Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Writing, Teaching, Language, Landscape, Life


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Women of the Red Clay—Las Mujeres del Barro Rojo, Oaxaca, México

Macrina Mateo Martinez, Woman of the Red Clay (Mujer del Barro Rojo)

Of the many experiences that touched my soul during our time in Oaxaca, México through LISTO Oaxaca, the Women of the Red Clay, las Mujeres del Barro Rojo, is the ember of story that illumines all else. Our bus bounced off the beaten path and over rock-studded dirt roads to the Zapotec community of San Marcos Tlapazola to visit the Women of the Red Clay.

Road to San Marcos Tlapazola ©Randy Grillo

Macrina Mateo Martinez greated us with a smile and Spanish laced with her Zapotec mother tongue.  “I watched my grandparents and my parents when I was a little girl. I had one dress for a year. We slept on dirt. It was so cold.”

“I watched the beautiful red clay pottery that my grandmother made, taught by her mother, who was taught by her mother, for as far back as we can remember…I watched her trade a bowl that had taken hours to make for a small bag of beans or corn.”

Macrina Martinez and Alberta Mateo, Women of the Red Clay (Mujeres del Barro Rojo)

Trenzas, Braids.

“We had nothing. At sixteen, I decided to try to sell the red clay pottery that the women of our village had made beyond time. I didn’t speak Spanish then, only Zapotec. I went to Guadalajara by myself. The villagers spoke badly of me for leaving and of my family for allowing me to go. Girls did not travel by themselves. The villagers criticized my family.

Sufri mucho, mucho. I suffered and suffered. After many years, my pottery began to sell. Through the years, I have traveled to New York, Portland, Santa Fe. My pottery is in the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. Now, all of the women in our village sell our red clay pottery all over the world.”

The strength, artistry, and determination of a lone sixteen-year-old girl who did not speak Spanish in Mexico brought the beauty of red clay pottery to the world.

With Macrina Martinez and Alberta Mateo.

Our class gathered as Macrina and Alberta shared their story of how Zapotec women for generations had walked into the mountains to gather the clay, the stones for dye, and harvested the branches to burn to fire the raw clay into pottery.

Alberta Mateo took an unformed chunk of clay and rolled the corn cob up and down to create the pot within the unshaped form. Up and down rolled the cob under Alberta’s hands, as Macrina spoke to us about the history and experiences of the Women of the Red Clay.

“The men all had to leave to go find work for most of the year. The rest of the time they worked outside in the fields. It was only the women and girls who stayed. I started to learn how to work the red clay when I was a little, little girl. All of the mothers taught their daughters how to work the clay.”

Alberta Mateo

Alberta Mateo

Young girl warming food.

Young girl warming food.

What stayed with me is the difference the vision and strength of one young girl can make. Macrina now hosts groups from around the world. The underlying dynamics of life pierced our conversation when I referred to her as “Señora,” to honor her age and accomplishments. Señora also assumes one is married, the equivalent of Mrs.

“Yo soy Señorita,” she said. “Miss. I never married.” She lifted her eyes to look out the window and then turned back to me. The look she gave me felt like the conveyance of a cost for being the independent and brave girl who left the village against all to become a world-renowned artist and business woman.

Macrina Mateo Martinez, Woman of the Red Clay

Barro Rojo pieces

Macrina and I spoke for several minutes, surrounded by the beauty of her pottery and art. Sufri mucho, mucho (I suffered and suffered), came through in our conversation again and again, most of her story not said, but felt. The strength of her voice whispers back to me over the miles, the border, the time since I left Oaxaca. I think of this woman who through sheer talent and determination brought the beauty and artistry of generations of Zapotec women to the world.

I gathered the pieces of pottery that I could carry back with me on the plane. Tucked into the woven palm leaf bag, each piece wrapped in clothing, so too came Macrina’s story.

The pieces now adorn our table. Every time I walk by and see them at the center, I think of Macrina’s hands running the corn cob along the lines until the piece emerges. The beauty of each piece carries with it the generations of womens’ hands and life stories, and the strength of Macrina’s spirit, to lift and inspire.

As I pass, I run my fingertip along the rims.

With las Mujeres del Barro Rojo © Randy Grillo

With las Mujeres del Barro Rojo © Randy Grillo

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Every Mother Counts – Running for Global Maternal Health

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Finish line! Duke City Half Marathon, 2016

How about we do something great for the world that is far more expansive than political parties or elections?

