Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Writing, Teaching, Language, Landscape, Life


Joan & Dawn: The Personal and the Professional

First bouquet of Summer 2020.

First bouquet of Summer 2020.

Dawn & Joan, Tucson 2019

Dawn & Joan, Tucson

In between Zoom meetings, report writing, and email today, I received a text of a piece she wrote from Joan Wink. Some know her as an internationally renowned scholar, professor, and writer. I know her as Mom. During this time of the lockdown, this piece on the intertwining of our personal and professional lives feels especially resonant. For all of us, the compartmentalization of the personal and the professional has dissolved in these past months, whether we wanted it to or not.

For Mom and I, the intentional braiding together of the personal and professional creates a primary pillar in of our personal and professional lives—each strengthening the other. Mom began writing of this piece for WinkWorld and discovered later that day that I was making a video on just this topic this for one of my PhD courses focusing on Women in Leadership.

Mom shares her wisdom and my video here: Dawn & Joan: The Personal and the Professional.

As I watched the video for the first time in several months, taken after a month spent on my parents’ ranch while my dad received treatment for prostate cancer in AZ, I flashed on Daddy, Mom, Noé, and I this past Christmas, smack-dab in the midst of my own cancer treatment. Daddy said, “I’ve heard that it’s 1 in 8 people in the US who develop cancer. In our Wink family, it’s 3 out of 4.”

“Well,” we said, “at least we’re in it together!”

As we all navigate this global journey of the lockdown, doing our extraordinarily imperfect human best to meld our personal and professional lives into the best whole we can compose, perhaps we might find ways to fuse these often separate lives together for a mutual strengthening and inspiration of each. No matter how messy and exhausting the journey (and it is), bits of beauty are sure to shine through.

At least we’re in it together!

Work day.




Mustangs and Music—The Wild Mustangs of San Luis Valley

Mama and foal mustangs, San Luis Valley All photos of trip ©Wynn Wink-Moran


Wynn and I headed north to Colorado to pick up Luke who was on his way back from the ranch. It was a lovely drive through the San Luis Valley. While we are very fortunate where we live to have access to the outdoors (i.e. long runs and walks), it still felt fabulous during these weeks in quarantine to get out.

A remote valley in northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado, we took the two-lane road through miles and miles of sharp stone cliffs and vast landscape. We drove through the wide-open country and I listened to Wynn sing along to her favorite musicals.

This was my first time through San Luis, CO. It’s website reads, “San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado, was established on April 5, 1851, with a present population of approximately 750. San Luis is predominately Hispanic, with strong ties to Spain’s religious, cultural, and artistic traditions. Once a part of four Spanish land grants decreed by the King of Spain, the town’s adobe architecture and classic Spanish town layout retain the texture of the historical and cultural influences which shaped the early communities of Southern Colorado. The surrounding area is mainly a farming and agriculture area.” There is a definite feel of stepping into a historic and weighty past here.


As we drove the remote two-lane road, which reminded me a lot of driving to the ranch, a car coming toward us blinked their headlights. I assumed that it was to let me know there was a patrol officer ahead and checked my speed. Several miles passed and no highway patrol anywhere. When the next car coming toward us miles later also blinked their lights, I wondered what might be happening and soon discovered.

In this part of Colorado, blinking headlights means, “Look out for wild mustangs on the road ahead.” Considering the history of the Spaniards, who brought horses to this area, this felt to be a blending of past and present.

Wynn and I slowed to a crawl and the dark swirl of shapes shifted to become a mosaic of horses and foals.

One little one particularly captured our hearts with its scampering about. Wynn took photos and we imagined the story, one the may resonate with parents in quarantine around the world.

“Come on, Mom. Let’s play. We’ve been munching grass all day. Come on, come on!”

Mama and foal

“Puh-lease let’s play! Please, please, please, please!

“Maybe if I crawl on your back, you’ll want to play!

“Wait! There’s someone over there. They’re watching us. Mommy, stand still. Let me hide. I am one with you.”

“We’re leaving? You’re not going without me! Let me walk in front of you—right under your feet.

“Well, okay. If we must. No playing? Maybe later? Huh, Mom? Maybe later? Mom? Mom? Mom?”

