Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Landscape, Language, Teaching, Wildness, Beauty, Imagination


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TESOL Int’l Convention — Layers of Ideas, Friendship, and Love

The famed Andy Warhol yellow bridges of Pittsburgh

I had not attended a conference in four years and I attended two in the past few months. They were simply glorious! I set conferences aside when I started the doctoral work, as I needed every single weekend to keep one nostril above the water of coursework. Then, came the pandemic. So, to attend conferences after such a long lull was a feast for all senses! I hope to share the spirit of the time, as well as some ideas that I took away from all.

First, TESOL: TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) International Convention, Pittsburgh, PA

TESOL has been a big part of my life for many, many years and in multiple ways. I believe my first TESOL was in Salt Lake City, 2002. Throughout the intervening years, TESOL serves as a foundational stone in my own professional understandings about all-things-multiple-language-acquisition.

Mom and me, TESOL 2018, Chicago

Ever since my first meeting with the Bilingual-Multilingual Education Interest Section that segued from the meeting to salsa dancing in New York City, I knew I met my people. Professional colleagues became dear friends.

Another layer of professional colleagues to dear friends happened when I studied at the School for International Training and became a member of the incredible SIT global educator community.

TESOL always happens at the end of March—it is so wonderful for the organization to plan such a grand shared birthday party for Mom and me with our birthdays on March 20th and March 28th. TESOL also means slumber parties and birthday celebrations with Mom in whatever state the convention takes place that year.

As with learning and language, all begins with relationships. I treasured the reunions with dear friends. Sandra Mercuri, Sandra’s husband, Alfredo, Andrés Ramírez and I talked, laughed, and shared stories in that beautiful way that happens when you’ve been too-long apart. Oh, did we laugh. Especially after the pandemic, it felt so good to laugh with dear friends from the depths of your soul.

Alfredo Mercuri, Sandra Mercuri, Andrés Ramírez, me

On my walk to the Convention Center:

Sandra Mercuri shared her creation and work with CLIFF (Content Language and Literacy Integration Framework):

Me, Sandra Mercuri, Andrés Ramírez

After Sandra’s presentation, Andrés proclaimed, “I’ve been CLIFFed.” Me, too!

A highly engaged conversation is happening around Academic Language. I attended a dynamic panel presentation on these ideas with Luciana C. de Oliveira, Ruslana Westerlund, Andrés Ramírez, and their colleagues. Luciana and Ruslana wore yellow in honor of Ruslana’s native Ukraine.

Luciana C. de Oliveira, Andrés Ramírez, Ruslana Westerlund

Memories of other TESOL Conferences lifted as I sat in sessions, including this time with my dear friend and mentor, Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, when she gave me the author’s socks that she knitted for me. Yes, I still wear. Amazing what they do for one’s writing!

Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, TESOL Salt Lake City, 2002

More time to connect with colleagues and friends from around the world, including Jorge Torres Almazán of MEXTESOL, of the incredible team from World Learning:

Jorge Torres Almazán, MEXTESOL
Evening light over downtown Pittsburgh
The World Learning Team, including Erik Tancorov, Danielle Mistretta, Kara McBride, Aziza ElKolei, Germán Gómez

When not absorbing the ideas of the presentations or connecting with friends old and new, I was taking-in the beauty of the daffodils, which bloomed throughout the city.

Daffodils of downtown Pittsburgh

Next, AERA


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Connection and Creativity on Place Well Tended

Oh, to take the time to sit with other artists and talk about how the land and life shapes our creativity. I had the complete pleasure to talk with Jodi Shaw and Molly Noem Fulton on their podcast Place Well Tended.

“You’re joining Molly + Jodi as we talk with folks about creativity in plains country: what it is, and why it matters that we’re here doing it. Place Well Tended is about love of a place, and tending that place through creative work.”

I was amazed—and momentarily speechless—when Molly read a piece that I had written that goes to the heart of my writing, creativity, life experience, and how they weave together. “I wrote that and put it out into the world?” I asked. I love how Molly and Jodi so beautifully describe our conversation.

