A GIGGLE OF GECKOS
There is no name for a group of geckos because geckos do not normally live in groupings. Lizards as a group are a "lounge" of lizards (I kid you not! Look it up...) probably because they are always lounging around.
My geckos tend to not be lounging much. They tend to be scurrying or leaping or doing strange acrobatics like little lizard ninjas. And they are always--ALWAYS--giggling! And so, I will introduce you to a Giggle of Geckos.
I need to introduce you to some friends of mine—Gryffyth, Stumpy and Flash.
These three are endless sources of amusement for me, and often join me on adventures since I first met them. They may write their own stories for the blog eventually, but, since they are still learning how to print with crayons, it may be a few weeks before they start typing. But here is a brief introduction to each of them.
Gryffyth is quite young so he’s very bright green to help him camouflage with the leaves. He’s very brave but also quite cautious. He is the brains of this little troupe. He is very artistic and often notices little details that the other geckos miss. He is also very helpful and loves to share and help the community.
Gryffyth loves checking out all the different flowers and fruits on the island, and spotting unusual bugs. He likes to draw pictures of what he sees. Some of his pictures are really quite good and I may have to have him illustrate a book soon!
Gryffyth also enjoys Google time with me at the computer where we look up the answers to big questions. (What is the correct fork to eat bugs with? How many kinds of snails are there? Why do Stumpy and Flash keep licking their eyeballs?) Sometimes we check out the stock market, in case Gryffyth wants to invest some of his savings.
Gryffyth is quite specifically a Barbados Green Lizard or Anolis Extremus. This is a species of anole lizard that is native to the island of Barbados in the Caribbean. It has now become an introduced species to Saint Lucia and Bermuda, and also Florida. They tend to be bright green with darker speckles down the back and their bellies are yellow. Males have a brightly coloured throat fan that is normally a vibrant red. They use this and a bobbing head motion to ward off potential enemies and attract females.You may have to look close to spot him in the photo!
STUMPY (HAMISH MacDAVID)
Stumpy’s father calls him Hamish. Everyone else knows his real name is Stumpy. Stumpy is a daredevil who often gets into scrapes because he isn’t paying attention. Stumpy is a lovely bright blue colour which isn’t always great for camouflage, making him easy prey for birds, cats, and mongoose here on the island. This is why his friends call him Stumpy—he is always dropping his tail to escape from something (and sometimes because he’s just startled…). This means his tail is often missing or in some stage of growing back. He tends to be the leader because he’s not afraid to go first!
Stumpy enjoys skydiving—but only by choice! Falling out of a bird’s beak after dropping his tail to get away can often end in a very sudden bump and a headache. He also likes running races with Flash when Gryffyth is busy drawing.
Stumpy also enjoys looking for pictures of himself in Geckos in the Garden. Usually he finds the ants on page three first. Then he tries to lick them off the page. I need to get a special plastic book just for him because my copy is getting very soggy from all the gecko spit.
Stumpy’s family came to Barbados a very long time ago and have African roots. Stumpy is a Turquoise Dwarf Gecko, William’s dwarf gecko, or electric blue gecko. These are endemic to a small area of Tanzania and are critically endangered. Their habitat is shrinking but that is not the biggest threat. The biggest threat to the survival of Stumpy’s species is the illegal pet trade. We will talk about that more in a different post.
Flash is very, very fast. She likes to go everywhere at a dead run. She says she’s training for the running events at the Gecko Olympics, but I think that it’s very hard for her to find places to hide! There are not many plants with bright orange leaves all year round, or bright orange flowers. As a result, she likely spends a lot of time running for cover. Her real name is Floilana, which is of Greek origins and means “rapid”. I think it suits her but she prefers Flash!
Flash likes hanging out with Stumpy and Gryffyth, and going for adventures. She particularly enjoyed a trip to the beach last week although she got a little worried when a crab came out of it’s hole and was bigger than she is!
