I’ve told you how much I love barns, that I used to want to live on a farm, that my son currently does, and that I still sometimes think I should have had the courage to try rural living. Might still. For now, I live vicariously through Melissa Crytzer Fry, whose natural surrounding inspires her own writing, and mine. I asked her to write a love story for February and, no surprise, she wrote about her landscape:
As I sit writing this post, my Jeep idle at the side of Cowboy Miller’s dirt road, it’s easy to share my love story. In front of me, majestic saguaros rise from the desert landscape, their perfect-postured trunks caressed by morning sunlight, a cloudless sky of deep blue their canvas.
Cholla cacti, as dangerous and ornery as they are with their double-barbed spines, glisten like happy tinsel. A cactus wren trills, hisses, and quiets. The only thing I hear is the urgent call of a gila woodpecker and the slight rustle of squat paloverde trees, their lime-green trunks a welcome sight amid hues of winter brown. The open-range cattle are nowhere in sight.
I’ve officially lived in Arizona for 16 years now (a Pennsylvania transplant). One might say, “Ah, by those standards, you’re a long-term desert dweller.” The truth is: that didn’t really happen until I moved from the middle of the city (downtown Phoenix) into the desert (outside of Tucson). And, yes, this is where I fell in love: with desert vistas so wide, no camera could capture the endless mountainous skylines; where the air is so clean, a thousand deep lungfuls would never seem enough; where I sit amid the proof of nature’s ire and force: volcanic mountain ranges molded, crushed and scraped away by the hands of time and by her great breaths of wind, her fierce monsoon rains; where also I am enveloped by her beauty: wildlife fierce and free, wildflowers of flaming fuschia, sunshine yellow, deep violets and dusty pinks.
This is where, indeed, I fell in love with nature. Again. For years, I’d let my inner “wild woman” grow dormant. Amid the pavement and office buildings smacked down into the sprawling desert Valley of Phoenix, I’d lost something of the farm girl I once was. The girl who played in haymows, who stared at copper-colored salamanders with awe, hunted for settlers’ graves in the woods, held tree frogs with care, rescued deer mice, and never grew tired of the rippling effect of a stone upon water.
I didn’t know what to call it – this missing piece – but I now know, after reading Clarissa Pinkola Estes’s book Women Who Run with the Wolves, that I was in search of a reconnection with my Wild Woman. (Incidentally, Estes believes we all have that Wild Woman instinct, eroded over time by societal expectations and outside pressures, not unlike the mountain range that flanks my view. Yes, even you city dwellers who prefer your nature in a vase on the dining room table – you have traces of Wild Woman in you yet. Not just a longing for nature, but wild, noble, fierce instincts.)
As Estes states, “It’s not by accident that the pristine wilderness of our planet disappears as the understanding of our own inner wild natures fades.”
This is why I love the desert. It is wild, still. The evidence of man here is slight – sometimes nonexistent – and always restorative. The other benefit: the unexpected connections to creativity and spirituality.
The crackle of dried desert wildgrass. The calling of ravens. Access to hundreds of miles of open range pasture. Unlimited creative possibility. Happiness. Yes, this is my love story.
Melissa Crytzer Fry is a freelance writer and journalist living out her writing dream in southern Arizona and blogging at What I Saw (MelissaCrytzerFry.com). Her literary novel, Bedside, was named a finalist in the 2011 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Writing Competition. Twitter: @CrytzerFry.