Critters

Lately, it’s been very hard to put pen to paper, so to speak, or should I say fingers to keyboard? This blog tends to be either silly or slightly philosophical, but there’s a lot less silliness going around these days and it’s hard to come to any grand conclusions about Life, The Universe and Everything (42!) when we’re all living life suspended just inches above limbo.

But today I feel the need to share. This morning, I went out onto the lanai as usual to do my daily workout. (Pahla B Fitness on Youtube. She’s my current exercise guru). I grabbed my handy broom to sweep away the night’s accumulation of lava dust and a little green lizard fell at my feet. Maybe it had been clinging to the ceiling or nestled in the bristles of the broom. It looked at me, slightly abashed. I bade it good morning and it went on its way.

A while later, I was pulling weeds in the back garden when I found a snail, a big oozy snail making a slimy trail toward our tomatoes. As much as I would like to honor all creatures, snails in Hawaii sometimes carry rat lungworm disease. It’s rare but hideous; to date I don’t personally know anybody who has contracted Covid but I do know someone who got rat lungworm. He recovered eventually but both he and his family went through agony before he got there. So I picked up the nasty thing in my gloved hand and dropped it into a bucket of heavily salted water which we keep under the deck just for that purpose. So long, buddy. Don’t take any wooden nickels.

A while later, I reached under a purple-flowering bush by the deck, intending to yank out a tuft of unwanted grass, when a brownish stone suddenly leapt toward my face. It took a moment for me to register that it was a frog, not an adorable thumbnail-sized coqui frog whose song lulls me to sleep but an ugly lumpy frog the size of my fist. I dropped my trowel as I squealed like a little girl and ran for the safety of the house. All three cats were watching me from the window, judging me for my cowardice. I’ll never live this one down.

A gang of marauding roosters has been terrorizing the bug community in our garden for weeks. They’re quite handsome, really, and look rather adorable when they root around in the dust under the mountain apple tree. Their cock-a-doodles are not as invasive as one might think, just another set of voices in the natural cacophony that serenades us every day. And they’re welcome to the bugs.

That’s pretty much the long and short of the critter situation. But I am hard put to draw any sort of conclusion. Lizard, snail, frog, rooster. I have made peace with my onetime terror of lizards. I am at a leery standoff with the snails and frogs. If I were a witch I might use them to cook up a brew that would cause our neighbor’s noisy TV to implode. Sadly, I am not a witch.

Perhaps in time the world will get back to some semblance of normal. In the meantime, I guess the best I can do is appreciate what nature has to offer and accept this limbo existence with patience and grace. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams…and critters…it is still a beautiful world.

Skin Deep

I’ve gotten used to lizards keeping me company while I do yoga out on the lanai despite my onetime herpetophobia. They are a fact of life in Hawaii. I figured I’d have to make peace with them if I want to live here. And so I did. This morning a particularly aggressive one took a stroll across my yoga mat. I realized his pointy snout was drawing him toward my cup of papaya juice. I know from seeing their little faces leering down at me from the papaya trees that it’s a favorite. So I shooed him away and put my cup on the table, safely out of reach of pointed tongues.

But the other day, I was doing my usual morning yoga, reveling in the sunshine and fresh, clear air, when I noticed a lizard had attached herself to one of the wooden uprights on the deck. Following my movements, she arched her long spine, stretched her chin past her knee toward her foot and then started chewing on her toes.

I can’t do that. But I felt oddly flattered.

I went back to my practice, stretching and toning and finding four dimensional balance, listening to the gentle birdsong in the background, feeling the breeze on my skin, its heat equatorial with an undertone of cool.

Then I noticed lady lizard’s skin was turning pale. Fascinated, I gave up all pretense of downward dog, forgot about chattarunga, and stared, gape-mouthed, as she shrugged her narrow shoulders and removed her face.

yoga lizard

Ah. Molting. I hadn’t realized lizards do that. And as I digested that idea, I started to wonder why I’d never seen any discarded lizard suits draped over the lower branches of the potocarpus hedge.

