Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Landscape, Language, Teaching, Wildness, Beauty, Imagination


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Chasing the Sunrise

 

I spend most mornings chasing the sunrise.

I guessed that it was going to be a stunning sunrise on the morning that I headed out for my run and took the above video. Faint hints of light just started to touch the underbellies of the clouds as I left home. I turned on my audiolibro . Angus and I settled into our pace. I kept my eyes on the horizon, waiting, watching. The sun’s glow crested the horizon, light and color bleeding into the clouds. Colors emerged, opened, and deepened, shifting and glowing from within.

I kept my eyes on the light, watching and waiting. There is a patience to every sunrise, waiting for that moment with light and colors at their zenith, before the shifting colors pale and mute, and eventually settle into light pastels and then fade away.

I adjusted my route as I ran, watched, waited, and guessed when the sunrise would reach its peak. I wanted to be somewhere with a wide open view when the colors of the sunrise shone with brilliance.

How very like life, this chasing the sunrise. That awareness and hope for the impending opening of light, creation of beauty.

I chase the sunrise in many elements of my life during this chapter, watching, waiting, preparing for that moment when colors flood the clouds to create an opening for beauty.

Sometimes we notice sunrises as a fortunate coincidence we happen to witness. Certain chapters of life invoke a dedication to beauty, an intentional chasing of sunrises, a mindful awareness and guessing of the brightest moment of illumination.

And, then we run toward it to dive fully into that moment of potential and possibility.

Sunrise scarf from my parents.

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Happy New Year 2023 and Deep Gratitude—Year in Review

As I enter the New Year writing my gratitudes in the early morning hours of darkness, sanctuary, and solitude, I think of you and this community. I am so deeply grateful to and for each of you reading this. I am profoundly grateful for our connection across the miles, years, landscapes, and seas. We came into each other’s lives through a spectrum of experiences. You, your presence, and your incredible spirit enrich my life and world in exponential ways. Thank you and thank you for sharing your life path with me. I read and cherish every comment. I always hope to respond to each. Sometimes other things in life pull me away. You taking the time to write and connect lands in my heart. I know how rich and full all of our lives! I thought I’d create this piece with all of the Dewdrops pieces from 2022. I reread all of your comments. What marvelous gifts of spirit and heart—such a reflection of you.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful new year! The chapter of of this New Year is ours to write.

Much love and deep gratitude,

Dawn

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

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

TESOL Convention—Layers of Ideas, Friendship, and Love I hope to share the spirit of the time, as well as some ideas that I took away. TESOL has been a big part of my life for many, many years and in multiple ways. I believe my first TESOL was in Salt Lake City, 2002. Throughout the intervening years, TESOL serves as a foundational stone in my own professional understandings about all-things-multiple-language-acquisition. Ever since my first meeting with the Bilingual-Multilingual Education that segued from the meeting to salsa dancing in New York City, I knew I met my people. Professional colleagues became dear friends.

Creative Processes—Follow the Spark I always love learning about others’ creative processes in all forms. I learn, I study, I weave some of those elements into my own. I find creative processes makes my heart smile and my spirit soar. I share some of my own creative processes here in hopes of contributing to all of us who love these. My own processes take multiple forms with some common threads. They almost always begin with that energy spark of an idea that can happen anywhere and at anytime. Yes, it can be while I’m writing in my journal, often they happen when I’m running, and they are also equally as bound to happen while in the grocery store looking for my favorite tea.

Running Deeper Into Language We know that language is not learned, it is acquired through relevant and meaningful use. As I listen to the narrative, I focus on the story, as well as the pronunciation and cadence. Initially, I let myself look up three unfamiliar words in one run. To look up more would’ve made my runs take too long before the work day. So, for approximately 1 – 1.5 hours a day, I listen to gorgeous, oral Spanish. The voice of the narrator mades a difference. I’ve listened to listen to a sample first, so it’s a narrator that I like. Now, I have some real favorites. I have listened to books from Spain, Mexico, Chile, and Argentina. Thus far, the narrators come from the country of origin, so speak with the particular rhythm and pronunciation of each country. I love this.

