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.
At some level, most of us—no matter how disdainfully we might pretend to look upon those Others who obsess over appearances—wish to be thought beautiful. We want to fit in with others, to belong in the pack, to be loved.Of course, we know that even those who do fit in do so if and as the hierarchy of the pack allows. We are put in our places and told who we are, where we belong, what we’re supposed to be doing, and why we should accept that fate as though it were a natural law. After all, we tend to believe that nature is fact-driven and therefore we, who are mere specks in its vastness, must play our little roles as prescribed in the absolutes of existence. We sit here and take it. In many ways, that’s a useful approach to life, because, well, nature does drive a lot of what is and what happens, and bucking that can be counterproductive or even quite dangerous. And worse, perhaps, such refusal to accept the norms others have agreed upon as right and correct and natural puts us on the fringes and at risk of rejection. Someone along the way is sure to reject the rebel or misfit. Someone will think I’m unfit or, yes, Ugly.It’s a wonderful thing to remember that besides all of the weird and dangerous and unpleasant and otherwise negative possibilities in stepping outside of the normal and expected course of events or refusing to be other than myself in order to seem to fit in better where I really don’t, there are also a vast array of glorious and splendid maybes waiting out there for me to dare to reach for them. Much of what is good and beautifully new in the world happens because one person dared to think, do, and exist differently from the pack, the mass of ordinary people, and brought about an increment of change. How wonderful if I can shed my fears, my need for conformity borne of desire for universal acceptance, and become ever so slightly more notable, one little nth more dazzling, than I was when I was only hoping to be like all the other creatures that I knew.