A few months ago, I discovered the organization Every Mother Counts (EMC) an organization founded by Christy Burlington Burns to raise awareness and funds for global maternal health.

Run through the desert

Run through the desert with Clyde.

I’ve been a runner for 30+ years. For the past 25 years, running a marathon has been one of my life goals. My running has always been private—a sacred time to be alone, dream, plan, laugh, cry, sweat, push myself, connect with the elemental; the land, my spirit, possibilities and potential for the future. The 3 R’s of constant inspiration and partnership in life: ‘Reading, Running, and ‘Riting.’

O'Keeffe on the ranch.

O’Keeffe on the ranch.

My only partners as I run are first the four-footed kind, first my beloved O’Keeffe and now the indomitable, Clyde. I don’t run with headphones, music, or people. That is my time to be and listenWith the discovery of Every Mother Counts, this sacred, private time had the potential to make a difference in the lives of women and children around the world. This organization inspired me to bring the very private to the public. 

With the discovery of EMC, my running takes on new purpose. I think of the women featured in documentary film by Turlington, “No Woman, No Cry.”

wyatt-and-luke-1998

Wyatt, 2 years old; Luke, 3 months, before the race.

dawn-runningI ran half marathon 18 years ago. Luke was 3-months old, Wyatt was 2-years old, and we loaded up and drove from California (52 feet above sea level) to Steamboat Springs, Colorado (6,732 ft. above sea level) the day before the race.

I had never heard of acclimating for altitude. One really has to question running a half marathon at high altitude 3 months postpartum. Yet at the time, it seemed like the perfect thing to do. I ran the next morning. 

When I completed the race altitude sickness set in and my main memory of this time is  of intense pain and being curled up in the fetal position on asphalt on the side of the highway, breastfeeding a 3-month old Luke, my head on the paint lines of the highway, the wheels of vehicles speeding by. I thought, “This must be the lowest moment of my life.” Yet, I had finished.

Through the years the goal of running a marathon stayed with me. With the discovery of EMC, running now had the potential to create positive effects in a world desperate for it. I trained for the Duke City Half Marathon in Albuquerque, New Mexico to raise awareness for Every Mother Counts.

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Before the race, October 2016.

Of course, I had my Frida Kahlo earrings on and her spirit ran with me. 

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Cottonwoods lined the trail and hot air balloons hung above.

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Cottonwoods and hot air balloons along the trail.

I crossed the finish line in 2:23, my main goal completed—to finish. Turlington describes best the inspiration and work of EMC:

25 years after setting the goal, I now train to run the Tucson Marathon on December 10, 2016, in support of Every Mother Counts and global maternal health. When I listen to the news the national discourse in the US that defies belief and the faces of migrants forced from their home around the world desperate for safety and peace, the need of the world overwhelms. But perhaps if we each do one thing that calls to us, what may seem small may make a world of difference. Please join me in the journey: 

Now, I just need to run those 26.2 miles for us.

early-morning-running-with-clyde

Early morning running with Clyde. #everymothercounts


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Photo Journal of Oaxaca

Swirling skirts during Guelaguetza celebration.

Swirling skirts during Guelaguetza celebration.

 

Oaxaca, México

Oaxaca, México

Our time in Oaxaca, México came to an end. I will write more about all—our experiences were so multi-faceted, a single piece can’t do them the justice they each deserve. More pieces soon on the inspiration for this journey, the incredible LISTO TESOL class, what we learned about the teacher’s strike that turned deadly, the graffiti everywhere that tells the story of a non-official narrative, photos, the multiple histories told, and other experiences and aspects of life, culture, and language that compose a mosaic of Oaxaca.

For now, a photo journal to honor this incredible place. 

Street of Oaxaca

Street of Oaxaca

Birds made of corn husks fly above Calle Alcalá.

Birds made of corn husks fly above Calle Alcalá.

Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo - sanctuary

Santo Domingo – sanctuary

A couple steals a kiss along the walls of Santo Domingo.

6. Santo Domingo Couple Stealing Kiss

Streets of Oaxaca

Streets of Oaxaca

9. Oaxaca Coffee

“Scientists have discovered a new form of direct messaging through voice and in 3D and they call it, ‘Sharing a cup of coffee with somebody!'”

10. Oaxaca Coffee 2

The temples of Monte Albán. “Inhabited over a period of 1,500 years by a succession of peoples – Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs – the terraces, dams, canals, pyramids and artificial mounds of Monte Albán were literally carved out of the mountain and are the symbols of a sacred topography. The nearby city of Oaxaca, which is built on a grid pattern, is a good example of Spanish colonial town planning. The solidity and volume of the city’s buildings show that they were adapted to the earthquake-prone region in which these architectural gems were constructed (UNESCO).”

