Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Writing, Teaching, Language, Landscape, Life


Backyard Tango

Cara's bouquet

Cara’s bouquet

Of course, the first mason-jar bouquet of the year in our new home had to be in honor of Cara.

Our home—more specifically, our yard—has been a swirl of activity lately in preparation for Luke’s upcoming high school graduation festivities. We kicked off Mother’s Day with all that I asked for—working in our yard with loads of planting and digging. Despite the wind and rain, the kids dove in and we spend the day outside. 

Flowers to plant

Wynn Luke working on the yard

The next day, we poured the slab of cement for the ramada. A couple of Noé’s friends from work came to help. I felt as if I were in Cascabel—large machinery, Spanish flying everywhere. The guys constantly referred to the other as, Mi rey (my king), a common term of endearment in Spanish. 

Pouring slab

Couldn’t resist.

Casa Villarreal Wink 2016

We moved on to laying flagstone.


Wyatt Wynn laying flagstone


I hope our neighbors don’t mind classic 80’s, 70’s, and 60’s music, as that is what is playing to rock us through our work. 

Work cre

El Blanco has pulled through like a charm. Cannot imagine how we ever made it without.

Dawn El Blanco

When you need more room for 18 foot boards, improvise! Noé said people were anxious to pass and get ahead of him on the highway. 

Noe el blanco

Saw first rattlesnake of the year on my run. I saw as my foot almost came down on its head. I was deep into mile six and my mind a million miles away thinking of everything needing to be done. Then suddenly, the “rattlesnake hop,” when suddenly your heels grow wings and you find yourself flying several feet forward. Rattlesnake

Today is Sunday and Luke graduates tomorrow. The day will be filled with putting up the structure for the ramada—a “ramada raising,” the southwestern version of the Amish barn raising. My bonnet is ready. Then, on to decorating the ramada and trees with as many little white lights as I can wrap around everything. We’re starting early, in hopes of actually finishing and getting some good work time in before the late-afternoon southwestern winds kick up. Breakfast of egg burritos, made with fresh eggs from a colleague. I love their mosaic. Fresh eggs

As I was looking around yesterday, thinking of the yard last year and even last week, I said to Luke, “We may actually pull this off yet, buddy.” 


When not digging holes, Luke’s 1600 meter relay team took First in the New Mexico Track and Field Competition. More on that, and how life gave me a second chance, in a future piece. For now, the State Champ himself.

Luke's team #1

Luke’s cheering section.

Luke's team

And his very proud Mommy Lady.

Dawn and Luke




A Mosaic for Mother’s Day

A sunrise run.

Sunrise run.

A mosaic of photos for Mother’s Day. Bits of beauty from the past few weeks to share together.

Early morning writing by candlelight.

Early morning writing.

Layers and textures of clouds overhead.

Layers of clouds over Santa Fe.

First lilac in honor of Cascabel and Grandma Grace to bloom.

First lilac

A new discovery for Friday Night, Family Night. Highly recommend.

Hatch Red Chile Wine

Running trail and partner.

running trail

Postcard from Switzerland of the incredible library in St. Gallen. Heaven. One day I’ll go.

Postcard St. Gallens

Postcard from Kay Schimke. Thank you!

The guitar inspired by Song in Meadowlark unfolds…

Meadowlark guitar Song
The artist, Jodi Shaw, at work. I must say, this makes me a bit teary.

This photo hangs above my writing desk. I adore. I lose myself in this image and all it evokes. Photographer unknown. Wings to all.

Woman and wings

In honor of mothers the world over. My maternal great-grandmother, Lucille Clark, age 13. Or, as I knew her, Grammie Cile.

Grammie Cile

My grandmother, Janet Clark Richardson.

Grandma Janet

With my incredible, phenomenal mom.

Dawn baby and Mom

In honor of beauty, wings, and mothers the world over. 

Rooftop sunset.

Rooftop sunset.



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



Cara Esquivel: Extraordinary Spirit


Cara Esquivel in her beloved Oaxaca

Cara Esquivel in her beloved Oaxaca

If we don’t speak up for the people in our society that are not represented, then we do not have a society that is fully engaged and functioning and healthy. And to me it’s very simple, we all have a responsibility for seeing how we can help people in society that are not able to either help themselves or not able to speak up, or don’t have rights…all of the things that my father did were to defend people’s rights, so I guess that just in me. To me, I don’t understand any other way of being.

