Oct 13 2013

Ghost in the Window?

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Back in August, I posed this question: “Do you think writers – or creative types, in general – are more open to the possibilities of the unknown, unexplained, the unseen, the supernatural?”

The catalyst for my pondering was the photo below — of something I couldn’t quite explain during a trip to Pennsylvania (Read the full post about the eerie face I saw staring back at me).

Don't see it? Click to enlarge. Then relax your eyes, tilt your head slightly to the right, and start at the very top of the “mass” in the window. You’ll see two eyes in the first rung of the blinds, a nose in the next rung, and full lips and a chin in the next. Do you also see the metal staff to the left? The sash across the chest?

My cousin, who accompanied me on this August trip to the Armstrong Historical Society – also a Melissa – isn’t a big believer in the supernatural. But when she saw the photo, she admitted to some head scratching. Her husband, like mine, was sure there was some “logical explanation.” So, she decided she’d go back for more photos – just to investigate, to see if anything popped up.

Something did.

But first – my original zoomed out photo (for comparison to hers, below):

My original image. Click to enlarge.

This is cousin Melissa’s photo, taken from about the same angle as mine, at about the same time of night. Do you see anything familiar? Click to enlarge.

I have to admit to a bit of disappointment when I saw that she nearly duplicated the photo. The same curved “staff” seen in mine, the same hovering white apparition, was duly noted in her image.

Writes Cousin Melissa: “I purposefully went to the area of the room where the kitchen door would reflect in the fourth pane. I could see the cupboard clearly in the window, and that was what was reflecting. It matches almost exactly to yours.”

Oh poo, poo, poo, I thought.

BUT… Cousin Melissa’s photo didn’t reveal the smaller figure in the “furry white mask with compelling eyes and horns” as described by one reader, Linda … And I can’t see the eyes at the top of her photo, either – the eyes of a warrior that sought mine in the first image. (Granted, we can’t zoom in as close without losing all image quality, but Melissa confirms her photo lacked these details).

So you be the judge. You probably have figured where I land on this issue (are all writers stubborn mules like me?). But then maybe it goes back to the other question in my first post about believing: do I want to “believe” so badly that I’m seeing what I want to see?

Which made me wonder, is there real power in believing? You know – “If you believe it, it will happen.” Or maybe it’s called something else entirely. Maybe it’s that five-letter word … faith?

For Readers, Writers, Everyone: Is wishful thinking ever harmful? Can faith, positive thinking – whatever you want to call it – help you achieve and meet goals? Or, again, is my propensity to reject “reason” – and others’ determination to accept it – simply the mind’s way of assigning answers where maybe we don’t need them? Ambiguity, after all, is what makes life (especially the writer’s) interesting.


Oct 6 2013

Batty About Bats

Melissa Crytzer Fry

This is not an early Halloween post, though I suppose it is fitting since we’re into October and parents kids are already amped up on the Halloween candy that hit shelves two months earlier. No, this is an update.

As you may recall from my last bat post, I’m monitoring bat activity at my hummingbird feeder. The study encourages us to submit photos of our rare nectar-sipping visitors for identification, because two types of backyard bandits drain Arizona feeders from July-October: the endangered Lesser Long-Nosed and the threatened Mexican Long-Tongued. Here they are, in action:

And, yes, if you keep reading, you’ll find a writing lesson hidden between the backwards feet of these bats (True: a bat’s feet are rotated 180 degrees, meaning its knees face backwards. This rotation allows a bat to to hang by its feet and to navigate while flying).

But let me tell you: photographing these buggers in not an easy feat. Look at the way they swoop and skitter about (thanks, hubby, for setting up an infrared video camera).

My first solo photography attempt failed miserably — maybe because I had a flashlight, a camera, and a gun to juggle WHILE taking photos? The next time, hubby accompanied me. Again, no go. Zero shots.

But on the third try, we got lucky:

We realized you actually have to shoot before you SEE any bats at the feeder. If you wait until you see them, they’re gone. It’s all about anticipation. They are that fast. Click to enlarge.

Ted Fleming, the researcher heading the study, successfully identified our visitors from this single photo! We’ve got the Mexican Long-Tongued nectar eaters. When I indicated I was a little disappointed we didn’t have the Lesser Long-nosed, he had this to say:

I think you should celebrate having Mexican long-tongues at your place. They’re much less common than lesser long-noses. Arizona houses tens of thousands of lesser long-noses seasonally but only a few thousand long-tongues (nobody really knows).

OMG … music to my ears (and I had already begun to celebrate, happy just to know “who” was hanging around). But, of course, one photo was no longer enough. I dragged hubby outside again. I needed more, more, more! And he got these … Please click to enlarge so you can see the ‘horn’ on the nose, the tongue length, and the incredible skeletal systems:

Even if we hadn’t gotten any shots, I was reminded of the line in the novel, Glow, by Jessica Maria Tuccelli that states, “The agony of waiting brings the joy of fulfillment.”

This experience has really been a metaphor for the writing life, I realize. When you photograph fast-moving bats, here’s what you’ll experience:

  • A Need for Patience – Bat photography is an art. Like all art, it challenges you to resist the urge to get up and leave before something beautiful happens. Give up too soon and you might miss it.
  • Lots of time in the dark – You will spend lots of time wondering if you really know what the hell you’re doing.
  • Anticipation – You really do have to contemplate the bat’s next move if you want to be successful at capturing him in your lens at just the right time.
  • Exhilaration – The small victories – a wing-beat near your head, soft as a lullaby, or a bat nearly brushing your cheek – can lead up to the big reward: completing a task you deemed nearly impossible (In this case, the “money” shot. In your case …?)

For Readers, For Everyone: Do you think things that you’ve waited for offer a sweeter reward? What are some examples in your life?

For Writers: Do you recognize the roller coaster of patience-darkness-anticipation-exhilaration in your own writing? In your life? In what ways?

Stay tuned for next week’s update about the ghostly apparition in the historical society window. Hint: my cousin went back and took her own photos … Yes, I guess I am getting in the spirit of Halloween.