Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Writing, Teaching, Language, Landscape, Life


The Haunting of the Mexican Border

Cowboy and flowers on grave ©

Cowboy and flowers on grave © Tim Fuller

I had no idea the blessing I was about to receive when I was asked to review The Haunting of the Mexican Border: A Woman’s Journey by Kathryn Ferguson for Story Circle Book Reviews. I said yes, since how could I possible resist that title? I spent the next few weeks savoring the experiences, ideas, and prose of this book. This is not a book that I read fast. I found myself re-reading sentences for the sheer beauty of the prose and scenes for the powerful experiences conveyed.

Mostly, I was taken with the melding of past and present, as my own experiences growing up on a ranch along the San Pedro River, a vein for Mexican migrants coming to the US, sent me reeling between the intimate familiarity of the rhythms of migration in this region of my childhood and a sense of walking a foreign landscape in the new political landscape that has taken hold since. The review:

“I am not a migratory bird. I’ve always had a place. It is located west of the tall saguaro, south of the dry river, beyond certainty.”

The Haunting of the Mexican Border: A Woman’s Journey begins with this exquisite first sentence that conveys geographical landscape and way of being in the world. Author Kathryn Ferguson brings the reader intimately home for a personal journey that reflects the broader changes of time and place of Mexico, the US, and its intertwined relationship of politics and people.

Copper Canyon, Mexico

Copper Canyon, Mexico

This journey takes us from Ferguson’s Tucson home to the stunning lands of the Barranca del Cobre, Copper Canyon, and the lands of the Rarámuri people of northern Mexico, to create a documentary film, “The Unholy Tarahumara.” Ferguson paints the raw beauty of this land and its people with an experience from her childhood:

“The teacher told us to tear paper so it looked like a random silhouette of mountains. So I chose blue, green, orange, purple, and red paper. I ripped the tops of each page into sharp angles, then into jagged curves. I glued wads of crushed paper on top of paper, all mismatched, all colors. This is how the Copper Canyon looks.” 

Ferguson spends the 1980’s and 90’s with journeys back and forth between Mexico and the U.S. Despite the thousands of miles traveling as a woman alone, she is not afraid for her personal safety. Yet, as time passes, this sense of safety shifts.

The Barranaca del Cobre LIbrado_H9R9174-B-2 vertical copy 3

Barranca del Cobre cowboy ©Richard Speedy

“As I listen to the sunset sounds, I think about early years that I traveled back and forth to make films in Mexico. My desert was an open free place. But I began to hear about increasing numbers of bodies found in the Arizona desert. The remains of people who come to the United States to work or find family.” The consequences of NAFTA and increased border security after 9/11 has been a deadly combination, forcing Mexicans to look for work in the U.S. for survival, and for the first time, sending women and children north, since their husbands can no longer come and go as they once did. Dark spots stain the desert where people have died.

website raven IMG_0729 cropped red copy

Crow ©Page Hilman

Ferguson’s personal journey mirrors greater events. The increase of violence encompasses people from both sides of the border and now marks Ferguson’s own once-safe trips to the desert, as she becomes the target of harassment for Minutemen and other governmental agencies. As the political climate intensifies and more migrants try to cross and die in the desert, the increased militarization of the border grows. I learned a new vocabulary of my childhood homelands of Tucson and Mexico with this increased militarization, including “dusting,” when those patrolling the border lower their helicopters close enough to migrants to kick stones, sand, and cactus into their faces and bodies.

CU Jesus Tree color IMG_2182 copy 2

T-shirt stretched between trees.©Bob Kee

The Haunting of the Mexican Border is a breathtaking work of art. Ferguson’s artistry shines in her prose, polished and raw in a perfect combination, and her ability to convey the beauty and power of humanity. Her love of this place and its people fills every page. This book is especially close to my heart, with its story about lands and peoples deeply familiar and beloved. I read this book slowly, absorbed the language, often re-reading sentences for their detailed precision and the power of what they convey.

Along the borderlands we create shrines, descansos, to mark where a loved one has died. In The Haunting of the Mexican Border, Ferguson has done the magical: created a written shrine to honor a time and people lost, as well as serve as a beacon of hope for the possible. This story of a time and place lifts your heart with beauty, breaks it with reality, and then lifts and inspires again.

Reviewed by Dawn Wink

A writer, filmmaker, and dancer, Kathryn Ferguson lives in Tucson, AZ. She is coauthor of the award-winning book Crossing with the Virgin: Stories from the Migrant Trail.