Monte Alban

Monte Alban

Wynn and Luke heard the Mockingjay whistle (Hunger Games) as they explored the temples and whistled back. Through a series of whistles, throughout the temples, the original whistlers and they found one another…

Luke, Dawn, Wynn

Luke, Dawn, Wynn

Steps of temple

Steps of temple

One interpretation – giving birth.

21 Giving birth

Beach of San Antonillo. We arrived after 6 hours in a van up over a mountainous pass of two-lane curving highway, particularly noteworthy in deep fog and driving rain. We experienced two completely different climate and temperatures within hours. Yes, drivers really do pass within inches of the oncoming and passing vehicles. 

Mountain Pass

Mountain Pass

San Antonillo

San Antonillo

14. Waters of San Antonillo

Underside of palm frond ceiling/roof.

Underside of palm frond ceiling/roof.

13. San Antonillo palms

The festival of La Guelaguetza! “Participants from the seven different regions of the state gather in the capital city, also named Oaxaca, to dance, sing and play music. This cultural exchange is a visually stunning exhibit of color and movement. The dancers and musicians wear clothing representative of their district…The roots of the Guelaguetza festival call upon pre-Columbian traditions that have existed for millennium. Indeed, the word “guelaguetza” hails from the Zapotec Indian language and means an offering or gift. Included in the translation is the concept of an exchange, or an act of reciprocity (Mexonline).”

17. Procession in front

18. Couple Guelaguetza

The swirling skirts of Oaxaca.

Dancing in parade

19. In front of Santo Domingo

My brief and amateur video. Turn up the volume!

Generations of dresses

Stilts in a line

Guys on Stilts

Women with orange skirts

Ribboned braids.

Swirling skirts 3

More parade

Firecrackers!

Fireworks

Little girl

Parade street

La Frida—pero, claro.

La Frida

A brief glimpse of some of what composes Oaxaca. Our time there was as varied in experiences as the place itself. Which as I think about it, feels only right. More soon.


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Journey to Oaxaca

Family Oaxaca

Santo Domingo, Calle Alcalá, Oaxaca

The journey begins. Playing spoons in Dallas airport.

The journey begins. Playing spoons in airport.

The last two weeks of July, I’m teaching a LISTO TESOL course in Oaxaca, México. We turned this into a family adventure and Noé, Luke, and Wynn are here, as well.  One never knows what to expect when traveling internationally.

Yesterday in class, we did a Listening Lesson on what happened on our trip:
1) Friday: Got up at 3:00am to leave Albuquerque at 5:00am.
2) 7-hour layover in Dallas.
3) Luke and I take flight to Mexico City, where we will meet Noé and Wynn 1-hour after arrive.
4) Luke and I wait 3 hours at the customs gate in Mexico City.
5) Noe and Wynn do not arrive. Luke is making “Taken” jokes. I do not find these funny.
6) I receive a text from Wynn that their flight was full, they were bumped, and are now flying to Los Angeles.
7) Wynn and Noe fly to Los Angeles and wave to our house, which they left 24 hours ago, as they fly over.
8) Luke and I guiltily go to our hotel to eat and sleep. Okay, only I felt bad. Luke ate and watched soccer.
9) Get up at 5:00 am to be there for Wynn and Noé when they arrive at 5:30.
10) Wait for 3 hours and Noe and Wynn do not arrive.
11) This is because Noé’s luggage is lost.
12) Noe and Wynn emerge and we head to AeroMar for our flight to Oaxaca.
13) Despite the printed documents of confirmation of our flight to Oaxaca, AeroMar tell us that these reservations do not exist.
14) We have no way from Mexico City to Oaxaca. I teach the next day at 9:00 am.
15) We decide to rent a car and drive the 6 hours.
16) Despite telling the bank that we would be in Mexico, my debit card does not go through at the car rental, because of “suspected fraud.”
17) We are stuck in Mexico City.
18) We remember that Noé spoke to a different person for his card at the bank. This person actually did their job and we can use his card.
19) Man at rental place reviews car and shows us the spare. The four of us laugh, because of course at this point, we will get a flat.
20) I drive, since Noe has not slept in more than 24 hours at this point.
21) We make it out of Mexico City, because some kind couple sees us looking for signs and pulls over to tell us how how to drive to Oaxaca. Since the rental place had no map and we have no clue. Again – Luke making more “Taken” jokes, that this is a ruse. Again, I do not find these funny.
22) We drive through AMAZING, raw landscape. 
23) Until we come to the bridge that is closed down due to the striking teachers.
24) We double-back and go around – and drive past burned out buses and cars and signs with photos of the teachers killed. We drive past groups of men with bandanas tied over their faces who check every car that goes by. Teachers have not been paid in months. We use as learning opportunity to discuss strikes and oppression. And we just hope the masked men with the rifles and pick axes let us through…
25) Drive another 3 hours. Kids say Oaxaca does not exist. Kids now punchy with exhaustion and start wrestling in the back seat. I sing, “To Dream the Impossible Dream” of arrival. Kids do not see humor in this.
26) Sunday 7:00 pm. Arrive to Oaxaca. Have no street address for our apartment. Our cab driver starts calling friends to ask where this might be.
17) Sunday 8:00 pm = 65 hours after leaving ABQ, we arrive to our hotel.
18) Noe and I ask where we can buy food for starving kids – and wine for us. 🙂
19) Let the adventure begin!