Our conversation: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1923909/10391618

Jodi and Molly explore life through the lenses of artists. Jodi finds beauty and meaning in the landscape of the western South Dakota ranch where she raises her family and creates art gathered from the land and life.

Molly’s work of patterned lines and bright colors explores “the people and places that shape us, forming our identity and values.”

This sunset yesterday evening felt the perfect note for our conversation on creativity, place, and beauty.


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Stories of Language, Landscape, Wildness, Beauty, and Imagination

I sit in the early morning time of sanctuary and solitude, candlelight and coffee, darkness and dreams. My journal fills with an ever-growing list of Dewdrops pieces that to write—all swirling around language, landscape, wildness, beauty, and imagination; the most recent trip to the ranch; Lilyology; Scholarly Personal Narrative; translanguaging; beauty; books; family; and so very many other musings and bits of beauty.

2022 is off to a grand start with loads of good energy around ideas. I share some of those ideas here, along with some beauty from my runs and other found beauty along the way.

The past few months have been a time of many presentations, writing, and sharing of ideas. My passion for all things language, landscape, wildness, beauty, and imagination continues to grow. I spoke recently about these ideas and stories:

At last I held a bound copy of my dissertation in my hands.

Another year of the Wink Family March Madness (Luke-10th, Mom-20th, Wyatt-25th, Me-28th, and Wyatt’s girlfriend, Natasha-6th) has come and gone. We ran the Birthday Gauntlet and survived! So very many treasured memories and gifts. I had to share this piece from Daddy, who when he saw it months ago knew that I would love. He was right!


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Stories at the Intersection of Language and Landscape Through Wildness, Beauty, and Imagination: A Scholarly Personal Narrative — Dissertation Defense (Video)

What felt like an impossible dream for so many years came true on October 6, 2021. I successfully defended my dissertation, “Stories at the Intersection of Language and Linguistic Literatures Through Wildness, Beauty, and Imagination: A Scholarly Personal Narrative.”

The journey of the past four years of coursework and dissertation writing held many explorations, discoveries, dear new friends, amazing ideas, unexpected challenges, and all else that composes life.

My inquiry focused on stories at the intersection of language and landscape through wildness, beauty, and imagination.

The whole experience of the defense was was so much more than I ever let myself hope for or dream. A truly joyous experience! I remain forever grateful to my phenomenal dissertation committee: May Elawar, PhD; Jennifer Wells, PhD; and Luci Tapahonso, Professor Emerita. A recording of my defense here:

The marvelous word for dissertation in Costa Rica—chifladura—expresses a powerful vortex of the coming together of natural powers and energies. This symbolizes my dissertation experience exquisitely.

After my defense, Mom and I cried… beyond words to be able to share this with her 30 years after her own dissertation defense. Dr. Wink squared celebrated in fine form on the swings!

And, I promise to take this t-shirt off someday…maybe…I’ll think about it…


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Books, Tea, and Conversation

As we enter the New Year, I am thinking of what books this year will hold! A favorite afternoon over the holiday season was spent cuddled-up amidst stacks of books and cups of tea. We each brought stacks of books that we’ve been reading and dove into conversation, over tea poured from the new/old Christmas tea set.

Mom and I read loved The Elephant Whisperer years ago. The late author’s wife just came out with a marvelous book The Elephant in my Kitchen, which had us re-reading the original. I tried to read Water for Elephants years ago and just couldn’t get into it. I picked it up again a few weeks ago and loved. Mom shares more on these books and calves, instead of elephants, in the kitchen here.

There is something particularly entrancing in stories about libraries and bookshops for we bibliophiles. The Lions of Fifth Avenue and The Paris Library are wonderful. The Midnight Library has one of the best titles ever. Neither Mom, nor I, could get into this book as much as we wanted to love. I do know people who have loved. Perhaps just not the right time and will be another Water for Elephants for me. Mom loved The Personal Librarian and The Librarian of Saint-Malo. My turn to read them now!

