Sep 15 2014

Lucking Out

Melissa Crytzer Fry

When hubby and I bought our ranch back in 2004, we knew only that we were fleeing big-city life for nearly 40 acres of desert wilds. Sure, we noticed the normally dry wash that crossed right over our new driveway. Couldn’t miss it. And we wondered how much fun we’d have keeping it passable when the wash decided to flow. But one look at the mountain views, and we were hooked.

With mountains and cloud formations like this, we couldn’t resist. Click to enlarge.

At the time, we didn’t know what it really meant to have a wash running through our property – dry or churning, intact or washed out. I can’t recall who said it, but I was told, “Oh yes, you’ve got an animal superhighway running through your place with that wash out there. It’s an animal corridor.”

Ding. Ding. Ding. Lucky jackpot! We had no clue that the kind of geography surrounding us was going to provide so many wildlife-viewing opportunities.

Case in point: This past weekend, this red-tailed hawk hit an updraft at just the right time, making him stationary, and easier to photograph. Click to enlarge.

Then, of course, there are those lucky breaks with my photography and my wildlife ‘subjects’ (though maybe it isn’t considered luck when you snap 50 photos and deem only two or three of decent quality). There’s also the luck of being in the right place at the right time: in our backyard, witnessing two pair of red-tailed hawks screeching, screaming, and calling to one another.

It took many tries to get the “landing gear-down” photo. Love the symmetry of their motions. I was in awe. Click to enlarge.

And then there’s the luck of moving a hair this way, a few steps that way, and gaining an entirely new perspective:

The remnants of the super moon were right there, waiting for artistic interpretation. Click to enlarge.

Finally, there are the accidents afforded simply by virtue of our proximity to the wash. This weekend, I was ridding our porches of copious amounts of bat guano from our endangered nectar-eating bats (who’d finally moved toward South America in anticipation of winter) when I heard a raspy chirping noise. I released the nozzle of the hose and listened, assuming I was hearing the bird I couldn’t identify earlier that morning.

But then my eye caught movement on the hill and I heard the methodic calling. Over and over. A bobcat. A meow-chirp. With urgency. I watched her trek up the hill and slip under the fence. That’s when I saw something in the arm of a nearby 20-foot tall saguaro. I looked again. Fur. What? The fur moved. The fur turned toward me and put its paws down the trunk of the spiny cactus, head first. It leapt like a flying squirrel into the spiked branches of a small palo verde tree below. I heard nothing for minutes. I saw nothing. And then it emerged … a smaller bobcat, hot on mama’s trail!

Click to enlarge.

I’d only ever seen photos of bobcats and mountain lions perched on saguaros. And I didn’t get any photos myself to prove that they really aren’t PhotoShopped. (I am thankful, by the way, for the opportunity to be present in the moment and not fumbling with a camera, which later inspired some 500 words of fiction). What incredible luck to be outside. That morning. At that moment. I still don’t know how big cats withstand that kind of puncturing on the paw pads, and I marvel.

I marvel at the role of the lucky breaks in our lives (like the times we did capture bobcat activity on video and on film). Like the luck of having my camera ready at the precise moment the sun was coming over the hills last week:

Click to enlarge.

… Like buying a property that had a glorious wash running through it.

For Writers, Readers, Everyone: Have you ever lucked out in your life? Have you ever lucked out in your writing or your literary career? Have plot points come to you from the blue? Did a single experience spur an entire novel concept? I am reminded of my friend, Natalia Sylvester’s recent post about the magic that is storytelling… or is it simply luck?


25 Responses to “Lucking Out”

  • avatar Christine Grote Says:

    Fascinating. Thanks for sharing with us.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Nice to see you, Christine! Got a good shot of a kestrel this morning, enjoying a light drizzle atop a saguaro.

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  • avatar Judith Starkston Says:

    How did you fair in the big rain? Did your wash hold all the water well enough? End up with animals trying to shelter in your dry space otherwise known as house? I love your photos. And I wish I’d been there to see the bobcats.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    We were relatively unscathed during the last big rain. We’ll see how this one goes. Been raining since last night — but a light, steady kind of precipitation! Ha – no animals running for shelter at our place. YET!

    I wish you’d been here to see the bobcats, too. It was rather surreal.

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  • avatar Laurie Buchanan Says:

    Melissa – Beautiful. Absolutely, stunningly, beautiful! THANK YOU so much for sharing your photographs. I love that we can “click to enlarge.”