Made it to our apartment.

Made it to our apartment.

Class is off to a marvelous start! Some images of Oaxaca.

The art store on the corner of our apartment.

The Frida Kahlo Galeria beside our apartment.

Colors and textures of Oaxaca.

Colors and textures of Oaxaca.

Chapulínes con chile y limón. Grasshoppers with chile and lime. Noé says to take the legs off first, since they get stuck in your teeth.

Chapulines con chile y limón. Grasshoppers with chile and lime.

Chapulines con chile y limón. Grasshoppers with chile and lime.

Dresses of Oaxaca

Dresses of Oaxaca

20) I still have to figure out how we’re getting back to Mexico City for our return flights…


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Mother Tongues: Two Writers Explore the Words and Cultures that Shape Their Connection to Place

Morpho Butterfly of South America

Morpho Butterfly of South America

Mother TONGUES:

Two Writers Explore the Words & Cultures that Shape Their Connection to Place

Dawn Wink & Susan J. Tweit

(Originally published in Langscape: Voices of the Earth, Part I, Summer 2016)

Of all the arts and sciences made by man, none equals a language, for only a language in its living entirety can describe a unique and irreplaceable world. I saw this once, in the forest in southern Mexico, when a butterfly settled beside me. The color of it was a blue unlike any I had ever seen… There are nine different words in Maya for the color blue in the comprehensive Porrúa Spanish-Maya Dictionary, but just three Spanish translations, leaving six butterflies that can be seen only by the Maya, proving beyond doubt that when a language dies six butterflies disappear from the consciousness of the earth. –Earl Shorris

When you talk about plants, I think languages.”

“When you talk languages, my mind goes to the land.”

We sat propped up against pillows in our hotel beds, laptops open, preparing for our conference workshop “Soul of the Land: Place as Character and Inspiration.” As we each scribbled presenter’s notes, our conversation returned again and again to plants and languages.

Prairie in Bloom © Susan J. Tweit

Prairie in Bloom © Susan J. Tweit

That hotel-room conversation evolved into an ongoing dialogue about what we call “mother tongues,” the critical importance of biological, linguistic, and cultural diversity to the health of whole landscapes and human survival. The more we exchanged stories and learnings—drawing on our respective backgrounds (Susan’s in plant biology, Dawn’s in multilingualism)—the more we focused on the diversity of plants and the diversity of languages as intertwined symbols of biological and cultural richness. Just as native plants “speak” of the diverse genetic adaptations and sustainability of the ecosystems they create—each individual species representing a set of relationships and adjustments that help the whole system survive disruption—so do native languages carry the unique stories and knowledge about the places and people where they evolved. Both are, in essence, the mother tongues of place: the plants of the biological realm, the languages of the cultural realm.

Dawn: What I find amazing is all of this research about the correlation between diversity and vibrancy of plants, animals, and languages. As the diversity of the land, plants, and animals deteriorates, so too does the diversity of languages and their cultures. We are exterminating languages faster than at any other time in human history. For example, many of the Indigenous languages of the Americas are now endangered. This is true of Indigenous languages around the world. If we keep going at the same rate we’re losing languages now, 90 percent of the world’s languages will be extinct within the next 100 years. Tens of thousands of years of wisdom, lost.