The library/bookshop collection grew by two books this Christmas, The Library of Lost and Found and The Bookshop of Yesterdays. More of Mom’s stack here:

We brought out our favorite Christmas children’s books. Oh, the memories of the kids in their jammies reading by the light of the Christmas tree! “Where is the pavlova book?” Wynn asked. And, our beloved Christmas Tea book.

Angus peeks over the gate.

I love historical fiction that elegantly weaves past and present—The Things We Cannot Say and The Fountains of Silence do this beautifully. The Things We Cannot Say weaves a mystery between WWII Poland and present day. The Fountains of Silence sheds light on the darkness of Franco’s dictatorship in Spain.

Right now I’m reading Fresh Water for Flowers, a novel which apparently took Europe by storm during the pandemic. I love this lens of whimsy on wardrobe. I may play around with this a bit.

Luke and Wynn’s stacks included:

Then we started pulling children’s books off the shelves and we were lost… More and more books accumulated to create a nest around us all.

This is what books do, isn’t it? They create a nest around us. Here’s wishing you and yours a year of great books!

I spent many wonderful hours writing in my journal by the lights of the Christmas tree. Looking forward to writing 2022 into being.


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Luke’s Story–Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

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Luke and I traveled to St. Louis, MO last month for what we hope to be the culmination of a four-year health journey for Luke. We traveled there for Luke to have surgery for what was finally diagnosed as Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Luke will write of this experience in his own words. 

For those of you who don’t know Luke, introduce you to him. Luke was born with a smile on his face that never stopped, always in a good mood, always positive. His strawberry hair and smile sparkled in the sun, whether the sun was out or not. Luke’s undiagnosed asthma had the two of us in the Emergency Room every month for two years, his ages one -three. His translucent skin slowly took on color as he took in oxygen and he came out of the semi-conscious state that these episodes brought on. He never complained. This kid is tough, tough, tough. 

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Generous of spirit, Luke loved books, reading, exercise, and sports. When people asked me how Luke was doing in college, I said, “That kid will thrive anywhere. It’s just who he is.”

Luke on Mother’s Day, 2017

 

2016

 

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Finish line of marathon, 2016

Luke tells his story in his own words:

“Hi everyone! Thanks for taking a minute to read my story. I apologize if it’s a little shaky. I’m writing left-handed, while recovering from surgery. Don’t worry, I still have my right hand; my arm is just sore.

Like Mom said, this surgery was a long time coming. If you’ve met me over the past four years, you’ll know I’ve been struggling with a chronic and mysterious pain that doctors, until recently, were completely unable to diagnose.

The U of A has a wonderful Recreation Center, and I made a point to lift weights a few times a week. While I was a sophomore, I was bench-pressing the same weight that I always bench-pressed, when something in the right side of my chest gave and tore. I racked the weight, left the gym, and scheduled a doctor’s appointment. There, I was assured the issue was a minor shoulder strain that would heal on its own with time.

Long story short, it didn’t. I spent most of that semester unable to open doors or lift my arm above my head, waiting for the injury to heal. Every time I visited a doctor, I was told that with rest and time the injury would heal, and that I was really too young to be in this kind of pain anyways. That was a phrase I heard a lot “You’re really too young to be having this kind of issue.”

2018

Years passed and the pain evolved, it went from being a muscular issue rooted deep in my chest to a burning pain that radiated up the entire right side of my neck and into my trapezoid muscles. It was motion-induced, which is to say that the more things I wanted or needed to do, the more pain I would be in by the end of the day. Activities that brought me pain included walking, sitting, lifting things, looking to my right, and just talking with people.

At this point, we were desperately looking for a doctor with an answer. We had appointments with orthopedic surgeons, and multiple pain specialists.  We traveled to the Mayo Clinic for a consultation. Almost every visit began with, “You’re too young to feel this way,” and ended with an order for some kind of medical scan, MRI’s, X-rays, EMGs: all tests to try and see some muscular or nerve issue. They all came back negative. At this point, we were trying everything we could think of, multiple courses of physical therapy, chiropractic treatments, orthopedic massage, acupuncture, CBD, a series of nerve ablations, and on and on. You name it and I have probably done it.

