Monday, January 11, 2010

Lizard Rain

Skype conversation with my six-year-old granddaughter in Ft. Lauderdale:

Makayla: Omi! Guess what! (giggling)
Omi: What?
Makayla: An iguana fell in our driveway.
Omi: What?
Makayla: Iguana.
Omi: Iguana?
Makayla: Yes.
Omi: What do you mean?
Makayla: I already told you! An iguana fell in our driveway!
Omi: (remembering we had just read Chicken Little when I was there) Oh, I get it. Omi Lomi! The sky is falling!
Makayla: No, Omi! For real! You don't get it. It was like, frozen! My papa put it under the bushes.
Omi: You mean it was dead? Are you just going to let it rot under there? Aren't you going to bury it?
Makayla: No! When it comes alive, it will run away.
Omi: Really? Let me talk to your mom.

Sarah verified Makayla's story. Indeed I had not gotten it. Not only had a very large lizard, a young iguana, fallen in front of them while they were getting into their car, iguanas are free-falling from trees all over South Florida, due to the cold weather. Iguanas, being cold-blooded, apparently go into a hibernation-like state when the temperature falls below 40 degrees. I can attest to the existence of wild iguanas in Makayla's tropical neighborhood, hidden in the flora of the region. Large, scary-looking ones. They poke their ugly heads from the tall grass by the creek near Makayla's house. I wouldn't want to tangle with one. Had I had more time while there, I might have blogged about the shock of mere sightings. Little did I know they would be falling like rain by the time I got home. Need I say more about the surprises of nature, or why this blog is fun? The photo shows the iguana in Makayla's driveway. Below is an excerpt from Sarah's follow-up e-mail, and a link to an article from Miami News, for the doubters among you. dkm

"Poor things. Lizards are dropping everywhere. We can hear them falling. Some are in the street, though, and if nobody moves them, they get run over. Our little friend fell right out of the tree in front of us. I thought it was just another coconut falling, until Thad picked it up and showed it to me. It's about a foot and a half long with the tail. Thad says it happens everytime it gets cold in Florida."

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Waiting for me at home, among the mountains of mail (mostly bills) and packages (mostly Christmas) that had collected in my six weeks of absence, was a gift from my brother, Dan. It was a fancy schmancy squirrel-proof bird feeder, which took half a day to read about, assemble, fill, and hang. If it foils our aggressive Georgia squirrels, it will be the first.

The design is a clever inspiration of engineering. The weight of a squirrel on the perches pulls a shroud over the feeding holes, forbidding access to the seed. Lighter weight song birds can feed happily on any one of the six perpendicular perches that can be adjusted in length to accomodate larger birds. It has a special apparatus for cardinals that surrounds the feeder like one of Saturn's rings, because cardinals can't or don't tilt their heads to feed. Who knew?

Sparing you the unnecessary details of my expectations about how the bird population of 710 Pinetree Drive would accept this feeder, I admit to shock and awe. The first was that a pair of cardinals, one bright, one dull, came so soon to the buffet, @ 11:20 a.m. today, only the second day after the feeder was hung. At 12:00 noon, a pair of bluebirds came. What follows is the transcript of the e-mail I sent my brother at 12:14 p.m. today:

"Bingo! Bluebirds! BLUEBIRDS! Then nuthatches, now a Carolina chickadee, and tufted titmice---all within seconds of each other. Not an hour since the cardinals first arrived. The parade goes on as I type. Chickadees fighting over a spot. More and more birds coming and competing for the perches. A pair of rufous sided towhees---brown female, black male---now tons of chickadees. A sudden flurry of activity in last ten minutes---six feet from where I sit reading, with only a sliding glass door between us. Now Carolina wrens---it goes on and on---four and five birds at a time---all over the deck banisters---waiting their turns. Don't worry, I won't report every visit---but these first ones are such a surprise. I hadn't hoped for such an immediate and magnificent response---huge variety of birds in great numbers. I know I have a reputation for hyperbole, but you should see this---far exceedlng what I had imagined. Did the cardinals spread the word? The others arrived all at once. A blog-worthy day. dkm

Giant-Cell Tumor on Thoracic Vertabra #3

Setting out to write a daily topical blog without including personal reflection or family events has proven to be difficult for me. For the last seven weeks it has meant no blogging at all.

On November 18, my 29 year-old daughter Sarah, who lives in Florida, called with the alarming news of a tumor on her spine. Could I come to help her young family through her ordeal of surgery and recovery? Of course, I went---and stayed until she and her husband could manage again on their own, which meant fulltime housekeeping and childcare for my two precious grandchildren, ages 20 mos and 6 years, through the holiday season.

It's not that I didn't write during that time. Regular e-mail exchanges to keep family and friends abreast of Sarah's progress kept everyone informed and me afloat. But I am eager, now that I'm home, to take up my pencil again in the simple act of paying slow attention to the backyard. I feel surprisingly forlorn, though, and out of practice at the art. Learning that my daughter's health is to be fully restored after having feared for her life has not left me unchanged. I wonder what I will see now, as I return to backyard observation. dkm