I love geckos and recently learned many lessons from one. I first set eyes on geckos in the 1980s, while visiting my mother and father in their Florida home. We were sitting at the pool, and a gecko started to climb up the leg of my chair. He quickly realized that a human was in the chair (me), and froze. He turned his head from one side to the other, tilted his head upward, and then made his getaway to a “safe” location. I was enamored.
In describing the initial gecko greeting to family and friends, I imitated his head movements and received a lot of laughs. That encouraged me to perfect my gestures. Over the years, I added other animals to my repertoire (Swiss cows and dolphins, to name a couple), but it was the gecko that always garnered the most enthusiastic reactions.
The Beginning of a Gecko Relationship
I’m telling you this so you’ll understand that I have a history of sorts with geckos. But, I never had any kind of relationship with them until I moved to Florida this year. There are millions of them here and a million things to learn. You see them everywhere. They move quickly, bustling about with great urgency. I’ve learned that there are many different kinds of geckos: most are non-native (the only native is the Florida reef gecko), large and small, patterned and plain, green and brown. Some are not even called geckos, but are known as anoles, skinks, and lizards. Some run on their 2 hind legs, some drop out of trees, and some come running inside your home.
One morning, we discovered a gecko on the outside of our front door. As we opened the door, he leaped from it to the foyer closet. When I was foraging in the closet several days later, I saw a swift movement out of the corner of my eye. Cautiously, I looked around and found him on the wall, not a muscle moving except for a puffing in and out of his jowels. “A gecko!” I shrieked as I ran up the stairs toward Peggy.
“He’s more scared of you than you are of him,” she reassured me.
“I’m not convinced,” I retorted.
We had heard that geckos often die if they stay indoors, so we tried many things to encourage his departure. Leave the front door open. Put a wet towel inside a box. Put food inside a box. Nothing did the trick.
The Gecko Stays
Days turned into weeks. He clearly had taken up residence inside the closet, so we gave him a name: Tommy Bahama. He was now our neighbor. I became concerned about Tommy’s health, wondering how he was surviving inside for this long. What was he eating? Where was his source of water? Was he going to die in the closet?
My concern changed to fear whenever I saw him. One night, during my routine check of the front door to make sure it was locked, I saw him on the foyer floor. He scurried back inside the closet. This marked the beginning of a pattern and another lesson: Tommy stayed in the closet during the day, and explored the foyer at night. Turning on the light seemed to scare him back to his hiding place.
I became worried about his increased bravery and travels. Was he going to come upstairs and crawl on me while I was sleeping? Would he go to the kitchen and eat the fruit we left in the bowls? What about pooping: where was he doing that?! What if he started crawling on the walls or the ceiling?
I was filled with anxiety with the mere thought of seeing him. Yet, I would also get sad thinking he might die. There didn’t seem to be anything I could DO about it.
Gradually, I began to see the crux of the issue: it had become a problem I wanted to solve. This was a big lesson from the gecko. Perhaps I should let the situation just BE what it was, accept what is, and relieve myself from the anxiousness. This new approach helped ease my mind. Sightings of Tommy ebbed.
In fact, we didn’t see Tommy for a couple of weeks. Then he returned. With a vengeance. Every night, I’d see him. I became super attuned to any changes in the foyer:
“OMG, I see Tommy’s tail…. He’s underneath the bench!”
“Ayyyyy! Tommy’s on the ceiling. He crawled into the light fixture!”
I thought he would get lost in the ceiling. There’s a lot to confuse you Inside a ceiling, right? Wires, plumbing, ducts… I reminded myself to accept what is and all was well for another few days.
Finally, Tommy re-appeared. It was 1 a.m., and I was checking the door before going to bed. Peggy was already half asleep. Tommy was on the foyer ceiling again, only this time he was close to the 2nd floor. I panicked. “Peggyyyyyyyy! Tommy’s back and he’s almost in the kitchen!”
She bolted down the front stairs, grabbed a broom, and opened the front door. I grabbed the floor mop and “guarded” the kitchen. Peggy strategically positioned herself on the stairs so that she could gently “guide” Tommy towards the door with the broom. When he was on the same wall as the door, she brushed him downward towards the door. He literally flew outside!
I was astounded at her feat. What she did was a true act of love. “You are my hero! I am so grateful, thank you!”
We think of Tommy often. But, now it’s with fondness. We know he’s in a better place. It’s inevitable that another gecko will, someday, make its way inside our home. I wonder if I’ll react with acceptance, anxiety, or the same combination of both. My ongoing lesson from a gecko may be letting go of worry.