Today I’m honored to provide a guest post by Melissa Crytzer Fry, whose blog What I Saw never fails to inspire. I was first drawn to her blog by her amazing photographs of the Sonoran Desert; it was there that I grew up, and Melissa’s blog allowed me to return. But what struck me was how she incorporated her setting and visual art into a broader discussion of creativity and writing. Enjoy.
When I sent my mom a photo of my latest backyard discovery – a long-nosed leopard lizard – she posed an excellent question, marveling at my knack for daily discovery:
How many people never ‘look’ when they go outside?
Plenty. And I confess to having been one of those people during my nine years residing in the heart of downtown Phoenix. I was wrapped in the silky momentum of the city, another car speeding and weaving in the ebb and flow of traffic toward my career, never stopping to look at much else.
In 2004 my ’Jersey-bred husband mentioned his desire to buy land in the “real” desert, his impulse a mirror to my unspoken rural cravings (I hail from a northwestern Pennsylvania farming community).
When we made the move south to our ranch, something magical happened. The lifestyle swap from cityscape to desertscape really became a metaphor for an unexpected creative metamorphosis. As I began exploring our neighborless property, along with wide stretches of the soft rolling Sonoran Desert hills, I started to consciously look at my surroundings.
The desert, I realized, was peppered with new discoveries that were mine for the making: plants, insects, birds and four-legged creatures that seemed to be indigenous to some other planet. Daily outings became scavenger hunts with camera in tow. The creative real estate in my mind expanded, following the same contours of the gently braided desert landscape.
My exploration – by foot, by Jeep, by helicopter – unlocked creative potential I wasn’t sure existed. It’s resulted in the completion of two novels and the emergence of a nature/writing/photography blog. But more importantly, it’s nurtured an appreciation for the natural world around me, a kind of creative muse that is at my disposal at all times if I just stop to look.
How does the nature-creativity connection work? I can’t really say, but I can share photos from a recent hike near Peppersauce Creek at the foot of Arizona’s Mt. Lemmon. You be the judge: do you consider this arid land fertile ground for creativity?
Maybe nature’s biggest gift to the artist is this: like hypnosis, it slows the mind, takes us outside of ourselves for a moment, providing a savory stillness that allows the seeds of creativity to grow. Why do you think so many find creative influence in the natural world? I would love to learn more about your personal experiences as well.
Melissa Crytzer Fry is a freelance writer and journalist living out her writing dream in southern Arizona, among wildlife ranging from javelina, bobcats and quail to mountain lions, coyotes and Gila Monsters. She pays tribute to Arizona’s natural world on her blog, What I Saw, sharing photography and asking questions that apply to writing in particular, and life in general. Her literary novel-in-progress, Bedside, was named a semi-finalist in the 2011 William Faulkner William Wisdom Writing Competition. She’s the owner of AZCommPro Communications, her freelance writing business. You can follow her on Twitter @CrytzerFry.