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!

Mar 28 2011

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Okay … I know we’re not playing poker*. But it seemed a fun title to announce the winner of the first-ever What I Saw Amateur Photo Contest.

Shh. Listen. Can you hear it? Noisemakers! Sirens! Cymbals! Applause!

Congratulations, Jennifer Bonstein. Your entry (below), Stairway to Heaven, inspired a panel of judges and a whole lot of voters (169 to be exact). Your Amazon certificate is on the way!

Many of you have expressed interest in purchasing Jennifer’s uplifting, inspirational photo. To contact her directly, please visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

J. Bonstein ~ Stairway to Heaven

Special thanks, also, to each of the super-talented photographers who submitted breathtaking entries. Take a peek, if you haven’t already.

Basics of the Contest

Given that I am passionate about writing, storytelling and photography, the goal of this contest was to solicit amateur photographers (or writer-photographer hybrids) for photos that:

  • Told us a story
  • Illustrated creativity
  • Exhibited some serious wow-factor

Giveaways for Visitors Who Voted

The contest also included prizes for voters – all related to the panel of writer-photographer first-round judges: Caroline Leavitt, Therese Walsh and Damien Franco. Winners were randomly drawn from among those visitors who stopped by and voted/commented.

The winners** are:

  • Tammy R. Clark – Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt
  • Erin Patrick – The Last Will of Moira Leahy by Therese Walsh
  • Pauline Reynolds – 8 x 10 signed print on Metallic Finish Paper by photographer Damien Franco

*Why is Winner Winner Chicken Dinner Associated with gambling? According to Urban Dictionary, legend says that, years ago, every casino in Vegas offered a 3-piece chicken dinner with a potato & a veggie for $1.79. A standard bet back then was $2. Thus, when you won a bet, you had enough for a chicken dinner.

**Winners who haven’t claimed their prizes within 30 days of notice forfeit prize. Prize will be given to another entrant, drawn randomly.