Nov 5 2012

Reflections

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Road trips, I think, may be a writer’s best friend – mostly because they seem to spur that kind of reflection that doesn’t seem to happen behind a computer monitor.

I love this photo, taken in northern Arizona, which illustrates the reflection of pine trees in shallow water. Click to enlarge.

Given that I was headed with hubby to visit my little sister in Flagstaff (five hours away), where she attends Northern Arizona University – I had plenty of time for reflection.

Mainly, I asked myself how it was possible that I was going to celebrate her twenty-first birthday… how it was possible that she’s a college junior. We’re not sisters by blood, but we are sisters by heart. We were paired by Big Brothers Big Sisters when she was in fourth grade, and I can’t imagine a more perfect ‘match.’ What age was she then? Nine? What age am I now? Ahem… We won’t go there. Reflections.

Another reflective photo in Flagstaff – mountains on the receding waters of Mormon Lake. Click to enlarge.

Suffice it to say that the trip was memorable as usual, amid Flagstaff’s volcanic mountain ranges. The basalt, andesite and ash fragments littering the public parks fulfilled my geologic appetite once again.

Hubby stopped to set up his portable radio along the way, while I wandered about Mormon Lake snapping photos, still reflecting on the wonderful young woman my little sister has become.

This is Ham Radio Boy in action alongside Mormon Lake, outside of Flagstaff. Click to enlarge.

I’m always amazed at the things I don’t see until I look closely. I hadn’t noticed the cobwebs on these flowers until the sun reflected from them in my viewfinder ... A literal reminder of the illuminating power of reflection. Click to enlarge.

I loved the layers in this close-up: a hint of mountains and trees reflected in the water, high and low spots of failing fall grass, and the rusty color of autumn toward the water. If you look closely, you can also see animal trails. Click to enlarge.

As I gazed at the mountains and pines so foreign to our low desert, I thought about the figurative mountains this young lady, my sister, has climbed – bigger than Mt. Humphrey’s in the distance (a stratovolcano). I am proud – so proud of all she has accomplished.

For Readers & Writers: All this reflection got me to thinking about books and the role of reflection after we’ve closed the flaps on a good story. I think the most memorable of books spur that kind of reflection – about self, about surroundings, about hard-to-answer questions, about humanity, about nature. What book(s) kept you thinking well after reading that final page? Why? What story won’t stop replaying itself in your mind?


34 Responses to “Reflections”

  • avatar Julia Munroe Martin Says:

    This is such a lovely post — the photos, the words, the emotions, all of it. Just beautiful. And I can really relate (as you know, my daughter just celebrated her 21st, too). I can’t answer your question “how is it possible…” because I’m equally amazed and unsure. I love your question about reflection after reading a book — so often long after I finish a book I find myself still thinking about it. I love that feeling of books that I keep coming back to.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Yes – I know you’re in that same boat with the “21” club. So – what ARE some of those books you keep coming back to … the ones that haunt you?

    I have to say that my most recent read, The Orchardist, had that effect on me. The more I think about it, the more I discover.

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  • avatar Hallie Sawyer (@Hallie_Sawyer) Says:

    One book I keep going back to is A Fault In Our Stars by John Green. I keep thinking about the characters and wonder what if? What if their prognosis had been different? I also think a lot about Fifty Shades of Grey. Okay, just kidding. I don’t think about that book at all but when others tell me they’ve read it or are in the process of reading it, I ponder WTF…in my head.

    I have yet to crack open The Orchardist but it is almost next on my list! So glad it has had an effect on you. *Rubs hands together anxiously*

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    There just aren’t enough days in the year for all the books I want to read. This book has been on my list for months and months (and I recall it was an ‘accidental’ read for your book club – so fun that it moved you so deeply).

    I had to read your smart-ass comment about 50 Shades to my hubby because, of course, I was cracking up at the WTF comment.

    I can’t wait to hear what you think of The Orchardist. It’s very literary, and the more I think about it now, the more I am amazed at what the author accomplished.

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  • avatar Erika Marks Says:

    Melissa, what a tender and beautiful post, what a tribute to your special relationship. Thank you for sharing that. This young woman sounds like a remarkable young lady. And just think of all that you’ll reflect back on with her years from now.

    I love the question you pose and I may need to think about it some more. I know there are books that haunt me because, though beautifully done, their endings upset me so deeply (The Weight of Water comes to mind) or those that lifted me with such emotion (Life of Pi) or shocked me (Fight Club)–I will very often steer clear of books with terribly hard endings because I mull over them obsessively for DAYS and can’t let them go 🙁 !

