Friday, October 7, 2011

The Lime Lizard

I went into the woods yesterday to eat lunch and read. I found a spot by a fallen tree and put my sweater against the trunk and my jeans jacket down so I could sit on it. Next to me I put my white plastic Apple backpack that contained my lunch. I read the newspaper. Sad to read about Steve Jobs' passing. Then I had lunch---salad and tuna fish.
            After that, I picked up my book "In Love and War," a memoir in alternating chapters by a Naval aviator and his wife. He was shot down in 1965 shortly after the start of the Vietnam War. He was the highest ranking officer held as a POW and was tortured, held in solitary confinement, and remained a prisoner for seven years while his wife raised four children and led a national campaign to raise attention to the plight of her husband and other American servicemen. It is hard to imagine such courage. And for seven years. 
            After some time passed, I thought I noticed something on my backpack. At first I thought it was a leaf. Then I looked again. It was a five inch long brilliant lime green lizard, probably an anole. It whip-like tail was three inches. I thought it wanted to sneak in my bag to eat a crumb. I stayed still, sitting on the ground, my back against the tree trunk, legs stretched out in front of me, the book open in my lap. 

          After a few minutes, to my surprise, the anole leapt down to the ground and sprang onto my thigh. It climbed up my leg until it poised by my right hand at the edge of the book. I think it liked the warmth of my leg. Maybe it sensed the heat from several inches away.  
           It crouched there. I could see how thin, even emaciated it was. It is not easy living in the woods. Down the center of its spine ran a grey stripe. On top of its head I could see how its green coloration fractured into plate-like shapes. Its toes were long and terribly crooked. 
            More time passed. I noticed that to the side of my right thigh I had kicked away leaves and disturbed the earth. Where I had done so, ants had crawled in. A one-inch long worm writhed terribly in the soil from their many bites, and the ants tormented it. 

            From where the lizard crouched, the eye on one side of his head looked at me. The other eye could see the ground. I wondered if he could see what I saw. The one eye I could see looked very wise. Shrewd even. 
            With sure movements, the lizard sprang down, landing first on a leaf sprouting up. Soon enough, he had the worm between his powerful jaws.  Chomp, chomp, and the worm was down his gullet. A merciful death. 
            To my surprise, he hopped back up on my thigh. He breathed heavily, his sides moving in and out like a bellows. There he rested to digest, partly under the shadow of the bottom edge of the hardback book. I think he was considering whether to go underneath this giant overhang.  Instead, after a while, he skittered down my legs and rested at the top of my hiking boots. I think he also was deciding whether to explore inside my shoes. 
            Instead, he marched back up the tops of my thighs. By now, I knew what he was going to do. He jumped up on my open book and stood astride its pages, somewhat looking up at me. From there, there was no question he was going to sit on my left hand in my lap which was clasped on top of my right hand, enjoying a commanding view. In my right hand I held a pen. Next time, I will get him on my pen.             
         But this was not enough, and quick as lightning he ran up my bare arm,  jumped onto my T-shirt sleeve, then to my shoulder and leapt onto my  sweater which lay on the downed tree. From there he headed up a dead tree limb which stood up almost directly behind me. Perhaps he wanted the best possible vantage point. 
            I turned back to my book. No bird saw him.