Chris Fink

Perspective: A Bad Case Of Biophilia

Apr 12, 2021
Frank Vassen / Flickr

In April sometimes, in the morning, looking into the limbs of the catalpa tree from my upstairs window, I see strange creatures that don’t seem to belong. I see...wood ducks. And then I suddenly don’t need coffee anymore. A duck in a tree is better than caffeine.


Perspective: A School Of Fish

Mar 11, 2021
Chris Fink

My eyeglasses are like a school of fish that swim through the house. Just yesterday I knew their secret hiding places. Where are they today? It’s morning, and I have my coffee. Now it’s time to read something. No glasses. I yell out to the house, as my father did before me, Who stole my spectacles?! No answer. There is never any answer. My voice must spook the fish.                                  

The coldest, snowiest, most miserable time of year means one thing for many of the hardiest folk in Wisconsin – time to drag your ice auger and a bucket of shiners out onto the nearest lake.


Perspective: Fire Drill

Feb 2, 2021
Chris Fink

Don’t tell the insurance man, but last week I started a chimney fire, my first ever. I know enough not to walk away from the fire in the process of building it, but for some reason I did anyway. When I ambled back to the wood stove, I saw that the stove door was cracked, and the stovepipe was hemorrhaging smoke. Then I heard roaring coming from the chimney. The stovepipe thermometer read zero. How could that be? In the middle of a fire cycle, the thermometer might read 500 degrees. It only goes to 1,000. That’s when I realized the needle was buried.

Chris Fink

If you like to traipse in the woods, or if you have a child or a dog that sometimes bounds off the trail, you too have been plagued by a pox known as beggar’s lice. You might know this nuisance plant by an alias:  sticktight, or stickseed. My wife Breja, who hails from Iowa, calls them simply weed seeds. She is the only one in my family who knows how to rid clothing of them.

Perspective: A Myth About COVID

Nov 24, 2020
Chris Fink

What do you even do for fun with your kids in COVID times?

A new fall activity in our family is to visit playgrounds. In Wisconsin, our fall playgrounds are now windswept and empty -- the best qualities of a playground these days. My daughter Iris, now nine, still loves a playground, even a desolate one. We usually choose one somewhere along the Rock River. Some of the playgrounds are barricaded shut. Others are open, but all the children have gone. Just a few underdressed teens huddle by the tire swing.

The drive to the playground is another family diversion.

Perspective: Our Glorious Midwestern Tomato

Sep 15, 2020
Chris FInk

Almost every day in August and September, I eat a tomato sandwich featuring a fresh tomato from the garden.

I was telling my friend Scott from San Jose about this the other day before he told me to stop. Scott is my only friend left who still likes to talk on the phone. I was telling him how I liked the tomato sliced thin, and for bread I like this whole grain loaf that’s been around forever, what we used to call bark bread when I was a kid before I knew what was good.

Perspective: The Least

Aug 11, 2020
Benoit Brummer CC BY-SA 4.0 / Wikimedia

You could go your whole life without knowing there is such a creature as a least chipmunk, which I almost did until last week’s adventure in the boundary waters wilderness with my family and the Ellisses. At our Basswood Lake campsite we were outflanked by a small army of the tiny dervishes.

Perspective: A Strange Way To Keep Safe

May 8, 2020
collage using Wikimedia, Pixabay, and Pixlr

I’ve been watching a pair of yellow-bellied sapsuckers excavate a cavity in a dead white oak behind the shed. Since I’m home all the time, I can wander over and look at them whenever I feel like it, which is more often than you might expect.

Perspective: The Nature Of Worry

Apr 2, 2020
Annie Spratt / Unsplash

I have a beer bottle cap in the pocket of my spring coat that I worry with my thumb and forefinger. I’m not sure how long the bottle cap has been there. I find it with my fingers, and then I forget about it again. 


Perspective: Pay Attention

Feb 18, 2020

The poet Allen Ginsberg advises writers to “pay attention to what you pay attention to,” the idea being that the source of your creative impulse lies deep in your personal obsessions rather than in some more public space, where someone is always telling you what’s worth your attention. 


Perspective: Lurking In The Last Wilderness

Jan 7, 2020
Chris Fink

On the night after Christmas, I was ice fishing on Carlin Lake near Presque Isle, what they call “Wisconsin’s Last Wilderness.” Part bored, and part cold, I gazed across the dark lake at the warm lights of the Carlin Lake Lodge. Ernest Hemingway and John Wayne had both lodged here back in the day, evidently. Imagine those two in the same room.

I noticed that I had a flag up on my tip-up. Finally. I knelt to set the hook.

Perspective: The Very Windy Day

Dec 3, 2019
Jimmy Lau / Pixabay

If you’re ridiculous like me, you think the weather owes you something, and when it doesn’t give you what you deserve, you get grumpy.  


Perspective: The Suit

Oct 29, 2019
Beloit College / YouTube

This fall I’ve given several public readings from my new book, which means I’ve had to dust off The Suit. If you know me, you’ve surely seen The Suit. I got it twenty years ago, when I was finishing my PhD and interviewing for jobs.