2018

At this point, it had been about three years of searching for an answer, while spending every day in pain. I was both embittered at the medical profession, and hopeless that I would one day find an answer. I have my family, and Mom in particular, for never giving up on the hope of an answer.

Roughly sixth months ago, my doctors decided that all muscular issues were examined, we turned to the brain. Maybe, the theory went, my brain had just gotten used to firing off pain signals and hadn’t stopped, even after the muscle in my chest had healed. Working on this hypothesis, we met with a neurosurgeon here in Santa Fe.

I won’t disclose his name, but he was and a different kind of doctor than I was used to seeing, and I’d seen a lot. When I told him the story that I just told you, he didn’t say, “you’re too young to have this problem,” he said, “I’m sorry that you have this problem so young.” He ordered another scan, which was again, negative, and then said that in his opinion I couldn’t have anything but neurogenic Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS), and that he would refer me to a specialist clinic in St Louis, MO.

By this point, I was used to doctors developing a pet diagnosis for my problem that ended up being wrong. My personal favorite was one doctor’s diagnosis of early-onset-right-side-of-neck arthritis, for which I received weeks of treatment with absolutely no benefit. I’d learned to treat their theories with a bit of suspicion.

So, I looked up Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and the clinic in St. Louis, MO. I may also have read the book about Thoracic Outlet Syndrome written by the lead surgeon, just to be sure. What I found was encouraging.

I fit the patient profile exactly. Most TOS patients are young, otherwise healthy individuals with chronic pain induced by most activity. Most TOS patients bounce around the medical system for two or three years before receiving their TOS diagnosis, as the criteria for diagnosis is, get this, multiple negative medical scans. All those MRI’s and X-rays paid off after all.

Leaving for St. Louis

So, what is TOS, I now wanted to know. Well, it’s a condition that develops when the brachial plexus nerves, which run from you fingertips, up your arm, through your pectoral muscles and up into your neck and shoulder blades, are compressed by some obstruction. The obstruction can be anything, well, three things really. Either a permanent muscle spasm in the pectorals or scalene(neck) muscles, an odd growth on the first rib, or scar tissue built up from a previous injury.

Long story short, I had a video call with the lead surgeon who diagnosed me with TOS and scheduled me for surgery in St. Louis. Mom and I took what turned out to be a really wonderful road trip to the hospital, and I had my operation on April 2, 2021.

During the operation, the surgeon found a large amount of scar tissue around my pec minor, which he removed. Hopefully, this was the mysterious cause of the problem: the thing we’ve been looking for all these years. I’m still in recovery at the moment, and so it’s hard to tell if the new pain from the surgery is covering up the old pain, and where I’ll be in three months, but I can say that the burning pain, at the moment, is gone.

So, the story isn’t over, but hopefully this is the last chapter and we’ll have more good news for you soon. Before I go I’d like thank Mom for being the driving force behind my recovery. I definitely would not have made it through this experience without your help, and the help of all our family and friends, that’s all for now, thanks for reading!”

 This is Dawn again. Amidst all, Luke and I had a magical time together. Along the way, we were able to spend time with my Aunt Elaine (Dad’s sister) and cousins, Brian and Brett.

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We made the most of the trip and saw some of the sights of St. Louis between Luke’s pre-op appointment and the day of the surgery.

We took in the Gateway Arch, as well as the Botanical Gardens. We played a lot of chess, drank a lot of Tension Tamer Tea, and crushed it on the Harry Potter Trivia cards.

We loved the Botanical Gardens. It was a cold day. We entered the dome and I said to Luke, “This is exactly like Costa Rica.”

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We quickly shed our coats and wandered for an hour, taking in each exquisite plant, flower, waterfall, Chihuly glass sculpture, lizard, all. Pure magic.

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Surgery/Post-surgery

During his surgery, I escaped (somewhat) into my dissertation.

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Clearly, we needed flowers!

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When not in the hospital, I worked on my dissertation.

