Skip to page content
Return to Top

Guest Commentator Introduction

Suzanne Winckler

Suzanne Winckler was born in Colorado City, Texas, in 1946. She graduated from Westbury High School in Houston and went to the University of Texas for her B.A. in Journalism. She has done graduate work at both UT and the University of Minessota. She is a free-spirit who has had the courage to follow and connect her dreams and passions in writing, ecology, and ornithology. She was a senior editor at Texas Monthly, back when it was a legitimate magazine, and has worked in development and communications for the Nebraska chapter of The Nature Conservancy. She was once an assistant editor at the University of Texas Press and has published numerous articles in such prestigious journals as Audubon, Atlantic Monthly, House & Garden, New England Monthly, Wildlife Conservation, The New York Times, and The Kansas City Star. She has edited or written numerous books including Prairie: A North American Guide, to be published by the University of Iowa Press; The Great Lake States and The Plain States, two volumes in the Smithsonian Guides to Historic America; The Heartland; Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri, a volume of the Smithsonian Guides to Natural America; and Great Texas Birds from UT Press. Winckler has also written three books for children.

What follows are actual entries from her writing journal some years back. In these honest musings of the writer's actual life and times are the kernels of story and observation, the heart of the matter. Sentences of compact beauty. Crisp, lovely truth. [Remember, gentle reader, you have to know the rules to break them.] Mastery of language driven down to the human struggle. A poem: "women in skin-tight jeans with clods of mascara on their eyelashes."

Places, People, Things

Our lives are a blur of transactions that take place with (or in the absence of) people we love, in settings we seldom pay much attention to, and surrounded by objects of necessity, craving, or abhorrence. For a number of years I kept a journal, which has allowed me to review, frame by frame, many of the places, people, and things that constituted at least a party of my life. Here are a few frames. I have omitted the names of several living people to protect their privacy.

Things (Pathogens), People (Men), Places (River-front Property), May 9, 1981:

I have athlete's foot, a crush on K_, and a desire to buy at $450,000 piece of land on the Guadalupe River although I do not have that kind of money. So it is an average middle-class Saturday in America.

Things (In Your Way), May 10, 1981:

I guess I am tired enough - or distracted - that I keep running into things. Today I whacked the top of my right hand on the dresser, and it hurts and is bruised; then out at Honey Creek while concentrating on carrying a vulture egg I conked my head on a limestone overhang - hard. Then I poked a twig in my eye.

People (Anxious or Egotistical), November 14, 1982:

I guess Sundays will always be for floating anxiety. P_ just left, and he, for all his private reasons, admitted to a rage of insecurity. He now seems to have perfected his integument so he is protected from the outside; there is, however, no protection that I am aware of from the inside. Well, there's one protection: self-deception welded to an enormous ego, an interior mantel I don't know how to construct.

Places (Home), People (Old Woman), Things (Tamales), fall of 1983:

Today I went to the white house on 38th Street with the sign out front that says: TAMALES. I have driven by this sign for at least ten years. Even today I hesitated to go up to the door. On the porch is a little tag that says: MRS. LUNSTED. I thought, "A Lundsted can make tamales?" I rang the doorbell and waited. After a longer wait that one expects but no so long as to abandon the quest, the door swung open. Briskly. "I live so far in the back it takes me a while." Then the screen door swung open. I told the voice - I could hardly catch up with the body - that I wanted to buy some tamales, and I walked into a grandmother's house. It was warm, it smelled good. The rooms were encrusted with knickknacks, including a stuffed snow goose suspended, as if in flight, from the ceiling. On the hutch in the dining room there were rows of family in picture frames.

Places (Home), People (Me), Things (My Hair, Dust), April 16, 1984:

It has been a hot, dry, dusty spring. My hair hasn't curled and when I mop the floors it smells like mud. I feel like part of the Panhandle has settled over Austin.

Places (New York), People (Demented), June 13, 1984:

I am on the New Jersey Transit train on my way to Princeton. In the next car, a baby has been crying and every so often her mother shouts, "Shut up!" loud enough for the people in my car to hear her. I assume the people sitting nearby will not let the situation get out of hand. All the public places I've been have had a vivid scene, usually involving a demented person shouting to the winds. This morning while I was buying doughnuts, and old man outside on roller skates an furiously blowing a whistle paused at the window and shot the finger several times at the patrons. Yesterday a young woman was screaming at the top of her lungs in Grand Central Station. 

Places (Of Excess), People (Me), Things (Drink), February 21, 1985:

I am in one of those goddamn plush hotels in an agitated state waiting for my gin to knock on the door.

Places (Houston Livestock Show), People (Parents and Children), Things (Headache), March 2, 1985:

I left the Houston Livestock Show about 3 p.m. with a terrible headache and decided to drive back to Austin. Perhaps I was having an attack of longing or perhaps I was sick. But I didn't want to look anymore at steers, and children leading steers, and distraught parents, and women in skin-tight jeans with clods of mascara on their eyelashes. Back home my headache went away.