Wink Ranch — Photo Journal 2022 Mom and I made a quick dash to the ranch together on her way back from Tucson. We headed out early for the drive to the ranch. The sun peeked over the horizon just as we crested the hills around Las Vegas, New Mexico. Daddy called a little later and asked, “Am I speaking with Thelma or Louise?”  Up through the mountains of New Mexico, over the plains of southern Colorado, and up to the sagebrush valleys of Wyoming, we drove. We in the Southwest have enjoyed amazing rains this summer, which has helped our drought-scorched country immensely. New Mexico hasn’t had our traditional summer monsoon rains, nor the heavy snows of winter for the past few years. The Rio Grande River is nearly dry. Here, some photos of our time, both of the land and the ranch and the bits of beauty around the ranch house that I love.

Language, Culture, and Land: Lenses of Lilies in Langscape Magazine At a pond’s edge, a woman muses about waterlilies as metaphors for mother-tongue languages and their power to anchor story, wisdom, and heritage.

Waterlilies hold a special place in my heart. I did not grow up with them, though. I grew up on a remote ranch amid the sand, rocks, cacti, and dry beauty of the Sonoran Desert in the southwestern United States. I love the intense heat, the plants that thrive on periods of drought interspersed with torrential rains, and the vast open horizons that cup the wide basin of the desert…Little did I ever imagine that those read-about and imagined waterlilies would have a profound impact on both my professional and my personal life. More…

Running on the Ranch: The Road Less Traveled I love running on the ranch. There isn’t always time to run when on the ranch, but I always hope that there will be and arrive with my running tights, shoes, and gear. I am used to and love the expansive views and horizons of my high desert running trails around around in Santa Fe. The prairie of the western South Dakota plains holds a whole different kind of space. Surrounded by sheer prairie, there is a sense of running under the great blue bowl of the sky above.

Beauty, Ideas, and Connections: International Ecolinguistics Association Conference Graz, Austria

I have followed the work the International Ecolinguistics Association through the past years. I hoped to attend their conference one day, but life was rich and full of much else that needed tending. This year as the request for proposals for the conference went out, I decided cast my fate to the winds and submit a proposal to present at the upcoming conference at the University of Graz, Austria. I decided that if my proposal was accepted, I would figure out a way to attend. My proposal to present on “Ecolinguistics Through Wildness, Beauty, and Imagination—Transdisciplinary Research Through Scholarly Personal Narrative and Lilyology” was accepted.

Día de los Muertos—Altar as Landscape, Love Lives On Mom’s hope chest creates the foundation for the altar. As I placed each piece, I had to smile. When my Grandma Mary embroidered Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, when my Great-Grandma Grace ground the coffee before dawn in the sod hut on the ranch, never could they have imaged these pieces where they are now. The landscape of our altar reflects the landscape of my life. Yo soy fronterista. I am a woman of the borderlands, as used by Gloría Anzaldúa. My life is one of a fronterista, where worlds overlap: prairie and Southwest, rural and international, landscape literature and linguistic human rights. Here on the altar, prairie and farmland come together with the Southwest; German, Welsh, Irish, and English with Latino; Protestant with Catholic; past with present. The worlds, each with a distinct culture, come together to create the mosaic of the whole.

A Shared Cup of Christmas Tea We were all set to be on the ranch with Grammie, Bop Bop, and the Wisconsin Winks this Christmas, but the record setting cold hitting the Great Plains put an end to those plans. “We don’t want our family traveling in these conditions,” Mom and Dad let us know. And, they made that call even before the entire state of South Dakota closed all travel. Predicted temperatures of -70 including the wind chill factor anticipated for this week. The North Pole has nothing on the Wink Ranch!

A Wink family tradition for Christmas is to read the gorgeous book A Cup of Christmas Tea by Tom Hegg. While this is titled Christmas tea, the story holds for all traditions. This is a human story of roots, memories, and love. I thought that I’d read to you.

 

 

 


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A Shared Cup of shared Christmas Tea

 

I hope this holiday season of all traditions finds you with loved ones whether in person or in spirit.

We were all set to be on the ranch with Grammie, Bop Bop, and the Wisconsin Winks this Christmas, but the record setting cold hitting the Great Plains put an end to those plans. “We don’t want our family traveling in these conditions,” Mom and Dad let us know. And, they made that call even before the entire state of South Dakota closed all travel. Predicted temperatures of -70 including the wind chill factor anticipated for this week. The North Pole has nothing on the Wink Ranch!