– Cara Esquivel

Dios no sabe lo que le espera. (God doesn’t know what awaits). So began the eulogy for the extraordinary Cara Esquivel and amidst the tear-streamed faces and hands clutching sodden tissues within the sanctuary, there were smiles from those who knew and loved her, Cara’s among them. Cara of passion, Cara of love, Cara of life, and Cara of energy. Dios no sabe lo que le espera. Last week, an extraordinary woman of incredible love, passion, and joy passed away unexpectedly and far too young from complications that started with the flu. Cara was 47 years old, a fiercely loving mother of her four children and wife to her husband, tireless advocate, lending her voice for those unheard, passionate teacher, and second mother to many of her students.

Cara and her family

Cara and her family

As word spread of her passing, Cara’s spirit shone through in the outpouring of love. 

Altar for Cara © Giselle Piburn

Altar for Cara © Giselle Piburn

Cara on Window

Altar for Cara © Jennifer Nevarez

Altar for Cara © Jennifer Nevarez

So laden was the altar with candles, that in true Cara-style, it caught fire, bringing fire engines to surround the school and dousing the Gathering Room in water, and a new altar created. Of the many words that describe Cara—passionate, fire-filled, irreverent, loving, funny….subtle is not one of them. As was demonstrated by the Celebration of Life held in her honor.

In loving memory

For Cara, a cuatro vientos (Four Winds) ceremony.

Four Winds Ceremony © Jennifer Nevarez

Four Winds Ceremony © Jennifer Nevarez

Cuatro Vientos ceremony

Cuatro Vientos ceremony

“In honor of my beautiful hummingbird,” her husband, David, paused and took a deep breath, “¡Que viva la fiesta!” Cara loved to dance and among papel picado, flowers, and piñatas, Cara’s community of friends and family of all ages danced.

Dancing for Cara

Dancing for Cara

David and Cara

David and Cara

We dressed in our finest to honor Cara’s love of color, texture, Oaxaca, and all things vibrant. “I thought maybe this was too much,” one friend said, stunning in her skirt decorated with mirrors and threads, a delicate crocheted shawl over her blouse. “Then, I realized, nothing is too good for our girl.”

Another friend wore her necklace, a hand-painted portrait of a young girl, ‘My own patron saint. For Cara.” The sheer energy of Cara’s spirit did rock the house.

Cara rocked the house.

Cara rocked the house. © Robert Jessen

The woman who told a first-year teacher, “Forget about the text books, get your students to write about their lives!” shines through in the memories of her students and loved ones.

We love you, Cara.

We love you, Cara

Zara's blackboard.

Blackboard 2

Middle of blackboard

Cara with basketCara blew into my own life over a year ago with her determination to create a program for teachers in Oaxaca. “No, but we really have to do this. Oaxaca is amazing! People need to understand the real Mexico, not the Mexico they read about on the news.” As anyone who knew Cara knows, there was simply no saying No. Her passion, dedication, and energy swept you up in their flow. Oaxaca, here we come!

“Cool,” the Head Learner at Monte del Sol High School said when he first met Cara, “Monte has its own Frida Kahlo.”

It is those small moments that one remembers—her radiant smile, her scarves flying around her, how she forgot to brush her hair, her love of Oaxaca, how she drew all into her energy of passion, love, and dedication. Cara cussed like a sailor in two languages, and usually mixed them together with wild abandon. Her eulogy with its reference to el “pinche güero” Trump would have her full approval. “She hated that wall. She spent her whole life trying to tear down that wall.”

Somos WindowA friend expressed beautifully what so many of us feel, “I woke up keen to the uncomfortable feeling that there is a hole in the world this week. An awkward and uncomfortable large empty space in my life, where Cara use to be. For a regular person in a regular body, though, the empty space she leaves behind is phenomenally large, much bigger than her physical form. It leaves me feeling pretty darn discombobilated … and oddly and persistently leaky. Now I am staring into blank space and thinking we had lots of good work to do together… and I miss her. And I don’t like the feeling of this hole. I dont like that I can’t just call her or see her bounding into yet another coffee shop for yet another life convergence (and listo meeting) over chai, missing that flurry of unbounded energy and passion. Its strange now. Like writing or reading a sentence with the main word missing. It’s confusing and disconcerting. I am writing about ……..! So very different that the same sentence that concludes with the word Cara. A word far bigger than itself. A word that defies definition amd limitation. A word that is hard to comprehend the magnitude of, unless you actually knew her. And of course, for most of us with a lust for life, to know her was to instantaneously love her, and somehow love life even more because of her. Its odd that she isn’t here to meet me for chai today. I am not sure now how to deal with this hole in the world now, and my heart. But I am drinking chai with my grandson, who is drinking milk and eating a bagel, and I am treasuring the precious tiny moments we have together, which is all I can manage to do today…”

Cara’s zest for life and sheer love expresses itself in her friends and family, as we find one another, recognize Cara in the other’s eyes, and knit together. A friend wrote, “It’s so good to be connected with you and other friends of Cara’s. She had gathered around her and her family such an incredible group of human beings.”

