Jul 27 2014

Summer Sights

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Despite being busy with a full freelance schedule, I’ve kept my eyes open and my camera shutter fluttering. Among the sights and visitors to our desert abode in July have been:

Any meteorologists out there who can identify these clouds? Trained Weather-Spotter Hubby and I have never seen a sky like this before (July 26). Click to enlarge.

A baby desert tortoise visited under the breezeway on hubby’s birthday, July 16. Look at those angled legs! Click to enlarge.

It was a night of magic in the desert July 11 as the Night-Blooming Cereus (The Queen of the Night) unfurled for her singular eve of bloom. This is friend Roxanne’s plant, as all of mine dropped their blooms early (boo). Click to enlarge.

These puffy clouds behind a fruiting saguaro were a welcome sight on July 2, denoting the arrival of monsoon season. With the severe drought we’ve experienced, we were more than ready. Click to enlarge.

A wildfire that began June 17 continued to burn in the mountains in front of our home, captured in this photo on July 6. More than 14,000 acres were claimed, and the fire – only with relief from the monsoon that finally came – ceased in mid-July.

Check out this video that hubby took of lightning during our first monsoon storm:

I didn’t realize as I was taking this photograph on July 4 that this lizard had a regrown tail. Remember the post I wrote about a similar spiny lizard whose tail had begun to regenerate? Wonder if this is the same guy? Click to enlarge.

Another view of the same sky in the first photo. Note the angles and sharp edges at the left, converging; those are two different cloud fronts meeting one another above the mountains. Click to enlarge.

As usual, we are going to the birds. This hooded oriel and his mate have been hanging around the past few days under the breezeway attempting to build nests. They join an ADDITIONAL two dove babies, a second batch of Say’s Phoebes, a hummingbird mama who laid one egg and abandoned it, a nesting pair of cactus wrens, a pair of hissing barn owls, a roadrunner, and a cardinal pair visiting with regularity. Click to enlarge.


Jul 6 2014

Rooftop Reading

Melissa Crytzer Fry

It’s that time of year again in the desert, when cicadas scritch their harsh song into the air, the heat averages in the 100s, and outdoor time is a rarity.

And yet, I long to be outside. Need to be, really.

This blazing fireball is the summer sun setting behind my house, amid the skeletal branches of ocotillo. Click to enlarge.

If there is anything I’ve learned about my writerly self over the past five years, it’s that I am influenced greatly by nature: being in it, observing it, photographing it, living it. Yes, I seem to be more creative with my writing on days when I’m viewing the open skies.

I’ve taken my Jeep, Betty, to remote areas of the desert, and a certain kind of magic unfolds every time. Through the natural chatter of cactus wrens and the ruckus of ravens, my mind clears. The wind whistling through the stout paloverdes around me is a creative lullaby. And I write. I read. And what I produce is of a more inspired quality, often, than what happens behind my indoor desk.

This is my reliable ‘writing spot’ in the desert, which Betty can nearly navigate on her own by now. Click to enlarge.

A similar experience occurs when I’m running in the desert. Lines of fiction often come to me mid-stride, delivered it seems, on the invisible wings of the wind. I can’t adequately explain how much I crave this experience.

And yet, this time of year, we desert dwellers become shut-ins due to the heat. With the increased humidity, the outdoor running has all but ceased (even at 5:30 a.m., the temperatures can reach 90), as has hiking and Betty escapades (no reliable A/C in my old girl).

Yet I still keenly feel the need to be outside in order to work  most creatively. That’s when it struck me. This:

Yep, those are my tootsies and my view from the roof. Click to enlarge.

I’m not sure why I never considered it, but the unfinished rooftop deck of our house-under-construction (since 2009) offers a wonderful microclimate.

The kitchen bump-out provides fabulous shade from 5:30 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. And something about the position of the house and its placement at the base of the hill offers a fairly consistent little breeze. Click to enlarge.

So, yes, I have found a summertime solution to my creative woes! I’m getting my wild, outdoorsy fix by taking a few steps away from my desk. For the past week, I’ve risen early, headed out to the roof with my supplies in a tote: research books, novels, folders, laptop (yes, there is electric and wifi, so while it’s not a “true” desert experience like my Betty excursions, it does offer lovely views). So far I’ve been visited by a lovely lizard — whom I’m certain was courting me — two towhees, two cactus wrens and dragonflies. I’ve watched jackrabbits and roadrunners on the hillside, too.

This is what I see when I turn my head to the right. I think I can see a total of 22 saguaro cacti from this vantage point. And most of you know of my obsession with this majestic cactus-tree (ripe fruit splitting off the tops). Click to enlarge.

This accidental solution has been perfect, casting cool creative breaths over the humid, blazing heat of the desert.

For Writers: Do certain settings aid in your creativity? Or can you “turn it on” and be creative anywhere? Does nature inspire you creatively? If not, what does?

For Readers: Do you prefer certain settings when you’re reading? Do they help transport you more than other settings? (It’s no surprise that I wrote about reading in the desert and the incredible experience it provided me on my birthday).