I reviewed the book, but that was not enough. I wanted to connect with the author, Kathryn Ferguson, for a conversation about lingering questions I had after reading the book. Kathryn graciously shared her time. 

17. Kathryn, desert trail, by Linda V. copy

Kathryn Ferguson on desert trail.©Linda Vogel

DW: Your background is in dance and documentary films, how did you start writing? What was your writing journey? I’ve had actors tell me that writing is like acting—was this true for you and dance?

KF: Writing:

When I was old enough to learn how to read, my dad would pull out a book of Shakespeare and read Macbeth with me. The only things I could remotely relate to were the witches. And the idea that the forests walked. He loved Shakespeare and I loved spending time with my dad, so it made for jolly evenings. My dad liked to write. He was a finalist for Playhouse 90, a big television show. All of American wanted their script produced on Playhouse 90. When he was writing, he seemed absorbed and happy. So I decided to write. I wrote about Martians. My dad would say, “Write about what you know.” That made sense. I felt I really knew Marians and Mars.

Eventually, I wrote in a pink diary that I locked so my big sister couldn’t read it.

When I got into the university, I wrote. We had an assignment to write about someone in our family. I did, and my relative read it. It so deeply hurt that person that I never wrote again. I had no idea words were powerful. I loved the person that I hurt, and felt terrible for years.

Version 2

Kathryn in desert with water jugs.

More than a decade later, when I started making documentaries in the Sierra Madre, I started writing again for the films and about experiences in the wild Sierra. Then, when I worked with other people to carry water, food, and medicine to border crossers on Arizona desert trails, the experience was so profound that I started writing as a way to deal emotionally with what we saw. I wrote like crazy.

Dance and writing: For years, I studied dance and created a dance studio. Mostly dance and writing are not similar except that for both, it is the process that is important. Although you want a good result, it is the process that changes you and lets you learn. The sweat is in the “doing” of dancing or writing, not the stage performance and not the published book. Perhaps in all art, the difficulty is finding the heart of it, the authenticity. For dance, I would lie still on the floor. I wouldn’t move for 45 minutes until the music truly had an effect on me, touching me deep in the center. For writing, I often walk around, water plants, or sweep, until something hits me and I realize that is what I want to write. Then I rush to write it down before it dissolves. Writing is slippery. Gotta grab it while you can.

Saint IMG_0702 Paige

Saint carving. ©Paige Hilman

DW: One of the things that struck me, as I read, was how very different the political climate now, as opposed to the Arizona I grew up in throughout the 80’s. It seems to me that there are distinct chapters in the political environment, the 80’s with fairly fluid borders and the post-NAFTA and 9/11 repercussions that are detailed in your book. Do you sense a political trajectory now in regards to the border and Mexican migrants, after the publication of your book? If so, what is your sense that this will be?

KF: Political climate: In the past, the Arizona/Mexico border was hardly a border. It was a wire fence lying on the ground. We flew over it like birds.

In the 1970’s, Mexico discovered large oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico. Mexico borrowed from foreign banks. In the 80’s, oil prices dropped drastically and Mexico fell into financial crisis. The peso was devalued and Mexicans could not afford to buy tortillas and bread. Until then, the border was not so complicated, and US created policies that permitted some Mexicans to come and go through ports of entry. When NAFTA was signed in 1994, the wall started to be built. Powers behind the scenes of the trade agreement knew it would displace small Mexican farmers. By the droves, people started to cross the border.

Current politicians want the border wall to be bigger and enforced even more. With that said, I think that the wall will come down. Not in my lifetime, but in the future. In 2006, it cost 2.4 billion to build 670 miles of wall. It is far more expensive now.

All walls come down. The Great Wall of China is now a tourist attraction. And our concept of nation-states, and borders as we know them, no longer functions. I am not sure what will replace the concept, but we are already reducing the importance of place in human actions and loyalties. We are taking steps toward territory-less governing in entities such as business, churches, and strangely, with mafias and the drug trade, one of the best examples of international business and control. Not that what replaces nation-states will be a kinder solution, but our world will be very different.

Kathryn with migrants. ©Norma Price

DW: You’ve spent years taking water to migrants in the desert. You shared some of the stories in the book, are there any other stories about people and experiences that you’d like to share?