What those of us who knew and loved Cara return to again and again is the sheer disbelief that her energy is gone. Then, I realized, as I experienced the wild love that surrounded her, the impact she had on countless lives, those who will remain forever changed by her, that her energy, her spirit lives on—each time we choose to see the best in all, to believe in each person, to work tirelessly to make the world a better place, to dance, to laugh, and to LOVE. 

Dios no sabe lo que le espera. I have no doubt that God has had a real earful by now about the state of immigrant rights here on the mortal plane. I expect things to change imminently. If anybody can do it, Cara can.

I sat during the Mass and focused on the golden gilt surrounding the Saint painted high on the wall, glowing softly as the sun streamed in from the windows and tried to find meaning where there was none. The only way I can walk with something like this that makes no sense is to carry her spirit forward through our lives and our work. 

Cara with FridaLive passionately.  

Listen deeply.

Write your story and encourage others to write theirs.

Lift your voice for those unheard.

Live with intention.

Love deeply.

Ultimately, Cara taught us how to live

You will be forever missed and remembered, querida Cara.
Que Dios te bendiga. Te queremos.


Write and Retreat: Bone Piles in Silver City, NM

Silver City Sunset

Silver City Sunset

Stories nature our connection to place and to each other. They show us where we’ve been and where we can go. they remind us of how to be human, how to live alongside the other lives that animate this planet…No one story can give us the whole picture. We need every voice to speak its version of truth from silence. We need every story to guide our lives.

~ Susan J. Tweit, Walking Nature Home: A Life’s Journey

This is the sunset that greeted me as my car eased down into the valley after a four-hour drive from Santa Fe to Silver City, New Mexico for a weekend Write & Retreat. Now, what is one supposed to with that—other than to sink deeply into writing and connecting with each other and ideas yet to be discovered.

That’s just what we did.

Write & Retreat Tribe

Write & Retreat Tribe: Melanie Budd, Pam Keyes, Cherry Jamison, Judy Grout, Susan Tweit, Bonnie Hobbs, Linda Jacobs, Dawn Wink, Cindy DuBois, Will Barnes

Write & Retreat creator, Susan J. Tweit, our group of fearless writers, and I spent a lot of time in the “bone piles” of each of our individual stories in Silver City. “Ranchers walk up to most bones,” writes Teresa Jordan in Riding the White Horse Home. “They look physical danger right in the eye and don’t blink. But there are other bones that scare them.”

Silver City charm

Silver City Charm

That’s where we went in our writing—through physical mapping and writing, creating word rings, passages of other writers read aloud to inspire, and ever deepening writing.

We also wandered the streets of the incredibly charming Silver City, walked the creek, and talked about how the land can inspire and tell its own story, explored the incredible art shops, drank coffee and talked about writing and life, drank wine and talked about writing and life, and enjoyed meals together around conversation and friendship. 

We each returned from our weekend together transformed on some way. Our community share their experiences:

Along the Creek

Along the creek. ©Daniel Grout

“First, trust. We talk so often as writers about the ways in which writing can transform our lives, and I know I totally depend on my writing practice each day, just to stay sane. But it isn’t just the daily practice of crafting and making. It’s like the answers are actually in there! There is something really magic about this. In that strange vortex of inspiration and creation, if we can follow it, and trust our imagination and instinct, the pathway will become clear, the words tell us what to do. I think my poems are telling me where to go, and how. So the real work is about listening and about trust. I am not sure how this came to me, but something about all of you did it! And it makes me very happy.” ~ Will Barnes

Together Eating Silver

Community and Conversation ©Daniel Grout

“I was the only person in the retreat who has not had something published but I was treated as a colleague and honored as a writer. This experience solidified my determination to quite wishing I was a writer to identifying loud and proud, I AM A WRITER! I know that by this time next year, I’ll be able to look back and say my life changed for the better that weekend.” ~Cindy DuBois