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    OK … with your description of “books that haunt because their endings are so deeply upsetting,” followed up by “The Weight of Water,” I am now adding it to my list! Really? You steer clear of books with hard endings? That is my preferred kind of read. I guess I love experiencing that kind of raw emotion, even if it is upsetting, because it’s a reminder of what it means to be alive and to ‘feel’. But, yes, isn’t that what an author wants: for readers to mull over days and not want to let them go? Thanks for the rec!

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    Erika Marks Reply:

    I would be love to hear your thoughts on it. I think Anita Shreve is such a gifted writer. You are much braver than me, my dear. But so often–like with Life of Pi–I will pick up a book with no idea of what to expect and find myself blown away by heavy content that I would not have signed up for if I’d known–but I am always SO glad to have read it. 🙂

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    OK. I must read it! The only of her books, if you can believe it, I’ve read is The Pilot’s Wife, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Time to sign up for another ;-). I have Life of Pi on my shelf, too, and initially could NOT get into it. You and so many others rave about it that I must forge ahead!

    Maybe I’m not so much brave, as I am twisted? I go for the same dark dramas in my movie choices. My mantra: make me cry! Make me cry!

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    Erika Marks Reply:

    Not twisted at all! I am such a sucker for movies that make me cry. And when I cry, I bawl. You know, I started Life of Pi as an audiobook on a long road trip and I was riveted so maybe that was what drew me in initially…

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  • avatar Jolina Petersheim Says:

    I could hear your heart in this post so clearly. So well written that your words brought a lump to my throat. So proud of your lil’ sister, too.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Thank you, Jolina. My lil’ sis is the cream of the crop.

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  • avatar Annie Neugebauer Says:

    There is something sort of magical about road trips, isn’t there? I’ve come up with many of my story ideas on long drives. And as to books that make me reflect… The Book Thief is still with me, as is Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Well, that’s the part I didn’t mention: that I did come up with two new, very ‘viable’ story ideas for the next WIP. I had been reading my ‘ideas’ folder for a few days, hoping that the act of doing so would inspire my subconscious to come to life — or, at the least — make some connections between various jotted notes over the years that might form some story arcs. And that road trip DID help make that happen! Woo hoo.

    OK – The Book Thief has been on my shelf for more than a year. I keep hearing such wonderful things about it. I may have to rearrange my reading preferences. As I noted to Hallie, above, there are not enough days for the number of books I want to read!

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  • avatar Cynthia Robertson Says:

    As I was reading this tender post I kept thinking of how fortunate you are to have this young woman in your life, and how you will most likely know her through all the times ahead, of both her life, and yours. Connections like this—with others—are so important. Often we don’t realize how important they will become to us at the time they are first forged. We have no way to see where the connections will take us. But when we look back, we are so thankful for whatever forces or decisions had their sway, and that we allowed it to happen.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    You’re so right, Cynthia. I have always said that I am the one who has benefitted most by this pairing. I can only hope to be a part of her life as she continues her journey into adulthood.

    I love the way you stated it above: about the forces that sway us into one another’s lives. So profound. So true.

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  • avatar Natalia Sylvester Says:

    Your little sister is very lucky to have you, Melissa! And these pictures are just stunning…I think they’re all worthy of framing and hanging on a wall, and I’d probably need a bigger house and more walls for all the pictures of yours that I love 😉

    As for books that I still think about–Little Bee by Chris Cleaves still makes me wonder how far we’d go to help others. Room by Emma Donoghue haunts me with the power of a mother’s love. And I often think of Samuel Park’s This Burns My Heart when I think about the kind of books I’d want to write.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Why thank you for the wonderful compliments, Natalia. I have often thought of all the photos I’ve snapped over the years and how many I’d like to hang on my walls … yet I haven’t printed a single one! Can you believe it?

    Everyone is reminding me of books currently sitting on my shelf – waiting patiently for my touch on their spine as I choose the next one … Little Bee being one of them. So excited to hear it moved you so deeply. (I also LOVED Room — haunting, indeed). And then, of course, now I have to add The Burns My Heart to the list. We need more hours in a day, or days in a year, or scheduled reading sabbaticals — or SOMETHING of that nature.

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  • avatar Lara Schiffbauer Says:

    What a fabulously complex post! The story about your and your sister is amazing, but the way you paired it with the lovely pictures made it a joy to read. Great job, Melissa, and I’m so glad you got to be a part of your sister’s life. I have a feeling you were a great big-sister. 🙂

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Thanks so much, Lara. I have so enjoyed being a Big Sister. I wish more people would get involved in the program. They have different ways of being matched (I started as a “lunch time” program match where, once a week, I went to her school and had lunch with her). Then we moved to a community-based match so we could do more fun things: paddle boating, movies, baking, hiking, swimming, cooking classes. It’s been a joy.