A Wink family tradition for Christmas is to read the gorgeous book A Cup of Christmas Tea by Tom Hegg. While this is titled Christmas tea, the story holds for all traditions. This is a human story of roots, memories, and love. I thought that I’d read to you:

Mom’s book is covered and filled with photos of treasured friendships. Every Christmas Mom begins to read this book aloud. In my experience, she has yet to make it through the whole story without the wave of tears that has another reading the final pages.

Here is my well-worn recipe card from Mom. That is Wyatt, Dad, and Bo in the photos. I love stirring the ingredients together. This has always reminded me of the sands of the desert. I’ve also heard this tea called Russian tea and friendship tea. I’m thinking that this would make a lovely Solstice tea, as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wishing you and yours a lovely holiday season of all traditions and the spirit of many shared cups of Christmas tea.

With love,

Dawn


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Dia de los Muertos—Altar as Landscape, Love Lives On

Día de los Muertos, All Soul’s Day, November 1st. In Latino tradition, Día de los Muertos honors our loved ones who have passed with altars laden with flowers, photos, and candles. I first learned of this tradition when I fell in love with Frida Kahlo in my early 20’s. Día de los Muertos is an integral element in our family’s life rhythms. Composing the altar this year felt especially sacred amidst the pandemic and so many people lost. So many new souls honored on the altar by Latinos in the US and throughout Mexico.

Mom’s hope chest creates the foundation for the altar. As I placed each piece, I had to smile. When my Grandma Mary embroidered Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, when my Great-Grandma Grace ground the coffee before dawn in the sod hut on the ranch, never could they have imaged these pieces where they are now. The landscape of our altar reflects the landscape of my life. Yo soy fronterista. I am a woman of the borderlands, as used by Gloría Anzaldúa. My life is one of a fronterista, where worlds overlap: prairie and Southwest, rural and international, landscape literature and linguistic human rights. Here on the altar, prairie and farmland come together with the Southwest; German, Welsh, Irish, and English with Latino; Protestant with Catholic; past with present. The worlds, each with a distinct culture, come together to create the mosaic of the whole.

As I place the flowers for my German Lutheran grandparents, Grandpa Wink and Grandma Anna, I hear my Grandpa Wink saying the Lord’s Prayer in German to delight my cousins and I as children. So many historic heritage languages and cultures fill the altar. Never did the great-grandparents and grandparents that I honor imagine a Día de los Muertos altar. The unimaginable—as I placed each piece, I thought of how very much like this expresses where we find ourselves in life right now around the world.

Grandma Janet’s wine glass, St. Agatha, Virgen de Guadalupe

Grammie Lucille

The altar holds a treasured wine glass of my mom’s mother, Grandma Janet, as Janet’s mother, my Great-Grammie Lucille looks on as a teenager from a black-and-white photo above. The glass rests between St. Agatha, Patron Saint of Breast Cancer, Nurses, and Women’s Issues, and Our Lady of Guadalupe, La Virgen de Guadalupe (Artist, Jil Gurulé). The beauty and delicacy of the glass reflects Grandma Janet’s life. St. Agatha is new to the altar this year. Breast cancer has touched many women’s lives in my family. My Grandma Janet passed far too young. Her wine glass honors her life, as well as represents my decision to remove wine glasses from my own table on November 1 last year, so I could focus fully on healing.

Corn honors my Uncle Ray, a farmer who lived life with such kindness, generosity, love, and a twinkle in his eye.

In our college community, we unexpectedly lost a well-loved colleague and dear friend. Luke defined himself as a spiritual being, imbued with the traditions of Peru where he lived and climbed for so many years. Eagles represent Spirit. Fly, Luke, fly.

For all of those lost to coronavirus, a collection of leaves I found under the heart-draped tree along my running path, tucked into the bird’s nest.

In honor of those passed to coronavirus.

Forever love.

