Thursday, February 17, 2011

This is the land of the lizards

Anoles and geckos. As short as a few inches. As long as a foot. Black, green, brown. Stripes down the back. Flares of iridescence. Or ghostly wan.

When they get in the house, we let them be. They scurry on the walls and ceilings, keeping their distance. Eating ants and mosquitoes. Sooner or later they find their way out again.

Mostly we watch them on the terrace railing or porch steps. Preening in the sun. Doing pushups. Heads bobbing. Dewlaps flapping to establish territory or attract mates.

On the small cays north of here are colonies of rock iguanas -- "Bahamian dragons" -- two or three feet long. Same family as our wee anoles. Can do without the dragons. Love the anoles.

In the very first chapter of Carlos Eire's Waiting for Snow in Havana, he has this to say about lizards:
They knew exactly what they were and always would be. Nothing changed for them. Nothing would ever change. The world belonged to them whole, free of vice and virtue. They scurried up and down the walls of the patio, and along its brightly colored floor tiles. They lounged on tree branches, sunned themselves on rocks. They clung to the ceilings inside our house, waiting for bugs to eat. They never fell in love, or sinned, or suffered broken hearts. They knew nothing of betrayal or humiliation…They worried not about curses, or proofs of God's existence, or nakedness…Perhaps I envied them. Their place on earth was more secure than ours. We would lose our place, our world. They are still basking in the sun. Same way. Day in, day out.
Well, we know where this story is going. And if you want creatures to contrast with the joy and anguish and exhilaration and guilt and pride and embarrassment that comes with self-awareness (yes, this is a book of lost innocence, of being cast out of the garden), then the anoles and geckos are your candidates. What an equanimity of spirit! Or what looks like equanimity.