Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Landscape, Language, Teaching, Wildness, Beauty, Imagination


Connection and Creativity on Place Well Tended

Oh, to take the time to sit with other artists and talk about how the land and life shapes our creativity. I had the complete pleasure to talk with Jodi Shaw and Molly Noem Fulton on their podcast Place Well Tended.

“You’re joining Molly + Jodi as we talk with folks about creativity in plains country: what it is, and why it matters that we’re here doing it. Place Well Tended is about love of a place, and tending that place through creative work.”

I was amazed—and momentarily speechless—when Molly read a piece that I had written that goes to the heart of my writing, creativity, life experience, and how they weave together. “I wrote that and put it out into the world?” I asked. I love how Molly and Jodi so beautifully describe our conversation.

Our conversation: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1923909/10391618

Jodi and Molly explore life through the lenses of artists. Jodi finds beauty and meaning in the landscape of the western South Dakota ranch where she raises her family and creates art gathered from the land and life.

Molly’s work of patterned lines and bright colors explores “the people and places that shape us, forming our identity and values.”

This sunset yesterday evening felt the perfect note for our conversation on creativity, place, and beauty.



Stories of Language, Landscape, Wildness, Beauty, and 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.

2022 is off to a grand start with loads of good energy around ideas. I share some of those ideas here, along with some beauty from my runs and other found beauty along the way.

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:

At last I held a bound copy of my dissertation in my hands.

Another year of the Wink Family March Madness (Luke-10th, Mom-20th, Wyatt-25th, Me-28th, and Wyatt’s girlfriend, Natasha-6th) has come and gone. We ran the Birthday Gauntlet and survived! So very many treasured memories and gifts. I had to share this piece from Daddy, who when he saw it months ago knew that I would love. He was right!

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Language, Place, Story, Memory, Myth, and So Much More

I could run forever under these clouds. #11miles

More lovely discoveries here in my continued exploration of language, landscape, wildness, beauty, and imagination with a focus on connections between language and landscape through the lenses of wildness, beauty, and imagination. There are pieces here on language, place, story, memory, myth, landscape, democracy, trees, and belonging. I hope you will enjoy sinking into these ideas and images as much as I did. And, speaking of landscape, wildness, beauty, and imagination, I have to include a photo of these fantastic pants that Mom and Wynn brought home from a consignment store. Best. Pants. Ever.

Please make yourself a cup of coffee or tea and settle-in to explore these worlds. In this complex time, I find exploring these expansive ideas allows me to breathe deeper, hold hope, be inspired, and dream. Enjoy.

The Memory Field by Jake Skeets How time and land hold “fields” of memory that unfold through language and storytelling. Memory is a touchy thing, and I mean that in the realest sense.

Light in my writing room window.

And Peace Shall Return by Ben Okri A stunning and timely piece on power of place, story, and solitude.

Orion Magazine and Point Reyes Books presents Rebecca Solnit and Terry Tempest Williams An intimate conversation about the US election, the state of democracy, and about The Most Radical Thing You Can Do.

Skywoman Falling by Robin Wall Kimmerer: In this excerpt from the new introduction to her acclaimed book “Braiding Sweetgrass,” Robin Wall Kimmerer draws upon the creation story of Skywoman and the wisdom of plants to guide us through our present moment of deep uncertainty. “The story we long for, the story that we are beginning to remember, the story that remembers us.”

Día de los Muertos 2020—Love Lives On by Dawn Wink 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.

Close to the Bone by Amy Irvine  Here in the American Southwest, the now naked ground reveals hundreds of ancient spear points, arrowheads, and hand tools once buried in bunch grass and pasture. Quartz, jasper, and obsidian wink like SOS mirrors, an alphabet of artifacts spelling out a story of survival. The fine, fluted edges, impossibly sharp ends. The patience it required to knap such thick, rough stones down to near ephemera. Pierce. Skin. Scrape. Every sharp edge honed for the hides of animals.

Literary Landscape

The Randomness of Language Evolution by Ed Yong The histories of linguistics and evolutionary biology have been braided together for as long as the latter has existed through drift and selection. 

What You Can Learn by Following the Herd in Italy Transhumance, from the Latin trans for “across” and humus for “earth,” the seasonal movement of people and their livestock to and from summer and winter grazing grounds has been practiced for thousands of years by pastoral cultures.

Exploring Eco-Poetics as a Social Art by Dave Pendle I believe this sort aeistesis or sensing and articulating through writing, can be yet another a powerful aid, to reveal and discover mostly inaccessible information and energy dynamics in conventional social fields. Thus this article proposes Eco-Poetics as another possible systems sensing approach in addition to the two mentioned above.

Blue Whales Sing All Day When They Migrate and All Night When They Their mysterious songs could be an ‘acoustic signature of migration.’

