Delving Into the World of Tracking and Regenerative Ranching With ‘Dawn Again’

Memoirs should allow the reader to journey into the heart and mind of someone who lives and thinks in a way that is completely distinct and new. That’s exactly what Doniga Markegard provides in “Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild,” at once a memoir of her life as a wildlife tracker turned permaculture and regenerative ranching expert in the American West and a guidebook to her incredibly unique perspective on the interconnectedness of people and our planet.

“It appears that it’s up to humans to remember, right now, what it means to be humans,” she writes in the memoir. “We need to remember how to live in reciprocity with our kin, to respect and honor this beautiful world and all its inhabitants, before everything we depend on and everything that depends on us is lost.”

The book is divided into three parts, beginning with a young Markegard’s journey away from society and toward the earth and animals. After falling from her horse as a pre-teen, Markegard develops a sudden and deep connection with nature, one that is developed over the course of her atypical high school experience, during which she is immersed in the wild. Markegard takes the reader through her apprenticeship of tracking techniques, sharing the ways in which she communes with foxes, owls, and later, wolves – an animal she adopts as a reflection of herself.

This very atypical coming-of-age leads Markegard, and the book, to spawn – quite naturally – into a journey toward a life guided by regenerative agriculture practices. Permaculture becomes a means for Markegard to live off of the knowledge and experience she has gleaned and to reconnect with her human side, after communing with animals for so long.

“I had learned, as Gilbert Walking Bull prophesied, how to live like the wild animals,” she explains of her transition from tracker to rancher. “I felt I needed to re-learn, or perhaps even re-imagine, what it meant to be human.”

As a result of these experiences, Markegard co-founded Markegard Family Grass-Fed and began producing the sort of healthful, nutrient-dense food she wanted to eat for her community, allowing the beliefs and understanding she had cultivated over time spent with Indigenous communities and permaculture experts to become the core of her lifestyle.

Parts of the book read like a novel: the transposing of animal life on Markegard’s own; the ways in which she gleans deeper meaning from each of her varied life experiences. Her love story with her husband, Erik Markegard, and the stories of her almost mystical home births rise off of the page. One transcendental experience in the woods, where a fire she starts to keep warm and survive one cold night in the woods spreads to her clothing, is a truth stranger than fiction, leaving Markegard literally and metaphysically naked and ready to face the next phase of her life.

At some points, however, Markegard’s writing style leaves something to be desired. Often repetitive and occasionally self-important, Markegard sometimes to distances her reader instead of drawing her into this unique story.

Her message and unique worldview, however, are so captivating that these flaws are forgivable. Through this memoir, Markegard invites the reader into her singular, nature-driven life, a perspective that few have had the opportunity to inhabit.

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Emily Monaco is a food and culture writer based in Paris. Her work has been featured in the Wall... More about Emily Monaco