My Lizard Friends by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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Gavin, who just turned five, knows I have a thing for lizards. We go around the house counting all my “lizard friends” as he calls them: one day we got up to thirteen but then had to start over because we weren’t sure if we had already counted one or two. His favorite is the lizard clock from Twigs and Teacups that keeps the time in his bedroom. Its little red tongue darts back and forth counting the seconds until he falls asleep.

I’m not really sure how all this began. I went through a Southwest phase many years ago. I spent several summers knocking around New Mexico and Colorado and maybe my love affair with lizards began then. I’ve toyed with the idea that they are some kind of spirit animal for me, but I can’t quite find the connection. One year I even spent several months working on a historical novel about the Pueblo Revolt which took place in 1680—the first truly indigenous American revolution against a foreign occupier. It was led by a mystical Native American named Popé who devised an ingenious method of coordinating an uprising by the various pueblo peoples against the Spanish colonizers in the province of Santa Fe de Nuevo México, present day New Mexico. The working title of my book was “Axolotl,” an Indian word for a type of salamander found in the region known for its adaptability to its high desert environment. (Interesting tidbit: salamanders are a New World phenomenon, hence the Indian nomenclature. Apparently there were no salamanders back in the Old World. Who knew?) Sad to say that axolotls are nearing extinction due to pollution and invasive species of fish, but I digress…

Lizards are part of a group of squamate reptiles of which there are more than 6000 species inhabiting every continent except Antarctica. They are as small as geckos and as large as Komodo dragons which can exceed ten feet in length. Lizards are quadrupedal and unlike my friend Eggman, they are carnivorous. Most are “sit-and-wait” predators who enjoy a diet of insects; Komodo dragons, however, have been known to eat an entire water buffalo which is perhaps why my fascination with lizards does not extend to Komodo dragons.

Lizards are good at fooling their predators. They often have natural camouflage but their best method of escape is their unique ability to sacrifice and then regenerate their long tails. If a predator snatches a lizard by its tail and bites it off, the lizard gets away and grows another. Maybe this ingenuous adaptability is why I have such a thing for lizards—not that I need to escape anything, mind you. Nor, for that matter, can I grow another tail, although I must admit I haven’t tried that yet.

Then there’s this: lizards like sunlight; so do I. I don’t know how you feel, but as the Beatles once sang, “little darling, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter,” so if it’s finally time for “here comes the sun,” then the lizards of the world and I am all in!

Back to counting with Gavin. We got to nineteen lizard friends around the house recently, but that’s not counting the secret one that only my wife and few close friends have ever seen. Hmmm…

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was released in May and is already in its second printing. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

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Letters to Editor

  1. Melinda Bookwalter says:

    Such a delightful and refreshing counter to the 24/7 news I can’t seem to turn off.
    Love the pebble lizard.
    Thank you!!

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