“Thank you for providing such a safe, supportive, and thought-provoking atmosphere at the retreat. The group energy and sense of kinship was very encouraging. The experience inspired me and broadened my vision of what writing can be.” ~Melanie Budd

Cherry Bone pile

Word Ring © Cherry Jamison

“Among the things that I particularly value about the word and concept of a “bone pile” is that it is so much more elegant than saying that we must each face and go through our own (and our family) “shit” to get to truth, essence or even grace at times. I also appreciate that there is always a choice about whether or not we share what we find in the bone bile. Sometimes facing it is enough, and sometimes it isn’t. I think that we all probably are looking for freedom in our writing and in our lives.” ~Cherry Jamison

~ “Yes, this group was phenomenal. We seemed to meld into such a solid, self-confident, intelligent, supportive, creative bunch. I suspect it had something to do with the leaders teaching us and the lovely environment and perhaps the writing gods zinging us with positive energy. I am honored to be considered a part of this enclave and rejoice that we seem to express a mutual desire for the support to continue.” ~Judy Grout

“Thank you for the wonderful and stimulating retreat. You have a way of bringing out depths of thought which one didn’t know were there!” ~Linda Jacobs


Hatch, NM

For myself, ideas swirled through my mind on the return drive home through the wonderful town of Hatch, ristras of strung chile lining every shop and street, and the long stretches of desert of New Mexico. I returned with a chapter for LOVE STONES that it would not have been complete without and a focus on “re-imagining” areas of life.

Something about our weekend shifted something deep within me and this past weekend found me home—not traveling or teaching or attending any sporting events for kids for the first time in weeks and weeks. I sank into the rhythms of the home, “the sacredness of puttering” or something like that is how Anne Lamott describes this. I checked out of anything online and added another laying of tending to our new home. Inspired by my own clustering and our conversations, I sank into Being Home. I lined linen closet shelves, cleaned bathroom cabinets, and went on long morning runs. I brought order to some of those dark, clogged corners that tend to take us so much emotional energy. I’ve learned to trust that ebb-and-flow of energy and writing and went with it. Oh, and I read and took naps on both days! Heaven.

Beauty of stained glass, stained sky

I returned transformed. That transformation has strengthened my writing and life rhythms these past few weeks in infinitely healthier ways.  

One of those rhythms includes a return to running, something that I have not made time for in my life for the past several months due to life and work commitments. Every morning, with a mutual text from a member of our Write & Retreat tribe, she heads out the door in Tucson for her walk and I head out the door in Santa Fe for my run. The “re-imagining” of other areas of life continues. My journal fills with clusters and maps.

The weekend inspired Susan and I to reserve the weekend of February 17-20, 2017 at The Murray Hotel for the Second Annual Silver City Write & Retreat. 

Sometimes one needs to get away to find what deserves discovery.

Early morning run with swirling sunrise and moon.

Early morning run with swirling sunrise and moon.

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The Haunting of the Mexican Border

Cowboy and flowers on grave ©

Cowboy and flowers on grave © Tim Fuller

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

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

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

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

Copper Canyon, Mexico

Copper Canyon, Mexico

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

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

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

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

Barranca del Cobre cowboy ©Richard Speedy

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

website raven IMG_0729 cropped red copy

Crow ©Page Hilman

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

CU Jesus Tree color IMG_2182 copy 2

T-shirt stretched between trees.©Bob Kee

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

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

Reviewed by Dawn Wink

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

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

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

Kathryn Ferguson on desert trail.©Linda Vogel

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

KF: Writing:

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

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

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

Version 2

Kathryn in desert with water jugs.

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

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

Saint IMG_0702 Paige

Saint carving. ©Paige Hilman

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

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

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

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

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

Kathryn with migrants. ©Norma Price

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

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

People are crossing borders all over the world.

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Sunrise ©Dawn Wink

Sunday sunrise. ©Dawn Wink

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A Conversation Among Friends: The Writing Life

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

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

Rising Moon Gallery and Art Center

Rising Moon Gallery and Art Center

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

Preparing for the our conversation

Preparing for the our conversation

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

Ghost Ranch ©Katie Hawkes

Ghost Ranch ©Katie Hawkes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conversation 2

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

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

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

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

Whatever the path, just write. 

Moon over Abiqiui

Moon over Abiqiui