Sep 18 2011

Come to My Window

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Writers are really window-makers. With words, they construct windows that open out on to the world. When readers gaze through those windows, they’re transported to worlds never imagined or, conversely, worlds comfortingly familiar.

My creative writing partners (below) are to thank for these ongoing ruminations. You see, they’re fond of staring out the French door windows in front of my desk. And, if we’re being honest … so am I. It’s a wonder I write a single word each day.

Macho spots a jackrabbit outside the French doors. I love the bright colors from the setting sun as they warm the hills in front of the house. Click to enlarge.

Each time I watch my cats watching the world beyond their four protected walls, I am reminded of perspective. Their kitty vantage point is much different than mine. They’re lower to the ground. They’ve never wandered through the open desert. They’re seeing lizards, roadrunners, cardinals, javelinas and occasional stray dogs that they’ll only see through a glass windowpane because of the threat that coyotes, mountain lions and bobcats pose. They’re seeing through eyes that have a third eyelid, that exhibit superior night vision and inferior day vision. Yes, their perspective is much different than mine.

Macho is joined by his sister Niña (right) during an afternoon of rabbit gazing. Click to enlarge.

How would your perspective change if you were at eye-level with a baby rock squirrel, like Niña is below?

It’s the writer’s job to paint those perspectives for their readers (okay – maybe not through a cat’s eyes …). It’s the writer’s job to aid in the creative transport from real life to fiction, and to help readers see her unique glimpse of the world.

When you’re looking out the window at the world, you may not realize that the world’s looking back at you. This red-tailed hawk is intent on watching Macho through the window. Click to enlarge.

For Writers & Readers: What do you see outside your window? Not your office window with its skyscraper views, your bay window, or your home study window … I mean the window of your mind. Your metaphorical window. How does it shape what you write? How does it influence what you read? How is perspective important to fiction?

If you want to share your real window sightings, I’d naturally welcome the opportunity to take a peek through your windowpane.

Sep 11 2011

Into the Skies

Melissa Crytzer Fry

We Arizonans get a little excited about clouds since our skies are almost always draped in a dazzling sapphire robe, interrupted by nothing but blue. Some of us are so taken by clouds that we take photos of clouds every chance we can (me).

Sometimes the struggle between sunlight and cloud cover offers a sight worthy of pure silence. Click to enlarge.

Some of us (dearest husband, a trained National Weather Service spotter) become a bit obsessed with them, sitting in metal chairs next to metal flagpoles while lightning flashes all around during monsoon season – just looking. Ahem.

Hubby caught this beauty of a cloud last week. The pink of sunset cast a flaming glow to the pinnacle of this cloud formation, and if you look closely, you’ll see that rain is pouring out onto the mountain range below. Click to enlarge.

For me, part of the fascination with clouds is their versatility. No two clouds are shaped the same, and the slightest of changes to atmospheric conditions – and even the position of the sun – can change everything. In an instant.

An incoming storm painted the sky behind our house an angry yellow hue that was, indeed, worthy of respect. Click to enlarge.

Conversely, these little popcorn-kernel shaped clouds with their blue-raspberry backdrop just said, “happy” to me, as they danced in the sky. Click to enlarge.

There may be no oceans in the desert, but this sunset-painted cloud washed over the hills behind our house like a pink surf. Click to enlarge.

Clouds also have power. They can both cast shadows and reveal light. They can transform into funnel clouds. They can disappear as quickly as they’ve come. And – I kid you not – as I was writing this post, I was reminded of something else they can do: drop quarter-sized, damaging hail (Macho and Niña weren’t happy as those ice pellets ricocheted off of the five skylights in the house. The tornado warning was also lifted shortly thereafter. Tornadoes in the desert?! Was it something I wrote?).

Some of the hail that accumulated at our water collection tank just minutes after I typed the words "funnel clouds." Check out the video below.

For writers, for everyone. No matter where we live, I think we can all agree to the hypnotic, awe-inspiring effect of clouds. They evoke mood, tell stories, inspire, color their surroundings. Isn’t this what good fiction also does?

What do you imagine when you look into the skies? Do you see the sinister side of nature – the ability of those clouds to do harm? Or do clouds inspire you, illuminating your hopes and dreams?

How do I feel? (Thanks for asking). I smile when I look up into the skies – so massive, and such a reminder of my smallness in this world. And sometimes, when those clouds transform to an eerie shade of lemon or a shoe-polish black, I still smile – perhaps with a quivering lip and a pinch of apprehension – but with wonder and appreciation.