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  • avatar Laurie Buchanan Says:

    wow, Wow, WOW!

    Melissa, I thoroughly enjoyed every bite of this post and its supporting photographs. Thank you for always serving up delicious food for thought.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Something about your comment made me hungry :-).

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  • avatar Susan Okaty Says:

    How wonderful that you and your little sister have remained close over the years. What a special bond, indeed. Loved the theme of reflection.

    I have not even heard of the Orchardist, but now I want to look into it. Fahrenheit 451 was one of my all-time favorites when it comes to reflecting in it over and over again. It was one the books I used to teach, and my students got so much out of it because of my passion for its message. Still timely.

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    Melissa Reply:

    You know … I really need to re-read Fahrenheit 451 because I’ve forgotten so much (and it’s reminding me to read The Book Thief, which I think has similar themes in regard to books). You’ve inspired me. If you do reach The Orchardist, would love to know what you thought.

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  • avatar Nina Says:

    I’m so glad you asked this question . . .

    There are two books I read this year that stand out–both for different reasons.

    THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, because I cannot get the narrator’s voice out of my head. John Green totally nailed it with that voice. The story was great too but it almost like the story was secondary to the person telling it. AKA: Character.

    THE AGE OF MIRACLES: the narrator was less memorable in this one–I can’t even remember name–but the concept and story is impossible to get out of my mind.

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    Melissa Reply:

    These have both been on my list. So excited to know that they moved you so deeply and WHY you enjoyed them … I’m having a hard time figuring out how to fit all of these books into my life. Year-long reading hiatus, anyone?

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  • avatar Girl Parker Says:

    Love your road trip and the reason behind it. Beautiful!! The book that never leaves me is “Bel Canto” by Ann Patchett. I’m fascinated that when you read the “official” blurbs about it, Gen, the translator, isn’t even mentioned. To me, he IS the story although his role was to tell everyone else’s. How did she accomplish that?? *my brain explodes*

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    Melissa Reply:

    I’ve only read one Ann Patchett book (The Magician’s Assistant), but I’ve seen so much positive commentary about Bel Canto. Now I’ve GOT to read a book that makes a writer’s “brain explode.” No doubt!

    Hey – when are you going to blog again? And I just noticed today – that’s Eden in your blog header, isn’t it???

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    girl parker Reply:

    Yep, that’s Eden! And my friend, Anna, who is now battling a brain tumor, is the brunette beside her. We were in Italy.

    Blogging – Hoping to pick it up this week! Gracias for the encouragement. =)

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    And that’s you, I presume, on the left with the curly strawberry blonde locks? I can’t wait to see your new blog posts. Hope you’re doing OK. I’m so, so sorry about your friend. My heart is BROKEN for you. How is she doing?

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    Girl Parker Reply:

    Yep, I do believe that was the last perm I ever got, but I keep hoping they make a comeback. =) Thank you for your heartfelt concern. Anna is about halfway through this first round of radiation. The side effects are terrible, but she’s soldiering through. No word yet on the effectiveness and when chemo is to begin. I love her so! Many hugs for your concern, Melissa!!

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  • avatar Jessica Vealitzek Says:

    So many book! Just finished The Round House (will be our Feb pick at GNB), which deals with issues of rape, vengeance, and sovereignty. So good.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Oh, WOW. I just checked out the blurb about it. It sounds just like the dark, emotional literary reads I love. It is definitely on my list now – esp. knowing you chose it as your pick (I know you were thinking about If Jack’s In Love, as well)! Thank you for sharing!

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    Jessica Vealitzek Reply:

    I was – it was a tough choice. I went with Round House because the issues it deals with are important to me. That was the tipper. You’re right–it’s a bit dark and emotional and also quiet. It’s not a flashy murder mystery–which are alright too, but this is my kind of story.

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  • avatar Shelly Liliana Lopez Says:

    Of course the blog and comments got a few tears out of me since I am such a cry baby. Melissa was the best big sister in the program and was recognized for it. I am so lucky to have her in my life as my mentor, friend and sister. I know her unconditional love, wisdom and advice is always a text, call or email away.

    Although it was an easy read I did while in grade school, Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan is still that book I reflect on. It is my inspiration to succeed, a story that I carry with me as motivation. Esperanza meaning “hope” is the name of the main character; a young Mexican girl who due to the circumstances, migrated to the U.S. I reflect on this story because it shows the value of family, friends, health and hard work.

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