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Thank YOU, Laurie, for stopping by and taking a peek.

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  • avatar Annie Neugebauer Says:

    I think only part of it is luck. Calling it all luck discredits you too much. You put yourself out there all the time so that sometimes you can be there at the right time. You come prepared. You work hard. You take lots of shots because you know some won’t work out. And you have the grace and wisdom to appreciate it when you have something special. It’s mostly you, Melissa. Luck is just the last ingredient.

    After writing that, I realize it’s exactly true of writing as a career, too. Here’s to us for all our hard work, and a little bit of luck to bring it home. <3

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Well thank you, Annie. That’s a very sweet way of looking at it, though I still cannot take credit for purposely picking property with a wash flowing through it. You betcha if I had to do it again, I’d look for an animal superhighway, though. Or water (oh to live near a babbling brook)!

    You are so right, though… all those things you mention really do apply to writing. Yes, here, here — to hard work and a little luck!

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    Diann Reply:

    I’m with Annie on this. I don’t think any of it is accidental as far as your home situation and all the beautiful shots you get, and as far as writing goes, I definitely know that’s not true.
    Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. –Seneca
    I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it. – Thomas Jefferson

    But how crazy that I just saw a bobcat too! It’s kind of a funny story, and I’m trying to figure out what kind of post I could get out of it, but it was truly a highlight of life. It was so beautiful!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Oh, Diann… Thank you so much for the FABULOUS luck quotes. I’m printing them out!

    I love that you, too, saw a bobcat. What a cool experience for you. They are such beautiful animals.

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  • avatar Beth Hoffman Says:

    Annie voiced exactly what I was thinking! Thank you for sharing your talents, Melissa. These photos…well, you know how much I love them, and why!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    I know exactly how much you love those red-tails and why! Two names: Teddi and Josh.

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  • avatar Beth Hoffman Says:

    Yes! And I say “Menewa” to you, my friend!

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  • avatar linda anselmi Says:

    Fantastic pics!

    You and hubby are very lucky because you value what you have. Others might not feel so blessed with a super highway of nature and would try to change it… But lucky us too. I appreciate you sharing your world, so we can enjoy your blessing with you!

    Stay safe with the rain coming!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Thanks, Linda. For years (before I started my blog), all these photos just sat on my computer. I’m so happy to be able to share with others who appreciate them just as much.

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  • avatar Jackie Cangro Says:

    It definitely seems magical to me, Melissa. And it’s even more so because you appreciate it so much. I love getting these glimpses into the desert beauty that surrounds you.

    I can’t imagine what would cause that bobcat to run up the cactus. That has to hurt!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    I was wondering the same thing — what happened to scare the baby into the saguaro, which then caused mama to call out for it so desperately? I shudder to think… maybe a mountain lion scared it up the spiny plant? Maybe coyotes? I’m hoping I didn’t frighten it with my spraying and scraping. I suspect not, since the mother was clearly unconcerned by me/didn’t even know I was there. She appeared to really be looking and calling for her baby.

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  • avatar Sonja Yoerg Says:

    Luck, magic, photography skills, good property sense, and, above all, keen eyes and an open heart–seems to me you have it all!

    Wonderful post. I do love me a wild cat.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Ha… Of all people, I figured you would love the wild kitty component. I still marvel at how closely you’ve worked with (and understand) wild animals.

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  • avatar Natalia Sylvester Says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Annie! What I admire so much about your creative process, Melissa, is that you don’t just look internally; you keep your eyes wide open and seek out the world around you. You spent just as much time in the moment as you do at the computer (perhaps more) and I think it brings such wisdom and awe to your writing that is always a joy to find.

    Thanks so much for the shout-out, btw! Hugs!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    And yet I didn’t always have my eyes open to my surroundings … isn’t that crazy? These days, I do tend to clamor for the outdoor time more than the ‘behind-the-monitor’ time. It’s good for the soul, and definitely – as you point out – good for the writing.

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  • avatar Nina Says:

    I think there’s always a bit of luck aided by open eyes, open ears, and an open heart. 🙂

    Glad to see your comment section back! I hate not being able to “talk” to you here.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Actually, your comment about comments is something I’m toying with writing a post about. So I already know how you feel on the topic :-).

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  • avatar Leah Says:

    I always love your posts. As much as I’m not a fan of the dessert, I’d love the chance to lead a life filled with beautiful nature and writing.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    Maybe I’ll convert you to a desert-lover after all? One can try! 😉

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