KF: Children entering US: We now have children refugees fleeing extreme violence in Central America, violence the US helped create by our actions in the 1980’s. We supported dictators, were complicit in the deaths of many people. What has replaced that is unrest, poverty, and violence in Central American cities. We see children that are sent to the US border alone. They are not hiding. In Texas, they cross a river between Mexico and the US, and turn themselves in to Border Patrol asking for asylum. What parents would send kids on a dangerous journey to a foreign country if it were not a dire necessity? Kids are being killed by powerful gangs. Leaving their country is the only choice for many. These surges of hundreds of children stepping onto US soil and asking for help won’t stop soon.

People are crossing borders all over the world.

Mexicans and Central Americans cross US borders and Syrians enter Europe but the big question is: how will we live on this planet as it permanently changes with global warming? As humans, we are both petty and magnanimous creatures. With the disaster of global warming, I wonder what will happen as people move throughout the world. It seems that for global survival, we have to co-operate with each other. I wonder if that is possible.” 

Kathryn Ferguson will be in Seattle, WA speaking about her books March 1, Ravenna Third Place Books, 7 pm & Bellingham, WA March 2, Vintage Books, 7 pm. Ferguson will  at the Tucson Festival of Books March 12 &13, 2016.

          The Perils of Women Journalists on the Border: A discussion of border journalism as it has been viewed through the eyes of women and the ways those women have influenced our understanding of the shifting boundaries between the US and Mexico. (Sat, Mar 12, 11:30 – 12:30 pm, Social and Behavioral Sciences Tent) 

          That’s Border Life, She Said: Kathryn Ferguson, Gayle Jandrey and Margaret Regan give us a unique perspective of life along the border: Their tales are all told by women. (Sun, Mar 13, 1:00 – 2:00 pm, Student Union Kachina)

After Kathryn and my conversation, I sat and looked up at the desert sky for a long while. I thought of all conveyed in The Haunting of the Mexican Border and happening along my beloved borderlands. During our conversation, Kathryn and I discovered that we had both recently written pieces exploring the commonalities of Syrian refugees and Mexican migrants, each of us recognizing the deep complexities and divisions often driving national and international policy and conversations. Yet as I looked at the sky, I felt great hope. For as long as writers tell the stories of humanity, and keep these experiences alive, so too lives the potential for healing and change.

Sunday Sunrise ©Dawn Wink

Sunday sunrise. ©Dawn Wink

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A Conversation Among Friends: The Writing Life

Anne Hillerman, Jann Arrington-Wolcott, Dawn Wink, Lesley Poling-Kempes, Lucy Moore

Anne Hillerman, Jann Arrington-Wolcott, Dawn Wink, Lesley Poling-Kempes, Lucy Moore

Rising Moon Gallery and Art Center

Rising Moon Gallery and Art Center

So much of a writer’s life is spent in solitude, a condition we crave. Solitude is our oxygen, our life’s breath, the lifeline upon which our work (and rare sense of sanity) depends. So, what happens when you bring a group of writers who crave solitude together? Yesterday this meant friendship, community, thoughts on writing and life—and large doses of irreverence and laughter. 

Preparing for the our conversation

Preparing for the our conversation

Okay, so we’re not a random group of writers. Anne Hillerman, Jann Arrington-Walcott, Lesley Poling-Kempes, Lucy Moore, and me—along with our literary agent Elizabeth Trupin-Pulli and literary conference organizer extraordinaire Jean Schaumburg, are dear friends with deep roots and frequent gatherings of the self-named Literary Ladies of Santa Fe. We meet throughout the year to celebrate birthdays, friendship, conferences, and any other event which gives us an excuse to get together. Yesterday, we gathered together for “A Conversation Among Friends: The Writing Life” at the Rising Moon Gallery in Abiquiu, New Mexico. Our hosts, Jaye Buros and Peggy Thompson, have created a treasure in the high desert, a space filled with textures, art, blown glass, books, color, music, and lovers of literature. This space is a feast for any writer’s or artist’s senses and spirit. 

Ghost Ranch ©Katie Hawkes

Ghost Ranch ©Katie Hawkes

Abiquiu, New Mexico was home to artist Georgia O’Keeffe, whose spirit lives on in an extraordinary community of writers, artists, readers, and lovers of all creative. As we prepared for the introductions, Lesley reviewed our bios with each of us for our introductions. “Whatever you don’t know, just make it up,” I said.

“Yes, we could say that you spent a year living in Malaysia…” she said, “with a sheik!” This is now forever a line in my official biography. 

We dove into a couple of hours of talking, laughing, and wrestling with the beauty, challenges, and reality of the writing life. Because of our combined experiences and the different chapters in which we find ourselves in our writing lives, our conversation highlighted the the variety of paths—and how those paths weave together to create a reflection of a whole. Here is some of the essence of our conversation.