She also enjoys sunning herself on the patio and nibbling ants. Ants are her absolute favourite. She likes when the stray cats, come around to beg food. She knows I will feed them, and that the cats will leave a little bit behind which will attract ants. Because of this, Flash is often hiding nearby, under the chair or the barbecue, ready to run out and gobble up the ants after the cats leave!
Flash is a Tangerine morph of a Leopard Gecko. Leopard Geckos are ground dwelling lizards from the rocky grasslands and deserts of Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, India and Nepal. Tangerine morphs are one of many variations that have been created by people breeding the leopard geckos in captivity to get different colours and patterns. Her bright orange and yellow colouring is not very good for her life expectancy in the wild! Her family arrived in Barbados in captivity and escaped to freedom in the shrubberies.
LIZARD OR GECKO?
So, some people say that Gryffyth is a lizard, and Stumpy and Flash are geckos and that makes them different.
This is true in a way. Geckos are all considered lizards but not all lizards are considered geckos. Geckos are distinctly different from lizards in one particular way. Geckos have especially sticky feet and toes while most lizards do not share this feature. This comes from very tiny hair-like structures on the bottom of their feet allowing geckos to stick to walls, ceilings and other vertical or upside-down places through friction.
Lizards have eyelids as well, but not all geckos do. Some geckos have a clear scale over their eye but no functioning eyelids and this is why you sometimes see them licking their eyeballs to keep them clean and moist. (Can you lick your eye? I don’t think so….you probably can’t lick your elbow either, but that’s a challenge for a different day!)
Gryffyth is a type of lizard from the family Iguanadae. Stumpy and Flash are both from the family gekkotan. But all three of them are reptiles.
Many people who do not know the difference will refer to all of the smaller lizards and geckos as geckos and this is why in my book some of the pictures you are actually hunting for lizards….particularly the green ones like Gryffyth. Please forgive my poetic license in this matter.
Gryffyth, Stumpy and Flash would say they all like ants, adventures, and being friends so what’s the big deal if they are not all the same? And to that I say, well done!
THE CREATIVE PROCESS
Welcome to the RuthAmanda 100% Organic, perpetually colourful, tasteful in the most small-animal-friendly way, Observation Post! Here we will discuss the RuthAmanda creative process, provide amusing anecdotes, observe some garden, beach and wilderness friends, and allow some of those friends to provide insights and observations of their own.
I currently live in Barbados with my delightful husband, Dave, my imagination, and several geckos. Geckos are wonderful things to have around the house. They provide hours of amusement for us and help keep the nasty bugs (annoying ants, pesky flies, irritating mosquitoes, bustling beetles and suspicious spiders) from taking over the world. I enjoy watching them, recording them and photographing them. This sometimes leads to me being found in some rather odd positions by some of the neighbours.
For context, we live in a villa in a little subdivision with lovely gardens, a community pool, pathways and neighbours of all descriptions. The day before I wrote Geckos in the Garden, I was lying on my belly in the grass under a hedge in the gardens near our villa. I was attempting to take some cool photos of a gecko I had spotted between the leaves so I had moved carefully, crawling slowly on my belly.
As I was worming my way under the shrubs, a young family with two small boys was approaching. I didn’t notice them until two small feet plonked down near my head, and a small boy asked, “Whatcha doing?”
I whispered, “Looking for geckos…”and pointed at the rather brave gecko who had not (as geckos normally do) run away as fast as his legs could carry him at the sight of this intruder. The little boy flopped down, in an un-stealthy way. The gecko still didn’t move. The boy’s brother plopped down on the other side of me.
I pointed out the gecko and then spotted another one, which I pointed out.
Questions streamed from the boys. “What’s he doing?” “Do geckos bite?” “Why doesn’t he move?”
I tried to answer these questions while still getting a good photograph. I also was quite surprised the gecko hadn’t moved and wondered if it had, in fact, died of fright.
Ah, no! With a flick of its tail, it was gone. The second gecko was instantly not there also. Poof! A magician would have been proud.