Susan: Plants speak the mother tongue of the landscapes I call home. I first understood these rooted beings as the living vocabulary of the North American West in my childhood, long before I claimed science as my second language or had any notion I would spend a career and a life listening to plants, parsing their relationships to each other and to us oxygen-breathing beings. My initial inkling about plants’ role and parlance came on a sunny morning in late June, at the beginning of one of my family’s weeks-long camping, hiking, and naturestudy expeditions through the West. My father was driving, gas-pedal to the floor, reveling in the open road of brand-new Interstate 80 west of Laramie, Wyoming. My mother, as chief navigator, sat in the front passenger seat; my brother was perched between them, scanning the landscape for birds new to his life list. I sat in the dinette in the back, head down, absorbed in a book.

“Homogenization of a landscape … reflects the ill health of a landscape, just as the homogenization of language diversity … reflects the weakened health of a culture and people.”

The van engine knocked hard on a steep grade. Dad pressed the clutch pedal and shifted down. I looked up. Elk Mountain, its top still splotched with snow, rose out of the expanse of shrub desert like a massive ship, its prow cresting wave after wave of sagebrush, silver-green and spangled with spring moisture.

Sagebrush Country ©Susan J. Tweit

Sagebrush Country ©Susan J. Tweit

Lupine exploded in purple flower spikes between the flat-topped shrubs, and the air pouring in through the open windows bore a fragrance that has always spoken to me: a mix of turpentine and piney resin touched with honey and orange blossoms. Sagebrush, I said to myself, rolling on my tongue the name I had recently learned for the shrub. Years later, with a new degree in Botany, I would identify the plant that is the inland West’s most common shrub by its scientific name, Artemisia tridentata, the plant with the three-toothed (tri-dentate) leaves, named for the Greek goddess Artemis, feminist, hunter, and herbalist. I would detail the plant’s relationship with hundreds of other species of animals and plants that depend on its sheltering over-story to thrive in these harsh landscapes. But that June day, I only knew what the shrub and its fragrance said to me: Home.

My heart swelled with feelings my nine-year-old self could not explain. I went back to my book.

Prairie Grasses © Jodene Shaw

Prairie Grasses © Jodene Shaw

Dawn: Diversity can be fostered, encouraged, and expanded. Homogenization of a landscape—reducing a biological community to a single type of grass, for instance—reflects the ill-health of a landscape, just as the homogenization of language diversity—a single language replacing multiple languages, for example—reflects the weakened health of a culture and people. When my dad walks the land of our family ranch on the Great Plains of North America, his eyes scan the ground to pick up the different grasses. One summer my mom picked as many different types of grass as she found on our ranch and taped them to a sheet of white paper. One piece of paper became two and two became three. The Great Plains and its grasses were new to me then, as I was raised on a ranch in the Sonoran Desert in the North American Southwest. I studied and memorized the grasses of the body of this new world. Now, it was just a matter of learning them.

Prairie Grasses

Prairie Grasses

I held the pieces of paper with the grasses in my hands and walked out onto the prairie. The endless prairie wind whipped the sheets between my fingers. I watched for the bluish tinge that Big Bluestem casts on the prairie. Wild Rye bobbed above many of the grasses, its flowering spikes curving to the ground. Side-oats Grama, its oat-like seeds sprinkling downward from the stem. Prairie Brome, Blue Grama, and Buffalograss grew in small clusters under Bottlebrush that cast its sprays skyward. While the grasses were new to me, the focus on their diversity was not. In our family, we knew: the more types of grasses, the better. To many of us, it has become clear that multiplicity of languages is as vital to the land and her people as the necessity of diversity of plants and animals. Without diversity of language and culture taking center stage, along with plants and animals, the potential conversation remains limited. Biologists look to the diversity of plants and animals as a reflection of the land’s health. A single type of grass reflects a monoculture inherently limited in potential. So it is with languages and cultures. A monolingual, monocultural state weakens all inhabitants.