Lucy Moore, Dawn Wink, Anne Hillerman, Jann Arrington-Wolcott

Lucy Moore, Dawn Wink, Anne Hillerman, Jann Arrington-Wolcott

386167.rockwithwings-hc-cAnne Hillerman: Much to Anne’s surprise, she decided to carry forward her dad’s literary legacy in fiction. “I loved my career as a non-fiction writer and really didn’t think I’d move into fiction. Then, after Dad died and people asked if he had any last novel or work and I told them that he did not, I just saw the sadness in their eyes. I decided to continue the story, but to bring Bernie Manuelito, who had always been a side-kick bringing the guys coffee, into the foreground and give her the attention and voice she deserved. As far as making time to write, no matter what the circumstances, life is full of juicy distractions for writers…kids, jobs, partners, friends, concerts, beaches to explore, mountains to hike, books to read, research to pursue and more. If you want to write you have to make it a priority in your life. Otherwise it just doesn’t get done. I try to walk a lot in the mornings. When I walk, those tangled knots in the plot or things I’m wondering about the story seem to fall into place.”

Ladies of the CanyonsLesley Poling-Kempes: “I would just say DO IT with writing. Find support group, set a schedule that is doable, follow your dream/passion with intention, and understand the process is personal YET everyone, even experienced writers, have moments of doubt. Do it your own way. And find support. I enjoy writing both fiction and non-fiction. The research for fiction is fascinating and I enjoy the structure of a non-fiction book. I love the imaginative journey of writing fiction, when really there are really no limits and you create the story. I crave time alone. Even within my hermitage, I am a hermit. Along with that, belonging to a writing community is truly remarkable, affirming. My writing life involves both. I spend most days alone, writing for hours. I also hold a writing workshop here at the Rising Moon Gallery. Each of these parts of my writing life enriches the other.” 

common-ground-book-200x300Lucy Moore: “It’s all about the story — whether the story is from your life experience, or made up out of your head. If it’s a compelling story, one with drama, personalities, maybe lessons, and touches my heart in some way, I want to write it. I find plenty of these stories in my work as a mediator, where people are at their best and/or worst in conflict. I make time to write when it bubbles up in me, often after mulling and musing for awhile as I go about my life. There comes a point, and the pressure cooker pops its lid, and I am writing! maybe for hours at a time, often late into the night. If it’s not fun, I don’t write. I don’t have a schedule. I don’t sit and wonder what I’m going to write. The only question is can I get it down fast enough before it evaporates!? What I usually write are vignettes from my life or work, stories I have heard from someone else about an incredible happening of some kind, turning point, etc. I chose memoir over fiction because I wanted the story to be mine. I wanted to own it and grapple with it, and I wanted the reader to see me doing that. I also wanted to offer an example of opening up your heart and soul and spilling it on the page, hopefully not too messily, to encourage others to do the same, or to think about themselves and their own life-adventures.I don’t like to revise. I love what comes out, straight from the heart. I value that first burst as something authentic, and sometimes I feel that revising takes the “life” out of it…..or maybe I”m just lazy!”

Deathmark_coverJann Arrington-Wolcott: “I didn’t start writing until after 40-years-old. I was busy writing for magazines and raising five kids! I’m glad I didn’t start writing any younger. I needed to live and with the years and experiences, I had so much more to write about. For my latest book, I discovered how fun research can be. I knew I needed someone wildly inappropriate as a love interest for the main character. I was in San Francisco at the time, reading the paper, and found myself reading these advertisements for escorts. That’s my love interest! I called the company and explained that I was a writer, a wife, a mother, and grandmother, I was doing research for a book and wanted to make an appointment with an escort. ‘I just want to talk and do research for a character,’ I told him. ‘Lady,’ the man on the other end of the phone said, ‘I don’t care what you do, but you’re paying by the hour!’ The characters of my books tell me what they’re doing and what is going to happen next. I have a somewhat obsessive personality, which works well for a writer! If I could offer advice to my younger self, I would say: “Stop being such a people pleaser. Believe in yourself. Guard and follow your enthusiasm.”

