Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Landscape, Language, Teaching, Wildness, Beauty, Imagination


Covid Gardens—Flowers and Poetry for our Times

My cousin, Janet, sent me this poem “Covid Gardens” by Claudia Castro Luna and said that it reminded her of my mason jar bouquets. The combination of the vibrant bouquets of summer in contrast to what we experienced this week lifted my spirit.

Anyone who knows me knows how much I adore flowers, textures, and colors. I love growing all kinds of flowers, just so I can create colorful, messy, texture-filled, wild bouquets for friends, colleagues, and students. I love bringing bouquets to classes. I love bringing to meetings. I love gifting people these bouquets. Yes, I hope to create beauty. Just as much, these bouquets and gifting them brighten my own spirit.

Mason jar bouquet from the garden.

Georgia O’Keeffe wrote, “When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to somebody else.” I use mason jars, which I buy by the flat, so nobody need worry about returning the vase. Here are some worlds for the moment.

In light of all that happened this week—horrifying and heartbreaking—when I received this poem about bouquets, the thought occurred to me that perhaps a bit of beauty and poetry might be balms for our hurting hearts. When I shared the photo below of my new journal and stickers (gifts from my brother, Bo, and his wife, Lisa) on FB and Instagram, independently people commented, “After yesterday’s trauma, this looks like good medicine,” and “Nice reprieve from the chaos of politics. Thank you. As we think, so we are.”

Those thoughts inspired me to share a bit of beauty and this poem.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil writes of the challenges of the past months and the transcendent qualities of poetry:

I wish I could tell you that this bird reverie carried me upward and onward through this most difficult of months. Not so. The reality and grief over missing my beloved students—I never got to say goodbye in person as classes were moved online over spring break a couple of weeks ago—and all the scary news of the spread of the virus and a thousand other worries for our planet and its inhabitants have kept me awake, in a state of alarm, and when I sleep—it is not sound.

But I believe in poetry. I believe it can elevate you for even just a brief moment—not to forget the horror surrounding us (it’s there, it’s there. I can’t pretend it’s not)—but it can alter how we see the world, how we see each other. I have faith that we will be able to touch each other and break bread together at the same table again soon. Maybe not as soon as I’d like, but soon. At least that is what I tell my sons. And when that day comes, how lucky to find ourselves attached to the rest of the world once again! (Orion Magazine, April 1, 2020 https://orionmagazine.org/2020/04/national-poetry-month-2020-2/#.X_iyUFaV4bc.twitter)

I invite you to sink into the portrait painted through words created here by Castro Luna.

“Garden gifts making for rich tables in slim times — mine, plentiful with print an flowers…” When I read this poem, I felt my breathing deepen and my pulse slow. (Which is actually halfway dangerous, considering how low my pulse and blood pressure already are. When nurses take my pulse, their first question is often, “Is this normal? This is usually when we hospitalize people.” I just say, “Genetics and running.” My dad and I have a competition to see who can get their pulse and blood pressure the lowest.” I call Daddy after an appointment to say, “80 over 40 — top THAT!” We have all kinds of visualization strategies. None of which I admit in public.)

We will get beyond the troubled landscapes of this time. Gardens will bloom again. I look forward to walking into my garden this summer and cutting flowers to create messy, wild, wonderful bouquets to gift. These thoughts buoy my spirit and cast light.

Speaking of casting light and gardens blooming once again, I received this candle as a gift from my friend, Barb. Little did she know that the same piece of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, embroidered by my grandmother, hangs in the hallway.

I lit the candle this morning during my time of candlelit solitude and sanctuary. Wishing you sanctuary and thoughts of blooming gardens, exuberant with color and life.



Birds, Dissertation Proposal, Flowers, and Scarves!

Last week, I defended my dissertation proposal, “Exploring Stories at the Intersection of Landscape and Linguistic Literatures through Wildness, Beauty, and Imagination: A Scholarly Personal Narrative.” This review was delayed several months due to all happening in the past year and then the pandemic and all of the professional and family-moving-home dynamics.