Susan: I was born to a small tribe— my parents are both only children, and their brood numbered just two, boy first, and then me, the girl. In the 1950s of my childhood, our country’s culture was envisioned as a huge pot that melted away individual cultures and languages, leaving English as our home tongue. Still, my family spoke a second language: science, our lexicon bursting with the names of plants, animals, rocks, stars. Nature-study was our shared culture. Drawers in the basement cabinets of my childhood home held neatly labeled collections of seashells and rock specimens, plus a black light for identifying minerals. TV dinners in our kitchen freezer were stacked side-by-side with roadkill for study; my mother’s tidy garden borders included

“Multiple languages, multiple cultural understandings, rhythms, and ways of walking through this world reflect healthy linguistic landscapes and cultural landscapes expressed in languages of every place, spoken with freedom in all spaces.”

one lively section devoted to wildflowers rescued from development sites. Our family “car” was a tradesman’s van converted for camping, our conversations peppered with the names of wild birds and plants. My suburban schoolmates’ heads were filled with G.I. Joes, Barbie Dolls, and the opening bars of “Goldfinger”. Mine held the courting songs of robins, the habitat of ladies’ tresses orchids, and the geology of glacial valleys. Other families’ vacations took them to Disneyland or the beach; ours took us on hikes and backpacking trips into the wild reaches of state and national parks and wildlife refuges.

Butterfly Susan Tweit

Susan J. Tweit; year: 2014 (That’s a two-tailed swallowtail on Rocky Mountain Beeplant in my yard…)

I learned how to focus binoculars and read nature field guides before I learned arithmetic and cursive in school. I began to look for patterns in nature and the relationships that create them—plant to soil and rock, plant to plant to plant, creating whole interwoven communities; mushroom to tree root, bird to prairie or mountain forest, frog to lily pad, wolf to elk, grizzly bear to spring flower bulbs—the way other kids learned baseball statistics and players’ names, or movies and movie stars.

As I grew older, my family’s language of nature split on taxonomic lines: my father and brother spoke bird, while plants gave my mother and me a shared vocabulary. Even after a lifetime of studying and writing about plants and their patterns and relationships on the land, I still cannot entirely articulate why it is sagebrush, a shrub so ubiquitous many never notice it at all, that to me speaks for the region I call home. I do know that it is the culture of plants—those seemingly mute beings rooted in place but so much more attuned to their environment than us wandering verbal creatures—that gives me the words to explore my species’ role on this living planet.

Yucca and Echinacea on Great Plains

Yucca and Echinacea on Great Plains

Dawn: In Wisdom Sits in Places, Keith Basso writes of how to the White Mountain Apache, the land speaks in languages that span time, their messages pooled and embedded within the earth to become place-worlds. Basso cites Vine Deloria, Jr. (Standing Rock Sioux) and his observation that most American Indian tribes “embrace ‘spatial conceptions of history,’ in which places and their names—and all that these may symbolize—are accorded central importance… Knowledge of places is therefore closely linked to knowledge of the self, to grasping one’s position in the larger scheme of things, including one’s own community, and to securing a confident sense of who one is as a person.” With the loss of language comes the loss of place-worlds; with the loss of place-worlds comes the loss of the sense of self.

These messages extend into distinct languages through each distinct plant and animal, each unique and integral. Grasses and plants and languages and cultures—the more diversity, the healthier the land, the healthier the people. We often see photos of an unhealthy environment side-by-side with a healthy environment, a fence-line the divider. A healthy environment is reflected in a multiplicity of grasses, plants, and animals, while in the other photo a barren monoculture reflects that land’s lack of health. Birdsong of unique trills, chirps, and caws float on the winds, above the varying textures of the grasses and plants, the flaxen, the bluish-gray, the emerald, among ochre.

The mother tongues of plant and language carry the critical stores of knowledge—genetic and cultural— that we need in order to continue to thrive on this singular, living planet.”

Multiple languages, multiple cultural understandings, rhythms, and ways of walking through this world reflect healthy linguistic landscapes and cultural landscapes expressed in languages of every place, spoken with freedom in all spaces.

Landscape of the heart © Susan J. Tweit

 Landscape of the heart © Susan J. Tweit

Susan: I call plants the living vocabulary of landscapes; they are the lives that restore the structure and function of healthy ecosystems. They provide the basic food all life on earth depends on, complex carbohydrates made using the sun’s energy and carbon dioxide plus minerals from the soil; they grow the structure that supports nests and burrows and homes for other species; they synthesize a wide vocabulary of aromatic chemical compounds which they use to communicate with other species. Native plants are the vernacular, the dialect of individual places. Like unique human languages, these local plant-voices connect humanity—breath, story, and soul—to each other and to place.

Dawn and Susan: We know that plants benefit us in many ways—as food, as fiber, as raw materials, and as beauty to nurture our spirits. But our connection with these rooted, photosynthesizing beings goes deeper. They are our “breathing buddies,” as the poet Clifford Burke writes, inhaling and fixing the carbon dioxide that we and our industrial processes exhale as a waste gas, and exhaling the very oxygen we require, the breath we depend on. Language and culture root us individually and collectively to the earth and to Place. With the loss of each language, so go generations of wisdom, belonging, and identity. So goes peace. These mother tongues of plant and language carry the critical stores of knowledge—genetic and cultural— that we need in order to continue to thrive on this singular, living planet.