untitledDawn Wink: “I decided to be a writer when I had three kids, ages three and under. It seemed like a good idea at the time! My writing fits into the nooks and crannies of a busy family and professional life. Most of my writing happens between 4:00-6:00 am. After that, my day belongs to family and work. I’ve learned to trust my body’s natural biorhythms when it comes to writing. I am an early morning person. I light candles and oil lanterns and write during that time. I used to feel guilty about not writing late into the night when the kids slept, I felt I was losing precious time. I now know that it’s far more productive for me to just go to bed, let my mind and body rest, so that I’m ready to awake early in the morning and return to the work of writing. The initial writing process for me is initially highly intuitive. I cluster ideas, for essays, chapters, books. I trust whatever path the clustering takes me during that stage, no matter how wild it seems at the time. I love clustering, because writing is always somewhat of an adventure at this stage, I’m never quite sure what might unfold. Clustering has resulted in some amazing surprises that I never would have stumbled upon otherwise. Really? That’s what’s going to happen? Who knew? Eventually within the clustering, a linear organization of what’s meant to be written takes shape. I write whatever comes for the first draft. Only after that initial intuitive process, do I start to revise, which then feels like a sculpting of the work, a paring away of the excess to highlight the essence of story.”

Conversation 2

Dawn and LesleyOur literary agent, Liz, wrote this of our time together, which offers other insights into the writing life:

“Because each of you is a strong individual, you all had different things to say and you were generous in sharing personal insights/bugaboos/difficulties – it was truly an open-hearted forum. The writers and artists in the audience responded to your answers as they did because they could tell you were being totally upfront and honest. There was never a false moment or a sense that you were performing. You were intent on sharing your own experiences – from the trials and tribulations of trying to write in the midst of child-rearing, home-tending and feeding of family mouths and souls, going to work at jobs to provide sustenance for your families, all the way to being over all of that and still trying to find the right rhythm of writing and all the rest of what makes up your lives.

I like that each of you had a different approach to that so that the audience got the message: there is no one RIGHT WAY to approach the difficult task of writing; you simply must do it according to what works best for you.”

We all agree whole-heartedly—there is no one RIGHT WAY in the writing life. Life IS full of juicy distractions for writers. Create your own path.

Whatever the path, just write. 

Moon over Abiqiui

Moon over Abiqiui




When Moments Reflect a Lifetime

There are some things one simply must do in life— attendance when your dad/BopBop sworn in as Speaker of the House of the South Dakota Legislature is clearly one of them.  Better yet to tell The Speaker that you cannot possibly attend — and surprise The Speaker with your arrival.

Surprise - 2007

Surprise – 2007

Eight years ago, for Dad’s first term in the Legislature, my brother, Bo, Mom, and I conspired for Bo and me to surprise Dad on the first day of Session, as he was sworn into office. Bo arrived first and told Dad that he needed to shower, went to his hotel room, and promptly slipped out the door to come pick me up at the airport. My plane was 45 minutes late and by the time we arrived back, Dad was ready to break down the door to Bo’s hotel room, convinced he had fallen and knocked his head in the shower. 

This time, we got the kids involved and Bo and family headed the 10-hours west from Wisconsin and our family (minus Wyatt in the midst of an avalanche course and Wynn who needed to be in Santa Fe) headed the 17-hours north from Santa Fe. We arrived in Pierre, South Dakota within minutes of one another at the Capitol building. We threaded our way down the hall in single file, whispering, peeking, and finally arriving to Dad’s office, where we entered en masse. One look, two looks, a triple-take later, Dad believed his eyes. 

Surprise, Mr. Speaker!

Surprise, Mr. Speaker!

Surprise, Mr. Speaker!

Lisa, Garrett, Austin, Bo, Mom, Dad, me, Noé, Luke

Cousins in the Capitol

Cousins in the Capitol

The South Dakota Capitol building is simply gorgeous. We explored the building, looking for the famous cobalt blue tiles amidst the 30,000 square feet of tiled floor. Legend has it that the Italian craftsmen who laid the tile were each given a single tile to place wherever he wished (South Dakota Magazine). Apparently, 66 tiles lie within the terrazzo floor and 55 have been found. The cousins roamed the halls found four, including some hearts.

Cobalt blue tile in capitol floor.

Heart within tile floor.

I loved the miniature replicas of each dress worn by a First Lady of South Dakota for Inauguration and the soaring stained glass ceilings above. The cousins were not nearly as taken with these and ditched me to keep looking for tiles. 

Dresses of first ladies

Stained glass ceilings.

We arrived prepared. “Oddly,” Bo said, “the Winks were the only family to show up to the Session Opening with sideline signs…” 

We love the Speaker signWith Bo, very proud of our dad.