Pan de Muerto

“Mom, did you make pan de muerto this year?” Wyatt asked me hesitantly on the phone in mid-November last year. It was the first year I had not made Frida Kahlo’s recipe (we use honey from the ranch) for pan de muerto in the kids’ memory. This annual ritual grounds our family.  With the health journey of last fall, I did not make the traditional sweet bread. When I realized last year that it was November 1st and I hadn’t made the bread, in an attempt to lift my spirits, Noé said, “Don’t worry. It’s okay. They won’t miss it.” I felt somewhat better in that moment. I also worried that they would not miss it. The sticky dough of pan de muerto helps to hold us together as a family.

Manuela and Amadeo Villarreal

When Wyatt asked if I had made, I was overcome with both maternal guilt at not making and a sense of deep gratitude and joy that he had missed! We altered our traditions last year and made when all came home for Thanksgiving. The spirits were just fine with that. This mommy’s heart smiled to watch all gathered yet again around the counter, creating their small figures of dough, sprinkling with colored sugars and decorations, and then the smiles on their faces when they each took that first bite of the bread fresh from the oven.

Noé’s parents, Amadeo and Manuela Villarreal, always center our altar. I was not fortunate enough to meet them. We missed each other by a few years. Their spirits remain alive through the countless stories of laughter, hard work, family love and dedication, and irrepressible and irreverent senses of humor! How I wish I had been blessed to sit around the kitchen table, drinking coffee from the pot that was always full, to hear of their lives and their stories. Whenever Manuela is described, the sentence usually ends with, “She was quite the character! No la tenía miedo de nada.(She wasn’t scared of anything).” When Amadeo passed, he pointed to the corner of the room and told his kids gathered around, “Allí está tu mamá. Viene por mí.” (“There is your mom. She’s come for me.”)

Treasures through the generation grace the altar. Mom gave Grandma Mary’s blue glass flower vase to her friend, Mary Ann, who then gave it to me many years later.

I received a photo that so reflects el Día de los Muertos for Latino children in the US this year. Noah’s mom, Patricia, sent me this photo and wrote, “Living always in two cultures—Harry Potter and Día de los Muertos. Here Noah connects for his morning meeting in elementary school online.”

A few of books of the indomitable Frida Kahlo, La Gran Friducha, for whom Día de los Muertos represented so much.

A page from Frida’s journal:

I had very mixed feelings when I first heard about the movie “Coco.” Disney producing a movie about Day of the Dead, thoughts of cultural appropriation ran rampant through my mind. There are no princesses in the Day of the Dead. I was anxious when we sat to watch, in much the same way I’m anxious when I start a movie of a book I have loved, worried that the movie will mar the beauty and power of the original. I was delighted to discover a beautiful honoring of this sacred tradition. “This makes me think of my parents,” Noé said when the movie ended, a tear rolling down his cheek.

Trees of Life are often found on Día de los Muertos altars. We received desperately needed moisture through snow earlier this week, as seen here through a Tree of Life.

Snow through Tree of Life in my writing room.

Some of you may recognize this piece from a couple of years ago. This is now published in “For the Brokenhearted” (https://nappingdogpress.org/2022/09/01/new-release-for-the-brokenhearted/).

Our altar this year awaits. There are new people to honor this year. As soon as I send this, I shall prepared for dear ones on their way to honor their own loved ones who have passed.

The candles are lit.

Love lives on.

 

 


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Beauty, Ideas, and Connections at the International Ecolinguistics Association Conference in Graz, Austria

Styria, Austria

©Yana Vermenich

I have followed the work the International Ecolinguistics Association through the past years. I hoped to attend their conference one day, but life was rich and full of much else that needed tending. This year as the request for proposals for the conference went out, I decided cast my fate to the winds and submit a proposal to present at the upcoming conference at the University of Graz, Austria.

I decided that if my proposal was accepted, I would figure out a way to attend. My proposal to present on “Ecolinguistics Through Wildness, Beauty, and Imagination—Transdisciplinary Research Through Scholarly Personal Narrative and Lilyology” was accepted.

The stars aligned and I followed.

