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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

The Wise Old Skink

It's always great to see in the Spring, after the vegetation is almost finished with turning green, to see that all the moving little creatures have come back from wherever they go and whatever they do in the long, cold winters, when nothing is seen or heard of them. In the cold weather their absences are so total that it seems it will be permanent. Though maybe it's not so permanent. Maybe, every once in a while, my senses -- challenged these days in several ways -- do nevertheless catch little indications but they're not loud or vivid enough to cause me to take special notice -- a slight trill in the wind, a small scurrying under the dead leaves, a quick darting of something small and dark just past the corners of my eyes.

But now all the little moving things are out and about again, in the same numbers as always, in full color, sound, and definition, as if the cold and the darkness didn't diminish them in any way.

For the last several years an old five-lined skink has been living on the front deck of my workshop, under a big box where I store firewood, and yesterday I was glad to see him for the first time this year. And I know I will see him again and again, not always but often when I climb the three steps onto the deck. He likes to scurry into sight from the edge of the deck, stop suddenly, and stand there motionless for quite a long time, staring at me, and it's as if he's waiting to hear what I have to say for myself. After a minute of that, he decides that I quite idiotically can't speak five-lined skink, and he scuttles on under the wood box, disappearing.

I call him "the wise, old skink," or "George," and I'm sure though I can't know that he's the same one that reappears there, year after year. I know he's old because he's a dark grayish brown all over. Those who haven't looked it up always call his species just "lizards," though the graduates of MIT who are responsible for such things have classified them as being "five-lined skinks." That's because when they're young their bodies are marked by a series of stripes that extend from their tails to their heads. These lines, which must be there because of the usual reproductive purposes, are a yellowish brown that alternates with a same-sized blue that is so bright that the skinks are one of the most colorful and beautiful things to be seen in the animal kingdom around here.

This year the wise old skink looked slightly different. He stood higher off the deck than I remembered, and his body looked larger but shorter and more rounded. Maybe his legs have grown longer, and maybe he's gotten a paunch.

I wonder if he saw comparable changes in me. I'm sure he did. But as always he kept his observations to himself and eventually stopped waiting for me and hustled on off about whatever his business might be.

It's sobering to think how little we fit into the equations of the wild life around here. They stop and wait for us to follow whatever whim comes into our minds or otherwise get the hell out of their way. Meanwhile they always do the same stuff that they always do and always have done and always will do, give or take an eon or two, and they don't spend a lot of time showing up for examinations or applause. I doubt that the same will ever be said of us, on the cosmic scale of things.


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