Our Lizard Brains

Hangin’ with my beautiful reptilian relations…

Dedicated to Shannon Rooney

19 May 2015, Tuesday — 7:30 A.M.

“Don’t build a nest there, please,” were the first words I spoke aloud, quietly, this morning. The small bird I was speaking to was darting in and out of a blanket I had hung over a line, all beeps, chirps and trills as it was scouting for a place to nest.
It’s happened before that I shook out a sleeping bag or a jacket that I was airing and out fell the twigs and grass of a nest. It seemed akin to bulldozing human homes in warfare, but I am not at war with my animal friends.
It’s a matter of being aware that if I’m not observant, someone will bed down in fabric I have about: spiders, caterpillars and tics.
There are, I think, two monarch butterfly cocoons attached to Tibetan prayer flags. Cool. If the timing’s right, I’ll be able to see them emerge from their chrysalises.

Hands down, my most constant companions at camp are my lizard friends. Some are hanging out while I write this. They range three to six inches in length, tail to nose and have a variety of colorings: some more solid in camouflaged tones and some coated with scaled iridescence.
They react to my making clucking sounds with my tongue and, particularly, when I make flatulent sounds with my lips. They cock their heads, do their push-ups and puff up.

I don’t know why they do push-ups, sometimes on their front legs and others on all four. Up and down, up and down. Dominance behavior? Mating ritual?
I call the larger ones ‘Dudes’ and the smaller ones ‘Sweetheart’.
At the risk of coming off as a reptilian bigot, they all sort of look alike to me.

I’ve never been much for push-ups, but occasionally, when I’m laying out on my blanket, I’ll roll over and do 10 just to show them I can but they always win the competition.

My observations are empirical, I’m not a scientist, but this being my third season in the woods, I would agree with being labelled a ‘naturalist’.

In an article published in ‘Psychology Today’ (Your Lizard Brain, The Limbic System and Brain Functioning, April 22, 2014), Joseph Troncale, M.D. of Lancaster, Pennsylvania writes:

In 1954, the limbic cortex was described by neuroanatomists. Since that time, the limbic system of the brain has been implicated as the seat of emotion, addiction, mood, and lots of other mental and emotional processes. It is the part of the brain that is phylogenetic ally very primitive. Many people call it “The Lizard Brain” because the limbic system is about all a lizard has for brain function. It is in charge of fight, flight, feeding, fear, freezing-up, and fornication.

I sensed we had a lot in common.

Midday Sunday, I noticed that one of the six-inchers was on the rock that has a shallow depression which I fill with water for the lizards and our bird friends. Also on the rock is a red toy pick-up truck I found which the Dude often lays across, too big for the bed, like a low-tech effect in a 1950s Japanese horror flick.
Instead, he was standing next to it doing four-legged push-ups at a frantic speed. He appeared agitated – not in the way he gets when the shadow of a large bird passes – something was different.
I stopped, listened and smelled. The birds were engaged in their boisterousness. As a self-absorbed human, I didn’t detect the silence which precedes an earthquake. There was no hint of smoke or footfalls in the brush which could signal a predator, other humans being the ones we fear most.
He kept on: up and down, up and down on all four legs at a frenzied speed.

And, I swear the following happened:
“What’s up, Dude?” Is something wrong?”
He stopped, cocked his head, popped off the rock and made a four-legged dart to buckets I had set out to catch rain water. He positioned himself next to the purple bucket and resumed his alarmed behavior.
I stood up to full height and he scampered off. Walking over to the buckets and looking down, I inwardly gasped.
A smaller lizard was trapped inside.
“Ah, Sweetheart, I’m so sorry,” I apologized tipping the bucket, sacrificing the water and off she went scurrying out of sight. I consolidated all of the water into one bucket, covered it and turned the others upside down.

Back on my blanket, I put a bud in my ear and continued reading, doing a sit-down bop to rock music.
Three lizards appeared an unusual number and positioned themselves on assorted rocks and limbs. The biggest lay across the pick-up truck.
Circling me, six more appeared, none of the nine doing push-ups.
I looked at each one of them, all of us cocking our heads and on impulse in a subconscious lizard brain moment; I said to each one of them, one at a time, nine times, “You’re welcome.”
At which point, all nine started doing their push-ups, moving side-to-side and flicking their tongues while I made gaseous sounds with my lips.
They don’t have a lot of moves, but, then, neither do I.
I could have cried, but just kept on dancing.


Writing hint: Don’t be concerned about using cliches. You can always go back and edit them if you aren’t satisfied. For example, write, “It’s a beautiful day.” Let it rest and then on revisiting, think of changing it to, “It was a day that made me feel beautiful.”


PS: I’m still having trouble with this blog stuff. The Alex light piece I mentioned earlier this week will have to wait until next week. My apology.

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One Response to Our Lizard Brains

  1. Shirley says:

    I never respond to blogs so this is a very unique experience for me. At the moment, I can’t even articulate why it is that I am attempting to do this. Maybe it is because I can totally relate to apologizing to the lizard.

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