Apr 18 2011

Foggy Isolation

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Have you ever had one of those days where you feel like it’s just you in this world? I don’t mean a down-on-your-luck day where you’re sure the world will never stop its relentless kicking at the seat of your pants.

I mean the kind where you’re physically isolated. No one around. Stillness.

I had one recently. Hubby had to work on this particular Sunday, leaving at 5 a.m., so I’d slept in a bit, lulled by the sound of rain the night before. When I awoke an hour later, a curtain of fog began its descent upon our house, whispering from the San Pedro River valley.

The fog transforms these saguaros into ghostly apparitions and completely obscures a large mountain range – The Galiuros – in the background. Click to enlarge. Click forward button to see all photos.

The fog moved quickly, engulfing our ranch within minutes. I stood in the middle of our quarter-mile-long dirt driveway (camera in hand), suddenly enveloped by this milky thickness, a rare occasion to behold in the desert.

I swear time stopped right then. Everything changed around me. I could feel the moisture on my skin. I was now blind to the behemoth train trestle beyond our wash. And sounds, noises – chirping birds, cars passing by – they were all suddenly absent. Everything was still.

I felt oddly insulated. Singular. Protected. Alone. The moisture clung in the air, forming a kind of shield, a thermal blanket that seemed to wrap its way around our property. All the background noise of the world was muffled. Gone, really. Vanished.

If you haven’t experienced this kind of wonder, I hope you do. It was nothing short of spectacular. Inspiring. Humbling, too. (Scroll below for more photos).

For Writers: As writers, are we too insulated in our writing lives? Is it dangerous to be too happy in our own heads? Or is it vitally important to have that “alone time” in the mind – on our own little island of ideas? What happens when the background noise in your life is turned off? How might you work to achieve that kind of solitude occasionally? Should you?

Our long and winding driveway disappears into the fog, though the horse stable is still visible. Click to enlarge

The sun struggles to break through the fog near the watering hole we dug for wild animals. Click to enlarge.

Apr 11 2011

Majestic Crested Saguaro

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Saguaro Series – II

I’ve been on a bit of a scavenger hunt lately.

It all started about a year ago when I realized that the misshapen form I saw on a distant hill (from my kitchen window) was a rare crested saguaro. From my vantage point, it resembled an ogre with thick, uneven limbs. What’s more, its giant Medusa-like, bulbous head teemed with little snaky arms.

My first crested sighting, visible from my kitchen window, has deteriorated rapidly since last year. The great news, however, is my discovery of another specimen some 300 feet downhill (next photo). Click to enlarge. Click arrow button to view all photos. Photo by Kathy Becraft.

At the time, I had only briefly heard the term “crested” saguaro. I did not know that only one in every 150,000 saguaros sports this fan-like hairdo. Or that biologists continue to disagree about the cause of this gnarled anomaly that occurs at the plant’s apex (growing tip). Some suggest lightning strikes are the culprit; others blame genetic mutation, and still other theories point to freeze damage. No one’s really sure.

So, when I finally trekked over to this fascinating “tree of the desert” with my hiking buddies and learned of its rarity, I became a bit obsessed. On every subsequent hiking trip, my eyes scanned until they burned. I was going to find more crested saguaros.

I call this saguaro the Catcher’s Mitt. Standing below my first discovery, this beauty did a good job of hiding its southeast-facing arm, despite me having been past it dozens of times. Click to enlarge.

Turns out, I do have a knack for spotting these rarities. Perhaps I am the Crested Saguaro Whisperer (though I’ve never had such luck finding four-leaf clovers, arrowheads, artifacts … But I’ll definitely settle for this gift luck!).

Big Betty is probably one of my favorites, due to the number of crested arms coming from all directions. She must be 20-30 feet tall, also, and was discovered only because of the sun’s reflection on the concentration of white needles found in the peaks and valleys of the crested fingers. Click to enlarge.

Please enjoy additional saguaro sightings below, all within a 20-mile radius of my home. And if you missed it, read my Saguaro Series I post about the “End of Mighty Saguaro.” Stay tuned for the next Saguaro Series installment.

For Writers &  Readers: When you begin a new work in progress, how do you go about your search for unique ideas – the rare – so that your story stands out as that 1 in 150,000? Do you conduct your own kind of scavenger hunt for fresh ideas, bizarre characters and unusual plotlines? Where and how do you begin?

And how do you go about creating something fresh, even if you’re using tried-and-true themes splayed across pages for centuries? Conversely, if you venture too far from common themes (boy meets girl, woman battles internal demons, who-done-it), do you run the risk of being too far “out there,” too unique?

And what about reading … are you turned off by seemingly standard plots? Is there even such a thing as a “unique” theme, a new story? Or has it all been done before? Should you even bother looking for your crested saguaro? Please scroll below photos to comment.

Our friend and neighbor, Mark, introduced us to Medusa, perched on a bluff and overlooking the Galiuro Mountains. Click to enlarge.

Hidden among short-statured mesquite trees along the San Pedro Riverbed, this plant popped up and demanded attention, even with his small crest. Click to enlarge.

Also spotted by Mark (okay – maybe I’m not the Crested Saguaro Whisperer. Maybe Mark is …), this is the Dudleyville Specimen, visible right off the highway.

One more thing! When you get a chance, please visit V.V. Denman’s wonderful writing blog, where I guest this week with my post, “A Girl & A Snake.”