As Wynn and I drove away, the horses drifted south. I kept checking the rearview mirror until they were a distant dark smudge. Wynn turned on the music and again sang along.

We drove north amidst mustangs and music. I thought again of the poem:

I shall wear turquoise and diamonds,
And a straw hat that doesn’t suit me
And I shall spend my social security on
white wine and carrots,
And sit in my alleyway of my barn
And listen to my horses breathe.
I will sneak out in the middle of a summer night
And ride the old bay gelding,
Across the moonstruck meadow
If my old bones will allow
And when people come to call, I will smile and nod
As I walk past the gardens to the barn
and show instead the flowers growing
inside stalls fresh-lined with straw.
I will shovel and sweat and wear hay in my hair
as if it were a jewel
And I will be an embarrassment to ALL
Who will not yet have found the peace in being free
to have a horse as a best friend
A friend who waits at midnight hour
With muzzle and nicker and patient eyes
For the kind of woman I will be
When I am old.
-Author Patty Barnhart

Light ©Wynn Wink-Moran


The Poetry, Inspiration, and Beauty of Birds

Dawn ©Julie Morley

Instagram: @juliemorley

I woke one recent morning to discover a hummingbird had been named after me. My dear friend environmental educator, bird photographer, and author, Julie Morley, takes stunning photos of birds, conveying their beauty through her own incandescent spirit. A gift of beauty beyond words.

Julie wrote about the hummingbird she named for me, “Dawn rising. I took this photo just after dawn this morning. She reminded me of the sky and also of my friend named Dawn whose ability to rise above inspires me. Hummingbirds are tiny but also resilient. Their super powers amaze me. They are magic.

Photo and quote composition ©Julie Morley

Julie’s exquisite photos and poetic lens through which she lives and expresses the world never cease to brighten my day, to inspire and illuminate. Julie had no idea that hummingbirds hold an extra special place in my heart and world as they symbolize beauty and joy. I especially love that she named this bird after me, as her colors are the shades of the sky at sunrises and sunset. This resonates with powerful poignancy as I continue my healing journey.

I think of the global healing journey we all now find ourselves on. As we navigate this new terrain, I hope that Julie’s photos and words may inspire you and bring texture, life, and beauty to your day. 

“Happy Nanday parakeet flying through the tasty coral blossoms.”

“In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.”
― Robert Lynd

“Fairy Princess in her magical realm.”

“Once upon a time, when women were birds,
there was the simple understanding that
to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk
was to heal the world through joy.
The birds still remember
what we have forgotten,
that the world is meant to be
~Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds

“Hawk beauty in eucalyptus.”

“Pearl grooming in the early morning. Hummingbirds have an oil gland in their back to shine up their feathers and keep them water resistant.” (Pearl is one of my favorites. She’s frequently featured in Julie’s work. I feel as if I know her!)

“Handsome Mr. Finch at sunset.”

“The unbearable cuteness of little Rufous. He was such a tiny fuzzball back then.”

“Peace to ALL.”

It is a joy to share the elegance and grace of the birds featured through Julie’s stunning photography. Wishing connection, relationship, and beauty to you.

Julie Morley is an environmental educator, author and speaker on complexity, consciousness, ecology and interspecies creativity. Julie’s book Future Sacred: The Connected Creativity of Nature combines cultural criticism, history, philosophy and complexity theory to describe a radical approach to rethinking our future.
I include here the most recent Dewdrops, as I experienced a bit of technical difficulties when published. Most of you did not receive, many of you received two times, and I know at least one person who received five times! Yikes. So sorry about that! I’ve been working with technical help and hope that we have now resolved. For those who did not receive, I really hope you do this time. For those who already received, please go back to the beauty of the birds!

Wild Waters, Langscape, and Stories About the Collective Human Experience

Birthday beauty.

Thank you, thank you, and thank you to all who reached out to connect on what’s been happening in my life. Each beautiful email, post, text, card lands in my heart in deep, profound ways. If I have not yet responded, please know how much you and your connecting means to me. I will respond. I am so grateful for our shared life paths. Writing that piece after months of holding, and your loving response, created slivers of peace absent before.

Wildly, just as I re-emerge into the world, our world is now self-isolating and retreating into itself. I hope this finds you and yours safe. In our family, kids are home, we are self-isolating, and working remotely.