St. Louis bloomed with daffodils during our time there. My color, flower-loving heart and spirit drank them in. A dear friend in Vermont mentioned how her daffodils had poked their blooms up through the snow that week, “They’re so resilient.” These are the perfect flowers to be blooming during Luke’s surgery, I thought. Luke’s resiliency throughout this journey never ceases to leave me humbled and inspired.

Six days after surgery, Luke was discharged and we headed home.

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One day Luke will write his full story. One day, I will write the mother’s story of this journey. For now, we focus on his healing and we hope.

When Wyatt was two-years-old, he called me ‘the Mommy Lady’ and I’ve been the Mommy Lady ever since. This Mommy Lady’s heart overflows with gratitude for a diagnosis at long-last and with optimism for what lies ahead for Luke.

Mostly, this Mommy Lady’s heart overflows with love for the brave soul I am fortunate enough to walk through this life with as my son. Here’s to the next chapter, Luke. I know you will write it well.

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Quilts—Composing an Artful Life

#stepscrapquilts ©Stephanie Paterson

Mom and Steph

Quilts often come on the wings of angels.

I saw this photo made by my friend, Stephanie, and fell in love with the colors, composition, “Blessings,” print, textures, all. I commented on the gorgeous nature of the quilt, so impressed with how Stephanie had yet again created such a work of art, such beauty. Steph and Mom were colleagues at the university where they both worked. Here the two of them are at a pre-pandemic conference in Tucson. I love the striking nature of the patterns, how she pieces color combinations that radiate energy, life, peace, and a strong dose of whimsy! I love the independent strength of these quilts.

Raw materials. ©Stephanie Paterson

A few short weeks later, a beautifully wrapped package arrived. When I opened the wrapping, the quilt that I had admired spilled out. The card read, ‘Blessings’… This one is for you! Hope the New Year is full of good books + long runs + candlelit writing sessions. I remembered the beautiful quilt of reds and pinks that Stephanie made for Mom when she was going through chemotherapy. The past year had been a bit of a doozy for me. Stephanie makes quilts to gift. Please enjoy here some of the quilts she’s gifted and notes received over the years. A feast for the senses, the heart, the spirit: Steph Scrap Quilts: Quilt Notes. And, Steph’s treasure trove of books on quilting, creativity, writing, and teaching where she finds inspiration.

Our lives become rich and meaningful when we piece together the joys and sorrows, the questions and answers, the successes and failures, the longings, the people and experiences that have been the colors and shapes of our lives. Out of chaos we can sometimes make comforting patterns. Out of despair, beauty; out of longing, a new possibility; out of joy, visual radiance. —Rev. Laurie Bushbaum (With Sacred Threads: Quilting and the Spiritual Life, S. Towner-Larsen & B. Brewer Davis)

Steph’s work space ©Stephanie Paterson

Stephanie encouraged me to feel all that a handsewn quilt enfolds and shared Alice Walkers’ Everyday Use. Walker writes in the piece:

“Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts!” she said. “She’d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use.”

“I reckon she would,” I said. “God knows I been saving ’em for long enough with nobody using ’em. I hope she will!”

Stephanie’s quilt

I mentioned how quilts often come on the wings of angels. A dear friend from high school, Gidget, gifted me this handsewn Frida Kahlo quilt. Lush life, colors, textures, and the very energy and essence of the amazing Frida flowed from the quilt throughout our house.

Feet what do I need you for, when I have wings to fly?—Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo quilt

What so inspire me about quilts are not only the colors, the textures, the vibrancy, the designs—it is the what goes into creating or gifting a quilt. Gifted quilts reflect the heart and spirit of the giver. When my kids were born, we received quilts cherished to this day. An Amish wedding quilt graces our home. Love lives through the fabric and all the quilter stitched into its making and through the spirit the giver.