Bo and Dawn

Dad took the Oath of Office and my heart overflowed with pride and love. Life is so very busy and so often we fly through days in a blur of all that must be done. It was a rare moment to sit and allow all that Dad has done in his life to wash through me. When your dad’s a cowboy there is never a dull moment. Of the many life lessons that I’ve taken from my parents, one of the largest has to be their steadfast determination to create goodness in life, no matter the circumstances life may toss their way. This moment in time reflected Dad’s strength-of-character, integrity, resiliency, vision, leadership, hard work, and sheer generosity and goodness of spirit throughout his lifetime. I burst with pride.

Daddy waving Speaker

After Dad took the Oath, he acknowledged each of us beautifully. I was doing okay until he started talking about Mom. He spoke of their 50-year marriage, of what an incredible mother, wife, friend, and all she’d done for our family, all while creating an international career and writing five books, with a sixth on the way. He spoke of the emails she receives from students around the world who tell of the difference she’s made in their lives. “And,” he said, “on top of all of that, she’s a GREAT dancer.” At this point, tears streamed down both of my cheeks. So much for legislative decorum…


We love the Speaker

Noé, Luke, and I slipped out right after his speech and started back to Santa Fe, via the ranch. It had been far too long since I’d been there and I savored those precious hours. As we made a final trip to the car, I looked up to see horses on the ridge above the ranch house and drank in the beauty.

Horses on ridge above ranch house.

We headed up the lane and out past Mom‘s Little Free Library. 

Wink Ranch Little Free Library

I give thanks for every single second of the journey. The photo of Dad and me below was taken on the Cascabel Ranch in 1977. I love this photo for many reasons; the sense of fun, our Wink eyes that close when we laugh, that this was clearly a break in the shade on a hot ranch day of work. What I love most about this photo is that my love for my dad shines through. 

Cascabel Ranch, 1977

With Dad, Cascabel Ranch, 1977

Some things never change.

Daddy and Dawn


TESOL — Online and in Oaxaca, México

Oaxaca, México

Oaxaca, México

TESOL Program – Online and in Oaxaca, México

I am thrilled to be a part of a collaboration between Santa Fe Community College and Language Institute for Sustainability and Transformative Education @ Oaxaca for teachers of students who speak languages other than English.

TV interview with more about the TESOL program specifics, students, and what you will experience in Oaxaca—immersing yourself in the language and culture of your students by living with a family, exploring outlying villages on the weekends, experiencing the vibrancy of the culture, languages, and people, and learning how to create academic and socio-cultural success for emergent bilingual students.

(Behind the scenes of the interview—Clearly, I had to wear a bright scarf to convey the vibrancy of the culture, people, languages, and land of Oaxaca!)

Teachers can now earn a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Certificate in as few as two semesters through online courses, coupled with professional language and cultural immersion through LISTO (Language Institute for Sustainability and Transformative Education) summer intensive classes in Oaxaca, Mexico. Teachers have a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the ancient and magical city of Oaxaca, while taking coursework and earning credits through Santa Fe Community College. In this Institute, teachers engaged in high-quality second-language pedagogy, intensive language training, and rich artistic, cultural traditions found in Oaxaca. Teachers meet for instruction Monday through Thursday, with long weekends to explore outlying villages, vibrant with contemporary and indigenous foods, textiles, pottery, and music. There are homestay or independent apartment housing options.

Oaxaca - Papel Picado

Oaxaca – Papel Picado


LISTO is a national model for training teachers to further develop cultural competencies and understand and engage English Language Learning students.


The purpose of LISTO for Teachers is to expose teachers to traditional cultures of Mexico to discover the cultural richness of the Spanish-speaking peoples of this hemisphere while engaging in effective second language pedagogy.


The Mission of LISTO is to bring teachers together in a language and cultural immersion program in Oaxaca, Mexico, to promote cultural understanding and build bridges with students upon their return to the United States.

Interested in earning your Bilingual Certificate? Earn 3 credits toward your Bilingual Certificate and participate in the month-long Spanish immersion program. Spanish credits can be earned as well, and a variety of Spanish levels are offered to meet your needs.

Why Oaxaca?

LISTO for teachers is based in and around Ciudad de Oaxaca, México, in a state with over 500 municipalities and 40 distinct languages in the southern part of Mexico, home to the spicy chocolate mole sauce, dances such as the Guelaguetza, traditional handmade clothes, black pottery and hand-woven rugs. Oaxaca is known for the vibrancy of the cultures and traditions of indigenous peoples. The people of Oaxaca are proud of their traditions, and still preserve them after 500 years of colonization and modernity. Near the city of Oaxaca are the ancient ruins of Monte Alban, coffee, banana and agave plantations, and numerous villages known for crafts such as woodworking or pottery.

