Mar 28 2011

Burst of Color

Melissa Crytzer Fry

The desert gets a bad rap. It’s brown. It’s dry. It’s ugly. I’ve heard all those assertions from family and friends who apparently enjoy digging themselves out from ten-foot snowdrifts every winter (Perhaps not quite so much after this year?).

But at least it’s green here, they say of the east coast, midwest, northern U.S. I’m not sure that’s such a great argument – especially where I grew up in Pennsylvania, next to Lake Erie. If I recall, it’s only green about three months out of the year. The rest of the time it’s gray. Or raining. Or snowing. Or the grass is yellow and crunchy underfoot. Or the trees look like school girls’ arms – bony, knobby, unruly.

While I love you dearly, PA, I have an allegiance to my desert home of 13 years. It is not brown. It is not ugly. It is not … okay, well, you got me there. It is dry. But now and up through May, things come to life. Every color imaginable starts to sparkle like a mosaic from the milk-chocolaty desert floor. Wildflowers! Yes, even this year, after little rain.

This Desert Mariposa Lily, photographed along the Arizona Trail last spring, isn’t up and blooming just yet this season. But I suspect it will be sprouting up around mid-April, as this area got a bit more rainfall than my homestead. Click to enlarge. Click forward arrow button to view all photos.

Right now, the lupine is showing off its purple stalks of grandeur. Bright orange Mexican poppies are dancing happily in the wind. The desert marigolds are bursting like little globes of sunshine low to the ground. The fuchsia Parry’s Penstemon is fluttering in front of my French door, the sun setting it aglow each morning.

This Parry’s Penstemon caught my eye as the sun rose over the mountains in front of our house last week. Notice the spider web that seems to want the plant to stay just as it is. Click to enlarge.

So, all you doubters … Who says the desert is only brown? Check out some more of Arizona’s spectacular blooms, below (This is only a small sampling of the colors and varieties I captured behind the lens last year and this year. Hundreds [yes, literallly] of wildflower photos slumber in my iPhoto folder – Prickly Poppies, Indian Paintbrush, Primrose, Desert Four O’Clock, Scarlet Gaura, Firewheel Blanketflower. Maybe I’ll save those for another post?):

This was a spectacular find during a hiking trip to the Peppersauce area last spring. A Doubting White Mariposa Lily, photographed by Kathy Becraft.

Desert Marigolds abound on our property now. They can also be seen along the edges of the roads and on the medians in town. I was lucky to have captured these tiny bees as they feasted on their breakfast.

For Writers: I have to admit that I am always pretty amazed that the dry desert soil can sustain and yield such brightly colored wonder each year. It makes me think of root structures, resilience, fortitude. What keeps you rooted in your writing? A certain routine? The encouragement of others? Your writing community? Your publication dream?

And more importantly, what has helped your writing blossom? What has helped you bloom as a writer? Craft books? Reading the classics? Taking a class? Working with an editor? Please comment below the last photo. [And, P.S. Did you miss the grand prize winner announcement & voter prizes for the “What I Saw” Amateur Photo Contest? Click here.]

Lupine likes to overtake our rock wall every spring, even when conditions are dry. How can I object? There shall be no plucking of purple flowers during springtime – even if they overtake the wall, leaving a brittle mess come summer!


28 Responses to “Burst of Color”

  • avatar V.V. Denman Says:

    Beautiful pictures. Again. I always know to expect beauty when I visit your blog. Thanks again for sharing your desert with us.

    What has helped my writing blossom? Craft books, classes, critique groups, conferences . . . those have all helped.

    But what helps the most is encouragement from other writers. When someone reads my work and tells me they enjoyed it, or that they couldn’t put it down, then I know I’m doing something right.

    [Reply]

    avatar

    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Oh yes… I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I have a sampling of “atta’ girl” notes from my readers that are plastered around my monitor. They TRULY are the greatest inspiration. Thank you so much for the wonderful compliments about my photos. So happy to share.

    [Reply]

  • avatar Julia Munroe Martin Says:

    Amazing photos as always. I love them, especially as I look out at the brown crunchy grass and the residual snow….
    I never fail to be amazed how the same plants can look so different when planted in different climates: I imagine they are another variety but lupine in Maine is completely different! Incredible.
    I am inspired by the ocean, the freshness and even icy cold of the wind across the water, the early morning stillness. But as a writer, my last two months of meeting new friends via Twitter and blogging have been my biggest support and motivation! Thank you Melissa!

    [Reply]

    avatar

    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Oh yes … the ocean as inspiration – its vastness, its playfulness, its ire at times. Nature does have the power to strengthen our writing, but I have to agree with you that solid, authentic writing communities are what keep me grounded, too.

