Posted by: floridanature | April 8, 2008

Reptiles R Us

Bartram had his time with them in “battle lagoon” in what is now Lake Dexter, and later drew them with smoke (some say mist) extruding from their nostrils. In Florida, they may be the one animal that everyone asks about when they find you’ve been on a river, any river. El Lagarto—“The Lizard”, to the Spanish, as if it were singular, no other modifier needed. Say it quickly and like a Cockney and it becomes….ALAGARTOR…Which we know today as alligator.

They’re into their breeding season here in Florida, and so you tend to see them out on the prowl, impressing other big lizards with their great displays. They do this by pushing their enormous heads out of the water, and then with a rattle of their ancient throats, they bellow. If this is done just right, and you are in a kayak sitting low, the water under you will actually quiver, and you will feel just for one moment there, the same primal reaction that humans have been experiencing on rivers for a long time. Once, one charged towards me up on his legs, running like a giant, primevel mad dog. And then it leaped into the water nearby, just to get away. This has since happened a number of times—gators up on all four legs on a river bank, running. Leaping lizards.

Feeling’s a big thing, strong enough as a signal to prempt the cognitive world. Or, as the perceptive essayist Edward Hoagland once said: Nature predates thought. Think of the sensory experiences of it all: The smell of a wild vanilla plant, the ineffably heartrendering call of a nighthawk, the movement of the water under you. It’s the smells we remember, the sounds. The tactile push of another’s roar against your skin, something so deep and powerful we hear it down in our own repitilian core.

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