The Zoom review reflected perfectly the essence of so many of our experiences in the past months—Zoom was just not playing well with others. One of us was suddenly bumped off and then the Screen Share button for my presentation wouldn’t work. I called Luke in the next room with a simple and loud, “Help!” Luke finagled a different way for me to share my presentation and we were off.

I am extraordinarily blessed in my Dissertation Committee: May Elawar, Jennifer Wells, Luci Tapahonso. Each phenomenal woman brings worlds of unique lived experiences, expertise in a spectrum of fields, and an engaged heart. Our time together was one of deep conversation about the ideas, clarifying questions, visions and potential possibilities for the unfolding of the dissertation itself. All tremendously exciting. My committee passed the proposal. Now, of course, must pass through the Dean and Provost for official acceptance to advance to PhD Candidacy. Many, many candles lit.

In essence, what I hope to do with my dissertation is convey the research and knowledge found within the fields of ecolinguistics/linguistic human rights and holistic resource management into the genre of landscape literature through creative prose, specifically through the lenses of wildness, beauty, and imagination.

This idea came to me many years ago and the ember has grown since. I am passionate about linguistic human rights and ecolinguistics. I am passionate about landscape literature. I am passionate about the ranch and the holistic, global methods of holistic resource management. I read widely within each of these fields and want to bring all together into an integrated whole with language as an element of landscape as the unifying theme. Now, the journey enters the next stage. I dive into my 25+ years of journals and why I write in my journal. Piles and piles of journals to identify and codify the themes of language, landscape, wildness, beauty, and imagination.

While discussing with Luke and Noé this next chapter of writing my dissertation, the following conversation took place:

Me: In my dissertation book, it says I need to get rid of the unessentials from my life to focus on writing.

Luke and Noé (look at each other): That’s us!

Me: Don’t worry, I already did that years ago. You two made the cut.

Luke and Noé (looking at each other): It could still happen. We better be useful! You make dinner. I’ll clean the yard.

Me (slow smile…): Excellent plan. Keep that thought.

Luke and I talk a lot about writing, words, books, ideas, life. We were talking about grammar the other day (as one does over coffee, while watching the birds in the birdbath), and Luke mentioned his delight of discovering the em dash (—).”The em dash, the sexy comma.” Yes!

Stained glass of Meadowlark cover by Marie Hooper.

The birdbath and tiny bird sanctuary that we’re creating in the backyard continues to bring exponential, crazy amounts of joy. Here is my view from my writing room.

I spend a lot of time looking at this view and thinking, planning, dreaming, organizing this next chapter of writing the dissertation and future book. Right now, a tiny hummingbird lifts from one hummingbird mint bloom to the next to sip nectar. Especially after the last year and the unanticipated delay of my proposal defense amidst all, I am very grateful to have completed.

I celebrated by laying down for a short rest afterward—(sexy comma) and fell asleep for a three hour, sleep-of-the-dead nap. Three hours! I woke and asked Luke if he wanted coffee. He looked at the clock, “How about dinner?” It was 5:00pm!

Best way I can think to celebrate.

In other events of the past few weeks, I share the following definition:

Parotidectomy (pa-RAH-ti-DECK-tomy) (n)/ An increased appreciation of colorful, bright scarves. (Reference also found under PRADA-dectomy).

This was a few weeks ago. All good.

Onward to write!


Of Buffalo, Birthdays, Burned Trucks, and the SD Book Festival

Mom on Buffalo Roundup. © Dean Wink

Mom on Buffalo Roundup. © Dean Wink

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Last we knew, it was almost time for the South Dakota Festival of Books and Mom and Dad were off to ride the Buffalo Roundup at Custer State Park on Dad’s 70th birthday. 

I made it to the Festival of Books and called Dad that morning for his birthday. He had loaded the horses and was headed to the Buffalo Roundup three hours away.

An hour later, Mom called. “Perfect timing,” I said. “I’m right in between workshops.” 

“Not really,” she said, calling from her own vehicle. “Your dad’s truck is on fire.” 


