While weeding and sweating Sunday afternoon in the backyard, I saw and held the most beautiful creature in the world. No, not one of the butterflies working the flowerbeds, nor the doves calling from the oaks, nor the gray squirrels complaining about my presence, nor the brazen blue jays, nor the millipedes and earthworms exposed with each bite of the trowel.
No, this fellow was Anolis carolinensis, the green anole lizard, and I almost didn’t see him. A sprawling palm-like plant with vivid green leaves or fronds grows near the back of the garage. (How I hate not knowing the names of things.) The stem is woody, a veritable trunk, but frilly white flowers grow at the end of its long stalks. The anole was clinging vertically, head down, to one of the long leaves and seemed to be studying me. The color of his skin was identical to the leaf. I caught him and he fastened to the palm of my hand with his jaws but without breaking the skin or causing pain. His color was, I suppose, chartreuse, a shade I’ve heard called harlequin. We stared at each other. When I opened my hand, he leaped back to the palm, climbed a few inches and resumed his previous study.
About five years ago, the green anole became the first reptile to have its entire genome sequenced. There’s even a website, Anole Annals, devoted to them. So large the human attention focused on this impossibly beautiful “exemplar of the small.”