Nov 17 2013

Sweet Distraction

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Full disclosure: this is not a post about writing. It is a post, rather, about the absence of it. Why? Because these have arrived by mail order over the past few weeks:

Yes, Thanksgiving cookie cut outs. Okay, you got me: the bat has nothing to do with Thanksgiving, but you may recall my bat love from earlier posts? My Mexican-Long-Tongued bats headed to Mexico, by the way, on Nov. 8. Click to enlarge. (Yes, that is Niña’s paw. She needed to see what I was doing).

And then I went and bought all of this:

On this year’s cookie list: sugar cutouts, chipples, chocolate surprises, white chocolate dreams, chocolate-raspberry thumbprints, cherry-chocolate chip-walnut, and black cherry & chocolate linzertortes.

And finally I got the good stuff – also known as “the ultimate distraction” – these:

I only do this “all-out” baking every few years, when my brother-in-law, The Cookie Monster, comes from New Jersey. Click to enlarge.

So, while others are participating in National Novel Writing Month (Go Julia, Go Natalia), I’m dreaming of sugarplums sugar cookies. And I’m cleaning my house in ways neglected for a year (Having family from the East coast coming to stay for the holidays always lights a much-needed fire). To be fair, though, amongst all the cupboard cleaning, baseboard dusting, vacuuming, outdoor weed-pulling and vehicle washing, I am researching away on my WIP.

But this time of year, the biggest distraction seems to be the one that snags my sweet tooth. Stay tuned for follow-up photos of the treats that will birth their way into my kitchen this week and next.

For Readers, For Writers: What distracts you from your writing and reading? Is this time of year as difficult for you as it is me?

Nov 4 2013

Solitude’s Reward

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Welcome to “my” front yard – an area of desert wonder, accessible for camping, observing, decompressing, rejuvenation.

This photo is actually taken from the backside of the butte that I can see from the front of my house (Arizona state land, not ‘mine,’ unfortunately. Can you imagine calling this your own?). Click to enlarge.

Despite having access to this incredible area since 2004 – which hubby and I have visited numerous times – this weekend was the first time we’ve camped overnight (Thanks Mark and Roxanne, fearless trail guides and seasoned campers).

The solitude, the quiet, the nature … Wow does it ignite the senses, and, it turns out: creativity.

Another view of the butte from a different mountaintop. Ocotillo and mesquite frame the photo. Click to enlarge.

This mining area, established in the early 1900s and defunct by the 1940s (though expected to start up again soon… UGH!) highlights beautiful geologic wonders, like this turquoise-green chrysocolla. Click to enlarge.

Our campsite is a local favorite, a once-lake at the top of a manmade dam, crowned by a magnificent cottonwood too big even to photograph. But if you look below, you can see one of its fallen branches, parallel to the mountain folds cast in the brilliant light of sunset.

I love how one of the mountain pleats is still hidden in shadow, mimicking the colors of the tree branch. Click to enlarge.

See that tiny orange dot to the left of the giant cottonwood tree? That’s Mark and Roxanne’s tent. Ours is out of view. Click to enlarge.

We took our Rangers on top of a nearby mountain to get an even better zoom out view of our campsite. See the giant cottonwood - again - in the middle of the green? That was the site of our home away from home. Click to enlarge (it's worth it!)

Of course, camping isn’t all relaxation and placid thinking. There was rain. It was completely unexpected and is never fun for tent campers. But the most disturbing – and exciting – incident was being awoken to something lapping water from the tarp right in front of our tent (at our feet, near the entrance). Something lapping loudly, I might add. I have no clue what it was, but the mind always tends to race after coming upon images like this, which we saw on the way up into the mountains:

Yes. More mountain lion tracks. Though I doubt this was our visitor, whom we think was a smaller critter, lighter on the feet (The absence of growling and the mountain-lion’s signature musky animal-smell were our clues). Click to enlarge.

Just so you know, though … There was a gun in the tent, between us – just in case. And Roxanne had hers at the ready when her dogs began to growl inside her tent at the nighttime visitor. Maybe it was a coatimundi? A raccoon? A skunk? Next time, we’re setting up our trail camera to see if we can capture the wildlife sauntering into camp.

All of this nature – exhilarating and relaxing – brings me back to the jolt of creativity I experienced. I want to write. I want to focus. With my head de-cluttered from the noise of social media and void of technology for only two days, I already feel the difference. Creative engines – mine at least – seem to fire when I’m in that solitary, focused mode.

How could I not be affected by these views?

See the two gentle sloping mounds in the right foreground? If you look directly between the dip that connects each, you’ll see in the mountains beyond, a light horizontal strip. That’s where I live! And those scraggly-looking sticks are ocotillos, void of their leaves in preparation for winter (as well as two regal but declining Century Plants). Click to enlarge.

So what’s the lesson learned from this camping trip? For me it was a good reminder of the importance of unplugging, feeling, seeing – and living – in the moment. It was a good reminder of the way those experiences feed my writing and feed me. As a result, you may not see me around as much in coming months as I silently focus on the creative endeavors that seem to be thwarted by too much noise.

For Readers, For Writers: Do you think technology, social media, news, television – all of these always-accessible media and moving parts – affect creativity? Do you think writers write better when they isolate for periods of time – or stop social media presence completely? Does nature impact your creativity the way it does mine?