Iguana Do Some Writing?

Iguana3Hi. Barb here. In a great counterpoint to Lea Wait’s post about Maine winters yesterday, I thought I’d post about my new writing companions in Key West, Florida.

My husband and I are here for two months, and due to, umm, a little too much fun over the holidays, I am on a strict writing regime. I’m in first draft mode, which I have learned I must endure to get to the part I love, love, revisions. I’ve told everyone I know that if I write 1000 words everyday (including weekends) and get in the pool everyday, it’s a good day. What about the hundreds of other temptations Key West has to offer? If I finish those two tasks early enough, fine, I can play, but if not, too bad.

Iguana6Lately, as I write in the late afternoons, this guy has been joining me. He’s a green iguana. They came to Florida as pets and now have overrun the place. Apparently they reproduce like crazy, up to 50 eggs in one nest. They’re territorial and not worth trapping, because once one is gone a new one will soon move in to replace him.

Iguana7They can grow up to five or six feet, and I did see one in the vacant lot behind us who was as big as a dog. They’re herbivores and won’t hurt you unless they’re cornered. But I have to admit, I’m creeped out by the way they look. It’s like Jurassic Park has opened a petting zoo in our yard. Don’t worry! I won’t be petting them. I’ve seen how the movie turned out.

The first time I saw one, it was our backyard one, not this front yard guy. I was in the pool and heard a rustling overhead and I looked up into the palm trees and there he was, eating a tasty lunch of new palm leaves. He seemed supremely undisturbed by my presence, which is more than I can say for myself. I jumped out of the pool I was cowering beside the house when my husband arrived home. He pointed out that given the spray bottle of “Iguana Be Gone” on the deck, I shouldn’t have been quite so surprised.

The pool guy

The pool guy

The iguana proceeded to stroll along the top of our fence, casual as you please. Iguana Be Gone, by the way, is mostly cinnamon and garlic and impresses iguanas not one whit.

The creepiest thing about iguanas, aside from their obviously creepy looks, is that though they have evolved to climb trees quite efficiently, they cannot climb down. Instead, they have the ability to fall up to forty feet without injuring themselves. When we used to come to Key West with my mother, we stayed in a multi-story resort. When a big iguana came hurtling off the roof onto the cement pool deck–THWUMP!– it freaked me out every time.

Iguana5Apparently they can be quite the pests, and love to poop in your pool. We haven’t had this problem yet, and I’m hoping if we continue with our current live and let live policy, things won’t escalate. In the meantime, I’m getting used to seeing my writing companion hanging around outside my window in the afternoons.


About Barbara Ross

Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries. Her books have been nominated for multiple Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and have won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Portland, Maine. Readers can visit her website at www.maineclambakemysteries.com
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21 Responses to Iguana Do Some Writing?

  1. Gram says:

    Snow in the North and Iguanas in the South. It’s a toss-up 🙂 I’ll sit by the fire and read books in the North.

  2. Heidi Wilson says:

    The part about evolving to fall forty feet instead of climbing down will be Item 1 in my list of evidence against Intelligent Design.

    • Barb Ross says:

      Laughing, Heidi. They don’t seem that smart, but they have stood the test of time. Apparently they have fantastic distance vision, and a third eye that looks like a scale and senses only light and darkness.

  3. Lea Wait says:

    Love it, Barb! Even love iguanas, although I can’t say as I’ve had a fraction of your experience with them. And the only thing falling on me (other than snow) is my cat, who has decided that when I’m at my computer my back is a great half-way stop to leaping on or off the top of the wardrobe in my study that houses my office supplies.
    Enjoy the sun! And 1,000 words a day sounds doable and fun. If you do that you won’t get into my current situation … a minimum 2500 words a day, and even then I’ll only have a couple of weeks for that fun editing. The joy of contracts!

    • Barb Ross says:

      Hi Lea

      1000 words a day works for me. I can sit for twelve hours a day doing revisions, but first drafts are a slog, and I’ve learned (way too slowly, you’d think I’d be past such things at my age) that comparing my productivity to others leads nowhere good.

  4. Barb: Just wanted to let you know that we lived with two green iguanas in our home for several years. Allie was the smaller female. Gee, did she have a cranky attitude! The neighbor boys found out how hard her tail could whack…said it felt like a ball bat…if they crowded her. Just leave her to her business and she was fine.

    Frankie, on the other hand, was a full-size, 6 foot male. We loved him! The gentlest guy you could meet. Enjoyed a scruffle on the back of his head and around his chin. He’d sit and watch us from the top of the bookcase or under a dresser. Frankie climbed trees but did not drop. He would walk down head first, no problem. He especially liked to stretch out in the sun on the woodpile.

    I know you’ll think I’m crazy, but it would be heaven to have them living in the garden. Not here in north central Ohio. They’d freeze! Barb, they may look like the prehistoric creatures that they are, but they are gentle and won’t interfere with your activities. They’re watchers, not players.


    • Barb Ross says:

      Julianne–that is so interesting. I knew they had come to the states originally as pets, but since I’ve only encountered them outdoors, I never thought of them as pets. Also interesting about climbing down trees. Maybe if you live long enough to get to six feet, you figure some stuff out.

  5. Edith says:

    Having an iguana fall forty feet, landing next to you, would be quite startling!

    When I lived in Mali and Burkina Faso in West Africa, a year each, I never got over seeing geckos hang out on the wall INSIDE the house. Sometimes inside a clothes cupboard. But they don’t bite, they eat mosquitoes, and they never accosted us. They don’t blink either, so when you’re sitting on your sofa and reading in the evening, it’s very creepy to see this guy perched vertically on a wall watching, watching, watching…

    • Barb Ross says:

      We have geckos here, too. I don’t love it when they get inside the house, and we don’t seem to have any in the house we’re renting now. It’s true they’re harmless, even positive, but when I was a 17 year-old exchange student in Colombia and we went to the jungle for Christmas vacation, and one darted across my pillow as I was sleeping one night… I wasn’t so calm about it.

  6. Pools, iguanas, sigh. It’s all earmuffs, scarves, gloves and hopes that Lily doesn’t want to take a long walk. I love that bit about them falling — trust you to know that, Barb!

    • Barb Ross says:

      I hear you, Sherry. I’m actually not a winter-hater, though Bill is. Cold temperatures and snow don’t bother me, especially now that I work at home. But I do hate the short, short days. My favorite thing about Key West in winter is how far was it is in the eastern time zone. Sunset is at 6:00pm. I love it!

  7. Marilyn Mick says:

    Just when I was beginning to envy the Key West life….
    Iguanas and geckos! Nevermind.

  8. Lil Gluckstern says:

    Great article! It seems there’re iguanas in paradise. 🙂

  9. Mary Anne Sullivan says:

    I’ve never seen the big iguanas. When I was a kid and my parents took us to someplace tropical for vacations; we’d see them. Being a kid, I had fun playing with them. One in particular used to come looking for me to play. I think they’re very intelligent. They love to sit and watch. I think I prefer an iguana staring at me to dealing with blowing snow out of my driveway and being cold all the time. Lol.

  10. karla says:

    Great article! Very interesting and funny, and you make me remember Bob & Ray’s routine about the komodo dragon (now on youtube).

  11. LD Masterson says:

    Okay, I threw me to open a Maine based blog and see an iguana sitting there. I think they’re kind of cool…from a distance. Having one fall out of tree above me or using my pool for a toilet would probably change my opinion.

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