Literary Landscape

What it Means to Belong in Many Places at Once by Elik Shafak Motherlands are castles made of glass. In order to leave them, you have to break something—a wall, a social convention, a cultural norm, a psychological barrier, a heart. What you have broken will haunt you…

How language shapes thought by Lera Brodisky. Reminds me of the time a friend told me that she can tell which language I’m speaking from across the room by my body movements alone.
Sharing a Place-Based Methodology and Learnings Aborigines say that their rivers don’t speak English, but they do Suraj their native language because it was born of the land and is part of it.

The Secret Life of Trees: Stunning Sylvan Drawings by Indigenous Artists Based on Indian Mythology by Maria Popova For a moment of respite from the palpitations of the present, from the American insanity, from the human world at all, stunning drawings and dreamings of trees by indigenous artists based on millennia-old Indian mythology.

Literary Landscape

Is the Environment for “Taking From” or “Giving To?” A Young Indigenous Economist Finds Answers On His Own I have always been bothered by the concept of indefinite economic growth and development with no regard for nature.

Quarantine As Ceremony: COVID 19 an Opportunity to Quietly Rebel Against the Dominant Landscape by Servern Cullis Suzuki Representing a profoundly different mental landscape, Indigenous languages reveal entirely distinct ways of being, ones that are not at odds with Life around us.  In her article, “Speaking of Language” (Orion Magazine, 2017), Dr. Robin Kimmerer writes about the grammar of animacy, describing the use of pronouns for life forms in her Potawatami language, which conveys proper respect for life by the language user. She notes, “I think the most profound act of linguistic imperialism was the replacement of a language of animacy with one of objectification of nature, which renders the beloved land as lifeless object, the forest as board feet of timber.” Indigenous languages are a portal to a relationship with Earth.

Nature word by David Lukas (Language Making Nature): LIGHTBECK ‘the haunting call of distant light’ I coined this is word for an emotion I often feel.

Ugulate Love by Amy Irvine In far Western Mongolia, near the Russian border, there is a dusty, dung-spotted hill covered in black-purple boulders. At a distance, the rocks look glowering and contused. Creep closer, though, and things are anything but grim. There’s the lattice of pumpkin-orange lichen.

Early morning candles, coffee, books, flowers.




Experience is never limited, and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider-web of the finest silken threads…~Henry James

I sat this morning curled up on the couch, snow falling in huge, moisture-laden flakes outside the window. I wrote by the light of candles, the little white lights of the Christmas tree, and a fire burned in the fireplace. A rare, rare time to be treasured. The sun is up now. Somewhere. It is covered by rafts Fireplace, desk, Clydeof snow clouds that continue to make the world outside my window look like a just-shaken snow globe.

Student papers are read and responded to, grades posted, data collected and submitted, and students registered for next semester. Today is mine to write. I  absorb every. precious. moment.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the nest. A dear friend, Jenny, with a vibrant life full of art, a vast body of exquisite pencil drawings, fit in among the children and grandchildren in the US and around the globe, wrote to me:

“Just in case you might think that those tugs from outside the nest subside with age – don’t! They do seem to get more complicated – well, no, complicated not the right word – numerous? More like a spider web – think Charlotte though! Interesting to think where that visual image takes me as I near the end of my years (not volunteering though!). The nest is gone, replaced by the web – beautiful, fragile, strong yet evanescent. I am happy to be there.”

I gulped. Hard. The tugs from outside the nest get more complicated? I read again, “The nest is gone, replaced by the web…” and a deep part of me chimed with familiarity. Jenny gave voice to feelings that have been expanding over the past few years, but I’d yet to articulate – this complex spider web of relationship that composes a life richly lived.

I immediately envisioned the intricate lace of a spider web, glistening with dew in the morning sun. I thought of the strength and tension of these gossamer strands and how the slightest movement or touch anywhere on the web sends waves of vibration through its entirety. How very like life. The web of each of our lives, interwoven and connected. I think of the web of my own life and relationships – of how often I have felt the vibrations of each movement on each strand. Whether they are vibrations of joy or pain, they affect the whole, ultimately collecting a lifetime of experiences.

I think of the spider moving about the web on delicate legs, mending this tear, strengthening this strand. How often have we all felt this? Tending to this child, mending this rift of misunderstanding, strengthening this strand of healing, working frantically here and there, and often stepping away against our will, but in alignment with our intuition, we are called constantly to various places throughout the whole. And those times when the wind howls and threatens the web’s existence, and all we can do at that moment is clutch the threads, ride it out, and hope to hell we make it through intact. As soon as the wind abates, immediately we set to work to repair the damage. If we don’t mend the web, the strength of the whole weakens.

Mi amiga querida, Lupe, wrote me, “I cried when I read The Nest because I feel I’m drifting away from my nest…I wish I could spend quality time with my grandchildren but I’m always cooking, cleaning or running errands. I’m always on the go, doing things that tire me or bore me. I’m thirsty for quiet time.”

Christmas TeaAs I sat here this morning, looking at the window at the pebble-sized flakes now falling heavily and sticking to the window pane, the piñon logs popping in the fireplace, their smoky scent tickling my nose. I made Christmas tea, the steam licking up into the air, bringing the scent of the cloves, orange, lemon, and cinnamon to mingle with those of burning wood.

