Jul 5 2010

Scent of Skunk

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Okay. So the image below doesn’t appear to “match” my headline.  But really … it does have relevance. This is the setting for my experience this morning. Because, let’s be honest: who wants to get close enough to photograph a skunk? Not me.

Jogging trails/view from our mountaintop. Deep green in background is San Pedro River. Click to enlarge.

I was jogging along at 5:30 a.m., quite happy that the air was actually cool. It was the first time in weeks, since Arizona’s Monsoon Season began, that it didn’t feel like the air was draped with sticky cotton candy. (Yes, after nearly 12 years, I’ve forgotten what it was like growing up in Pennsylvania, where summertime humidity is the norm… where towels never dry and carpet is damp).

So I’m jogging along, taking deep breaths of the crisp air. Then it hit me. Hard. A big ol’ gulp of skunk. Woo wee. I am not exaggerating when I say that when I licked my lips, I tasted the bitterness of skunk. Over and over.

And the odd thing is that it didn’t matter where I was along the 5-mile radius jog I take every morning … it seemed to permeate the air. Stronger in some areas than others, but always present. When I neared the train trestle, the smell was so strong that I started to look over my shoulder, sure that the stinky fellow was going to show up.

I scanned the dirt for tiny skunk paw prints. Scanned for the infamous black and white. Because, to be honest, if I were ever to be sprayed by a skunk, I’m pretty sure I’d toss my cookies over and over. I was growing a bit nervous.

The good news is that I never did see the stinky mammal. As cute as they can be (yes, I even think skunks are cute), I guess they are just doing what nature has hardwired them to do: defend when threatened. We humans are just as defensive, I guess. We just have different mechanisms.

For Writers:

Have you ever had close contact with a skunk? Ever think of using one in your novel – as a get-even tool against your antagonist, a symbol, or even a pet? How would you describe the foul mist of a skunk? To me it’s kind of antiseptic and very gag-inspiring. How do you describe a smell that is unique only to itself?

Jul 2 2010

Friday Photo: Bustin’ Blooms

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Earlier this week I shared a photo of a flowering saguaro cactus, the flowers pristine and crisp in their infancy. Today I share the effects of a month’s worth of 90- and 100-degree heat: wilted blooms and ripe fruit that the birds love to eat. When the fruit starts to burst open, the tops of the cacti along our hillsides become dotted with blood red, flesh-colored fruits – a stark contrast to the browning desert.

Did you know that saguaro fruit can be harvested and made into jelly? Or that nectar-eating bats (southern long-nosed bats) love pollinating the saguaro’s flowers? I’ve got bat photos, too, from our trail camera. Stay tuned! Click to enlarge.

Consider this, writers: If you had to rely on description alone to ‘show’ your readers the inside of a ripe saguaro fruit – or even the entire tip of a fruited saguaro cactus – how would you describe it? I see so much more when I study the photo than I did with my naked eye … and so many more interesting ways of describing it.