Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I Swim With Lizards

I "swim with lizards." I love that line and am shamelessly stealing it from a comment "Too Sexy for this Fat" left for me. I do. I admit it. I swim with lizards. And the lizards are not alone. They bring their friends. Sometimes being in the pool is like being in an episode of "Wild Kingdom". I began compiling a list of all the creatures I've seen whilst thumping and splashing away in the pool, and even I was surprised at how truly lush this paradise is, seething and teeming with life.

Yesterday, the pool turned green. Yes, literally. It gets weekly attention, but sometimes the blazing Florida sun overcomes the best intentions of even the most attentive pool tenders. Well, I am hoping he was properly attentive. I hate the thought of all those algae bits swirling around. This is the real reason why people should always wear suits. Seriously, the tighter-fitting the better. Whoa. Back to the pool! Because I could not swim yesterday, I began to reflect...

The lizards are my favorite pool visitors. When they come down to the edge of the pool to drink, they look like tiny prehistoric dogs lapping up water from tiny splashes. When they leap and jump to catch flies, they remind me of cats aiming for butterflies. When they bob their heads and posture, one can almost see the giant prehistoric reptiles they call to mind. When I saw the adult lizard eat the baby, I saw the ghost of a tyrannosaurus rex. That lizard even had the classic "I caught it" pose. Horrifying, yet fascinating. My favorites are the babies that fall in the water. They swim like mad for safety, and are quite content to ride around on the tip of my finger until they decide to investigate. When they start up my arm, it's time for them to get down. Into the plants they go! I love the lizards. These lizards are bearing witness to my transformation.

There are other animals. There are snakes, three different species in the last month, two of which were swimming and one that stayed dry and watched me from the edge of the deck. Frogs are found in plentiful abundance. Big ones, little ones, tiny ones no bigger than a baby's thumbnail. The frogs often require rescuing from the tiles at the edge of the pool. They don't seem to be able to negotiate up and over the ledge. In the morning following an overnight rain, there may be dozens of frogs all lined up around the edge, waiting for the magic bus (skimmer) to arrive to transport them to safety. If they're in a sporting mood, diving deep instead of climbing onto the skimmer, it can take quite some time to round them all up. I will say that leopard frogs certainly swim fast.

The turtles cause me headaches. The tiny ones are not much trouble. They are not yet experienced in evasive maneuvers and are easy to scoop up. The larger ones swim like devil divers. When disturbed, they head for the bottom like submarines and sit there, just waiting for me to close in so they can shoot to the other end of the pool. One turtle was so skilled at this game I ended up hunting it down wearing a mask and flippers. I will not be defeated. The most inconvenient aspect of the turtle rodeo is the post-capture release. I have to load them up and walk them down the road to the pond. Little ones go in a bucket. The biggest ones do not fit in the bucket and have to ride int the wheelbarrow.  You can imagine the soggy swim shoes slapping down the road as I drip drip drip on my wildlife rescue mission. I feel like a hero.

There are too many birds to mention. They fly over at all times of day, in all seasons. There are little ones in the yard and larger ones in flight to roosting spots. There are hunters searching for fish in nearby ponds or furry morsels in the woods behind the house. My favorite of all is the bald eagle. We have local nesting pairs, and occasionally one will fly over the house. They really are majestic birds.

This yard has had all sorts of four legged visitors, both furred and scaled. Bobcats, otters, raccoons, rabbits, armadillos, opossums, palm rats, the neighbor's dog... The bobcats are the most wonderful. A young bobcat might sit in the bushes and watch the goings on in the pool for the better part of an hour. Young cats are all similar in their high level of curiosity. One is tempted to view young bobcats as kittens, but they are not. They are wild and they are majestic.

We have had two small alligators and one large one. It is the nature of Florida; we expect it and relish its diversity. The small alligators are terribly afraid of people but apparently see themselves as formidable and terrifying. A baby alligator lounging by the pool hissed and hissed at me when I strongly encouraged it to seek refuge elsewhere. Less than eighteen inches long, it acted like a fearsome predator five times its size. I was impressed and amused, but I shooed it away nonetheless. Give a gator an inch and it might decide to stay. As for the big alligator, it was simply resting in the yard on its way to bigger and better things. We don't bother them and they don't bother us. We do, however, wait to swim until they go on their way. Their teeth are much bigger than ours.

I love this pool. I have said it before, but it bears repeating. This pool is saving my life. The fact that it is also providing me with a glimpse into the lives of the wilder inhabitants of this land is a wonderful bonus. In this pool, I am transforming myself into a new person, both physically and mentally. I love nearly every minute of it. Today, I hope, the water will be clear and fresh once again. I miss running, and I miss the lizards.


  1. OMG--You are living in a veritable jungle. Who knew?

    Excellent post. You paint such a vivid picture. The image of you slogging and slapping along in your pool shoes with a turtle so big it requires a wheelbarrow for transplant cracks me up.

    And ya know--I bet the lizards missed you, too!

  2. I would never get in the pool again. We only had opossums under the deck and that kept me away for 2 days. Your pool sounds like a happening place!