I was delighted to receive an email from the editors of Terralingua‘s Langscape Magazine that they are now publishing pieces online with goal is to make their “digital repository of important stories about biocultural diversity freely available at this critical time in our collective human experience.” My article, “Wild Waters: Landscapes of Language” is now a part of those available collective human experiences.

Truth be told, I just love this piece. One of my favorites ever. Please find “Wild Waters”, and many more, here.

I am running again, which is a spirit saver. It is also when I compose many Dewdrops pieces. I am working on different pieces around cancer, COVID, teaching virtually, and Harry Potter. Will keep running and hopefully get those to you sooner, rather than later!

Much love,


Making videos for faculty and students.


Wild Waters, Langscape, and Stories About the Collective Human Experience

Birthday beauty.

Thank you, thank you, and thank you to all who reached out to connect on what’s been happening in my life. Each beautiful email, post, text, card lands in my heart in deep, profound ways. If I have not yet responded, please know how much you and your connecting means to me. I will respond. I am so grateful for our shared life paths. Writing that piece after months of holding, and your loving response, created slivers of peace absent before.

Wildly, just as I re-emerge into the world, our world is now self-isolating and retreating into itself. I hope this finds you and yours safe. In our family, kids are home, we are self-isolating, and working remotely.

I was delighted to receive an email from the editors of Terralingua‘s Langscape Magazine that they are now publishing pieces online with goal is to make their “digital repository of important stories about biocultural diversity freely available at this critical time in our collective human experience.” My article, “Wild Waters: Landscapes of Language” is now a part of those available collective human experiences.

Truth be told, I just love this piece. One of my favorites ever. Please find “Wild Waters”, and many more, here.

I am running again, which is a spirit saver. It is also when I compose many Dewdrops pieces. I am working on different pieces around cancer, COVID, teaching virtually, and Harry Potter. Will keep running and hopefully get those to you sooner, rather than later!

Much love,


                                        Making videos for faculty and students.


Breast Cancer – A Chapter in the Story

“Breast cancer is no more than a chapter in my life story.

It will never be my life story.”

~Robin Roberts

Saltines and Ginger Ale. Who knew?

When I first heard that breast cancer was a possibility, these were the only things that tasted okay for months. Here’s for small miracles!

Breast cancer has been the chapter of many women’s life story in my family. Many of you know that Moms life story includes this chapter, as did my aunt’s on Dad’s side. My maternal grandmother’s life story ended in that chapter. This chapter is now a more intimate experience in my own life. This past fall I was diagnosed with breast cancer. For personal and professional reasons, I chose to keep the journey private. For all those same reasons, it now feels right to share.

During this time, I tried to focus on beauty where it could be found.

There was beauty and blessings in early detection.

There was beauty in a gorgeous AZ scene on the doors of pre-op room, very helpful to see and imagine.

There was beauty in the love and laughter in the shared prayer with our former pastor and forever friend who called before my surgery and led us in an energy-filled prayer, closing with, “Wow! I pray like a Baptist when I pray for Dawn Wink!”

There was beauty in learning that all the cancer was removed and I would not need chemotherapy or radiation.

There was beauty in the daily early morning coffee and candles during recovery.

When there were unexpected complications and I went back into surgery on December 23, there was beauty my family gathering with me at the hospital.

There was beauty in my surgeon who after complications arose took infinitely exquisite care of me through the initial emergency visit to her office on a Sunday, to the surgery the next day, then the daily, then every other day, then twice a week, then weekly care until the next surgery two months later.

Beauty in the phenomenal support and presence of my family. Every moment. Every Time. Throughout all.

The beauty of bulky sweaters! When things went awry after the first surgery, Mom, Wynn, and I went to a local consignment shop and loaded up on bulky sweaters that got me through these months. I have no idea what women do in the summer. Mumus? God bless bulky sweaters!

A gorgeous lamp store in downtown Santa Fe.

Window of my writing room.

There was beauty that in the month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, before my diagnosis was final and when I walked into a breast cancer center for yet another diagnostic test and was greeted by a wall of pink balloons draping all in the two-story foyer that The Great Pink Balloon Rampage of 2019 remains only in my mind and did not actually occur. It was very, very close.