Further Reading

Basso, K. (1996). Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press.

Moore, K.D. (2010). Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature. Boston, MA: Trumpeter Books.

Skutnabb-Kangas, T., Maffi, L., & Harmon, D. (2003). Sharing a World of Difference: the Earth’s linguistic, cultural and biological diversity. Paris: UNESCO.

Tallamy, D. (2009). Bringing Nature Home. Portland, OR: Timber Press.

White, C. (2015). The Age of Consequences: A Chronicle of Concern and Hope. Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint Press. Wilson,

E.O. (2006). The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.

Susan J. Tweit and Dawn Wink © Nancy Fine

Susan J. Tweit and Dawn Wink © Nancy Fine

Dawn Wink Dawn Wink is a writer and educator whose work explores the beauty and tensions of language, culture, and place. Author of Meadowlark, Teaching Passionately: What’s Love Got To Do With It? (with Joan Wink), and “Raven’s Time: Critical Literacy in the American Southwest,” Wink is Director and Associate Professor of the Department of Education at Santa Fe Community College.

Susan J. Tweit A plant biologist in love with life, Susan J. Tweit is the author of twelve books, as well as essays and articles featured in publications including High Country News, Audubon, the Los Angeles Times, and Popular Mechanics. Her writing “melds the passion of a poet with the precision of a scientist,” and has won numerous awards.

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Thank you to Langscape for including our piece in the issue Voices of the Earth, Part I. Langscape also published Wild Waters: Landscapes of Language. Please find more below about the work of Terralingua and this issue of the magazine. 

Langscape Volume 5 Issue 1 Cover-small“We are marking Terralingua’s twentieth anniversary by “going back to our roots” with this issue’s theme: “Voices of the Earth”. In 1996, we chose the name Terralingua to suggest two things at once: the language of the Earth—the voice of Mother Nature; and the languages of the Earth—the many voices of the world’s diverse peoples, which have evolved through intimate interaction with the Earth in each specific place. We wanted to hear from and about the Voices of the Earth, and so we did! This issue brings you fascinating stories and images of biocultural diversity from all over the globe.

To get a taste, take a look at the Editorial and the Table of Contents.


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WORDHARVEST Webinars for Writers

cropped-wordharvest21

Those of you familiar with Wordharvest’s Tony Hillerman Writers Conference know of the incredible community of writers of all genres who have gathered for this conference through the years. Wordharvest, founded by Anne Hillerman and Jean Schaumberg, is now expanding our community and the opportunity to attend a conference virtually through webinars on the craft and business of writing.  

At the most recent Hillerman Conference, one of my great takeaways of information and ideas came from Bill O’Hanlon’s workshop on “The Anatomy of Engaging Stories: Elements That Make Readers Keep Reading.” His engaging style and personality kept the information relevant and energy-filled.

I scribbled loads of ideas in my writing journal.

In the spirit of paying it forward, my colleague and Wordharvest faculty member Bill O’Hanlon now brings his expertise and energy to teaching a webinar for writers that I think will interest you:

C.A.R.V.E. Your Platform for Greater Visibility and Income: 
5 Elements That Can Move Your Book Sales to the Next Level

Publishing’s favorite buzzword these days is Platform.
But what is Platform and how do you create a great one to move your readership and success to the next level?

Saturday, May 7th

2:00 pm MDT (Mountain Daylight Time)
One-hour webinar with live Q&A at the end of the hour
$149.00

Bill O’Hanlon is a dynamic presenter.
This informative talk is invaluable for writers of fiction and non-fiction who have a finished book or manuscript.

For More Information and Registration:

wordharvest.com

Bill O’Hanlon is a prolific author. With 35 books published to date, he is eager to coach writers on how to get their books into publication. I’m a tremendous fan. His experience and enthusiastic teaching style are positive encouragement that others can write their books and get them published.

I hope you will take advantage of this unique opportunity.

Dawn Wink

Layers of clouds over Santa Fe.

Layers of clouds over Santa Fe.


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Of Women, Writing, and Wildflowers: Story Circle Writing Conference

Texas Bluebells and

Wildflowers—Texas Bluebonnets and Gallardia along morning run.

