Apr 4 2011

Sonoran Liberty Bell

Melissa Crytzer Fry

I will never stop being amazed at the hidden treasures so near to my home in southern Arizona. Take, for instance, this interesting geologic formation that rests near an ancient Native American Indian site.

My scant geologic knowledge tells me it’s nothing more than brittle, sandy earth, trying to become sandstone, but eroding too rapidly to achieve such permanence. But what I saw was a desert version of the Liberty Bell, crack and all.

This mound of earth is adjacent to Copper Creek in southern Arizona. Rumor says that the University of Arizona once completed archaeological digs in this area. Click to enlarge.

Friend-neighbor-tour guide extraordinaire, Mark*, saw something else entirely. In the next photo, you can understand why he envisioned a medicine man, perched atop this silo of earth, summoning the spirits for rain, food, good health, shelter.

The azure sky behind this outcropping includes a glimpse of the Galiuro Mountains. Can’t you envision a medicine man at this outlook? Click to enlarge.

When we shared our visions, it struck me that, as humans, we so often see the same things, but see them so differently. We also have the lightning-quick ability to drawn upon our own personal experiences and instantaneously weave them together with our imagination. The end result: one-of-a-kind hypotheses, tall-tales, stories … So, in a way, I believe we are all natural-born storytellers – especially when given the liberty to stretch our creative muscles and let our minds wander.

For Writers: Liberty. It’s really a key component in all writing, when you think about it. Consider, for instance, the liberties you let your characters take (or don’t). Do you rein them in or cut them loose? Do you allow them to say things in your novel that you’d never say yourself?

And what liberties do you take, as an author, in borrowing from real-life? Is your real-life Aunt Ethel really the driving force behind your crazy antagonist? Were you really the one who drove your car across your college campus quad and nearly got arrested – not your protag (I have no idea who might have done something this foolish in real life)? Ah, liberty … it’s such a good thing. So lucky to have it! So grateful.

Many thanks to Mark. If not for his generosity, hubby and I might not even know that these local gems exist.

Mar 28 2011

Burst of Color

Melissa Crytzer Fry

The desert gets a bad rap. It’s brown. It’s dry. It’s ugly. I’ve heard all those assertions from family and friends who apparently enjoy digging themselves out from ten-foot snowdrifts every winter (Perhaps not quite so much after this year?).

But at least it’s green here, they say of the east coast, midwest, northern U.S. I’m not sure that’s such a great argument – especially where I grew up in Pennsylvania, next to Lake Erie. If I recall, it’s only green about three months out of the year. The rest of the time it’s gray. Or raining. Or snowing. Or the grass is yellow and crunchy underfoot. Or the trees look like school girls’ arms – bony, knobby, unruly.

While I love you dearly, PA, I have an allegiance to my desert home of 13 years. It is not brown. It is not ugly. It is not … okay, well, you got me there. It is dry. But now and up through May, things come to life. Every color imaginable starts to sparkle like a mosaic from the milk-chocolaty desert floor. Wildflowers! Yes, even this year, after little rain.

This Desert Mariposa Lily, photographed along the Arizona Trail last spring, isn’t up and blooming just yet this season. But I suspect it will be sprouting up around mid-April, as this area got a bit more rainfall than my homestead. Click to enlarge. Click forward arrow button to view all photos.

Right now, the lupine is showing off its purple stalks of grandeur. Bright orange Mexican poppies are dancing happily in the wind. The desert marigolds are bursting like little globes of sunshine low to the ground. The fuchsia Parry’s Penstemon is fluttering in front of my French door, the sun setting it aglow each morning.

This Parry’s Penstemon caught my eye as the sun rose over the mountains in front of our house last week. Notice the spider web that seems to want the plant to stay just as it is. Click to enlarge.

So, all you doubters … Who says the desert is only brown? Check out some more of Arizona’s spectacular blooms, below (This is only a small sampling of the colors and varieties I captured behind the lens last year and this year. Hundreds [yes, literallly] of wildflower photos slumber in my iPhoto folder – Prickly Poppies, Indian Paintbrush, Primrose, Desert Four O’Clock, Scarlet Gaura, Firewheel Blanketflower. Maybe I’ll save those for another post?):

This was a spectacular find during a hiking trip to the Peppersauce area last spring. A Doubting White Mariposa Lily, photographed by Kathy Becraft.

Desert Marigolds abound on our property now. They can also be seen along the edges of the roads and on the medians in town. I was lucky to have captured these tiny bees as they feasted on their breakfast.

For Writers: I have to admit that I am always pretty amazed that the dry desert soil can sustain and yield such brightly colored wonder each year. It makes me think of root structures, resilience, fortitude. What keeps you rooted in your writing? A certain routine? The encouragement of others? Your writing community? Your publication dream?

And more importantly, what has helped your writing blossom? What has helped you bloom as a writer? Craft books? Reading the classics? Taking a class? Working with an editor? Please comment below the last photo. [And, P.S. Did you miss the grand prize winner announcement & voter prizes for the "What I Saw" Amateur Photo Contest? Click here.]

Lupine likes to overtake our rock wall every spring, even when conditions are dry. How can I object? There shall be no plucking of purple flowers during springtime – even if they overtake the wall, leaving a brittle mess come summer!