“You know, Fink,” said John Goulet, my major professor at UW-Milwaukee, “you’re going to have to go in debt for a suit.”

“A suit,” I gulped. I didn’t know anything about formal wear. But as a graduate student I did know about debt.

“Listen,” Dr. Goulet said, recognizing my unease. “I’ll take you shopping. But bring your credit card.”

Perspective: The Insomniac And The Rainstorm

Sep 24, 2019
Pete Linforth / Pixabay

Rain. My word. And thunderbolts split the sky. Of late these storms ride at night, when I’m wide awake. Power flashes and the black dog cowers. Worry. Gutters overflow. The basement pools. My friend Mike says night rain makes him drool. Better than some pill.

Chris FInk



photos from Pixabay and Unsplash

This July 4th I was the first person awake in our household, which is always a good feeling, to be first at something.

Even before I pushed the button on our old coffee maker, I looked out the window and noticed we had visitors. Three Tom turkeys stood in a slant of morning sunshine on the dewy grass.

Perspective: In It For The Fish

Jun 11, 2019
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources / CC BY-ND 2.0

Some people when you ask them why they fish will tell you it’s not about the fish at all. They like to be outdoors in the fresh air and the scenery. I don’t know any of those people. I’m in it for the fish. 


Perspective: The Pelican Paradox

May 14, 2019
Bert Knottenbeld/Flickr / CC by 2.0

On a rainy May afternoon, I took my daughter Iris and our black dog Shady for a walk down to the confluence of Bass Creek and the Rock River to see our regal new neighbors -- The Pelicans! They moved into the area in early April and still haven’t flown north. There’s something affirming about having pelicans for neighbors. If these glamorous creatures have chosen this stretch of muddy river, well, it must be a good place to live after all. I must have chosen well!

Perspective: Praise The Peepers

Apr 2, 2019

Let us now praise….spring peepers!

Perspective: A Moment And The Wit

Feb 26, 2019
Flickr user David Baron / CC BY-SA 2.0

Lately I’ve been thinking about a bench in Northern California. This particular bench is made of stone and perches along a dirt trail atop the long ridge of the San Francisco Bay Peninsula.

Perspective: It Could Be Worse

Jan 15, 2019



Perspective: In Search Of A Second Grader

Dec 11, 2018
Susan Stephens / WNIJ


Reading The Tree Rings This Election Day

Nov 6, 2018
Michael Himbeault, via Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Do you know about dendrochronology, the science of tree-ring dating? Counting tree rings reveals not just a tree’s age, but also the conditions under which it lived. A tree’s cross section shows prosperous years, where it put on much good wood, and drought years, where it just hunkered down. It also reveals the years of fire. 


The Willow Had To Go

Oct 2, 2018
Photo used with permission from the Aldo Leopold Foundation /

Poets love willow trees. Johnny Cash “taught the weeping willow how to cry,” and Lorine Niedecker wrote, “I’m not young, and I’m not free, but I’ve a house of my own, by a willow tree.” I love the poetry, but sadly I cannot love a willow tree. 



Writing Spiders

Aug 28, 2018


You know how, when you see a thing you haven’t seen for a long time, suddenly you see it everywhere?  


Vampire Fairies Of The North

Jul 24, 2018

My wife Breja and I were walking our black dog Shady down a gravel road near Low Lake, north of Ely, Minnesota. Deer flies swarmed our heads in their hundreds, and mosquitoes and black flies battled for any remaining bare flesh.

I wonder what I’ll write about for my next perspective, I told Breja.

How about mosquitoes? she said.

Mosquitoes? I said. I was thinking of writing about a bog. Something pretty. Lady slippers.

A Dream Instilled By Memories

Jun 20, 2018

I suffer from an affliction I call Cabin Dreams.

The roots of my disorder are traceable to childhood. I grew up on the shores of the Kishwaukee River near Kirkland. In the summers, once school was out, my family packed up the Buick and headed north to Wisconsin, to our knotty pine cabin on Blue Spring Lake.

Oh, time at the cabin was exquisite: pancakes for breakfast each morning, one pine drawer for all my belongings, and the lake itself, which seemed to bend summer days to its own shape, with shallow bays and windy points and a middle part deep and fathomless.

Rock River Ride Day 2: Watertown to Beloit

Jun 12, 2018
Carl Nelson / WNIJ

We started the day in Watertown, where Carl Nelson and I were pleased to discover the weather had improved considerably.  Instead of cold, it was pleasant and, instead of rain, it was no rain. We had breakfast at a cafe and were met by Chris Fink, Professor of Literature and Wisconsin Awesomeness at Beloit College.

The Best Reason To Love May

May 15, 2018

Of course you know the dozen reasons why May is the sweetest month.

But put aside for now May’s eye candy—the orioles and buntings and tulips. And May’s nosegays—hyacinths and lilacs and lilies of the valley. You must put aside even crappie fishing, for now, to focus on May’s rarest gift: morel mushrooms.

You’ve waited 50 weeks for their arrival. But now, somewhere on the edge of a forest, it’s beginning; morels are pushing themselves through the duff. You’d rather hunt for mushrooms than anything else, admit it.