There was beauty in those whose intention is to comfort during invasive procedures. Unless you’re a person like me who during difficult times wants to be left alone to do what I need to do. So when people intending to be helpful during these procedures do not listen to me asking to please leave me alone and let me focus, there is great beauty that the visceral growl of, “If you get in my face one. more. time, I will throat-punch you,” remained unspoken.

Gratitude for small miracles.

There was beauty in the bouquet of flowers that Mom and Dad sent me after a confluence of events came as a 1-2 punch one week.

Beauty in the prayers received. I felt them deeply. Prayers made a world of difference for me. Thank you with all of my heart. Mil gracias con todo el corazón. 

Patricia De Dios

Beauty in the discovery of a cupboard beneath the stairs – a delight to my Harry Potter-loving heart.

Beauty that my recent surgery went well and my healing journey is on the upswing.

Beauty and courage in the pin given to me by a forever friend. I carry this pin with me, take it out to look at when I need inspiration, and rub my fingers across the edges when in my pocket.

I feel strong and have been working throughout.

I look forward to hitting the running trails again! The dogs look at me expectantly in the mornings, disappointed when I only refill my coffee. We will all be thrilled to get back into our daily rhythm.

I look forward to climbing back into the dissertation saddle to complete that journey.

Breast cancer is no more than a chapter in the whole of the book of my life story. This chapter definitely shapes me in new ways that continue to unfold and emerge. I don’t yet know all of the ways this will influence me. There is definitely a “Before” and “After” the diagnosis. The rest of the life story yet to be lived.




The Importance of Connection, a Symposium with Dr. Bruce Perry

Dr. Bruce Perry, Santa Fe, NM Sept. 2019

“Connectedness allows people to heal,” said Dr. Perry. “The American Dream has resulted in relational poverty. The independence espoused by the American Dream has resulted in a relationally fragmented society. We’ve lost our connectedness to each other and our connectedness to the natural world.”

So began the two-day symposium by Dr. Bruce Perry, a specialist on neuroscience and childhood trauma, that I had the great good fortunate to attend here in Santa Fe in September, brought by Dr. Jennifer Duran-Sallee, Director of The Early Childhood Center of Excellence at Santa Fe Community College and the LANL Foundation.

“The American Dream, and the relational poverty we suffer as a result,” said Dr. Perry, “underlies our vulnerability to life’s stressors. The compartmentalization of our culture has resulted in material wealth, yet poverty in social and emotional relationships.

“For thousands of generations, we lived in small multi-generational ratios of 4 present adults for every 1 child. We now live in a society where children interact with fewer and fewer adults and have increasingly fewer opportunities for emotional and relational growth.”

Dr. Perry referred to his promiscuity when it comes to theoretical tools and we spent two days spanning the spectrum of the details of neuroscience and their impacts on children and society.

The importance of early childhood, highlighted Dr. Perry, cannot be overstated and the vital roles that “safety, predictability, nurturing, and play have in shaping who we become as people, and in turn what that means for the health and welfare of a culture.”

Dr. Jennifer Sallee

The essence of the detailed, cutting-edge neuroscience highlights the role of the brain in social and emotional health. Dr. Perry articulated how the relational landscape in children’s lives is changing. “Children have fewer emotional, social, and cognitive interactions with fewer people. Why does this matter?

“This matters for a number of reasons. This poverty of relationships is extremely important, because of the normal neurobiological networks that you have in your brain and body that help you regulate your physiology, your stress response networks. These networks regulate whether your pancreas works, how vulnerable you are for diabetes, and how your heart works. These networks regulate how every part of your brain works, the part of the brain involved in moving, the part of the brain involved in forming relationships, the part of the brain involved in empathy, in compassion, in creativity, in productivity.

“Every single part of the brain and all the rest of your body are influenced by relational interactions.”

“Your stress response systems and the neurobiological networks are co-organized with the neurobiological networks involved in forming and maintaining relationships. Relationships have a key role in global health, creativity, and productivity.

If a baby receives predictable love and attention for the first two months of their lives, this is a more powerful influence in emotional health than the impact of negative experiences in their lives for the next 10-12 years.