Our well-worn copy of The Quiltmaker’s Gift (J. Brumbeau & G.de Marcken) tells the story of “a quiltmaker who kept a house in the blue misty mountains up high. Even the oldest great, great grandfather could not recall a time when she was not up there, sewing away day after day. The blues seemed to come from the deepest part of the ocean, the whites from the northernmost snows, the greens and purples from the abundant wildflowers, the reds, oranges, and pinks from the most wonderful sunsets.” People come from far-and-wide to buy a quilt. Her quilts will only be given to those in need.

It is a story of generosity, gifting, birds, and beauty.

“The Quiltmaker’s Gift,” artist Gail de Marcken (illustration potentially me in several decades)

Starry skies

I love to sew. I love the textures, colors, creativity, thinking about the composition, the meditative time where all else—including time—cease to exist. I had a limited clothing allowance growing up, but my parents bought all of the patterns and fabric I wanted. I spent days, weekends, and summers sewing alone and with girlfriends, lost in our creations and the rhythmic sounds of our sewing machines. Mom says that after I sewed, my family stepped on straight pins for days! Mom’s forever friend took her daughter and me to a place that sold fabric by the pound. Heaven. I look forward to weaving those textures and time into the fabric of my life again one day.

I made this Mexican Star quilt the summer I graduated from college.

Mexican Star Quilt

Later, I made quilts for babies and then their magic capes, dinosaur curtains, and fairy skirts. In the intervening years the fullness of raising kids, work, and writing leaves my sewing machine dusty. I started a small piece of a sunrise/sunset many years ago. Small felt do-able. The fabrics, beads, and threads still give me great joy. Even when bundled into my sewing basket. One day, one day.

Sunrise/sunset

My dad gave me this quilt made by a local quilter on the prairies. I love that this horse runs the walls and sky of my writing room. She brings the nighttime prairie skies and scents of summer grasses when they turn from green to flaxen with her.

Quilt from Daddy

In her piece Wintering Replenishes, Katherine May writes, “There are gaps in the mesh of the everyday world, and sometimes they open and you fall through them into Somewhere Else. And Somewhere Else runs at a different pace to the here and now, where everyone else carries on.”

When we fall through into Somewhere Else, quilts often catch us.

Sometimes those quilts are made and gifted by others. And sometimes, made and gifted to ourselves.

“Creativity calls for self-forgetting and deeper self-remembering (With Sacred Threads, S. Towner-Larsen & B. Brewer Davis).”

“…self-forgetting and deeper self-remembering” — yes, yes, and yes.

Mary Catherine Bateson (Composing a Life) describes life as an improvisatory art. Life as art. We piece together our lives much as quilters arrange and sew pieces of fabric into the beauty of the whole. I wish for us that we all find some form of art-making, to self-forget and self-remember in creative forms where time flows around us without our notice as we live in worlds of our own creations—worlds to gift others or to gift ourselves.

Flowers for my desk and spirit.


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Citrus Garlands—Strung Jewels

Citrus garlands in our kitchen window.

You know how sometimes you stumble upon a photo or idea and despite having far more important things to spend your time on, you simply must do it? This is what happened with me when I saw a photo of citrus garlands. They looked so full of life, color, and fragrance—like strung happiness.

So, off to buy oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and the coup d’état that required calls ahead to three different stores—blood oranges. When peeled, these reveal the beauty of a sunrise within.

Beauty of a blood orange.

Luke and I sliced and laid out the fruit, accompanied by Spanish guitar music.

Then, into the oven at *170 degrees for 4-5 hours. The house smelled of citrus sweetness and tang.

Wore my fabulous new poppy apron that Mom gave me.

As each pan finished, we laid them out on the table.

Luke and I strung the garlands with twine. We had way too much fun doing this.

When laid out on the table, they remind me of strung jewels!

Then to hang. I love to see the garlands in the kitchen window in the mornings when I wake and pour my coffee for early morning writing.

The sun shining through reveals the intricate details and beauty of each. The blood oranges are especially exquisite.

Glowing jewels!

A friend wrote and said she and her mom had made these when she was a child. They tied cinnamon sticks in between the fruit. This sounds wonderful and we’ll be incorporating cinnamon sticks into our stands the next time we make.

