Aug 23 2010

Ahhh… Breakfast in the Desert

Melissa Crytzer Fry

I know, I know… Everyone’s seen a cool photo of a flower. But take a closer look. This isn’t your ordinary wildflower; it has nine castaways on it. To be precise, they are Tephritidae, of the fruit fly family. My guess is that this family of flies is having a nice breakfast before they fly out to their respective destinations: a poor jackrabbit’s ears, my ears and nostrils, an unsuspecting piece of fruit. Insects are fun to photograph, but I didn’t say they weren’t annoying. [That’s the one drawback to the desert in the summertime: the buzzing and banging of bugs into every orifice on your head].

This Arizona Poppy (Kallstroemia grandiflora) was photographed by my front gate late into our summer heat (8/1/10). Per friend and entomologist Elizabeth Davidson, Ph.D. (professor at ASU), the stowaways are most likely “true” fruit flies of the Tephritidae family. Click to enlarge.

I’m always amazed at what I see when I approach things from a micro-level. Only when I gathered up the camera and bent down did I notice the tiny treasures before me. From my whopping 5’5” height, the little dots hardly registered among the other poppies. But with my face literally in the flower, look at the surprise!

(By the way: I can vouch for the mealtime since I snapped the photo at 6 a.m.).

For Writers: How do you write your most vivid, descriptive scenes? From memory? Or have you taken a photo of an object or a place and studied it? Is it easier to create realistic descriptions from your mind, or when you have an image in front of you?

When I returned to Ohio to complete research for my first novel in 2008, I was sure to keep the camera in tow – even though I thought I could jot down notes and commit much of what I saw to visual memory. Wrong… In some cases, it was tremendously helpful to fall back on the photos. I will confess, though, that sometimes photos don’t capture the true essence of the experience around you. That’s where your other senses come in handy – smell, sound, touch … and your notepad and pen!

Aug 19 2010

Light Show

Melissa Crytzer Fry

I grew up in Pennsylvania, not far from Lake Erie. That meant “lake effect” was part of our vocabulary and that clouds were more common than sunshine.  In fact, it was that very phenomenon that spurred my move to Arizona.

Lightning strikes photographed near the Galiuro and Winchester Mountains, Arizona. Click to enlarge.

So, back to Pennsylvania … I’d counted how many days we went with ‘zero’ sunlight (I was then 27). And when I got to day no. 35, I had an epiphany. “Hey… I don’t have to live here. I can live anywhere.“

Then I did it. I finally traded my 300-plus days of rain (okay… an exaggeration, but it felt like it) for 300-plus days of sunshine and landed in the southwest.

While I still consider myself a sun-worshipper, I’ve had an interesting change of perspective – a new appreciation for precipitation, if you will. There is truly nothing more spectacular than the monsoon storms we get in the Sonoran Desert beginning in July and continuing through September.

All that open space leads to breathtaking lightning strikes like the recent one captured above by my completely weather obsessed National-Weather-Service-Trained-Spotter husband.

For Writers: Stormy relationships. Stormy tempers. Stormy characters. The awe-inspiring power of nature has become not only a metaphor in writing, but it also is often a backdrop to set the tone in particular scenes. I always think of the movie Shawshank Redemption (adapted from a novella by Stephen King) and the use of inclement weather to set tone in the final scenes (excellent!). Thunder, lightning, and rain … they really can evoke strong sentiments of fear and foreboding for the reader – and, depending on how skillfully the writer uses language, a sense of hope and rebirth.