“Fire. That’s all I know. I was on the phone with him and he said, ‘Whoa, there’s flames,’ and we lost our connection. I left early to drop Ginny (her dog) off with Kelly. The wild thing is, I had a premonition that we needed to take two vehicles. It didn’t make any sense at the time.” 

Dad's Truck. ©Sturgis Volunteer Fire Dept.

Dad’s Truck. ©Sturgis Volunteer Fire Dept.

“I was stopped for road construction,” Dad told me later, “and all of a sudden in the rear-view mirror, I saw flames flying out of the side of the wheels. Then, flames were flying up through the dashboard. I jumped out and unhooked the trailer and a road grader pushed it back away from the truck.” 

Dad and the shell of his truck. ©Sturgis Volunteer Fire Dept.

Dad and the shell of his truck. ©Sturgis Volunteer Fire Dept.

With the horses safe and the pickup a smoking husk, a friend offered Dad a pickup to make it to the roundup yet. Dad hooked up the trailer to the loaned pickup, and he and Mom headed to the roundup. When they reached town 80 miles away, Dad found the one of the wheels had come off the trailer. “Usually, you know when you’ve lost a tire, because they’ll roll by and pass you on the road,” he mused.  

At this point, Mom is thinking perhaps God is trying to tell them something about riding in the roundup. “These are not subtle signs!” 

Onward. The next day I received a text from Dad. “We’re off.” I texted back, “Enjoy! Be careful.” As I listened to workshops and wrote through the morning, I kept checking my phone for the next text, which I finally received—a photo of Mom and the word, “Done.” I exhaled deeply for the first time that day.

Mom on Buffalo Roundup. © Dean Wink

Mom on Buffalo Roundup. © Dean Wink

Friend and photographer/writer, Sherry Bunting, captured this image of Mom and Dad.

Dean and Joan Wink ©Sherry Bunting

Dean and Joan Wink ©Sherry Bunting

At an event that evening, the speaker introduced the birthday boy, still in his riding gear, to the 300 people in attendance. I told Dad, “I think it’s only right that the state of South Dakota throw a birthday party for what will now be known as Dean Wink’s Smokin’ 70th!”

SD Festival Friends dinner out.

SD Festival Friends-Kyle Schaefer, Malcolm Brooks, Gwen Westerman, Ashley Wolff, Rachael Hanel, me.

In Sioux Falls, SD, across the state from the flames and buffalo, the South Dakota Festival of Books whirled into full swing. The panels and presentations were marvelous. I immersed myself in listening and learning from others.

Rachael Hanel (We’ll be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter) spoke on the craft of memoir and through evocative photos guided us to memories long-hidden and rich with potential for writing. Gwen Westerman (MniSota Makoce: The Land of the Dakota) on the history of the Dakota,”I dreamt about it, as if all these stories were in one voice. It is our Genesis, little ‘g’ and big ‘G.'”

Malcolm Brooks (Painted Horses), whose book I now read, “The sun pools like a molten ingot and then drips progressively away, its color changing as it descends and changing in turn the hue of the sky around it.” Ashley Wolff (Miss Bindergarten Goes to Kindergarten) led us through how life and family infuse her art and writing. Jon Lauck (The Lost Region) gave voice to the revival of Midwestern history to highlight why the Midwest matters. 

I spoke on “Writing the Land” and “Meadowlark: In Word and Image,” so grateful to share the journey of both with those who attended. 

"When we write the land, we write ourselves." © Denise Blomberg

“When we write the land, we write ourselves.” © Denise Blomberg

Two of the greatest blessings of my time in Sioux Falls were the time spent with my Aunt Elaine (Dad’s sister) and Uncle Ray, who drove from Iowa and a surprise visit from dear friend of my parents and me from forever Mary Jane Lunetta, who completely surprised me by appearing from Minneapolis.

Aunt Elaine and Uncle Ray Johnson

Aunt Elaine and Uncle Ray Johnson

Mary Jane Lunetta

Mary Jane Lunetta

All in all, an incredible weekend—filled with friends, flames, festival, buffalo, birthdays, and books.

You really can’t make this stuff up. 

Home again and on a run through the desert with Clyde.

Home again and on a run through the desert with Clyde.