Fascinating to watch

This big lizard seemed to enjoy the sunshine of the Mexican coast.  Tulum, January 2015

This big lizard seemed to enjoy the sunshine of the Mexican coast. Tulum, January 2015

“The common animals, birds and insects that are found in a little yard in the city are as fascinating to watch, and as fruitful in affording the careful observer a glimpse into some of the mysteries of nature, as are the rare and uncommon creatures of some far-off land.”Leonard Dubkin

While our tour group was walking from the entrance of Mexico’s Parque Nacional Tulum along the path to the ruins, our guide said something that made me laugh: “Don’t stop to take photos of the iguanas.  You will see more iguanas than people when we get to the ruins.”

That turned out to be not much of an exaggeration.  As promised, the iguanas were everywhere.  I took almost as many photos of these beautifully ugly creatures as I did of the lovely excavated village perched on a cliff overlooking the sea.  I was not the only one; I saw as many people stopping to watch these over-sized lizards as I saw admiring the expansive landscape.  The guides, I’m sure, must have been fairly bored by the iguanas — and by our fascination with them.

I was reminded of a co-worker I knew many years ago, who was an immigrant from Egypt. She used to love watching the squirrels play in the park outside our office building.  I assumed she was unaccustomed to seeing them, since most of us scarcely noticed them as we paced quickly past, lost inside our thoughts.

It has been said that familiarity breeds contempt, but that may be an overstatement, unless one defines contempt as unintentional disregard.  When I stop to think about it, I’m quite fond of the familiar, as I think most of us are.  We are proud of our towns, happy with our homes and lawns, fond of our neighbors and friends.  The problem is, I don’t stop to think about it often enough.

One reason I love travel is that it helps me see the everyday through opened eyes.  Given a choice, I would prefer my endearing local critters to the iguanas, though I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to see them up close.

When spring arrives, or maybe even before it does, I’m going to try seeing the birds and squirrels and butterflies as if I had never seen a single one of them before.  Can you imagine how exciting it would be to see a butterfly for the first time?  To hear the trilling of a cheerful bird in the morning and wonder where the sound came from?  To watch the astounding agility of a squirrel as it flits about among the trees?

As the weather warms and we are able to be outside more often, I wish you many fruitful observations of our common animals.  They always brighten my day, as I hope they do yours.



  1. Ahh, warm weather. I’m ready for spring…

    • Merry, that makes two of us! And probably millions of us. How are you doing? I hope you will be able to be out and about as soon as the weather allows!

  2. Good morning, Julia! After this winter, it won’t be much of a stretch to be amazed by the sights and sounds of local living creatures!
    But I loved your photo above. I wonder what the lizard thinks of that flower? It reminded me of this old Sesame Street clip:
    Enjoy your daily discoveries of spring!

    • Susan, I totally loved that film clip. I had forgotten about it. Maybe I’m sounding like an old person (again) but the few times I’ve seen Sesame Street in recent years, it didn’t have anything to compare to those early years and some of the great videos they had. OK, so Elmo gets on my nerves BIG TIME but even so, I miss those clever clips such as the one you linked. Thanks for sending it!

  3. Ann

    Julia, another insightful blog.

    I’m looking forward to warmer weather so I can sit outside and watch the birds gather at our bird feeders. Watching the squirrels trying to get to the ‘squirrel proof ‘ feeders is almost as much fun. We don’t have exotic animals here but the everyday ones are so beautiful when we take the time to enjoy them!

    • Ann, every year when it turns cold I tell myself I’m going to put out some bird feeders — and this year, my good intentions went even farther and progressed to bird houses! Luckily, Jeff agrees with me that it would be really nice to have some. I love the way they look, quite aside from their usefulness to our feathered friends. I wish I could see those squirrels! The amazed me a few years back, with their ability to get around every attempt I made to keep them out of my tomatoes, until I finally gave up. They are so much fun to watch that I got over it and just decided to enjoy them.

  4. I am having that same experience sitting here looking out at the soft snow covered hills. I haven’t seen snow in awhile so it is all new again. Thank you, Julia for reminding me to cherish the wonders around me in my life.

    • Cherie, perhaps the snow is meant to be a “welcome back” gift for you. I’m way behind on my email so I just recently found out you had moved back. I was happy to hear that Ron is doing better. I’ll try to answer your message soon. Thanks so much for keeping me updated. You stay in my prayers. When I remind you, I remind myself: life is beautiful, even with all the hard parts.

  5. Carolyn

    No Aminals to be seen today. Boy are we cold right now! We had rain, sleet and snow. When Terry cleaned off the porch he said we had about three inches just on the porch. Beautiful, but everything is closed and the roads are terrible. I’m sure if you have watched TV you may have seen some of it. I am ready for spring. I’m feeling okay just sore. Wish I could have gone outside to walk in the snow. Hope you all have been safe with your weather. The kids have missed lots of school. Take care and I will drop a note next week. Love to all.

    • Carolyn, I haven’t seen any animals either. We have about 8 inches here in the DC area and last week when we got to York they had had about 5-6 inches there that were still on the ground. I’ve seen more snow in the past 10 days than I have in the entire time since we left Ohio! Or at least it feels that way. I took a short walk in the snow and really enjoyed it. I’m glad you are feeling OK and hope that you will be good as new by the time the weather warms up — which hopefully won’t be too much longer now! It’s supposed to get warmer this weekend. Hope you have some sunny days ahead. Love to you and Terry.

  6. Julia, I can easily listen or watch at any moment during my day, whether it’s a bird or a neighborhood cat strolling by. I think it’s EDD….Easily Distracted Disorder! Have you read “Secret Life of Bees”? It’s my next book to read and I think it will be quite interesting. I have been thinking of you so much in these recent days (for obvious reasons) and I’ll be praying so hard for Jeff. 🙏 I don’t seem to get nearly as much done on busy days as you manage to always do! When I grow up I want to be more like you! 😉 Southern sister, Sheila👭

    • Sheila, I definitely have EDD! I did read Secret Life of Bees shortly after it came out several years ago. I don’t remember much about it except that I enjoyed it, and thought it was better than her next book after that. Lately I’m not getting much done at all; at least it doesn’t feel as if I do. When I get in a tizzy about it I remind myself that it’s time to relax and enjoy life. Thanks so much for the prayers and for being here with us! I’m headed to the kitchen for a cup of tea. You’re welcome to join me! Have a great weekend!

  7. LB

    Perfect description … .beautifully ugly.

    • Thanks, LB! They’re not exactly easy on the eye, but fun to watch nonetheless.

  8. MaryAnn

    Thank you for reminding us how marvelous the “ordinary” can be. It adds such wonder to the little things that surround me, when I praise God for His blessings. Love to “my” Dentons!

    • Yes, Mary Ann, it really is true what the song says…when we start counting blessings, it’s bound to surprise us with the bounty. Love to you too and to all my California family!

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