The beauty of place, inspiration of ideas, spectrum of experiences, and connecting with others created a feast for all senses. One particular delight that surprised me was exploring the cobblestone streets of the city. I lived in Germany for a year and attended the University of Göttingen for one year while studying International Relations. I spent Christmas in Austria with dear friends. This was many years ago and I rarely have opportunities to speak German and have not been in Germany or Austria since. I didn’t anticipate the cascade of memories exploring the city would bring back and loved that feeling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I arrived in Graz mid-afternoon on a gorgeous fall day and immediately headed out to explore. A landmark of Graz is the fortress with its iconic Clock Tower, first mentioned in the 13th century, perched on a hill overlooking the city. I headed in that general direction and happened upon the stone staircase zig-zagging up the cliff. Up, up, and up the staircase climbs. A runner passed me as he headed up the steps. And me without my running clothes! As I ascended the stone steps the cityscape unfolded and expanded, until at last I reached the top. I stood and drank in all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

@Yana Vermenich

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the elements that I savored about the conference was how multigenerational and multinational the attendance and presentations—from prominent leading scholars of several decades, to those of us around my generation, to a whole younger band of emergent ecolinguists bringing new perspectives and lenses to these ideas. The generational span exchanging experiences and ideas created a vibrant, rich environment! The conference program is included at the end of this piece for you to explore.

Francesca Grasso, Lorenzo Buonvivere, Arianna Del Gaudio, Martina Russo, Me, Yana Vermenich

Arran Stibbe, Sune Steffensen, Me, Yana Vermenich, Allan Baggs, Linnea Hannell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

©Martina Russo

Graz, Town Hall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to the ideas shared through presentations and conversations, our time included meeting with a representative within beautiful interior of the Town Hall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took an excursion to the mountains of the local wine region of Syria, where we looked out toward Slovenia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conversations and connections flowed throughout all. I pulled out my journal as I waited to board the plane home—so very much to write about.

Conference Program

 


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Running on the Ranch: The Road Less Traveled

Running on the ranch, Howes, South Dakota

I bundled my running clothes into a bag when Mom and I headed to the ranch. I love running on the ranch. There isn’t always time to run when on the ranch, but I always hope that there will be and arrive with my running tights, shoes, and gear. I am used to and love the expansive views and horizons of my high desert running trails around around in Santa Fe. The prairie of the western South Dakota plains holds a whole different kind of space. Surrounded by sheer prairie, there is a sense of running under the great blue bowl of the sky above.

Many years ago I was on a run along the highway with the then small kids in the jog stroller that I pushed in front of me. A pickup truck passed us along the highway and what I remember is the synchronized movement of four heads wearing cowboy hats moving in unison toward us as they passed. When I arrived back at the ranch house and told Mom and Dad about it, Daddy said, “The only time people run out here is when there’s a bull crawling up your back!”

I pulled on my gear, stretched out, and headed out for a good run one morning. I had a virtual meeting a couple of hours later and had to be back in time for that. This gave e plenty of time. Up the lane out of the ranch headquarters, I ran in the pickup tracks that created the road along the desperately dry dam north of the house. I noticed antelope had been along this trail before me.

I ran up the slight rise on the other side of the dam and followed the trail out across the prairie. One major difference in my running rhythms on the ranch — while I’ve been loving listening to audible books and running deeper into language in New Mexico, I was all ears now as I listened for the tell-tale sound of a rattlesnake along the path. While I knew there was a stunning sky above, I kept my eyes fixed to the trail scanning for snakes.

The day before, Daddy had shown me where there was some dirt work happening on one of the dams and I headed in that direction. The north winds pushed the water in the dam against the southern edge and over time this movement eroded the edge to create a sharp ledge. Dry dams due to drought offer the possibility to do work that cannot be done when they are full. As I passed the dam and up another rise, a pickup truck crested the top and we met along the road. “Now, there’s a sight you don’t see very often,” the bemused driver said, on his way to finish the work.

I ran past a mama and baby, bringing back memories of the many years that I nursed my own babies on the ranch. In Meadowlark, I wrote of Grace nursing, “Beyond the window, a silver slice of sun rose in the sky. Light drenched the land in water-stained cornflower blue and drew crisp edges of continue and depth, defining the curve of knolls and vales invisible to the eye in the full light of day. Her eyes moved from the mound of her breast out to the mounds and concave indentations of the prairie. Grace saw in the prairie an evocation of the curves of a woman. She felt her body’s link with the conformation and silhouette of the land.” I smiled.

I ran on along the barbed wire fence, eyes and ears extra keen for snakes.

I realized that in enjoying all, my run was longer than I’d intended, so I started looking for paths back to the ranch house. I left the tire tracks and ran along a cowpath headed in the right direction.