Blessing, Dr. Brooke Gondara

I am not an expert in neuroscience. The wealth of neuroscience research shared made me want to hold and love babies, read endlessly to and with children, weave generations together around conversation, presence and love, blow up electronic devices parents use to raise their children in isolation, hug, talk, hug some more, read, mentor, listen deeply, read with kids, engage with empathy and compassion, create intergenerational communities—and hold and love loads more babies and kids.

This piece reflects the tippy-tip of the top of the iceberg of Dr. Perry’s ideas. If they resonate with you, please read and listen to more of his work.

Incredible and what the world needs. 

Below some bits of beauty from my walk to and from the conference center and my car.

Flower-lined path

Clouds over Santa Fe

Speaking of the heart of relationships in our lives, our Santa Fe Community College family wishes our dearest Gerry Harris the best in the new chapter of her life back in the UK with her grandchildren. She is missed more than words and our hearts sing that she’s with her own beautiful babies, large and small.





Association for the Study of Literature and Environment in dear Davis

The arboretum of UC/Davis. Noe the baby ducklings! Photo ©Brenda Lanphear

They say, “Home is where the heart is.” If this is true (and I believe it is), then my heart beats in more than one place.

I’ve written of my landscapes of the heart on the ranch, in Santa Fe, and Arizona. Another place of pulse that I have not yet written so much about are the nearly 20 years lived in Davis, CA.

I was beyond blessed to return to University of California/Davis for the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment Conference 2019 for a time of idea exploration and reconnection with deep roots.

First, the UC/Davis Campus—the arboretum where I studied, read, and ran for years.

The quad with inevitable bikes in the Bicycle Capital of the US:

I presented with the panel “Beyond Retreat: (Re)thinking Pastoral Landscape in the Posthuman Turn” (Chaired by Stefano Rozzoni, University of Bergamo. Gratitude to my professor, Dr. Jennifer Wells, for connecting me to this organization and Stefano). I presented on “Pastoral Landscape Through an Ecolinguistic Lens.”

Dawn Wink, Rachel L. Carazo, Lisa Robinson, Stefano Rozzoni

My doctoral work focuses on exploring the relationship between language and landscape through the lenses of wildness, beauty, and imagination.

Ecolinguistics and linguistic human rights ground this work.

Ecolinguistics explore the role of language in the life-sustaining interactions of humans, other species, and the physical environment. The first aim is to develop linguistic theories which see humans not only as part of society, but also as part of the larger ecosystems that life depends on. The second aim is to show how linguistics can be used to address key ecological issues, from climate change and biodiversity loss to environmental justice (Skutnabb-Kangas & Harmon, 2018).

Linguistic human rights can be defined as “only those language rights . . . which are so basic for a dignified life that everybody has them because of being human; therefore, in principle no state (or individual) is allowed to violate them” (Skutnabb-Kangas, 2008, p. 109).

It was fascinating to hear the other presentations and how we each approached pastoral landscape through a vast spectrum of understandings and experiences.

At the end of my presentation I posed these thoughts to muse:

          Language as natural element of landscape.

          Language diversity as element of ecological diversity.

          Diverse linguistic landscapes as integral for global sustainability.

When not immersed in all things literature and ecology, it was a time of reconnecting with deep roots and friendships. My final years in Davis were all about babies, babies, and babies—having them, holding them, loving them.

Davis, 1999. Wyatt (3), Luke (1 1/2), Wynn (2 days).

Because of these baby years, when I found myself at the Farmer’s Market in Davis Central Park a newborn (grandson of a deep-roots-bookclub-friend) I felt all of the places where my heart beats slide together.


Works Cited

Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2008). Linguistic genocide in education or worldwide diversity and human rights?” Hyderabad, Telangana: Orient Blackswan.

Skutnabb-Kangas, T. & Harmon, D. (2018). “Biological diversity and language diversity.” In The routledge handbook of       ecolingistics. New York City, NY: Routledge.


“It takes a ranch”— Fall 2018

Sunset 2018

“It takes a ranch,” has been one of our family sayings through the years. Some may say “It takes a village…”, but for us it takes a ranch. We rally around this in both good and difficult times. It took a ranch in our family this fall, as we rallied around my dad’s diagnosis of prostate cancer.

