Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Nature's Creative Influence by Melissa Crytzer Fry

Nature’s Creative Influence

By Melissa Crytzer Fry

When a peregrine falcon circled over my head during a jog this week, words began to swirl in my mind, matched only by the intensity of each hurried wing beat above me. I realized my writing topic was right before my eyes. Birds!

These feathered creatures play an unmistakable role in Rebecca’s upcoming debut, THE BIRD SISTERS, but they also symbolize what I feel can be a writer’s best creative inspiration: nature, the outdoors, unbridled open spaces, wildlife, fresh air.

There’s just something about nature and its ability to inspire – the way it can tug at your heart, leave you breathless, awestruck, and hungry for more. A simple walk in the park, a jog in the wilderness, or a glimpse out the window at the birdfeeder … For me, these brushes with nature somehow lead to a magical free flow of ideas, an ability to see more clearly, providing life lessons and writing inspiration – both freelance and fiction. All fodder for our novels.

The following excerpt documents an emotionally inspiring experience I had with a roadrunner pair that nested in our house-under-construction. I just happened to be outside when I heard the faint clack clacks of the first grounded fledgling:

I found myself caught in a dance of watch-and-see vs. stop-and-help. From the start, I wanted simply to observe nature, not interfere with it.

The hours passed as I regularly checked on Rocky’s whereabouts, my eyes constantly scanning and my ears tuned to his calling, though my physical presence hidden. Despite the loudest chirping Rocky could muster, his now waning attempts to reach his parents were in vain, despite their close proximity.

When dusk fell, my stomach knotted. I knew what lay outside the perimeter of our house: coyotes, owls, hawks, rattlesnakes, bobcats, gila monsters. Had I done the right thing by simply letting nature take its course?

Relief flooded over me the next morning at the sight of Rocky’s toes and tiny claws peeking from beneath the rocks where I left him. I realized, however, that something was terribly wrong. His feet were rigid, extended.

When my husband helped me gingerly lift the large rock off his tiny body, I was assaulted by guilt. I should have stepped in – with tweezers and fresh bugs, a warm makeshift bed. Surely he’d have let me feed him, if I had only done it.

With a warm washcloth, I picked up Rocky’s stretched body, his eyes closed, his feathers limp, but his chest still moving. He was clearly in for the fight of his life. As I tried to warm him, he attempted to lift his little head and made a faint squeak, giving me hope. All I needed were kissing bugs, longhorn beetles, harvester ants. They were in abundance on our property!

But as I sat with him in the sun, my tears fell freely, plunking onto his little body. I knew that I was too late. And when his body shuddered, that last little breath escaping from his beak, I knew I had a decision to make. Return him to nature? Give him a proper “human” burial?

My poor husband did not know how to console me as I sat sobbing with the precious gift that rested in my hands. At least, I reasoned, he hadn’t died alone. He had the warmth and comfort of another creature next to him in the end.

But even with the sadness wrapping its way around me, I still knew, in that moment, that I had witnessed something miraculous. I was a close-up observer to nature’s beauty and its cruelty, to the desert’s awe and its ire. I was privy to this little bird’s beginning, his parents’ devotion, their fatal mistakes.

I realized that this delicate dance between life and death that occurs in the desert every day – this fragility – is probably exactly the reason so few people have that rare opportunity that I was afforded. To see nature in its rawest form. To experience it with the heart.

As we contemplated what to do, we decided to stay true to our commitment as respectful observers of nature. Through wet eyes, we gave Rocky back to Arizona’s harsh Sonoran Desert, hoping his life might sustain other life.

Melissa Crytzer Fry is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist living out her writing dream in southern Arizona, among wildlife ranging from javelina, bobcats and quail to mountain lions, coyotes, tarantulas and Gila Monsters. She is the author of the What I Saw nature/writing/creativity blog (, owner of AZCommPro Communications, and a fan and writer of women’s literature (currently chasing the publishing dream).


Doreen McGettigan said...

Oh that made me cry and remember a rare parakeet I had for years. I had no idea how attached I was to her until she was gone. A silly bird people would laugh at me but I loved her.

Beth Hoffman said...

Tears ... so many tears. I have been in similar shoes far too often. Wonderful post, Melissa!

Leslie said...

That is so beautiful and so sad. And I so appreciate reading that even though it made me cry.

I had something similar happen to me last year but I was unable to write about it. Once I named the little bird Buddy, I knew it was all over for me. I left him out one night because I didn't want to interfere with nature but took him in the second night and then to the wildlife rehab the next morning. I was upset for days when they told me he had a head injury and wouldn't make it.

Beth Lowe said...

Melissa, thanks for sharing your beautiful writing. I live on (and write about) a big pond in New England. A couple of years ago, we had a young blue heron choke to death on a fish, right next to one of its parents, who vainly tried to help it. We called a couple of places, like Audubon, and they advised us to let nature take its course, too. It was very hard to watch. What an apt way to put it: "I was a close-up observer to nature's beauty and its cruelty." I felt that way, too. I love what you said about experiencing nature "with heart." That's really what it is, isn't it?

Melissa Crytzer Fry said...

Doreen, Beth, Leslie, Beth-
Thanks so much for your kind comments and my apologies for the tears. Though your stories left me with wet eyes as well (Beth - the blue heron situation must have been devastating). It is so difficult not to intervene, isn't it? But I must confess, Leslie, if I had it to do over again, I just might consider helping out... Rightly or wrongly? I don't know... it's just so hard to tell.

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

Oh thank you everyone so much for supporting Melissa. She is such a wonderful writer and old soul and I am truly honored to have her here. Love to all of you tonight. XOX

Leslie said...

Melissa, I brought the bird in the second night because he was obviously injured and I didn't want him to suffer and be attacked by a predator. I would have felt better if I knew he could spend his last days with his bird family but I know that's not how it works in nature. I know we're not supposed to interfere, but a wildlife rehab center exists in my area and if they could help I was going to let them. I'd do it again if I was sure the bird was injured.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, this post was so tenderly written! Beautiful tinged with heartache. Loved it.

I have a bird story, too. A baby robin had found it's way down our window well last spring and couldn't get back out. Mama bird sat on the shrub chirping with all of her encouragement but baby bird had no idea how to lift up and out. So I found a broken limb from the nearby tree next to our house and lowered it down. The little guy finally hopped on and I lifted him out.

I teared up when he flew off with Mama to see another day. I felt like some sort of Mother Nature superhero; surely God would bestow greatness on me because I helped one of his creatures. But I think He might still be pissed b/c I squished so many spiders in my youth that I might still be in the hole.

Nature is inspiring yet humbling.

Jessica McCann said...

This is such a heartbreaking and inspiring story. Thanks for sharing it. Nature truly does seem to be your muse, and I'm so happy for you that you have found it.

"These are the days when Birds come back/a very few/a Bird or two/to take a backward look."

"These are the days when Birds come back/a very few/a Bird or two/to take a backward look."