I came to a fork in the paths and thought of Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I stopped to take in all around me.
The path dwindled and I headed across the prairie toward the ranch house and across the bed of a dam usually filled with water and now dry, the devastating impacts of drought crunched under my feet.
I made it back to the ranch house just in time for my meeting and threw one of Mom’s pretty scarves over my very sweaty running shirt, very grateful for the road less traveled. It has made all the difference.


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Wink Ranch 2022—Photo Journal

Thelma and Louise

Mom and I made a quick dash to the ranch together on her way back from Tucson. We headed out early for the drive to the ranch. The sun peeked over the horizon just as we crested the hills around Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Daddy called a little later and asked, “Am I speaking with Thelma or Louise?” Up through the mountains of New Mexico, over the plains of southern Colorado, and up to the sagebrush valleys of Wyoming, we drove. We in the Southwest have enjoyed amazing rains this summer, which has helped our drought-scorched country immensely. New Mexico hasn’t had our traditional summer monsoon rains, nor the heavy snows of winter for the past few years. The Rio Grande River is nearly dry.

Drought has touched throughout the West of the United States, with devastating results. The incredible rains of the Southwest has the dry desert literally springing to life! Our rivers are not yet filled, but we see wild grasses and wildflowers everywhere that we haven’t seen in years. Unfortunately, the rains haven’t made it very far north with devastating results that became obvious as we drove. So many heartbreaking sights. The green grasses of New Mexico gave way to the parched and bald lands of Colorado and the farther north we drove, the dryer the land. 

It has been two years since I was last on the ranch. I kept trying to make it, but work life and Covid had other plans. My big take-away from my own time with Covid was to embrace the philosophy of “Stop, Drop, and Nap.” A great philosophy for life when one thinks about it! 

Just arrived!

My time on the ranch was far too short, only three days. We fit as much as possible into that time. Mom and I pulled into the ranch exactly 14 hours (if you only stop for gas and coffee) after leaving Santa Fe. We tumbled out of the car just as the sun was setting to one of my favorite things—sitting outside on the screened-in porch on the East side of the ranch house to talk and just be together. In our family, it takes a ranch

The first morning on the ranch, Daddy and I drove around to check waterlines and cattle. Bouncing around in a pick up with my dad is one of my earliest memories, as I delved into here when I reflected on what it means when your dad’s a cowboy

Here, some photos of our time, both of the land and the ranch and the bits of beauty around the ranch house that I love. 

A majestic presence

When cows are introverts

When cows are introverts.

Ranch house

My ranch shirt — and life philosophy.

Bouncing around in the backseat with Mom and Dad on our way to the Cheyenne River breaks.

Read her shirt closely, “Just a Ranch Wife.” In sparkles.

Hauling water

A few bits of beauty—

Mom’s beloved Frankie

Window of beauty

Moss roses have a long history on the ranch.

Sunset on the ranch

Sunset on the ranch

Our time together ended way, way too soon. As I drove south in the early morning, the sunrise cast shafts of light through the clouds. It will be much less than two years when I return to the ranch again. My heart, spirit, and soul need it too much. 

For other prisms and lenses on ranch, academic, multilingual, and literary life with my incredible mom, please dive right in to WinkWorld.


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Books, Tea, and Conversation

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

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

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

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

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

Angus peeks over the gate.

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

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

Luke and Wynn’s stacks included:

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

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

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


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Quilts—Composing an Artful Life

#stepscrapquilts ©Stephanie Paterson

Mom and Steph

Quilts often come on the wings of angels.

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

Raw materials. ©Stephanie Paterson

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

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

Steph’s work space ©Stephanie Paterson

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

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

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

Stephanie’s quilt

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

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

Frida Kahlo quilt

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

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

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

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

Starry skies

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

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

Mexican Star Quilt

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

Sunrise/sunset

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

Quilt from Daddy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flowers for my desk and spirit.


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Citrus Garlands—Strung Jewels

Citrus garlands in our kitchen window.

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

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

Beauty of a blood orange.

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

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

Wore my fabulous new poppy apron that Mom gave me.

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

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

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

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

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

Glowing jewels!

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

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

Gothic Garland

Garland strand in my writing room.

Writing room

• • •

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