So, while Mom and Dad prepared to head south, I tossed baskets of books and my new puppy, Angus, into the car and headed north. We woke the first morning to an eagle outside the window.

Daddy and I drove around the ranch and I drew maps and wrote notes of what I needed to remember in pastures and wells.

Mom and Dad off to Tucson.

Angus (aka the littlest cowboy) and I unloaded my books and his blankie (not in that order) and settled in.

Angus was particularly good at checking cows — if he could stay on my lap!

My running trail by the north dam.

I’m in a PhD program through the California Institute of Integral Studies, a small private university in San Francisco. I searched many years for this program – based in transdisciplinarity and creative inquiry. Those baskets of books were filled with coursework. The table (and rest of the house) became my desk. I’m exploring the intersections of ecolinguistics/linguistic human rights, landscape literature, and holistic resource management.

Early morning study time.

Dawn and Luke

I talked with Luke and said, “So, it’s a wild time. I move between reading about highly theoretical academic ideas about transdisciplinarity, ecolinguistics, linguistic human rights, and narrative inquiry—and then I have to check to make sure the manure is not clogging the pipes in the wash out. I feel as if I am  living in vastly different worlds that somehow come together beautifully.”

“Sounds like you’re living your program, Mom,” Luke said.

He was right.

As 2018 drew to a close, our family has much to give thanks.


Wynn, Luke, Wyatt 2018

The tumor was removed and cancer caught before it spread. I was on the phone with Mom when Daddy was in the surgery that was supposed to take one hour. One hour became two, then, three, and stretched into four. “This is too long for Wink to be under. Wait, there’s the doctor! I’ll be back.”

She called me later to describe how the very erudite and formal young doctor said to her, “I got in there and couldn’t find the prostate. So, I thought ‘What the hell?‘”

For those of you who know my dad, you know he has shattered his pelvis twice in the previous 15 years due to horse wrecks which resulted in hospitalization and my discovered love of tequila and cigarettes when your dad’s a cowboy. In one of those horse wrecks, the internal bleeding fused his bladder to his pelvis. Between that and the scar tissue, the doctor could not see or access the prostate. A problem during surgery for prostate cancer. What the hell?

Most of the time in surgery was the doctor separating the bladder from the pelvis, so he could get to the prostate.

That done, cancer removed and caught before moved to the lymph nodes. Received that news two hours from the ranch. Two hours of tears of gratitude on the prairie.

Intense on so many levels, this fall brought into sharp focus for me what matters in life:

Stick with those you love. Make them your priority.

Don’t wait for tomorrow or another year.

Create beauty.



Wink Ranch, May 2018

“All that is wild is winged—life, mind, and language…”

Jay Griffiths, Wild: An Elemental Journey

“It’s wild to be surrounded by wildlife and hear the birds all the time,” Luke said. I took the video above our first morning on the ranch. (Turn up the volume for birdsong.)

At last, I share our beautiful time on the ranch in May. Wyatt and Luke arrived the week before to prepare for branding. Long gone the days of strapping kids into carseats, listening to endless books-on-CD, and tossing goldfish over my shoulder while driving, hoping come might land close enough for somebody to catch. Noé, Wynn, and I rolled into the lane that evening, 14 hours after leaving Santa Fe.

Dad, Mom, Wyatt, and Luke waved from the front patio.


My heart…

Luke on south porch. I can’t even imagine how many books he’s read on the ranch through the years.

Dad prepares for branding.


Grandma Grace’s lilacs.


Beautiful Josie.

Bird-lined branches.

Photo on the fridge. This was Wynn’s ranch wear for years. Tutu, Wranglers, pixie haircut and pink cowgirl boots – yes, yes, and YES.

Cheyenne River breaks.


Feeding baby calves – 20 years of photos of the kids doing this.


My branding braids by Wynn.

Mom wears her branding shirt, “Does this saddle make me look fat?”

Bringing in the herd.

Wynn at the dam.


Cousins! Cuzzin Missy, Mom, Cuzzie Jessie. Mom and Cuzzin Jessie grew up here together.

Our incredible Cuzzin Missy.

I learned how to castrate this year. I’ll just leave that right there…

With dear Josie before we left.

