PROSE: The Lizard Story…
The lizard pose
Out swam a fish and in ran a lizard (It is called Akpok in my dialect). Who loves lizards? Not me…but the pose I am performing in the picture is the lizard pose or Utthan Pristhasana (that is the Sanskrit name). In the advanced variation, my elbows should be resting on the floor, but my body decided differently. The key is to flow with your body’s direction and not force it to bend to your will…unless you want your angry hip muscles to rain curses on you! Please don’t ask me what I was thinking. This is my little way of showing some love to the lizards of Nigeria and beyond…but honestly, I don’t like them! I think that lizards are one of the equalizing residents in EVERY compound, along with rats, cockroaches, mosquitoes, houseflies… (you get the idea!). My funny relationship with Mr. Agama Lizard is like… (Oh, how do I describe this?)…Imagine a stubborn guy or girl that hangs around your gate, follows you into your compound, runs or walks around you to get your attention, and when you show him or her the door, they refuse to leave until you are forced to chase them out with a broom or a stick! Stubbornness and pride are two characteristics that are exhibited everyday by our little friend, the Red-headed Rock Agama or Rainbow Agama. Wikipaedia tells us that there are over 60 species of them! Yes…they are stubborn! Mr. Agama Lizard… tell me something… must you chase your girlfriend across my foot? Must there be a 100 meter race before you can decide which girlfriend to mate with? Must you always try to sneak into the kitchen and then run around like a confused criminal when I am trying to chase you out? There is plenty of space outside for you to run any race you want! In terms of pride, when a lizard jumps from a fence and lands on the ground, it looks round for an audience, and then congratulates itself by nodding or doing fast push ups as if to say, ‘Na me jump pass!’
According to Wikipedia, the word ‘Agama’ is a Latin word meaning ‘unmarried’. Hmm…I wonder why. But then, the dominant male lizard (which is usually brightly coloured) is polygamous and can keep 6 or more ‘girlfriends’ for mating and breeding. Professional womanizer! Lizards can’t talk, so they use body language to communicate. During the mating season, the dominant male lizard brightens its skin colours and does the ‘nodding and fast push ups’ to attract the female… (Na me fine pass! Na me strong pass!). But let’s be fair…it is the female lizard that actually initiates the 100 metre race because she wants to be ‘caught and courted’… Oh! Women and their handbag of tricks!
I remember once in secondary school, we were asked to form groups and catch some lizards as specimens for Biology. I think that word must have gone round the lizard community that they were ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ because we went round bushes and couldn’t find one lizard to catch! During my service year, I once saw a female neighbour roasting something that looked like a fat and long lizard and when I asked, she said it wasn’t a lizard. I suspect that it must have been an Iguana because it was brownish and greenish. Iguanas are edible and no…I did not taste it!
So…what can we possibly learn or gain from Mr. Agama Lizard? Okay…they are so contented with any meal they can find. They control the insect population because insects are their favourite delicacies. Lizards are territorial and fight each other a lot…which explains why some have broken tails. In a movie like Godzilla, a giant lizard-like creature was used to represent Godzilla, King of the Monsters. To many cultures, lizards were revered because of what they symbolised. Daniel A. Greenberg wrote that lizards symbolized hopefulness and wisdom to the ancient Europeans and Greeks. To the Romans, lizards symbolized rebirth. Earlier, I said that lizards are proud, but for now, I will say ‘confident’. Yes, they are confident enough to make their home in any tropical habitat…including your clean and beautiful compound and even inside your heavily-guarded mansion! Lizards are so comfortable and confident in themselves that they don’t care if you dislike them or think they are ugly and disgusting. They flow with the direction of life, irrespective of your human existence! They are cold-blooded so they enjoy sunbathing to balance this, and can tolerate some amount of heat. They are so courageous that they can climb over any fence better and faster than any thief on this earth, land safely on your foot or in a dirty gutter, and still have time to leave their footprints on the hem of the long white bed sheet you hung outside! And yes…they know very well that your bed sheet is white because they have amazing eyesight and can differentiate between colours and smells! They are survivors because the females don’t cater for their babies, and the babies can start fending for themselves as soon as they are hatched! Human babies were not designed to fend for themselves! Lizards express great detachment because they are ready to let go of their precious tails when caught by predators, just before they run for cover…because they know they can always grow another tail. Naturally, we humans carry so much baggage – physical, emotional, and mental – that we don’t even need because we are so conscious of what others will think and say about us. Just like other reptiles, lizards also shed their skins when they have outgrown them. How much useless baggage are we willing and ready to shed or let go of? Why do we hold on to what no longer serves us? When we move to a new compound to start a new life, we move with all our tangible and intangible baggage – necessary and unnecessary, but the lizard moves to every new compound carrying nothing but it’s confident, courageous, and detached self. I never thought I would say this, but even if I don’t like lizards, they still have a lot to teach me as a person…which is why they exist in the first place!
Coming up next: The Tress Story
By Inemesit Umofia, Ph.D
Dr. (Miss) Inemesit Umofia is a graduate of the Rivers State University and the University of Port Harcourt. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Adult and Community Education as well as a Master’s and Doctorate degree in Community Development. She is also a member of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), Rivers State Chapter and holds a certificate in Creative Writing from the Elechi Amadi School of Creative Writing. She has also undertaken creative writing workshops facilitated by Sefi Atta and Eghosa Imasuen. She is a one of the authors of ‘The Beggar’s Story and Other Tales’, which is a collection of short stories edited and published by the late Captain Elechi Amadi. Her poem ‘Shed a Tear’ written as a tribute to the late Captain Elechi Amadi has been featured in RivAna Magazine and ‘In a Blaze of Glory: Creative Tributes to Elechi Amadi’, which was edited by Adiyi Martin T. Bestman and Priye E. Iyalla-Amadi. Dr. Inemesit Umofia has co-authored publications in academic journals and her prose articles are published in Supreme Magazine. Her thought-provoking prose articles are published under the section, ‘Food for Thought’ and borders on highlighting life lessons in an educative and entertaining manner. She also posts thought-provoking articles on her blog, ‘Life’s angles’. She is an ardent believer in continuous self-empowerment, life-long learning, and development. She hails from Akwa Ibom State, and lives in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
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