt, Tommy, Bop Bop - branding day.

Wyatt, Tommy, Bop Bop – branding day.

Ranch life wears a fellow out.

Wyatt nap.

Wyatt, nap.

And sometimes a guy just needs a nest… Luke spent every moment not working, reading on the couch by Grammie‘s desk.

Luke's place.

Luke’s nest.

Within these images, I see not only my sons and parents, but generations around the world who have shared all chapters – the joyous and the dreadful – to create this messy, wondrous thing we call life.

Wyatt, Luke, Bop Bop

Wyatt, Luke, Bop Bop

Back in Santa Fe, new rose after a monsoon rain. A storm-birthed rose.

Storm-birthed rose

Storm-birthed rose.


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