Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Landscape, Language, Teaching, Wildness, Beauty, Imagination


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.