I won’t cheat you. Just because I posted those highly fictionalized cartoony versions of a reptile and an amphibian yesterday when I was singing the praises of singing frogs, iguanas, turtles and their fellow creatures doesn’t mean I wouldn’t share the joys of the real things with you as well. So consider yourself forearmed with this brief alert: cuteness and beauty ahead! Real, live. Starring some fantastic iguanas and our own, homegrown Tiny Tim/Tina Turtle.
I’ve been surrounded by a wealth of intriguing, beautiful and amusing creatures lately. Both on our Caribbean outing and now back at home, the company I’ve been keeping have been anything but dull. I’ve had to keep my distance, though, almost as if I were some sort of dangerous predator. With the people, since we got home to Texas, I’ve tried to avoid any unnecessary exposure to what turned out to be a reasonable suspicion of coming down with a cold (not as bad as my spouse’s, at least); with the other companions, it’s more a matter of keeping a respectful distance from their wildness.With the frogs, to be fair, it was unlikely we’d cross paths, since they were hanging out on the periphery of where we were. We heard consistent singing from the local mascot Coquí, the sweet frog species revered in Puerto Rico for its generous insect pest control and other charms, not least of them the evening chorale of the mate-seeking males. Didn’t see any, though, other than that sort of movement that is just past peripheral view. Enjoyed the songs, all the same.
For actual sightings, however, the reptile population has kept us in better company. Best In Show goes to the iguana population of Puerto Rico, for making frequent appearances to show off the varied beauties of the species. Crested or not, dragon-sized or baby-dainty, green or earthily striped, iguanas and other lizards fascinate me and get my vote for lovely monsters whenever I can see them, and the more so when they’re not in some pet store or zoo, just hanging around in their natural haunts. That’s my kind of ‘haunting beauty,’ if you know what I mean.In that respect, the iguanas got some serious competition as beauty champs in my own personal creature feature when we got home from our trip and had a first-ever visit on our lot—albeit in a risky appearance in the middle of our driveway—of the most charming little turtle, no longer than my outstretched hand. Thankfully, my husband/chauffeur spotted the little guy, avoided driving over him, and went back out on foot to gently relocate the turtle to our back garden, where there are lots of good turtle snacks growing, plenty of taller plants for shelter from sun and predators, and a shortage of adorable turtles that he/she helped alleviate by visiting. That makes me a happy critter.
Memorial Day is a US holiday begun after the American Civil War to recognize and honor the service and sacrifices of soldiers killed in the line of duty.
But on our recent visit to Puerto Rico, as we were walking around the museum ruins of a fortress in San Juan, the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, looking at the remains of its heavy battlements, at its cannons and their tracks in the gunneries, at the sparse quarters of the soldiers who served there, and at the museum signs telling the stories of El Morro’s past, I remembered too that the vast majority of the people who are involved in wars hate them as much as I do. War is chosen and declared by a tiny minority in even those bands or nations that instigate the wars. The rest, soldiers included, pretty much have it thrust upon them, and I can’t imagine anyone who dies in battle had any desire to do anything other than to defend or capture whatever or whomever he or she was sent to defend or capture, and go home peacefully. Even some of those who declare the wars and enlist willingly to fight in them probably often have done so with a sense of rightness, if not righteousness, in the cause.
I looked around the Castillo and, for all of its historical interest and the beauty of its locale and weathered stone walls, the birds and iguanas and wildflowers decorating it quaintly, what I saw was a memorial to the many lives lost, soldiers and civilians, natives and outsiders, adults and children, the good and the bad alike. All because humans aren’t famously good at sharing their world with each other and resolving conflicts without violence. I will always have a horror of war and all the loss of life that it brings.
But I am, honestly, grateful to those who have—willingly or not—paid with their own lives for the lives and welfare of others, and I remember them not only on this designated day but every time I pause to reflect on the high cost of peace for our oxymoronically named species, man-kind. Seems to me that there’s no better way to honor soldiers for their service and sacrifice than to end the potential for any more such work and eliminate all wars forevermore.