I thought of the nest and the web and they fell place in a spectrum along the narrative arc of life.

The snow fell thickly on the juniper trees outside the window, the heavy snowflakes sticking to the pane, creating a span of sheer lace against the white sky.






I went to our art supplies closet and grabbed some paint and paint brush and painted a web on our window.

And I realize, it is not that we lose our nests, it is that we move into our webs. One doesn’t fully replace the other, it’s their prominence in our lives that shifts. Perhaps it is some ancient instinctual knowing of this shift that deepens our sense of friendship and relationship during these next chapters of life. My own sense of treasuring of these friendships and relationships has taken on new poignancy in recent years. I wrote in The Nest, “The nest is not about physical proximity; the nest is about the closeness of the spirit.” This holds true for the web, as well. My own web spans several states and across oceans to lands far away. The tending, the mending, the strengthening, the vibrations know no distance. Invisible threads connect us across time and place. As the years pass, my sense of cherishing each of these strands grows.  Fire in fireplace

Who will sit with us by the fire through the years? It is those who compose our nests and our webs. I return to, “The nest is gone, replaced by the web – beautiful, fragile, strong yet evanescent. I am happy to be there.”

The nest and the web – both hold and shelter us in the open expanse of life, give shape and form to our journey. Unique textures, richness, pain, and rhythms compose both the nest and the web. Wherever we are, let us be happy to be there.

~ ~ ~

Christmas Tea

3/4 cup instant tea

1/4 cup dry lemonade mix (Countrytime)

1 cup dry orange mix (Tang)

1 1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoon cloves

2 tablespoons with a cup of boiling water.

Makes a lovely gift in small mason jars for your web. I wrap with curled ribbon around the top. (If we have ribbon, and I can find it with the wrapping paper under our bed…) My own web starts asking me for Christmas Tea in November. A wonderful book to accompany the gift, “A Cup of Christmas Tea” by Tom Hegg and Warren Hanson. My mom has yet to read aloud without crying…

(Thank you to Jenny French and Guadalupe Rodriguez, for your wisdom and your tears – and for allowing me to share your stories.)

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Writing Meadowlark

The manuscript for “Meadowlark: A Novel.”

It all started with a question.

In 1911, my great-grandmother Grace came as an 16-year-old orphan bride to a sod hut on the prairie of western South Dakota where my family still ranches. My mom spent summers on the ranch as a child and I’d grown up hearing stories about Great-Grandma Grace, of her life, and of Paul. My own memories of Grandma Grace are of the feel of the paper-thin skin on her hands.

Grace, circa 1911 and the time of her marriage.

In Mom’s stories, her grandmother, Grace, came alive as a young woman – one who worked hard every day of her life, made sure my mom got the first weekly bath in the tin tub with one inch of water on Saturday nights, so all would be clean for church on Sunday. The line-up for water began with my mom, then Grandma Grace, then my Uncle Jim, and finally, once the water was cold and had seen three bodies already, Paul bathed.

There are not many stories of kindnesses that happened on the ranch in my mother’s childhood. Almost all center around Paul, the ranch foreman. In the summers of my mother’s youth on the ranch, it was the four of them: Mom, Jim, Grace, and Paul.

Again and again I heard the stories – of what happened on Grace’s wedding day after she climbed into the buckboard with her new husband, and of Paul galloping his horse over the rise and toward the ranch house shouting something nobody could hear and all ran outside as he raced toward the ranch to finally make out the words, “Skunks! Skunks!” and see his smile. Paul made Grandma Grace and my mom and uncle smile and laugh in a world that held precious little of either.

Abandoned shanty near the ranch.

One day years after first hearing these stories, Mom and I stood above the bed folding the mountain of clothes that came with my three young children, in the same ranch house where Grace and Paul had lived all those years. I had a sudden thought. “Mom, what about Grace and Paul?”

“I don’t know.” A slow smile spread across her face,”But, I’ve always wondered.”

I wrote a book to find out.

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The stories I knew formed the cradle into which I started to place research and information gathered about the time and place of Grace’s life. I drove to every historical museum and bookstore I knew of and the piles of original journals, books written by pioneer women, stories and experiences of Lakota women, and cowboy journals grew on the shelves of my house, each filled with sticky notes and my own markings. Slowly, the stories I’d heard began to gain the context of history and place. I scribbled notes, stories, and observations about the landscape in notebooks. Through the seasons, the heat and storms of summer, cool bite of fall, the hoarfrost of winter, and capriciousness of spring on the plains, I walked the land and listened.

And then Grace’s story was interrupted by my own. My marriage ended and the intensity of the chapter of my own life took over. The books about the prairie and notebooks remained shoved onto shelves and closed for the next number of years. Until one day, Grace whispered from the past to begin to write her story again.

I had no idea that writing her story would save me.

Sunset light

Summer clouds.

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