Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Writing, Teaching, Language, Landscape, Life

A Cascabel Birthday


Cascabel Birthday Cake

Cascabel Birthday Cake

The month of March in our family is known as March Madness for the multiple birthdays. Luke kicks off the month the 10th, then Grammie on the 20th, Wyatt is the 25th, and I bring things to a close on the 28th. I’m 48 this year. No need for mystery. I love growing older. A friend recently referred to our family’s Birthday Gauntlet, which I loved and is a perfect description!

Mom, Dad, and Wyatt all came for our tradition Birthday Party (all thrown into one lump day), which included an ecumenical walk around the Plaza for Palm Sunday.

All Family

Wyatt, Wynn, Grammie, Bop Bop, me, Noé, Luke – Palm Sunday

4 bop bop grammie

Palm Sunday walk around the Plaza.

Road to Cascabel. As Mom said, "The road to Dawn's heart..."

Road to Cascabel. Mom said, “The road to Dawn’s heart…”

Dad hauled a pickup, El Blanco, that has been in our family since 1984 and the Cascabel Years. It has been a ranch truck all the past years. With all of the garden work and hauling we’re doing in our new home—and for unabashedly sentimental reasons—I wanted El Blanco in Santa Fe. Dad hauled it down. As most trips involving my dad and vehicles, this one also included an adventure. His pickup and the trailer hit black ice in Colorado, the trailer jack-knifed and his F350 pickup and trailer all plowed for several hundred yards down the interstate. Spinning the steering wheel back-and-forth throughout, Dad kept all tonnage hurtling down the interstate on the road.  Somehow, no one was hurt and the truck and trailer didn’t flip. He was pulled over by an officer several miles later for “losing control of his vehicle.” 

“If I hadn’t kept control of the vehicle,” Dad told the officer, “I’d have been in a ditch back there!”

What Daddy didn’t tell me was that he’d had new magnetic signs made for the side of El Blanco, exactly like what had been painted on there 30 years ago.When I saw, it hit the Cascabel Button and immediate tears. 

Dawn sees Cascabel sign

Dad Dawn El Blanco Close up

Wyatt and Wynn helped unload.

Wyatt WynnPickup


A 30-year old ranch pickup from Cascabel? I am soooooo ditching our mini-van!

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

Cascabel bluffs. © Joan Wink, 1983

I have had exactly one kind of birthday cake in my life that I remember—the Cascabel Birthday Cake. Cascabel (‘rattle of a rattlesnake’ in Spanish) is the area in southeastern Arizona nestled within the San Pedro River Valley where I grew up. We’ll refer to it as The Holy Land. The sandstone bluffs overlooking the river of Cascabel framed the valley and framed my childhood. These bluffs, these years, these memories, and this cake are inextricable intertwined.

Mom said that original recipe was in some a magazine long lost to memory. In our March Madness of birthdays, this cake is sort of the grand finale of fireworks for me. The rest of birthday rhythms can be consumed by the waters of life—but the cake, the Cascabel Cake, we do not miss. Traditions ground us in the whirlwinds of life. This cake remains one of my own anchors. 

Cascabel Birthday Cake

Cascabel Birthday Cake

Always the same cake: Angel Food cake with the topping of a mixture of whipped cream, crushed pineapple, and lemon Jello. Always cut into thirds with layers of the topping amidst. Whip the jello, so all blends together. Essential to the Cascabel Birthday Cake are the purple irises atop. Purple irises ringed two of the trees in front of the ranch house in Cascabel. They always bloomed right before my birthday. Mom always decorated my cake with them. Yes, bulbs for purple irises will be planted in the gardens of our new home. 

Mom 4 years old

Mom, 4-years-old

Mom’s birthday this year was an especially poignant one for all. Ten years ago on her birthday, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Five years ago, Noé and I walked the Pilgrimage to Chimayó to celebrate her five years as a survivor. This March 20th, she celebrated her 10 years as a survivor. Mom writes of this beautifully here: Joan Wink – 10 Years Cancer FreeMy Uncle Jim surprised us all with this photo of her taken when she was four-years-old. 

My mom and dad, my heroes. Always and forever. 

With the passing of the incredible Cara Esquivel, all feels especially vulnerable and tender. In the midst of these national and international times so filled with so very much tragedy, the events in Brussels and conversations and happenings impossible to understand, a tiny group of people who loved Cara have come together around her passions and fierce love of Oaxaca and the the world. These past weeks, amidst all, I’ve experienced the very best of this tiny circle of people giving all to bring beauty to the world, out of love, out of passion, and out of loyalty. This experience again and again reminds me of what really matters in this world. What a blessing to experience the very best of humanity. 

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead

Spring buds



Author: Dawn Wink

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

36 thoughts on “A Cascabel Birthday

  1. Dear Judith, I’m so glad you brought us back to the sky. I went to look at the photo again and just absorbed. Thank you for this. Here’s to contagious smiles and love!

  2. Have you ever seen such a blue sky? And those high wispy clouds that forecast a beautiful day. The smiles in your family are contagious.

  3. Happy Birthday to each of you!!! Your messages are like a treasured gift to me. Thank you for including me. Your love of all things
    Cascabel, Dean”s adventures and that picture of Joan with beautiful long legs had me in tears and laughing.

