Hello Goat Waters readers! Note from dad here: Blue Iguanas & More was written by Alex as a memoir following our 2012/13 trip to Grand Cayman. She turned this little essay in as a cyber school assignment. We frequently made a point of documenting family travel and turning the trips into educational adventures. Somewhere else in my piles I’m sure I still have “fish guides” that the kids made….drawings of the reef fish they expected to see while snorkeling, with a few pertinent facts on the back of each illustrated card. The blue iguanas in question are endemic to Grand Cayman – and relatively rare as they’re being pushed out of their territory by the more genetically successful green iguanas. We found some of these blues in the botanical gardens where they were gathered under a tree that was dropping fruits. While there are signs inside the park clearly indicating guests should not feed the iguanas, we’re sure they meant non-native foods. Creative interpretation of the rules.
One of the many notions I’ve tried to wedge into my kids’ heads is that they should concern themselves far more with the moral than the legal. In this case, we weren’t feeding the lizards anything they weren’t scrambling to find on their own, and they seemed quite appreciative when we spied a fruit and brought it to their attention. The experience of interacting with these beautiful creatures is forever ingrained in all the kids’ memories, and that’s just the sort of lived experience that morphs over time into conservation-minded adults. Looking at animals in a zoo is great. Studying museum collections under glass is nice, often entrancing. But interacting with animals, that’s akin to the act of breaking through the fourth wall in theater. It’s shocking. The kids become participants rather than audience members, whether they’re feeding an iguana, wading through turtle grass looking for shells and spotting an octopus, or swimming with the fishes. A boy will remember the one giant hermit crab that pinched him hard, more than a dozen trips to see gaudy-shelled hermit crabs crawling up the walls of an enclosure in a pet store. These are the stories that make it home, in memory, and which shift lives toward more intriguing paths. Watch The Mackenzie for proof of this concept – she’ll be involved with nature conservation and education once she graduates from college and grad school. Watch Drake as he hikes the Rockies, sails the Caribbean and the Pacific, then goes … somewhere (his plans keep shifting as opportunities present themselves) – and all this is being done around his current dream of, and constant practice towards, becoming a rock musician. That’s living. Our kids are morphing into massively curious, active, and involved adults. Now imagine if every one of their age peers was as radically involved in learning, active not passive in the face of the world.
Without further ado, here’s Alex at age eight:
Blue Iguanas & More
My memoir is about when me and my family went to the Cayman Islands. It was a beautiful place with all the palm trees. We fed lizards. We went shell hunting on the beaches. We went bird watching. We even saw an adorable brown terrier that followed us to our apartment.
The first thing we did was feeding the blue iguanas. They were a beautiful blue color. They had small spikes on their back. They ate berries that were red and bumpy. There were two or three lizards per group. They were the size of a medium sized dog.
The one thing about the lizards is that they can bite. I didn’t want the iguana to bite me when I fed it a berry. So I decided that I would just get a berry from the tree and set it by my feet. So then it could come over and eat the berry off the ground. Then my brother called me a wimp because I didn’t want to feed it with my hands. Everybody else fed it with their hands.
Then we went shell hunting. There were beautiful shells all over the beaches. There were all different kinds, some are conch, turbans, bleeding tooth shells, and there were even fossils! We also saw an octopus. It was brownish red. We watched it and waited for it to move, and then suddenly it swam to the edge of the turtle grass. Turtle grass is like seaweed. After a little while the octopus disappeared into the green turtle grass.
When we went bird watching we saw beautiful birds of all kinds. One kind of bird we saw was a parrot. The parrot was a bright green color. We also saw a banana-quit it was reddish brown, and yellow on its belly. There were dozens of birds. While we were walking we saw a crab, it pinched my brother. The crabs shell was white.
Everybody loved the Cayman Islands. My favorite part was when we fed the lizards! We spent time together and we had tons of fun. We went on multiple trips around the Cayman Islands. I hope you can have great quality time with your family like I had with my family.