Monte Albán

Monte Albán

Women of Oaxaca


We hope you will join us:

Specifics and Details about the Program


Contact information:

Tourimex - Oaxaca

Tourimex – Oaxaca

Cara Esquivel
Program Coordinator
(505) 603-1235

Santa Fe Community College
Dawn Wink
Director, Department of Teacher Education
(505) 428-1347

Bethany Muller, PhD
SFCC Teacher Education, Assistant Professor
(505) 428-1749

Silver City, NM

Silver City, NM

WRITERS: The upcoming Write and Retreat in Silver City, New Mexico (February 19 – 22) will be a time of deep writing, deep retreat, and deep friendship.


A New Year—Acts of Waiting, Acts of Faith

Frosty day in Santa Fe

Frost-laden day in Santa Fe

Window of my writing room.

Window of my writing room.

As I sit and look at the lights wrapping the trees outside of my writing room and think back on the past year, what shines through are thoughts of how very much can change in one year. Our family began this year in another home, made an unexpected move, and have spent the past months creating a new nest.

Snow now covers all of the new plants and trees planted during our biblical summer of water and wine. Every morning, I look at the hibernating twigs and branches and wonder which of the plants will make it through this first winter. Birds swirl around the bird feeders we’ve hung in the piñon tree outside and swarm around the fallen seeds on the snow beneath. Our dog, Clyde, is now used to this daily feast and no longer tries to chase them away. The family of quail that visited us all summer has moved on and I hope they will return. 

Painting to books-on-CD.

Painting to books-on-CD.

As planned, now that the weather has turned cold, our focus has shifted to the inside of our nest. Noé replaced the 20 year old brown shag carpet (yes, truly as delightful as it sounds) in our central hallway with a gorgeous wooden floor and I am forever with a paintbrush in my hand and move through a home filled with stained wood. I carry the CD player with the latest book-on-CD (currently “Eldest” by Christopher Paolini) with me into whichever room and am soon lost in the strokes and story. When Noé built this home years ago, raw wood was a main decorating theme. While appropriate for a nest, I find the clean and open feeling of “Bone White” (I choose my paint by the name) opens the home with a clean and polished feel. The other morning, Noé looked at me and said, “Inch-by-inch you’re painting this place. Inch-by-inch.” I grinned. Busted. The soaring wooden ceilings of the berm home with a loft will remain wood. 

Wyatt returned home from college and all our baby birds were back home in the nest.

Baby birds all home in the nest.

Baby birds all home in the nest.

Mom and Dad came from the ranch to spend the holidays and this year they actually made it! Living in western South Dakota has thwarted many of our holiday plans with blizzards in the past. An incoming blizzard had to have the final say, when Mom and Dad had to leave earlier than expected to make it back to the ranch when the storm hit. Prairie people understand.

Grammie and BopBop with grands.

Grammie and BopBop with grands.

In our family, dish duty is decided by ping-pong matches. This year, the boys broke the tie with an arm-wrestling match.

Luke and Wyatt arm-wrestle for dish duty.

Luke and Wyatt arm-wrestle for dish duty.

After Christmas Eve worship, we took the traditional walk through the Plaza.

Moon peeks through the lights above the Plaza.

Moon peeks through the lights above the Plaza.

I woke Christmas morning to Wyatt reading by the light of the Christmas tree.

Wyatt reading.

Wyatt reading by the light of the tree on Christmas morning.

Lilacs under the snow.

Lilacs under the snow.

My thoughts turn to the New Year and I look outside to the plants covered in snow for inspiration. In the midst of a busy year of work at the college and the move, the manuscript for the next book, LOVE STONES, scheduled to be published this past year, remains on my desk. The first draft of the manuscript was submitted to my publisher and returned with editorial notes, all quite do-able. I thought the book was done and I had only to weave in these editorial changes and re-submit. It was only when I started these edits that I realized half of the book was missing, had not yet been written. Now that is a bummer of a realization when you think the book is done.  

At the same time, it is exciting.  Michelangelo said of carving, “In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and in action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.” With writing, one starts not with a block of stone, with nothing physical at all other than perhaps stacks of messy notes and papers. I don’t see the finished product of what I write. Instead, I have a sense of what might be and it is within the writing itself that this hazy idea takes shape. 

Roses under snow.

