Chris Fink

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.

Nature Sets Her Own Rules

Feb 27, 2018

If you had just 90 seconds to say something to the world, what would you say?

As I sit pondering, a cooper’s hawk lands on the porch outside my window, rescuing me. He hangs around, hunting the feeder. More it snows, more I see him.

The snow has been remarkable, hasn’t it? Everything that’s not flocked is frosted. Just what we needed, I think, fresh whitewashing of the old cow barn. If the only thing the snow did was make the cardinal stand out, well, that would be enough.

Monumental Memories ...

Jan 23, 2018

One of my favorite things that presidents do, or used to do, is create national monuments.

In 2000 Bill Clinton created the Ironwood Forest National Monument north of Tucson, Arizona. My sister Melanie and her husband Lee run a small store, the Valley Mart, just across the road from this monument. Every winter, if we’re lucky, my family pays a visit over Christmas. My wife Breja and I love to hike this protected landscape.

How Could This Have Happened?

Dec 19, 2017

When they say they love animals, most people mean they love domestic pets. In other words, they love animals they can own.  

I’ve always put myself on a higher plane than these pseudo animal lovers. I’ve never wanted to own a watered down, domestic lap warmer. My idea of animal loving is catching a glimpse of a wild creature in its habitat. I like to imagine that if I had a pet it would be a wild one: a fox maybe, or falcon.

There's a phrase that comes up when discussing Southern literature. You might've heard it:

The South is a place; East, North and West are merely directions.

This will make sense to anyone who has read To Kill A Mockingbird or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Authors like Harper Lee and John Berendt take you to places with distinct voices, characters and surroundings. You can hear the accents, feel the prejudice, and picture the unique landscape and architecture.

Unique Nocturnal Wanderings

Nov 14, 2017

Pooh Bear, it’s widely known, is a bear of very little brain. What he lacks in cognition, however, he makes up for in appetite.

In the Hundred Acre Wood, Pooh’s appetite is legendary. Remember the time he went to Rabbit’s house and ate so much of Rabbit’s honey that he couldn’t fit out the door? Even that humiliation didn’t curb Pooh’s appetite. At a certain point, a strong appetite counts for you. Later on, it’s a point against.

The Wonders Of A Mast Year

Oct 10, 2017

Among the many strange events 2017 hath wrought, it hath wrought a mast year for nut trees of the forest. Mast years are years that nut trees like oaks and hickories bear an abundance of fruit -- or mast, as it’s called by scientists and people who know Old English.

Time Changes View Of Camp Scavenger

Sep 5, 2017

Every campsite in the Boundary Waters Wilderness between Minnesota and Canada comes equipped with a fire grate, a pit toilet, a tent site … and a snapping turtle.

These ancient creatures, some a hundred years old weighing 75 pounds, haunt the campsites, waiting for a stringer of fish to float in.

As a fisherman myself, I feel a kinship. Many times I’ve crouched on the greenstone shore, fileting my catch, listening to the nasal breath of a hungry snapper mere feet away.


I’m spending my summer in Minnesota, near the Canadian border, thinking and teaching about the difference between wildness and wilderness.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 allows Congress to designate “wilderness areas.” In 1978, the boundary waters canoe area wilderness was created here. At a million acres, it’s the largest wilderness in the Midwest. There are now nearly 110 million acres of wilderness in the U.S.