    I love and admire you,

    • Dear Cathy, thank you so much for your birthday love and wishes! Thank YOU for including us and for taking the time to write and connect with us all.
      Here’s to our tears and laughing together.
      I love you,

  4. Dawn, we so enjoyed your birthday memories about Cascabel. So glad you have such fond memories of the ranch, Benson, etc. Sounds like you had a terrific birthday & happy birthday from the Dendys.

  5. Dawn, dear! Another beyond-beautiful and meaningful post! Sending love to you, Noe, your wonderful children and parents, XOXOXOX Jann

  6. I love, love, love your family, Dawn! Every last one of you is inspirational, especially your mom and dad. Our family has the March Birthday Madness,, too. Then along comes April 4, my birthday. John baked me a chocolate mayonnaise cake, which is simply mouth-drooling. Yours is fabulous, too. My birthday dream that didn’t come true: KU is in the Finals of the NCAA tournament in Houston tonight. We are there. We beat Oklahoma, just like we did in 1988 in Kansas City. Unfortunately, Villanova ruined our dream, but I’m still rooting for them tonight against North Carolina, coached by Roy Williams, our former KU coach.
    With admiration,

    • Dear Stephany, oh, thank you, thank you, thank you so much for taking the time to write. So, you’re family has March Madness, too? I love knowing this. Now, I’ll always think of you and your family’s March Madness during ours and on April 4. So glad John baked you that cake. Thanks so very much for taking the time to write, even amidst the NCAA tournament! Will now always think of you and root for KU.
      Deep gratitude,

  7. Dawnie Wink, LOVE to hear the family traditions…spinning down the interstate must have been similar to jumping on those young calves out in the pasture and letting it fly!!!! Did I ever tell you the story about Dean and I……oh, a later date…love you…love your writing!

  8. This issue is just the best! What a beautiful group you are!

  9. Oh Dawn, happiest of Birthdays, you gorgeous girl!

  10. Sweet memories and understanding the value of life itself. Those bluffs are unforgettable! You know, occasionally I see an old white truck with Cascabel on the door here in Silver City, and I wonder who owns it and their connection to Cascabel. If I ever have a chance I will ask. Love the iris cake!! Never a dull moment with your folks Dawn! Your dad is right, he would have been in the ditch….

    • Hey dear Rachel, here’s to our shared Cascabel times and memories! Really? A Cascabel pick up in Silver City?? This Cascabel Kid would love to know of their connection and history. No kidding about never a dull moment with my folks!! 🙂 Much love to you.

  11. Oh, Dawn, I have just caught up with your last three posts and I hardly know what to say. There are no words to adequately express Cara’s passing, no way to understand the why of it. As for your March Madness birthday celebration – we had the same thing in my family. My Dad was March 4, mine is March 9, Aunt Sue – March 17 and cousin Stan (Sue’s son), March 25. We always had one big family celebration with my Mom doing the dinner.

    Congratulations to your Mom, Joan, for her 10 year celebration of being cancer free and congratulations to your Dad for handling that bucking bronco of a truck ride on black ice.

    Sending love, Lindy

    • Dear Lindy, thanks so very much for writing. I understand the inadequacy of words about Cara’s passing, thank you for honoring her by witnessing her life and spirit together. Thank you, thank you. And you have your own March Madness in your family! I am so grateful to know this! Now, I’ll always think of you during this time of celebration.
      Thanks so much for congratulations to Mom for her 10-year-celebration. I love your description of Dad’s bucking bronco of a truck ride.
      Love to you,

  12. you never cease to touch my heart… in person AND in writing! just back from the desert and looking forward to a rendezvous in celebration of your magnificent presence on this magnificent earth! ” Let me know when you have time for tea and we will tip teacups in honor of “another circle around the sun,” as they say out in Tsedaak’an where I spent the last week.

    • Hey dear Jennifer, so glad you’re back from the desert! Can’t wait to hear about this past week. I’m in Baltimore this week at a conference, so perhaps next week for teacups in honor of “another circle around the sun.” I love that. Thank you so very much for this.

  13. Dear Dawn, There is a lot to chew on in this Dew Drops, birthdays, Cara, surviving cancer. Having been in a similar circumstance as your dad on black ice, my heart is still beating fast. Thanks for sharing your family adventures with us. Love and Hugs, Dan

    • Dear Dan, so wonderful to hear from you and YES on hearts beating fast after Dad’s black ice event. He called Mom right after it happened and Mom told us. He still had to make it from Colorado to Santa Fe and we had no idea how many miles of black ice awaited. We were VERY grateful when he drove into our driveway. Thanks ever so much for writing. Love and hugs, Dawn

  14. Thanks for sharing your passionate memories. Very special.

  15. Ok, so now I have tears. Just beautiful.

  16. What a great sharing! Love all the stories! And I love these particular iris’s! Have a great and happy year!!

    Sent from my iPad


    • Dear Mary Kay, aren’t those irises just gorgeous?! Iris bulbs going into the ground this summer. So glad you love the stories and so very grateful to share with you. xox

  17. Thank you for allowing us to step into your family celebrations. Beautiful words for beautiful family traditions. Love to all of you forever…

    • Dear Diane, thanks so very much for sharing in all with Mom since forever. And what a birthday party you and Mom threw for Betty Jay yesterday! How I loved the photos and hearing about all. Here is to all of our family and family traditions. Much love.

  18. Happy birthday, dear friend.

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