                  Roses under snow.

I look again to the trees and plants that appear dead outside and think of all the potential within that will, with luck, blossom and grow this summer. The rose bushes will again blossom into scarlet, peach, yellow, and shades of salmon and pink that reflect the sunrises and sunsets. Four types of lilacs, with flowers ranging from deep purple to bubblegum pink, ring our stucco wall. Apple and apricot trees were the first planted, soon followed by New Mexican locusts, aspens, and cottonwood. The hummingbird mint that brought hummingbirds to our home last summer now peek forlornly over the snow. The wild array of hollyhocks of every color I could imagine to plant now bend under the weight of the frost. It is an act of waiting and of faith that they will survive and bloom again this summer.

Two of my writing heroines, Isabel Allende and Terry Tempest Williams, reserve the winter for writing as a time to turn inward and focus on the next book. It is time to turn inward now and focus on this next book. The original hard-copy of the manuscript returned to me by the publisher is now filled with notes and scribbles, missing scenes that tie all together yet to be written. Like the world outside, new life within the stalks and branches that appear dry and dead, so too are the scenes yet to be written in LOVE STONES.

Love Stones mss

All I need to do is lift my eyes to the world beyond my window for solidarity. Under the cold and snow of the world outside, dormant life course their their roots. How very like a manuscript. With a bit of luck, a lot of listening, writing, and work, all will blossom in Spring. 

Window of my writing room. Fairy, flower, and snow.

Window of my writing room. Fairy, flower, and snow.


Write and Retreat: Silver City, NM

Silver City, NM

Silver City, NM

Write, Workshop, Relax, Repeat...

Gila Wilderness

Gila Wilderness

Are you… Craving creative inspiration? Looking for new insight to fuel your words? Searching for the heart of your work?

Join award-winning author and plant biologist Susan J. Tweit and me an immersion in writing, crafting narrative, and landscape as character in the heart of historic Silver City, New Mexico. Stay at the beautifully restored Murray Hotel, an Art Deco classic right downtown, and close to the Gila Wilderness, Gila Cliff Dwellings, the Catwalk slot canyon hike and more.

February 19 – 22nd, 2016
The Murray Hotel, Silver City, New Mexico

The Details


We’ll write, workshop our pieces, learn from great writing, and explore how landscape and place inspire our stories. You’ll take away new tools & a new understanding of your words and your work!

Note: This is a small-group workshop, limited to 15 participants, with lots of time for interaction and individual work. Participants will have the opportunity for individual consultations.

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings


Join us for daily chair yoga and walks. Or get a massage, explore nearby galleries and the Silver City Museum, or curl up and read a book….

Or visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings, hike the Catwalk trail, ramble Silver City for a look at history and art, or soak at Faywood Hot Springs.


Susan J. Tweit & Dawn Wink © Nancy Fine

Susan J. Tweit & Dawn Wink © Nancy Fine

Susan J. Tweit is an award-winning writer and plant biologist with a passion for words, stories and life itself. She is the author of twelve books, including the memoir Walking Nature Home, and hundreds of magazine articles, columns and essays for markets as diverse as Audubon Magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, and public radio. She teaches workshops across the country.

Dawn Wink is a writer and educator whose work explores the tensions and beauty of language, culture, and place. Wink’s non- fiction includes “Raven’s Time,” “Wild Waters: Landscapes of Languages,” and Teaching Passionately (with Joan Wink). Her novel Meadowlark was a finalist for the WILLA Award, High Plains Book Award, and NM/ AZ Book Awards. She lives with her family in Santa Fe.

DATE: February 19-22, 2016, a beautiful time in Southern NM! Location: The Murray Hotel, 200 West Broadway St., Silver City


Workshop includes workshops, readings and individual sessions, plus field trip: $600 ($50 discount for previous W&R attendees!)

Murray Hotel

Murray Hotel

Lodging: The Murray Hotel is offering a special workshop rate of $84 per night for their double-queen rooms, including continental breakfast. Make reservations directly with the hotel by calling 575-956-9400. You must mention Write & Retreat for special rate.

Food: Lunches and dinners will be catered by the Murray, except for one night at a local restaurant. The cost is still being worked out, but should run no more than $50 apiece per day.

Companions are welcome to join us for meals and field trips on a space-available basis for a reduced fee.

Click here for workshop brochure

Take a peek at the Murray Hotel

Questions & to Reserve Space: Email tweitdesk@gmail.com



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…

Op-Ed published in the Santa Fe New Mexican.

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




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