    On another note: I was struck by the differences-similarities you mentioned about plants in different parts of the country when I went back to PA this past summer. The desert’s “New Mexican thistle” is reminiscent of the PA Bull Thistle. And so many others that I’d never even noticed growing up exist in the desert, though in different colors and hardiness! What great diversity our country offers!

    [Reply]

  • avatar Leah Says:

    These are so beautiful. I especially like the one of the bees on the marigold. Really captures nature at its core. I had fun this weekend taking different nature shots. I was able to capture a ladybug amongst weeds. Makes you really appreciate the simple things in life.

    [Reply]

    avatar

    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Yes, and somehow it helps you slow down, breathe, relax! (How fun: a ladybug shot!)

    [Reply]

  • avatar Jolina Petersheim Says:

    Whenever I’m feeling dry while plodding through this writing world, it always helps to take a walk, curl up with a book, watch a beautiful movie with friends, talk to my husband. It is amazing how these simple things keep my writing roots where they belong and offer creative nourishment along the way.

    Thanks for the lovely spring pictures, Melissa. You need to work for the National Geographic!

    [Reply]

    avatar

    Melissa Reply:

    You make such a good point that even the simplest of things can help re-invigorate our writing muse. A movie… sounds like a good idea.

    And do I ever WISH I could work for Nat Geo! What a dream that would be.

    [Reply]

  • avatar Catherine Trizzino Says:

    Great post and lovely photos. What roots me is easy – I love it too much to ever stop ?. As for what nourishes my writing, that’s a more involved answer. Writing classes, craft books, trial and error, critique groups, lots and lots of reading, patience (not so easy for me!) and persistence. Oh and coffee, wine and the support of family and friends.

    [Reply]

  • avatar Rachna Chhabria Says:

    Wonderful photos, Melissa. I am fascinated that the desert has such colorful flowers.

    What roots me to writing is my passion and the urge to tell the stories that have been haunting me. I also learnt a lot last year from the Creative Writing Classes I undertook for college students and from the several critiques I did.

    Yes, all these things were time consuming, but I have noticed that they did enhance my writing and editing skills. So I can’t really complain.

    [Reply]

  • avatar Erika Marks Says:

    I have been enjoying these pictures so much, Melissa–a cold front has come through NC and already our trip to an area botanical garden this past weekend (where things were blooming gorgeously!) now seems a distant memory!

    I love how you tie the themes of nature to writing in your posts. I think it so important to stay connected to our environment, especially as writers when we spend so much time in our heads and forget the world around us (probably because we “live” so often in the world we create!).

    What ties me to my writing is the desire to write. I can’t imagine not writing, not putting down the stories that are constantly flowing through my head. At the end of the day, I bet that’s what we would all say. The need to write is so fundemental that it provides its own focus, even at times in our lives when it is a challenge to find the time to write.

    [Reply]

    avatar

    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Writers are a different breed, are we not? (I refer to your comment about “stories always floating around in our heads.”) … When I drove home from the dentist yesterday, something the receptionist said stuck with me, and by the time I was home, I had a story idea in mind. I tacked that on to another tidbit that had been floating around in my brain for months (also inspired by something I saw on that same road). I love that, as a writer, I’m able to ‘see’ things with greater curiosity. That, indeed, is inspiring in itself.

    Thanks for great compliments re: my photos. Sorry you’ve hit another cold spell. I’m sure it feels as though it will never end.

    [Reply]

  • avatar Cynthia Robertson Says:

    As a fellow Arizonian I too am always amazed and so grateful for the beautiful show our desert puts on for us in the spring. Newcomers are often surprised by how lush and colorful March and April can be. Especially if we’ve got some lovely rain – which we did this year.
    Spring makes it difficult for me to stay indoors and write 🙂

    [Reply]

  • avatar Melissa Crytzer Fry Says:

    I love that so many of you – Cat, Rachna, Erika – have indicated that your passion for writing, itself, is what keeps you grounded, keeps you growing. So inspirational.

    You all mentioned critiques, as well. It’s so true that reading and critiquing OTHERS also helps you grow as a writer. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Enjoying your wisdom.

    [Reply]

  • avatar Hallie Sawyer Says:

    Pictures of flowers are always so uplifting and your’s are beautiful. So glad you posted them!

    My passion for writing and LEARNING to write keep my pen moving. And when my writing seems to be off or my doubts creep in, the support from the writing community, whether from Twitter or blogs, pick me off, dust me off, and tell me to get back out there. I can’t imagine writing without them. 🙂 (That means you, dear!)

    [Reply]

    avatar

    Melissa Reply:

    Aww. How sweet. I agree 100%. The supportive writing community I’ve met on Twitter and through blogs is nothing short of incredible. I appreciate your support more than you can know! Thank you.