She was quick to answer that question as I watched her slowly eat said skin. She opened her eyes wide in a “yummy” gesture and grinned at me, a wisp of papery epidermis dangling from her lower lip until, with a quick whip of her narrow tongue, she licked it off.

As I sat enthralled, Dear Abby popped into my head.

Dear Abby

Granted, my little friend was taking this concept rather literally, but the idea has been going through my head. I realized that we had not lived here quite long enough for life to become normal when we returned to Japan where we had lived for so long that it felt normal even though it wasn’t. And then, at long last, we came back here, where things were no longer the normal we hadn’t ever gotten used to in the first place.

I would like for our life here to be part of who we will become, or better yet, who we are becoming. I feel pretty sure it will, assuming a lot of things it is not safe to assume. I’ve always enjoyed the unpredictability of life, the tantalizing spice of the unknowable. But under all of that, it feels like we’re living on a veneer of thin ice, ice that shouldn’t exist in a tropical setting. It wouldn’t take much to upset the papaya cart and leave all of us climbing out of our skin.

Still, despite our worries and fears, when the evening sunset casts its pink glow across the pineapple patch and the purple-red leaves of the ti trees, there’s a sense of magic in the air. While the world is toddling its way into an uncertain future, I can’t think of anyplace I’d rather be. 

Me pineapple

 

Lizard

Through the miracle of the flying sardine can, otherwise know as Hawaiian Airlines, the mouse is back on the Big Island. There is much to do. Several months worth of cat hair beg to be swept under the rugs, spiders encouraged to take up residence elsewhere. The cats have marked their protest to my absence in my bed; much laundry has been done. I work my attack on the invasion of tropical weeds marching toward the house, a stoic terracotta army uniformed in shades of green. From under the wilting tomato vines a village of disease-ridden snails have been unceremoniously evicted. Lizards leer at me, papaya juice dripping from their chins as they feast on my bounty, perched on branches just out of reach.

This morning, while attempting to free the compost barrel from the clutches of a particularly vicious strain of crabgrass, a lizard leapt from among some palm fronds and landed on my calf, startling us both. But its touch was not the slimy pointy slithersome horror I had expected. Instead, it was gentle, soft, like the brush of the tip of a cat’s tail or the fingertips of a very young baby. I had expected to suffer an embolism but instead felt warmth, release, comfort.

I didn’t expect to be gone so long, didn’t know I would be back so soon. And yet, here I am, and in that one moment I realized I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

Aloha, Hawaii. I missed you.

Day 1: Fear

All my life, I have suffered from an irrational fear of lizards. Just a glimpse of one would leave me breathless and quaking and needing to pee. I don’t know why. I don’t remember any childhood lizard-related trauma, like seeing one staring up at me from a bowl of Raisin Bran or dropping onto my head while I played on a seesaw, but these things defy explanation. I also have a fear of long, painted fingernails. This one is not irrational. Read this if you dare. https://mouseintokyo.wordpress.com/?s=fingernails

So when I moved to Hawaii, I knew that I would have to deal with this. It was on my list:

  • Buy a car
  • Figure out how to drive it
  • Get homeowner’s insurance
  • Re-cover the ugly blue chair
  • Learn how to grow papayas
  • Eat a pink hot dog
  • Make peace with lizards

They are everywhere, were here long before I got here, will be here long after I’m gone. So unless I planned to arm myself with smelling salts or live in a bubble, I would have to cope. But I am nothing if not resilient. Each morning as I settled onto my mat for morning yoga, I would feel beady eyes fixed on me and have to force my heart to slow, my breathing to deepen. And it worked. Like so many of life’s little unpleasantries, I found a way to make peace with something I cannot change, should not even mess with. I have even come to see them as kinda cute, as long as they stay out of my Raisin Bran and off my seesaw. The cats have agreed to enforce this policy.

I have a feeling that the Tangerine Tinted Buffoon could learn from this experience.