Thursday, April 24, 2008

Lizards and other creatures

Yesterday I watched two lizards chase each other across the terrace. The lizards have been back for a few weeks. Our house faces south, and the exterior wall is partly stone, and there is a wide wooden terrace, perfect for sunning yourself if you are not concerned about melanoma. And word on the chemin is that lizards aren't.

My Guide Nature Pour Tous tells me that our lizards are lézards des souches, which can translate as either lizards from the roots, which has a nice Darwinian edge to it, or as the more picturesque stump lizards. They are, the book says, grey-brown, with stripes and blots in different colors. They can be up to 24 cm long (that's about 9 inches, which is A Lot of Lizard). Males when mating are green. (Our lizards are not mating. Yet.) They like fallow fields, hillsides, the edges of forests, and gardens: the first three absolutely describe the area around our house, the last, not so much. The Guide says that the lizards like to warm themselves up in the sun in the morning, and then, once reheated (I'm just translating here), they hunt insects. They make holes in the ground to lay their eggs, but, once laid, leave them to incubate in the sun.

A couple of weeks ago I found the first lizard in the house. It was a lovely warm day and I had left the terrace door open, so little M. Stump decided to venture in. I found him in a sunny spot in the kitchen. Instantly lizards went from being a charming cultural conversation piece (and, just think, we have lizards outside our door instead of flocks of mosquitoes!) to being right next to a rodent. With difficulty I kept myself from getting the broom from the closet and bringing M. Stump to an untimely end--not out of any compassion, really, for my reptilian cousins, but because if the creature were dead then I might have to touch it to remove it from my house. Instead I took out a Tupperware container and chased it around the kitchen on my hands and knees. Lizards move fast. He figured out that the best spot to avoid me was under the open shelves, so within a minute or two we were at a draw.

I looked over at Wendy, thinking perhaps that this could be one of those moments when her canine, protect the missus instincts could kick in. She sat down, turned her front paws out in first position, and gazed back at me. Blankly. I realized that unless I caught this creature and fried it in olive oil she was not going to be any help. Alice, meanwhile, was packing to leave: if somebody had told her that catching reptiles was part of her pet job description, she would have chosen another family.

Eventually, evolution, or lack thereof, won out, and M. Stump forgot about me and the Tupperware and crawled out, and I caught him, put him outside, and shut the door. L and I found another lizard in the house last weekend--a baby lizard, who had crawled up the wall and was contemplating some bugs. He looked like if you added water to him he would grow to 200 times his size. When we found him, we had just assembled the troops and were preparing to venture forth. Once our troops are assembled, it's best not to break the momentum, so we left Stump fils where he was, and when we came home, he was gone. Now let's just say that I'm opening drawers carefully.

There are also frogs, and if I find one of those in the house...well, I'm taking this new phase of la vie en campagne one step at a time.

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