Last week I had a lizard crawling around in my house.
First I spotted him on the screen in front of my fireplace, which leads me to believe that he either crawled in through, or fell down the chimney, and landed in my fireplace. Rather than slinking through the space between the brick and the screen, he instead decided it was necessary for him to crawl over the entire screen to get to the other side.
Or given his reptilian brain, perhaps he gave this no thought at all.
Time was when I would have only thought of disposing of him, and as quickly as possible. Not by delivering him to his natural habitat, I might add.
I would’ve killed him.
In fact, I trained my dog to kill lizards. All you had to say to Chester was “gecko” and he was on the prowl, stamping them out first with his paw, then taking them ever so carefully in his teeth and shaking the very life out of them. He’d drop them at my feet, sometimes with their disembodied tails still writhing with life. Then he’d look up at me for a treat.
Because that’s how I’d trained him to get rid of these creatures, by rewarding him. Up until that time, he simply played with them outside.
When I first saw a friend take great strides to capture a gecko in the house, ever so gently picking him up so as not to hurt him, and then carefully releasing him outside, I thought, how odd.
Why would anyone do that?
“Because they eat bugs, Sally,” some of my friends said.
But my friend who released him said, “Because God made him, too.”
So when I found myself watching this lizard crawling on the screen on my fireplace, with no desire to simply do away with him, I thought, how odd.
How far I’ve come in not allowing my fear to prompt me to think of nothing else but destroying the object of my fear.
Instead, I watched him navigate the brick of the fireplace, heading ever so slowly toward the light coming through a window in my living room.
And there he remained for about four days.
He sat on the sill of the window with his tiny pointed noise up against the glass, looking longingly out at the flowerbed full of plants and shrubbery and dark earth. Maybe he could see the leaves being blown off the trees by a fall breeze bringing in a cold front. Maybe he saw tiny bugs crawling around in the dirt, whetting his appetite.
I don’t know.
I don’t know how he thinks, really.
Or if by pure instinct, he was led to this place that might be a way out of what must surely be unfamiliar territory to him.
A literal window of opportunity.
Sadly, it’s a false window of opportunity. There’s no opening he could squeeze through. He could see home beyond the glass, but he couldn’t get to it.
At least not without some help.
I could have forced him. I could have scraped him off into something and transported him out of the house in a flash. Of course, there was always the chance – since he’s quite capable of scrambling away from me and jumping onto the curtains, or worse yet, onto me! – that I’d miss him and he’d be more terrified, running off under the furniture somewhere, never to be seen again until someday when I moved and found his petrified carcass, belly up beneath a sofa.
No, I figured the best chance of helping him find his way back home was to wait and not scare him off by trying to force him to go somewhere he’s not willing to go.
Even if I could see that it’s the surest way to help him find home. Peace. Contentment.
But I need to do something to help him find his way, don’t I?
So I found this good sized branch that had broken off a pecan tree in my backyard, and I placed it in a deep plastic container, with the branch extending far beyond the container. That way he has a bridge that’s familiar to him. Something that he’s crawled on before, and he knows what it feels like beneath his feet.
Maybe that familiarity will help him to trust.
Otherwise he’s stuck.
He’ll just keep wandering around in my house, without companionship, without food (okay, there are probably a few bugs to sustain him for awhile, but nothing to really thrive on), without anything he was made to live in, as a lizard.
You know the sad thing? I think he’s too smart to crawl on that branch. Every now and then I would catch him sunning on the end of the branch that extended out of the plastic container, but he’d never go down into the container.
Fear kept him from “branching” out. He couldn’t bring himself to try new territory, even when the path was somewhat familiar, because it was a little different from what he knew.
He’d rather sit and look out the window at what’s familiar, with no hope of attaining what he longs for. Knowing that if he stayed where he was, he had no hope of surviving, let alone thriving. So the poor little guy climbed up the window again and again, only to fall back down to the windowsill every single time.
It’s difficult to try something new. It can be awfully scary, too.
To set out on a path that could ultimately lead to greater freedom, more abundant life, instead of the confusion and hopelessness he felt, all alone in the windowsill.
So what happened to the lizard?
Like the rest of us, he had to have some help from friends. Someone besides me who was able to catch him, gently pick him up, and carry him outside, releasing him into freedom.
But I had my eye on him the whole time.
I wasn’t about to let him get lost under the couch and miss the life he was meant to live.