Nov 15 2010

It’s a Hoodoo

Melissa Crytzer Fry

I’m becoming a bit obsessed. With rocks. I admit I haven’t started licking them, like many geologists do (seriously… they do! It makes them easier to identify, and you can determine hardness by biting them).

At any rate, I confess that I am no geologist, though I am thoroughly enjoying my “for-fun” geology class. I’m also amassing a great pile of rocks along the way: granitic gneiss, schist with garnets in it, some diorite with Granny Smith-Apple-green epidote crystals on it. What fun! (Um, my husband doesn’t share in the enthusiasm as we run out of window ledges.)

And, on a grander scale, I was able to finally put a name to one of the great rock formations I’ve seen in the Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson. To my delight, it also plays to my love of words. It’s a hoodoo! Try rolling that around on your tongue. Hoodo. Hoodo. I have fun just saying it.

This hoodoo is seen on the way up the Santa Catalinas, toward Summerhaven, Arizona. Can you see the eyes, nose, mouth, ears and hands? Or is it just my imagination again? Click to enlarge.

The hoodoo is formed by erosion and is described as having a totem pole-shaped body. This guy couldn’t fit the description better. Though, when I look at it, I see an entire body with a face, belly, hands. What do you see?

Does it fascinate you that these hoodoos are millions of years old? That the area around them was formed from intense heat and pressure as plates from the Earth’s crust crashed into one another? Just wait until you see my photos of crenulated folds! Muhaaahahaha (that was supposed to be my evil laugh).

For Writers: I have to admit that this geology class has heightened my sensory acuity. Try describing a rock to someone so that they can understand how it differs from the ‘other’ rock. Saying things like “gray with black dots” or “brown, rounded” isn’t really helpful. It’s not easy at all … but when you really dig deep, and look closely at what’s in front of you, analyze it, study it, apply certain identification principles to it, you actually see so much more.

I’m not saying every writer should take a geology class. But if you’re looking to enhance your sensory description, you can try a few exercises on your own. Pick an object in your office, at your home, in your garden. Grab the laptop and describe it.

Look at texture, smell, shape, size. What other everyday objects does this ‘thing’ remind you of? If it could ­make noises, what would it sound like? What human characteristics does it have? How heavy is it? It might be a fun exercise (Your office mates or spouse may find it slightly disturbing that you’re role-playing and speaking with an inanimate object. But when you explain, I’m sure they’ll understand).

One other helpful “sensory starter” is reading the novels of authors who have nailed their descriptions, creating unforgettable sensory worlds that transport the reader. You can analyze their words in the same way the geologist analyzes rocks.

Some of my favorites for sensory description:

  • CE Morgan’s All the Living
  • David Wroblewski’s The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
  • Brady Udall’s The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint
  • Jeffrey Eugenide’s Middlesex

10 Responses to “It’s a Hoodoo”

  • avatar Jamie Says:

    A hoodoo. Cool! I used to be a rock hound when I was younger. I loved geodes and crystals of all kinds and liked to drag my mom to the local rock shop. You have an amazing rock shop in your backyard!

    I might take you up on one of your novel suggestions, so I can get a lesson in unforgettable sensory description while I read.

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  • avatar e.lee Says:

    I’m a rockhound and a writer too, so i love how you tied the two together

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  • avatar Melissa Says:

    Jamie,
    Yes, I AM so fortunate to have a rock shop in my back yard … endless entertainment for a rock nerd! Would love to know which novel you choose.

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  • avatar Melissa Says:

    e.lee-
    So refreshing to know I’m not the only writer-rockhound out there! Thanks for your comments; this post was fun to write since I’m so interested in both writing and rockhounding.

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  • avatar Sharon Bially Says:

    What an amazing shot — and an amazing rock! Seeing only the top part I was reminded of one of those tall, twisted lollipops my kids sometimes get. With the colored sugar licked off. But scrolling down, well. I was simply breath-taken.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    I know exactly the kind of lollipop to which you’re referring. Suddenly I want sugar.

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  • avatar Rachna Chhabria Says:

    Loved the Hoodoo, Melissa. It looks like it has a body: complete with hands, mouth and ears. I loved the idea of describing objects and concentrating on sensory descriptions. Its a wonderful exercise.
    Btw..I love your geology lessons, Professor Melissa. You transport me right back to school. 🙂

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    A professor I am not … But I’m sure having fun as I learn new concepts. Got to see a wonderful local example of an ancient riverbed that was uplifted and then had alluvial debris from the crumbling mountains deposited on top of it.

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  • avatar Georgina DeBurca Says:

    Lovely post. Just be weary of storing stones with garnet for example on window ledges, a lot of stones/crystals can fade in sunlight. I have a massive crystal selection and I store them in a box so they stay safe. 🙂

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  • avatar Jodi Says:

    Great post! I love stones/rocks too, they’re all so different.

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