.…Help us to bring darkness into the light,
To lift out the pain, the anger,
Where it can be seen for what it is—
The balance-wheel for our vulnerable, aching love.
Put the wild hunger where it belongs,
Within the act of creation…

May Sarton, Without Darkness, Without Light…An Invocation to Kali

Guitar greeting in airport.

Guitar greeting in airport.

A community of women writers gathered together in Austin, TX for the Story Circle Writing Conference.

First, this is what happens when a women’s writing community flocks to a single hotel—and the hotel management is kind enough to respond beautifully, and convert the Men’s bathroom into another Women’s for the duration of the conference. Bravo!

Women's Bathrooms

Bathroom conversion

Urinals with flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was especially grateful for this time, as many of the women I’ve known purely through our internet community and had never met in-person. What a gift to now have faces and spirits to accompany the names on our emails! These days were a time of deep community, and deep laughter and love, deep wisdom on the craft and business of writing: 

Brooke Warner

Brooke Warner, She Writes Press

Brooke Warner, of She Writes Press, kicked off our time together with her insights on the Five C’s of writing:  

1) Community: Support one another and thrive. Work and women thrive in community.

2) Commitment: Page after page. A time will come for everyone.

3) Championing:  Champion your writing, champion other writers.

4) Claiming: We have to claim. No one will give you time to write.

5) Courage: Listen to the calling. 

“Author your story, author your life. This is why women need a writing space of their own.”

Outrageous Requests

Debra Winegarten, Outrageous Requests

Story Shaper, Debra Winegarten, author of Oveta Culp Hobby and a book of poetry (among many other books) with one of the best titles ever There’s Jews in Texas? shared her passion for writing and life by starting her presentation with all of our dancing to It’s all about those Books

One of the ways Debra lives her passion for writing, books, and life is her ritual of Outrageous Requests, which she makes weekly. These requests have opened previously only imagined doors within the writing world.

One of my great take-aways from this conference is to fold this rhythm into my own writing life. I’ll keep you posted this. Perhaps you might join me. 

Susan & Dawn SCN 2016

Susan & Dawn SCN 2016

Susan J. Tweit and I shared our ideas and experiences with “Character as Place” something we are both passionate about.  Here is the presentation I promised to include: Place as Character. Story Circle 2016

Susan and I curled up over hot chocolate and cafe latte to review the final edits of our essay, “Mother Tongues: Two Writers Explore the Words and Cultures that Shape their Connection to Place” in the upcoming issue of Langscape

Susan Wittig Albert

Susan Wittig Albert

Story Circle creator, and New York Times bestselling author, Susan Wittig Albert spoke of the importance of women writing together in community, of the gender bias in the publishing industry. “This bias goes back centuries. Women’s voices have not been as important as men’s throughout history. Women write in community. Women share life stories. These life stories and women’s writing has historically not been valued by the publishing industry.

Women authors receive letters from publishers with feedback such as, ‘This novel would be better with a male protagonist.’ When you look at the statistics of winners of the Pulitzer, the Booker, they are overwhelmingly male. The gender bias extends to book reviews, contests, job opportunities within publishing. Women writers need more champions.”

Thus, Albert created Story Circle, a community that supports and connects women writers. “We thrive in community, in collaboration. We are literary citizens. Communities work best when all play the part of givers, as well as receivers. We do this by paying it forward.” 

Speaking of paying it forward, I have to share a wonderful class starting soon, “Consider Birds: Trading Anxiety for Peace of Mind” taught by Jodi Shaw. Meadowlark will be featured in the course and I get to pop in virtually via video to be a part of the class. Jodi is an incredible artist and inspirer.

She is currently at work on a piece inspired by “song” in Meadowlark. Jodi wrote, “The altered guitar is inspired by a passage in Dawn Wink’s novel Meadowlark between the heroine Grace and her dear friend Daisy. It is all about living your song, which to me means being true to who you are. It celebrates song, authenticity, and the South Dakota prairie.”I can’t wait to see what she creates. Jodi creates magic, beauty, and inspiration through her work.

Song, Artist Jodi Shaw

Song, Artist Jodi Shaw

Consider Birds, Jodi Shaw

Song, Jodi Shaw

Artist, Jodi Shaw

Artist, Jodi Shaw

I returned to Santa Fe to write, run, and muse on all. Let’s all go out and pay it forward, make outrageous requests, champion yourself and others—and listen to the soul of the land. 

Friday evening run with Clyde.

Friday evening run with Clyde.