Jun 23 2016

Night Bloom

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Once a year, The Arizona Queen of the Night – known as the Night Blooming Cereus (peniocereus greggii) – puts on a spectacular visual and olfactory show.

Largely unnoticed and ignored, this twiggy-in-appearance tuber demands attention on one special night. Bloom night occurred on June 18 this year, a time when nearly all the wild (and potted) cereuses bloom in unison, blanketing areas of the Arizona desert in a milk-and-honey-sweet perfume.

So captivated am I by this magical flower that it has made its way into my fiction (below). Don’t forget to click to enlarge the images; these photos were taken in my back yard. Two of my six Queens produced three blooms – the largest number yet, from my young plants.

She held her breath and listened. A small crackle, like the page of a book turning, rose from the plant. “Do you hear that?” They looked toward a bulb stirring, as if wind kissed. Maybe it was her own hope moving it. “It’s happening,” she said, the breath catching in her throat. It would take hours for the flowers to fully open. “Look – you can see inside.” She shined the light on the top of the blossom, revealing a tiny opening where the once-converging petals began to pull apart from the tip.

Soon the softball-sized globes would open completely, their petals nearly horizontal, stamen rising to meet the moon. Spurred by sundown, they would quiver under the cool breeze. Then upon sunrise, the white balls would close, the flowers dropping off days later, wilted, returned to the desert floor.

She looked at the white- and pink- petaled cups before her, gleaming like angel wings. She was humbled by the quickness of it, the life that had arisen before her eyes.

She was struck by the sadness that it would be gone tomorrow, fallen to the ground in the next few days. Returned to dust. But how gloriously and spectacularly it had lived.

For Readers, Writers, Everyone: Is there beauty in death? Can you think of any novels that explore that theme or instances in nature where a living thing seems too short for this Earth?


May 15 2016

Bringing Outdoors In

Melissa Crytzer Fry

For years I’ve collected pieces of the earth and brought them into our home. The piles of rocks that adorn my desk – salt-and-pepper flecked dacite, schist embedded with garnet, kryptonite-colored olivine – are testament to this rock hounding love (click on photos below to enlarge).

The community geology classes I took (and my nearly-a-geology-major in undergrad) further solidify this earthy love. Remember the geology class expeditions I shared to the Santa Catalinas and Tucson Mountains – and my introductory “don’t call me a rock-licker” post? Even though that was nearly six years ago, this love of the physical earth persists. My husband, always aware of my affinity for what looked like chunks of nondescript nothingness (I could find something pretty about nearly every rock), bought me a rock tumbler one Christmas.

And it sat. And sat. For years. Literally. Until – finally – I, with hubby’s help, took action this past holiday season (I confess, I was a bit intimidated by all the grinding powders and stages and patience required to tumble and polish rocks). Yet my goal had always been to bring pieces of the outdoors into our home … in a more organized and finely finished fashion than the existing pyramids of difficult-to-dust rocks haphazardly placed on our window ledges.

There’s something harmonious about marrying together the outdoors and inner living space, don’t you think? And so we tumbled some rocks with the intent of turning them into door pulls.

Um… That didn’t go so well, mostly because I didn’t know what I was doing. I had hubby whack away at some of the larger rocks I’d collected from our property, and we tossed them into the grinder in their varying angular shapes.

We quickly realized these uneven – though pretty- rocks weren’t going to make good door pulls. And hubby indicated that the capacity of our grinder wasn’t going to be large enough for the number of rocks we had to tumble.

So… I took the cheater’s way out – I Googled local businesses that did rock grinding and polishing work. The first company I contacted, Arizona Lapidary & Gem Rough, shared great news: they were working with an artist who specialized in door pulls (and they were ever-so-helpful and delightful to work with)!

As quickly as I could, I dropped these off, hoping I wouldn’t be laughed out of a store that displayed jaw-dropping precious stones and gems. Click to enlarge.

As quickly as I could, I dropped these off, hoping I wouldn’t be laughed out of a store that displayed jaw-dropping precious stones and gems (my rock chunks paled in comparison). Click to enlarge.

Here I was, bringing in my nondescript granite (I believe they are biotite granite and hornblende biotite granite), which I thought/hoped had the potential to shine. It was important to me that they be directly from our property – a true piece of the land we call home.

And look what the amazingly talented artist, Jeff, was able to do! (Is my ‘hand off’ to a professional considered a complete cop out? I did make a half-dozen treks up a steep hill on our property to collect 30+ pounds of rocks that I thought would be just right.) Click on the photos below to enlarge so you can see Jeff’s cutting/hand-polishing artistry!

For Writers: I realized that I try to do the same thing with my fiction: I attempt to bring the outdoors in — onto the page and into the imagination of readers. Sharing nature’s sensory experience is important to me, and it’s something I look for in the fiction I read. Do you prefer to experience natural settings in the books you read or write? Is it important to story?

For Everyone: Do you try to physically bring pieces of the outdoors in? What are the advantages to doing so? In life, do you feel humans have lost their connection to the nature?

In Other News: Check out Hummie Cam. Eggs hatched on May 9 & 10. Babies should fledge around May 30/31.