Garland Bloopers: I love when movies include the bloopers. We had some definite bloopers. Note: lemons dry much faster than the larger oranges and grapefruit! Wynn’s bff, Erin, made garlands for her apartment. She sent photos the gorgeous strand strung across her room and another of charred fruit with the following note, “…and then what I call the ‘Gothic Garland.’ Love it!Luke and I played with what to call our own garland of bloopers, we tried Garnet Garland, which sounds lovely and poetic—and then decided “Gothic Garland” really is the best!

Gothic Garland

Garland strand in my writing room.

Writing room

• • •

Thank you to @newmexmattie on Instagram for the photos of the original inspiration! She says she bought hers at Bagel’s Florals. And such gratitude to Linda Archibald (@alegregardens) for diving into doing these garlands on her own and posting photos, thus turning our Teacher Education meeting into me asking her all kinds of questions about how to make. Thank you, Linda!


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Green Space: The Release, the Repose

Artist Anna Valdez

Luke Wink-Moran

 

My son, Luke, just published his first piece here at Curiosity Shots. I did not read this essay until it was published. My oldest son, Wyatt, referred to me as ‘The Mommy Lady’ when he was two-years-old and the name stuck.

I am one very proud Mommy Lady to share Luke’s essay here.

Green Space: The Release, The Repose

by Luke Wink-Moran

When lockdown began, back in March, I decided that I wanted to try something new. I would begin every day with an outdoor walk. Outside, in the early morning air, the sky opening up above me, everything else faded away — which was good — because everything else was a lot: the coronavirus, the election, a national reckoning with race, the headlines got worse every day. It was only on my walks that I could forget everything for a while.

I started seeking out nature in other ways beyond my walks. I spent hours in the garden with my mom, watching honeybees circle our sunflowers while hummingbirds jousted over the sugar water feeders.

My sister and I scoured the internet for houseplants, and that spring, our rooms bloomed with life. The books I read led back to nature, too. “World of Wonders” by Aimee Nezhukumatathil filled my head with whale sharks and fireflies as I read in the predawn light.

Even when I played video games with my sister, we were still kind of outdoors — running around our digital island in Animal Crossing, catching butterflies, and shaking peaches from trees.

Not all that surprisingly, and perhaps as expected, we were not the only ones spending more time and energy in nature. In Britain, sales of plants, bulbs, seeds, saw sales increase 35% from 2019, some individual online plant stores saw an increase of 500%, going through a few months’ worth of supplies in a few weeks. Animal Crossing became the most popular Nintendo game of 2020. “World of Wonders,” became the Barnes & Noble book of the year and was ranked as of the top five New York Times nonfiction bestsellers. Nature, it seemed, was growing on people.

I wondered why, in a time of such extraordinary stress, people were turning to nature for comfort. As doom-scrolling became a national pastime and the world migrated to the internet, why were mountain trails and gardens becoming more popular? Why, with 53% percent of Americans reporting that coronavirus had negatively impacted their mental health, were houseplants flying off the shelves as fast as toilet paper?

“In The Garden” Print // Kim Illustration A Green Space

It turns out that nature has some serious mental health benefits. It can lead to greater happiness and life satisfaction, improve mood and memory, and reduce anxiety and stress. In fact, nature is so good for us that some doctors are writing “social prescriptions” recommending that patients spend more time outdoors or gardening for their health and wellbeing. An over-the-counter fix.

Gardening in particular has been studied for its mental health benefits. In her book “The Well-Gardened Mind ” Sue Stuart Smith suggests that gardening can be a state of play that we may find nowhere else in our adult lives.

Despite my own experience and contrary to popular beliefs, you don’t need a garden to benefit from green space. Most of the scientific literature indicates that you just need to be immersed in nature. Being immersed in nature has been shown to decrease depression scores and even reduce pain perception. As someone coming up on a three-year anniversary with a chronic injury, this is one aspect of nature that I absolutely adore.

Surpassing the physical, plants may even boost productivity and creativity — something that I personally have struggled with over lockdown. While studies conflict — some show a productivity boost, and some don’t — even employees who didn’t think that greenery made them more productive reported that plants made the office feel friendlier and cleaner.