As I stood up, brushing grass and leaves off my shirt, I answered as many questions as I could. Realizing the parents were looking at me rather oddly, I introduced myself with a sheepish look and let them know I write children’s books. Looking unconvinced, they gathered their offspring and headed for the pool.
I laughed quietly.
Philistines. No appreciation for fine literature.
The next morning, while enjoying my breakfast in the sunshine on the patio, I spotted a gecko hiding nearby. Into my head popped the words that will forever more be enshrined in the pages of Geckos in the Garden:
In the morning, after breakfast,
In the garden, in the sun,
I can see my little neighbour--
It’s a tiny gecko. ONE!
I grabbed the notebook and pencil that are usually nearby. I wrote it down. Then I spotted some movement and saw two more geckos. Before my eyes, the whole story unfolded on the page. Organically. I scribbled furiously. I crafted. I smiled. I added some more. It kept coming. I styled, I shaped, and the geckos ran amok. They were everywhere. Now there were six. Then seven! Ten geckos, TEN!
I set the notebook aside and finished up my breakfast.
Later in the morning, I took the notebook again and scratched some bits out and added some bits in. When I was happy with it, I typed it into an email and sent it to my husband David thinking it would make him smile. Dave did indeed smile. Dave requested more. Dave wanted pictures. Dave's a simple soul.
With some encouragement from Dave, I started sketching what I thought the pictures would look like. I put pencil to paper, and added ink. Then the colours. And then, the images began to flow from my pen and palette on to the paper. The geckos were alive. They were dancing. They were playing with my brush and chasing each other over the pages. It was all I could do to contain them.
Dave said: "Wow!" and then: "More!"
So from the seed planted under the shrubs with two little boys, there grew a story, that blossomed with pictures, and ripened into Geckos in the Garden. Home grown with love.
That first story has now sent runners and roots out to begin other works - several more books in a similar vein are coming, including garden and ocean colouring books, and more. From that small seed several months ago has grown a veritable jungle of colour, happiness and sunshine.
I owe much credit to both my husband Dave, and my good friend, Sandra. The two of them have supported me and encouraged me through this whole journey of getting it from my head and into print! They too are certified 100% organic! (And, I might add, very, very patient). (Dave interjects: patient? OMG. You won't believe how the tendrils of Ruth's imagination totally infiltrate your brain until you have no idea which day of the week it is, and whether you remembered to get the cat out of the washing machine before you added the spaghetti and meatballs. Oh no. Did I really add spaghetti instead of a soap cube again? Where are my reading glasses?)
I also owe much credit to granddaughter Jessa, aged three, who acted as my Focus Group and enthusiastically hunted for geckos in the pictures. Her demands of “AGAIN!” let me know I was on the right track with this one.
The folks at Friesen Press have also been magnificent, with helpful guidance, clear insights and excellent production experience. My writing/creation group, organized by Hollis Gross-Citron at I Am Creative (www.iamcreativephilly.com), have also been very supportive and I am very grateful for their support, encouragement, and friendship.
THE ORGANIC WAY
Was artificial intelligence used in the making of this? Only in that I’m not really as intelligent as I like to think I am! Real pencils, pens and brushes were used in the making, only transferring the finished product to computer once complete. So I think I can label this 100% Organic with some authenticity. And just a little pride.
In these days where video games and social media posts are taking the place of books in our lives, I am hoping to inspire the imaginations of our children. I hope they read my books and want to go outside and hunt for bugs and things in the garden as my sons used to do. I hope they have adventures. I hope they name all the little animals that share our world with their own names, and give them characters that make them laugh, become intrigued, get excited and just generally have fun.
I have deliberately stayed away from controversial topics since the point of all this is a love of life and a joy in the natural world, and there's too little of that today. These books are safe for everyone and designed to be that way. If I have made any child happy--made them smile, made them want to google what a gecko eats or why they sometimes lose their tails, or create a painting with creatures found in their local park or garden--then I have succeeded.
Most of all, I hope you all enjoy reading them!