Jul 6 2014

Rooftop Reading

Melissa Crytzer Fry

It’s that time of year again in the desert, when cicadas scritch their harsh song into the air, the heat averages in the 100s, and outdoor time is a rarity.

And yet, I long to be outside. Need to be, really.

This blazing fireball is the summer sun setting behind my house, amid the skeletal branches of ocotillo. Click to enlarge.

If there is anything I’ve learned about my writerly self over the past five years, it’s that I am influenced greatly by nature: being in it, observing it, photographing it, living it. Yes, I seem to be more creative with my writing on days when I’m viewing the open skies.

I’ve taken my Jeep, Betty, to remote areas of the desert, and a certain kind of magic unfolds every time. Through the natural chatter of cactus wrens and the ruckus of ravens, my mind clears. The wind whistling through the stout paloverdes around me is a creative lullaby. And I write. I read. And what I produce is of a more inspired quality, often, than what happens behind my indoor desk.

This is my reliable ‘writing spot’ in the desert, which Betty can nearly navigate on her own by now. Click to enlarge.

A similar experience occurs when I’m running in the desert. Lines of fiction often come to me mid-stride, delivered it seems, on the invisible wings of the wind. I can’t adequately explain how much I crave this experience.

And yet, this time of year, we desert dwellers become shut-ins due to the heat. With the increased humidity, the outdoor running has all but ceased (even at 5:30 a.m., the temperatures can reach 90), as has hiking and Betty escapades (no reliable A/C in my old girl).

Yet I still keenly feel the need to be outside in order to work  most creatively. That’s when it struck me. This:

Yep, those are my tootsies and my view from the roof. Click to enlarge.

I’m not sure why I never considered it, but the unfinished rooftop deck of our house-under-construction (since 2009) offers a wonderful microclimate.

The kitchen bump-out provides fabulous shade from 5:30 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. And something about the position of the house and its placement at the base of the hill offers a fairly consistent little breeze. Click to enlarge.

So, yes, I have found a summertime solution to my creative woes! I’m getting my wild, outdoorsy fix by taking a few steps away from my desk. For the past week, I’ve risen early, headed out to the roof with my supplies in a tote: research books, novels, folders, laptop (yes, there is electric and wifi, so while it’s not a “true” desert experience like my Betty excursions, it does offer lovely views). So far I’ve been visited by a lovely lizard — whom I’m certain was courting me — two towhees, two cactus wrens and dragonflies. I’ve watched jackrabbits and roadrunners on the hillside, too.

This is what I see when I turn my head to the right. I think I can see a total of 22 saguaro cacti from this vantage point. And most of you know of my obsession with this majestic cactus-tree (ripe fruit splitting off the tops). Click to enlarge.

This accidental solution has been perfect, casting cool creative breaths over the humid, blazing heat of the desert.

For Writers: Do certain settings aid in your creativity? Or can you “turn it on” and be creative anywhere? Does nature inspire you creatively? If not, what does?

For Readers: Do you prefer certain settings when you’re reading? Do they help transport you more than other settings? (It’s no surprise that I wrote about reading in the desert and the incredible experience it provided me on my birthday).

Jun 22 2014

Around the Ranch

Melissa Crytzer Fry

We are experiencing a severe drought in Arizona, and while it is difficult to watch the wildlife struggle amid the oppressive heat and non-existent rain, I am always in awe of their resilience. My fingers, toes and every hair on my head are crossed … hoping, praying we get rain soon.

Our baby buck visitor (mule deer) sports his unevenly growing antlers as he forages under the palo verde tree. Click to enlarge.

Mama mule deer is captured by our trail camera. This is the same mother who visited last year (we can tell by the tears in her ears and her skin condition on the cheek). Click to enlarge.

He may not be pretty, but the vulture is vital to "clean up" activities. Found him sunning behind the house one morning. Click to enlarge.

Another black bird (but way cuter, in my opinion): the raven. I've never seen them eating saguaro fruit before and wonder if the drought is calling for unconventional survival measures? Click to enlarge.

Our two dove babies fledged on June 15 & 17, respectively. Click to enlarge.