I realized that I’ve been reaching out for green space for the last nine months. In the books I read, the games I played, and the places where I spent my time, the benefits of living around — and regularly interacting with — green space are clear to me. And while 2020 may have been when I truly discovered how good for you nature can be, I, for one, can’t imagine giving up my walks anytime soon.

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Luke created for quarantine Mother’s Day, 2020.

 

 


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Covid Gardens—Flowers and Poetry for our Times

My cousin, Janet, sent me this poem “Covid Gardens” by Claudia Castro Luna and said that it reminded her of my mason jar bouquets. The combination of the vibrant bouquets of summer in contrast to what we experienced this week lifted my spirit.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I adore flowers, textures, and colors. I love growing all kinds of flowers, just so I can create colorful, messy, texture-filled, wild bouquets for friends, colleagues, and students. I love bringing bouquets to classes. I love bringing to meetings. I love gifting people these bouquets. Yes, I hope to create beauty. Just as much, these bouquets and gifting them brighten my own spirit.

Mason jar bouquet from the garden.

Georgia O’Keeffe wrote, “When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to somebody else.” I use mason jars, which I buy by the flat, so nobody need worry about returning the vase. Here are some worlds for the moment.

In light of all that happened this week—horrifying and heartbreaking—when I received this poem about bouquets, the thought occurred to me that perhaps a bit of beauty and poetry might be balms for our hurting hearts. When I shared the photo below of my new journal and stickers (gifts from my brother, Bo, and his wife, Lisa) on FB and Instagram, independently people commented, “After yesterday’s trauma, this looks like good medicine,” and “Nice reprieve from the chaos of politics. Thank you. As we think, so we are.”

Those thoughts inspired me to share a bit of beauty and this poem.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil writes of the challenges of the past months and the transcendent qualities of poetry:

I wish I could tell you that this bird reverie carried me upward and onward through this most difficult of months. Not so. The reality and grief over missing my beloved students—I never got to say goodbye in person as classes were moved online over spring break a couple of weeks ago—and all the scary news of the spread of the virus and a thousand other worries for our planet and its inhabitants have kept me awake, in a state of alarm, and when I sleep—it is not sound.

But I believe in poetry. I believe it can elevate you for even just a brief moment—not to forget the horror surrounding us (it’s there, it’s there. I can’t pretend it’s not)—but it can alter how we see the world, how we see each other. I have faith that we will be able to touch each other and break bread together at the same table again soon. Maybe not as soon as I’d like, but soon. At least that is what I tell my sons. And when that day comes, how lucky to find ourselves attached to the rest of the world once again! (Orion Magazine, April 1, 2020 https://orionmagazine.org/2020/04/national-poetry-month-2020-2/#.X_iyUFaV4bc.twitter)

I invite you to sink into the portrait painted through words created here by Castro Luna.

“Garden gifts making for rich tables in slim times — mine, plentiful with print an flowers…” When I read this poem, I felt my breathing deepen and my pulse slow. (Which is actually halfway dangerous, considering how low my pulse and blood pressure already are. When nurses take my pulse, their first question is often, “Is this normal? This is usually when we hospitalize people.” I just say, “Genetics and running.” My dad and I have a competition to see who can get their pulse and blood pressure the lowest.” I call Daddy after an appointment to say, “80 over 40 — top THAT!” We have all kinds of visualization strategies. None of which I admit in public.)

We will get beyond the troubled landscapes of this time. Gardens will bloom again. I look forward to walking into my garden this summer and cutting flowers to create messy, wild, wonderful bouquets to gift. These thoughts buoy my spirit and cast light.

Speaking of casting light and gardens blooming once again, I received this candle as a gift from my friend, Barb. Little did she know that the same piece of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, embroidered by my grandmother, hangs in the hallway.

I lit the candle this morning during my time of candlelit solitude and sanctuary. Wishing you sanctuary and thoughts of blooming gardens, exuberant with color and life.