    [Reply]

  • avatar Beth Hoffman Says:

    Your photos make me so happy, thank you for sharing them with us. I love how in-tune you are with the beauty that surrounds you!

    [Reply]

    avatar

    Melissa Reply:

    And I wholly appreciate you taking the time to stop by. New York Times bestsellers are B-U-S-Y! It means SO much that you are so supportive, Beth. Are you sure you don’t have a clone who helps you get it all done? Glad my little flower pics can make people smile.

    [Reply]

  • avatar Tracy Mangold Says:

    Lovely lovely lovely! I have another friend who lives in Arizona – who takes pictures of the flowers and posts them on facebook. I love looking at the beautiful blossoms and splashes of color. I think that perhaps the bursts of color you see around you in the desert are even MORE profound because of their setting. That is what I love about this country, we have a little bit of EVERYTHING here. There is so much to treasure and enjoy when we look around us. LOVE it. I even love the time of year when the trees are bare. It is like we can see their truth in their nakedness. We see the real terrain of the land, nothing covering it, only its honest contours and dips. Then Spring comes and dresses the land slowly in undergarments of green until at long last, the plants and trees don their Summer robes of thick foliage. Thank you for making me think of these things again as I impatiently wait for all our snow to disappear AGAIN! My writing is very connected to this feeling, to this build-up of life around me. Great photos and thoughts, Melissa! Thank you!

    [Reply]

    avatar

    Melissa Reply:

    Your words are poetic, Tracy. In fact, I think you need to turn much of your response INTO a poem (frankly, it already is!). I LOVE your observation that a tree’s nakedness in winter somehow helps us see its truth! And “undergarments of green” and “summer robes of thick foliage.” Breathtaking!!! Thank YOU for sharing such lovely words. I love that you, too, are connected to the world/life around you. I “get” that! And I love your enthusiasm for our great country; I am in 100% agreement. So much diversity. So much to see. So much to appreciate! So much to love.

    [Reply]

  • avatar Brandee Says:

    Thank you for sharing our beautiful desert! I am often trying to explain to people around the country & the world what spring does to the Valley and just how pretty it can be. I too live in Arizona, and am so happy that I’ve found your blog.

    [Reply]

    avatar

    Melissa Reply:

    SO happy to meet a fellow Arizonan. I saw on your blog that you felt the heat today. Me, too. TOO soon for 90s, while my family in PA is getting snow…

    [Reply]

  • avatar Natalia Sylvester Says:

    Beautiful pictures, as always, Melissa!

    I love the questions you ask because they often get me in an introspective mood and help me discover things I might not have thought about.

    One of the things that keeps me rooted in writing is the fact that it helps me not only overcome my fears, but triumph over them. Every time I’ve been nervous about going back to the WIP and making major revisions, fearing that I’ll somehow make the book worse, these fears are proven wrong. Not only that, but the experience of getting over the hesitation and rediscovering (daily) how liberating the creative writing process can be keeps me going. It’s not to say that every time I sit down things come out perfect, but even when they don’t, I’m left with the hope and inspiration that I can do it.

    Oftentimes, the nerves strike again the very next day, and the whole ride starts again! I keep going because I know that yesterday worked out ok, so I build on that.

    [Reply]

    avatar

    Melissa Reply:

    Thanks so much for sharing, Natalia. Fear is, indeed, part of a writer’s life, isn’t it? I go through the same nerves as I edit … glad I”m not the only one. But you’re right. The only way to get over it is to KEEP WRITING. Enjoy the ride! My fingers are crossed for your book finding a publisher soon.

    [Reply]

    avatar

    Natalia Sylvester Reply:

    Thanks so much, Melissa!

    [Reply]

  • avatar Nina Says:

    Such gorgeous pictures. Love the one with the bees the most. Your blog in general is a visual feast–even the layout.

    [Reply]

  • avatar Julia Munroe Martin Says:

    I had to come back today for another look at the beauty and warmth of the desert because we have SNOW ON THE GROUND AGAIN and it’s APRIL! I just had to say again — I love your photos! Thanks for posting them!

    [Reply]

  • avatar Shari Lopatin Says:

    What keeps me rooted in my writing? Great question, Melissa. For one, my love of it. Secondly, my dream to just WRITE. Not write for a 9-5 job, but to be my own writer, my own published author, and just answer to me. What helps me grow is reading other great creative works, whether a classic–such as Great Expectations–or a recent hit–such as Water for Elephants. I’m also reading a great writing book by Anne Lamott called “Bird by Bird,” which I HIGHLY recommend for any creative writer. It will inspire you and get your mind flooding with new ideas, at dimensions you never thought you could conjure.

    [Reply]

Leave a Comment