Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Writing, Teaching, Language, Landscape, Life

Kindnesses and Bones

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Cottonwoods along the Rio Grande draped in gold.

Cottonwoods along the Rio Grande draped in gold.

Cottonwoods draped in gold lined the Rio Grande. My mind was miles away on the Great Plains when this sight pierced my thoughts. I pulled onto a dirt road, and got out and walked. The red New Mexico dirt drifted up around my feet and dusted onto my black boots. A light breeze rustled through the leaves. I kept my eyes on the golden cascade pouring down through the deep green of the cottonwoods, the Rio Grande flowed lazy and calm beneath. Nearly three weeks have passed since The Blizzard hit South Dakota and my parent’s ranch.
In Riding the White Horse Home, Teresa Jordan writes of the bone pile on every ranch, that area where ranchers take animals taken by time or illness.  Animals naturally shy away from this place. While the bone pile is a physical place for animals, writes Jordan, it can represent deeply felt emotional places for many ranchers. “Ranchers walk up to most bones. They look physical danger right in the eye and don’t blink. But there are other bones that scare them. For my family, the pile we shied away from was grief.” Bones of all kinds now fill the plains.
 
Amidst these bones, come waves of the kindnesses of strangers. To any who ever doubted the open kindness of the human heart and fierce nature of the spirit, a few notes from strangers, whom I thanked for lifting up what is happening now on the Great Plains:
Rebecca Farr

Rebecca Farr

“I believe in the power of the internet, but even more in the kindness of strangers.”

“BostonStrong paying it forward>RancherStrong.” 

Lorraine Lewandrowski lifted the events on the Plains to an international voice.

Grass roots initiative Help for South Dakota, where one can pledge livestock. Contact volunteer Wendi Lankister, ranchwife@gmail.com

“I have to do something,” wrote artist Rebecca Farr, before diving into creating t-shirts, all of whose proceeds go directly to South Dakota Rancher Relief Fund.

My dad, Dean Wink, articulates this experience with insight and eloquence, in his interview with Sherry Bunting. “We had a few hours of rain,” Wink recalls the afternoon of October 4. “Then, just hours before sundown, it changed to blizzard conditions. There are some things we could have done if we had known it would be this much of a blast. But it was the perfect storm stacked up against the cows: Rain, then sleet, and with no winter coat yet, they chilled down faster than normal. Then it turned to snow and we had white-out conditions for hours, and then the 70 mph winds snapping a reported 4300 power poles in the next county over. It was the combination of things — and the timing — the cows were not prepared for it. We were not prepared for it. Mother nature can be pretty brutal at times, and people in cities can’t have a true appreciation for that unless they are in it.” For the rest of the article, ‘Big Shot’ news organizations: Get out of town!.

I am crazy-proud of my dad.

I thought of all of this as I walked through the red New Mexico dirt, eyes on the gold-threaded cottonwoods ahead. The kindnesses of strangers mix with the bone piles, both physical and emotional. All is too new and raw to make much sense of right now.

Patricia Frolander, Poet Laureate of Wyoming, voices the ephemeral and visceral.

Grassland Genealogy

Prairie seeds, dirt and thistle

          borne on biting wind,

          adorn wooden crosses,

          mausoleums, marble stones,

          and the small chapel steps.

This last refuge, draped over a hill

          bears its earthy blanket with dignity.

          Tears more frequent than rain

          nurture native roots, their grasp

          as tenacious as the pioneers they embrace.

I greet the ancient ones.

          Spirits move with the breeze,

          hover beyond my shoulder

          wondering why I am here.

          I whisper my answer to the November sunset. 

I stood under the cottonwoods and looked up into the green, gold, and blue.

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Author: Dawn Wink

Dawn Wink is a writer and educator whose work explores the beauty and tensions of language, culture, and place.

8 thoughts on “Kindnesses and Bones

  1. Pingback: Dewdrops Birthday | Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

  2. Dawn, Saturday I took my daughter to The Chapel of the Transfiguration here in the Tetons. It’s a place where Nature and History contend for attention. Left a prayer for the SD ranchers in the book. Hugs and Blessings to you and yours.

  3. Good morning, dear Dawn. And thanks for this beautiful piece to be read with my first cup of coffee. The cottonwoods here at The Reserve are all decked out in the golden beauty and I’m enjoying them, knowing full well that in the next week or so they will be bereft of it. Fortunately, you are never bereft of amazing insights and the inclination to share them with your friends. Thank you for all of that!

  4. I have recently learned in my life, once again, how strong and brave the human heart is. These experiences, as awful as they are, stretch all of us into a bigger heart-space. And, the beauty of it is, we can still stretch no matter how many times we are asked to. Our planet, and all the beings that live on it, is an incredible example of what love can create. Thank you for sharing from your big heart-space, Dawn.

  5. What an inspiring article. Makes me still believe in the power of the human spirit. Hugs to all.

    • Jodie, The kindnesses that have poured in during these past weeks inspire and humble me. So grateful to share here, as they give me faith in the human spirit, as well. Hugs to you.

  6. Hi Peggy, So good to hear from you. Thanks so much for reaching out and for what you write here. My dad and the ranch deserve tributes! Hugs and hugs, Dawn

  7. Beautiful, heart-wrenching tribute to the ranch and to your dad, Dawn!

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