Saturday, June 1, 2013

Home is Where the Fence Lizard Lives

My childhood home is where Hoot Owl Karma was born, and it's always a treat to spend a little time there with Mom and Dad and Robbie. The home place has changed some over the years, but many things remain just as they appear in my earliest memories. The long white sand driveway, the magnificent longleaf pines and the low rock wall my dad built out front from sandstone and quartz still greet us each time we visit. And during all but the coldest months, somewhere along the fence, or on the big longleaf right out front, a tree lizard is basking.

When Jay and I show up for dinner Thursday night, the tree lizard is there, basking on the bark of the longleaf pine. As if to remind me that it's more properly known as the eastern fence lizard, not the "tree lizard" of my rural Harnett County vernacular,  it deliberately makes its way down the trunk and across the straw to take its place on the corner of Dad's rock wall.

The eastern fence lizard is something of a homebody and quite territorial, so it's possible that the lizard we commune with tonight is descended from those individuals I pursued along the length of this same fence as a curious six year old. And perhaps its clan does have a bit more affinity for trees than the usual fence lizard, since the high treetops were their best sanctuary from the pursuit of dogged young hunters named Jimmy and Henry. 

These images of the basking fence lizard were rendered by the new camera and lens, and I love the way the telephoto creates intriguing wallpaper from otherwise distracting background objects like the grille of Robbie's car. The sun-drenched pine straw becomes a muted reddish brown backdrop which helps focus attention on our steadfast subject, the sentinel, scion of an ancient Sandhills clan, the fence lizard.

Her gaze is so intense and unwavering, one wonders whether she's more concerned with maintaining an optimal position relative to the sun, watching for prey, or watching for potential predators. Probably all of the above; in today's fast-paced world, multi-tasking is a must.

Eastern fence lizards spend virtually all their time on or near the objects they use for cover and protection. She will probably lay her eggs nearby, and most likely sleeps beneath the rocks which form the foundation of her basking fence. There are abundant ants, spiders and beetles along and beneath her fence, and even the occasional passing snail for dessert. Birds are major predators, but for all the apparent languor of her sun-induced trance, she can be deep in a crevice in the blink of an eye. All things considered, the old rock fence makes a right nice place to call home.

Coming home means different things to different folks. For me, home is a place where I can be me, for better or for worse, and experience complete and unconditional love and acceptance. When you have a home like that, it's hard not to recognize and appreciate the sacred in all living things; like the little fence lizard that cherishes each of those stones placed by Dad's loving hands just as much, or perhaps even more, than you do. Live long and prosper, little lizard.


  1. He was a great subject for you to shoot pictures of. Handsome devil.

    1. Not the least bit camera shy, that's for sure! We both live in a great region for lizards. The Carolina anole, ground skink, five-lined skink, six-lined racerunner, broadheaded skink, and even the legless slender glass lizard can all be found in our area, and you've got the perfect habitat there around the pond and its environs for all of these guys. I'll try to locate and post pictures of all the others before the summer is out.