Our time on the ranch was far too brief, which increased the poignancy and power.

There is something about multiple generations coming together on a ranch of deep roots, many chapters, and the creation of deep love that goes straight to one’s heart. It is an experience of beauty.






Reading—No Single Path (The Power of Story by Joan Wink)


Grammie and Wyatt reading, 1998

Grammie and Wyatt, Christmas 2017

In the last post about The Power of Story by my mom, Joan Wink, I shared that I’d originally intended to try and convey the whole of the book in a single post. What was I thinking?! The more I read, the more ideas about what to write about I scribbled in my journal. One of the stories that leapt out was of Wyatt’s (my son and Mom’s grandson) path to reading.

This journey taught Mom and me that there is no single path to literacy. This has enriched our understandings about literacy, kids, and schooling ever since. 

To provide some context to the story, I read to the kids aloud for hours a day since birth. We read aloud at least 2-3 hours a day reading for years and years. (Sometimes we read more—the kids were quiet, we were cuddled-up sitting down, and I was so tired!) These times are some of my very-favorite life moments. 

Reading together with Luke, Wyatt, and Wynn, 2003

According to literacy research, Wyatt should have started reading spontaneously sometime before Kindergarten. He did  not. Throughout Kindergarten, then First grade, and then into Second, we continued to read aloud, and Wyatt continued to not learn to read. Mom and I spent hours talking about what might be happening. None of this made sense. What I did know, and this was not from any literacy research that I’d read, was that whatever was happening was part of Wyatt’s path. It was sheer mother’s intuition and had nothing to do with being in education. Thankfully, I trusted this, as you will discover.

Mom includes Wyatt and my journey in The Power of Story (Libraries Unlimited, 2018, p. 24-37).

              Wink, J. The Power of Story, p. 34-37


Hell has officially frozen over. This is what I muttered to myself as I stood in line about to purchase my first pack of Pokémon cards for Wyatt. Pokémon intuitively appalls me. Wyatt’s peers have been collecting the cards for years, but I refused to by any for Wyatt.

“Mom, you and all the girls’ moms are the only ones who don’t allow Pokémon,” Wyatt told me earlier one day. I remained unmoved.

“Then one day, one of Wyatt’s friends came over to play. He brought his binder full of Pokémon cards to show Wyatt. I remember thinking, ‘Oh, no. How quickly can I get them away from those cards and onto the trampoline?” Except that Wyatt spent the next two hours reading those cards. He and his friend sat on the living room floor going over every letter and word in detail. As I dried dishes in the next room, I became aware of Wyatt’s efforts to read all of those cards. Wyatt usually shies away from any attempt at individual reading. Now he sat poring over letters and words, trying to make meaning. 

“He’s reading!” I thought to myself. The next day I purchased Pokémon cards.


“I continued to read with Wyatt and his brother and sister. Our stories grew more and more complex, and Wyatt used extremely complex oral language. 

He loved the complex action stories, with hints of the super natural; for example, I have read aloud the J. R. R. Tolkien series and Redwall series, the entire Harry Potter series (four times!), umpteen Norse, Celtic, and Southwestern myths and legends to all three kids, but still Wyatt’s teachers told me they would have to intervene to help him begin to read. I agonized and reflected: Could it be that these stories were too intimidating for Wyatt to try to read by himself? Were the books simply too big, the print too dense, the visual clues too infrequent?”

At this point, Mom suggested that perhaps the Captain Underpants series might be more approachable to him. I was aghast. We read Tolkien, Jacques, and C.S. Lewis. We did not read some weird little dude running around in his tidy whiteys! But, I was desperate and Mom sent Wyatt a box of Captain Underpants books and forbade me from interfering. Wyatt descended gleefully into the graphic novels whose primary focus are the sounds of bodily functions. 

Pie graph (2003) Wyatt made in 2nd grade of the books he’d read


‘Mom, I’m so stupid. I’m just so stupid. I don’t  understand any of this stuff.’ Wyatt threw his head down on his folded arms at the kitchen table and cried. 

