Apr 21 2012

Camp Lizard Bowl

Melissa Crytzer Fry

They say a picture paints a thousand words. So I’m curious … What words come to mind when you see this?

This little (or, rather large) lizard greeted us at our campsite last weekend. Click to enlarge.

I’m guessing your word painting might go something like this: Eww. Gross. Creepy. Ick. Disgusting. But how shortsighted of you. This lizard actually proved thematically significant during a wonderful overnight camping trip in Klondyke, Arizona.

You see, this is a Clark spiny lizard, the likes of which I’ve never before encountered. I love new discoveries. So when I saw him floating in the bowl, obviously lured there by the easy pickin’s meal-on-water, I took a closer look. Then I realized, “Uh-oh. He’s not enjoying his dip in the man-made pool; he’s in trouble.”

Desert spiny lizards aren’t aquatic. So I scavenged for a stick (to ascertain if Mr. Lizard was even alive, or if he were simply doing the dead man’s float). When I sensed some pliability to his floating body – though he wasn’t blinking – I summoned dear husband. “Bring the shovel to the toilet, please!”

He’s used to my animal-saving adventures, so he was unfazed by the request. When he lifted limp lizard on to the shovel, I was sure he was a goner. Even though I saw flaccid Gumby legs, I asked hubby to put the little fellow in the sun, careful not to smoosh any delicate toes. “We’ll just see what happens,” I said.

Hubs made an arrow with the shovel so we knew where to look later – in case some miraculous revival occurred. Look at poor waterlogged Clark. (Of course I named him). Click to enlarge.

We had lunch then headed off on a quad ride to the nearby Aravaipa Canyon Preserve with neighbors, Mark and Roxanne (They invited us on this adventure: our first-ever Arizona tent-camping trip. I know… really? First one? What have I been waiting for? Now I want to live there).

Along Aravaipa and Turkey Creeks, I was treated to series of exciting new discoveries:

This is a green heron, and apparently a breeding male, given his bright orange legs (which I saw only when he flew away). Click to enlarge.

The Salazar Family Church, open to the public (though it IS in the middle of nowhere, behind the Galiuro Mountains), was once a dance hall built in the early 1900s. Click to enlarge.

On this stretch of road, we bumped into the ranger, who explained that big horned sheep had been spotted ahead – AND that a mama ewe and her lamb had been seen the day before. Alas, no sightings for us! But gorgeous scenery. Click to enlarge.

And look at this wonderful Salado Indian cave dwelling along Turkey Creek, built in 1300 A.D. Click to enlarge.

Before the sun got away from us and chilled us to the bone (yes, we awoke to ice outside the tents!), we decided to trek back to camp. Cresting a hill in the road, we were greeted by the backend of a furry critter. Can you tell what it is?

No, I didn’t take a photo of twigs. Look beyond them at what’s staring back (out of focus). Can you see it? Click to enlarge.

Can you tell what it is now? Hint: meow. Click to enlarge.

I think this is a juvenile blue heron (beak isn’t the right color, and the plumage seems off)? Fun prehistoric-looking bird, though! Click to enlarge.

And finally ... Aren't these trees incredible? They remind me of a skeletal ribcage folding over and protecting the pathway. Click to enlarge.

As if the previous discoveries weren’t enough to leave me skipping down the dirt trail with the biggest of grins, we returned to camp and found this:

Look at Clark! He’s turned around and is very much alive. Notice how much more prominent his turquoise coloring is after being in the sun. He has super powers (known as metachromatism), whereby the darker colors of his skin increase the amount of heat absorbed from the sun. Later, all warmed up and dried out, he scurried away in the desert brush. Click to enlarge.

For Readers, Writers: I had hoped to experience wildlife encounters during this trip and certainly was not disappointed. But something else happened when we first entered the canopy of towering Cottonwood and Arizona Sycamores, their branches wrapped protectively over the dirt road like colossal arms.

I never expected a fictional character to emerge from the shadows. But there he was at 3,500 feet in the remote desert wilderness … standing on the edge of the road amid the lime of sunglow leaves. He wore a thick snow white Santa’s beard with his flannel shirt and camping vest. A tripod and camera clung to his side.

I’ll tell you … he teased me during the entire trip. I found myself taking photos of the abandoned houses along the creek, like this one, making each his home, with an accompanying story.

Lots of vacant homes hug the creek bed in Aravaipa. A giant canyon wall rises up behind this building. Click to enlarge.

By the end of the trip, I had begun weaving together a history for the old man with the Wisconsin plates on the back of his Explorer, an old man exploring in the middle of a nature preserve in the middle of nowhere. Why was he there? What was his story? Well… you’ll have to stay tuned, because I’m only now discovering it myself.

Readers – do you wonder how authors construct and flesh out their characters? If they’re sparked by events like this or drawn purely from imagination? Authors – how do you go about crafting characters? Have they ever emerged from the shadows like a ghostly apparition?

Apr 14 2012

Nature = My Lucky 7

Melissa Crytzer Fry

This week’s post is a bit of a departure from my typical nature-as-writing-instructor theme, but in some ways, it actually fits right in with What I Saw.

You see, I was tagged by the fabulous debut author, Kimberly Brock (The River Witch released last week!) to participate in the 7–7–7  challenge, which essentially gives a sneak peek of an author’s work in progress (WIP).

My novel has been shaped by the things I see around me – and is set partly in the desert – so, yes, 7-7-7 ties right in with What I Saw’s message. Pictured: two baby owlets next to mama, taken last week. MUST click to enlarge!

The Lucky Seven basic rules:

  1. Go to page 77 of your WIP or latest book.
  2. Count down seven lines.
  3. Copy the 7 sentences that follow and post them.
  4. Tag 7 other authors.

My 7 lines from page 77 of Bedside:

Aida made her feel alive, ready to try all the things she might never have the guts to – or be able to – try again.

“Can you imagine the kind of trouble she’d get into in Vegas?” Charlie asked.

Hope imagined Aida shoving dollar bills into nearly naked men’s crotches, skinny dipping in one of the ritzy pools, wearing tiaras as if she were at her own bachelorette party. She laughed. “Yes, I can. And that’s why I want to go. She is fearless in her living. I could learn a thing or two.”

Note: This is Aunt Aida. Eighty-year old Aunt Aida, that is.

My seven lucky authors, you are “it” (if you wish to participate. If not, ignore me. My feelings will not be hurt. Promise. But I still want to read your work!):

  1. Jessica McCann
  2. Jolina Petersheim
  3. Cynthia Robertson
  4. Natalia Sylvester
  5. Cathleen Holst
  6. Suzie Ivy
  7. Lora Rivera

And, as my tagger, Kimberly, said: “Let me know when your lines are up because I WANT TO READ YOUR POSTS!”