Oct 9 2011

Glow in the Desert

Melissa Crytzer Fry

It’s not what you’d expect to see in the middle of a still, starless night in the Arizona desert …

Dimly lit turquoise and purple paper lanterns rocking in the wind. A family of four draped in six feet of neon yellow glow rope, moving as one like a snake among the outbuildings of a local ranch. A young woman in tights walking the dusty desert soil, an oversized blue-and-white lighted hula-hoop in her hands.

But that’s exactly what I saw a few weekends ago. And more.

GLOW – A Nighttime Art Experience, is held annually at a nearby ranch and features multimedia art displays scattered among dimly lit paths edged by prickly pear cacti, mesquite trees, agave and palo verdes. Click to enlarge.

“Be the glow you wish to see in the world,” the GLOW event advertisements read. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. And once hubby and I were there, I still didn’t know what to think, except: Wow.

What did I see, besides the multimedia art? I saw an adult woman in a fluffy, hoop-skirt pink prom gown and flip-flops, continually sneaking into a storage building to refill her wine glass. I saw glow bracelets dancing through the darkness, though I knew they were wrapped around ankles and wrists. I saw a real-life Urkel in skinny jeans cut off at the knees, Mork suspenders completing the ensemble. I saw lights peeking from creosote bushes and mesquite. I heard music floating on the thirsty desert air.

Your eyes are not deceiving you. You do see headless Barbies in this piece of artwork that depicts an umbrella of brains. Your interpretation? I’m not sure I have one. Click to enlarge.

I saw a plump woman in a Viking style gown with coins sewn to the thick maroon fabric at the small of her back. I listened to the haunting notes of a violinist, who played before the backdrop of a giant, dancing Windows 98 screensaver. I watched Dr. Seuss cartoons from an old reel-to-reel projector perched high atop a small storage shed and aimed at the ground, bringing the settled dirt to animated life.

More artwork on display in a wonderful old brick outbuilding on the ranch. Click to enlarge.

I saw metal barrels soldered and sculpted and lit from within, listened to a band singing about falling cats (really!), inhaled the aroma of Mexican and Italian food from local restaurants, and watched a man in a King Tut costume strut his stuff. I’m serious. I couldn’t possibly make this up.

But what I felt? What I felt was a peaceful calm. I relished the cool breeze, void of moths and mosquitoes, void of the rush of everyday life. I felt my imagination come to life.

We were seated at a small table when I took this photo; a man played tunes on an old player piano behind us, his dog sitting by the piano bench waiting patiently. The softness of this photo captures some of the ambiance I felt. Notice the glowing outfits. Click to enlarge.

As we headed home for the evening, I floated hypnotically down the dimly lit path, under the paper lanterns that greeted us when we first arrived. It felt as though I’d been transported to some eccentric magical land of make-believe – adults lit up like Christmas trees, children wearing Pippi Longstocking stockings, wizard hats and fairy costumes, wings pinned to their backs. It was Halloween meets art. Desert breeze meets artistic calm. Harry Potter meets Renaissance.

And it made me wonder, later: Did I really see the dozen or so snakes strewn all over the winding rural desert roads as I drove the pickup home? Was there really a great horned owl waiting at the horse stables at our house, greeting us with an impressive wing span, stilled, watching us just as curiously as we watched him?

For Writers: Do you find material for your stories in unexpected places? It wasn’t my intention to gather fiction fodder this evening, but you betcha’ that a scene from this night will be in my WIP. I’m not sure how this artistic event morphed into the potpourri of eclecticism that it has, but my mind was – is – spinning with ideas, just like that reel-to-reel movie projector.

Oct 2 2011

Seeing: Now & Then

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Yes, as the title implies, you’re in for a present-&-past smorgasbord this week. This post will showcase what I saw this weekend, and take you on a trip down memory lane, highlighting some of the things I’ve seen since my first blog post in June of 2010.

Hubby and I took a road trip this past weekend to one of our favorite destinations: Northern Arizona. Before we made our way to Flagstaff to see my Little Sis, who is attending Northern Arizona University (Big Brothers Big Sisters), we stopped at the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park for lunch. This area fulfilled my nerdy geology needs and my love for the state of Arizona. Click to enlarge.

I am always amazed at the stark contrast between Arizona’s low desert (where I live) and the high desert with its pine trees and Pennsylvania-esque feel. I captured this photo outside of Flagstaff. Minutes after snapping this shot, dime-sized hail pelted the truck’s windows, and when we entered Flagstaff, Mt. Humphrey was covered in its first snow of the season. Click to enlarge.

And, now, to the past … My trip down memory lane was inspired by a nomination I received from the fabulous Tracy Mangold (@InkyTwig), to participate in the Seven Links Challenge, which asks bloggers to identify their own blog posts in certain categories (to breathe new life into some old musings). So, without further adieu, my responses:

  1. Most Beautiful Post: Did I mention how difficult this is? I don’t know my most beautiful post (isn’t that a bit presumptuous?). But I do know I liked the way I felt during this particular morning and hope I captured it in words and photos: Foggy Isolation.
  2. Most Popular Post: Creative Companion: Cat vs. Dog. This post, I think, was the catalyst that finally drove some traffic to my blog. Who can resist photos of cute kitties and puppies?
  3. Most Controversial: I have yet to write this post. But, rest assured, it is simmering (partially written). It will focus on Arizona’s mining past and present (photos have already been snapped).
  4. Most Helpful: I’m cheating here, but I’m going to choose two (because these are probably the only times I’ve offered helpful advice): Colors of the Desert , because of its suggestions about use of color in fiction, and State of Flow for the suggested creativity exercises that allow writers to tap into that “creative zone” at will (something I still need to master).
  5. Most Surprisingly Successful: I didn’t think many readers would share my love of the desert saguaro, but the first in my Saguaro Series, End of Mighty Saguaro , garnered a lot of comments (as did my second and third posts).
  6. Post That Didn’t Get the Attention It Deserved: I’m a bit biased here, but Rancher Wannabe is one of those posts that I felt really showcased the desert southwest (and my adoration for it). The photos, the experience, everything about it rattled through my bones. But, alas, I only got a handful of comments.
  7. Post I Am Most Proud Of: Oh, Baby!, because of my obsession with the nesting great horned owl (next to a busy highway) and the emerging fuzz ball babies that I actually captured in photos. The words in this post seemed to flow effortlessly, too.

Part of the Seven Links Challenge includes nominating five other bloggers I admire*. If you don’t know their work already, I encourage you to visit:

*Sorry I couldn’t list all of you, you mind-blowing bloggers, but – readers – if you check my blogroll, you’ll see more of my favorite stand-outs.

So what about you, writers, readers, bloggers? Did I pick the right posts? Can you share with me some of the favorite posts YOU have written on your blog? I’d love to take a peek!