‘What are you working on there, Wyatt?’ I asked. I sat down beside him to look at the worksheets of homework spread out i front of him. Black and white dittos filled with line after line of words broken down into incomprehensible parts. Slashes, dots, and hyphens turned words into a trail of shrapnel. “Wyatt, I don’t understand how to do any of this either, honey. Not a thing. You’re NOT stupid. This reading homework is stupid.’ 

The next day I pulled Wyatt out of school to homeschool him for the remainder of the year.”

Wyatt was mid-way through 2nd grade. I had no idea what I was going to do. None. This was not an academic decision, this was a mom’s decision following her intuition. Mostly, I read aloud to him. We certainly did nothing academic. I knew anything even remotely like a reading program would be the kiss of death forever for his love of books and stories. So, whatever Wyatt wanted me to read, I read aloud, us cuddled-up together.

With Luke and Wyatt, March 2018, Tucson, AZ. Luke and I off for a run. Wyatt off to climb a mountain.


Two days ago, I walked through Wyatt’s room and discovered him lying on his bed reading aloud to himself. On my way through, I realized that he was reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I feigned casual nonchalance and kept walking until I was out of his room and on the other side of the door…when I immediately and silently started jumping up and down pumping “Yes! Yes! Yes!” into the air with my fist. Remember, this was the kid who couldn’t read two months ago. 

As I walked up the stairs, different scenes from the past flashed through my mind—of the countless times I’d encouraged Wyatt to read, to be met with stony silent tears; of the previous couple of years of complete and total refusal to try to read; of my awareness during that time that if I asked him to read, the entire mood of our time would change, would go from one of togetherness, happiness, and enthusiasm, to one of sadness; of the inevitable feelings of failure on both of our parts. And tears, always there were agonized tears involved, whenever Wyatt was asked to read. 

Those memories floated back to me again that night when Wyatt and I cuddled in bed together; he was reading aloud to me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. “Oh, don’t worry, Mom, I’ll just read this. You don’t have to read anything tonight. Here we go.” He read to me, page after page, complete with inflection and enthusiasm. He drank in the storyline, adventure, humor, and mystery.

With Wyatt, Christmas 2017. Me just back from a run and him just awake. Same hair.

I discovered that Wyatt is definitely a sight word reader. He is like his mommy, sounding words out, and phonics only serve to confuse us both. Wyatt sees a word the first time, learns it, and from then on knows that word. I’ve learned when he’s reading aloud and stumbles on a word, if I just say it aloud immediately, he’ll look at the word, read it, and move on. the next time we encounter that word, it will flow fluently from his lips. If I encourage him to sound it out, disaster follows; he gets very frustrated; the soft, warm, fun mood of our reading disappears; and he doesn’t commit that word to memory for the next time it’s read.

What do I attribute his newfound literacy to?…Well, obviously, the hours and hours and hours spent reading aloud, everything from children’s books to adult fiction, greatly influences the rapidity with which he now gains reading fluency. Some of this event, I do believe, it also just part of his inherent nature Wyatt never crawled. He sat for nine months, then one day stood up and started running, almost identical to his literacy journey. 

Ultimately, though, it took me being ready to throw my beliefs about what we should be reading out the window, and being open to books that captured Wyatt’s fancy that he would read independently…namely…Tra la la!…that weird little fellow in his BVDs, Captain Underpants. Wyatt was so busy giggling at the delightfully disgusting adventures of these characters, with the words actually readable to him in small sections, that he completely forgot that he couldn’t read—in fact, he hated to read. Instead, he remained captured and engaged, reading about one deliriously appalling thing after another, giggling and exclaiming “Eeeeeeewwwwwww” happily throughout.

Wyatt, ice climbing, 2017

Now, he’s reading about Harry Potter flying about on his broom high above the Quidditch field, in search of the golden snitch. And along with Harry, Wyatt, too has learned to fly.”

Many years have passed since this journey. The power of story lives in Wyatt. He continues to be a voracious reader.  Wyatt is a college student at Adams State University, with a major in Wildlife Biology and minors in Programming and Computer Science and Adventure Leadership. Wyatt loves rock climbing and  just qualified for the National Competition.

Wyatt embodies all of the qualifies of the heroes he loves to read about. Wyatt teaches his grammie and mom, who adore him, a lot about literacy—and life. 

Today is Wyatt’s 22nd birthday.

Wyatt, rock climbing, 2017