As a result of those nights, to this day, Bernie can be walking along, and suddenly he can reach down and grab a lizard or snake that I didn't even see.
I have always admired his quick ability to see and capture reptiles.
I also have always loathed snakes.
Lizards I didn't mind, as long as they kept their distance. A lizard doing push ups on a rock is arguably kind of cute.
Poor Bernie...for years he would gleefully capture a snake or lizard as we would walk along in wilderness areas, only to have me scream and totally fall apart. Nightmares would follow, and even a trip into a pet store could be a trauma if I inadvertently viewed a snake.
Mentally I knew most of these creatures were harmless. But still, one glance and whoopsie, Jill is hysterical. This ruined many pleasant walks through the woods, and certainly curtailed any plans visits to reptile shows or pet shops that catered to reptile owners.
Over the years I softened slightly in my response to reptiles; GREEN reptiles were OK...just bright green. Little green lizards and snakes, in the wild. Not in my home.
Oh, and blue ones were acceptable too. (Turquoise blue iguanas specifically, as found in the Cayman Island. As long as I saw them first on the path.)
Our almost daily walks through the woods surrounding our house has inevitable led to snake and lizard encounters. Bernie has worked out a system whereby he can warn me of a snake by the wayside, allowing me to "see it before it sees me" and to keep myself under control.
Little by little I've grown more comfortable with reptiles. Not so comfortable that I would want to have a snake in my house, or to touch one, but comfortable enough so that I now do not go off like a fire engine siren just because a snake is resting up beside the path as we walk.
A few months ago I had a dream. In my dream I was walking to the beach, and in the vacant lot on the way there, there were many large snakes curled up in discarded wheelbarrows and tires, and resting on top of fences.
In my dream I found myself being really dismayed...not because of the snakes, but because I was thinking (in my dream) how much Bernie would enjoy seeing all the snakes, and I was really sad that he wasn't there to enjoy them.
Whoa.... a new place in my mind!
It has only been this summer that I actively began to enjoy seeing reptiles in the wild. Never, ever thought I would. As Bernie puts it: "It certainly has made life easier not having you scream your head off just because a lizard or snake is seen."
I share all this to help explain the extreme pleasure that I experienced planning yesterday's Mystery Date as a surprise for Bernie.
While visiting the Houston Natural History Museum with my folks a few weeks ago, I saw promotional materials displayed about a special exhibit that was coming there soon. An Exhibit called "Snakes and Lizards Alive!"
I decided right then and there that I would make sure Bernie got to see THAT particular exhibit as soon as possible.
The trick was to make sure he didn't learn about the exhibit ahead of time. That meant reading the paper daily and hiding reviews and articles about the show, and distracting him from seeing billboards. Lucky for me, he was out of town a lot, and when he was home he was so busy he generally didn't even have a chance to look at the paper anyway.
After Bernie's rotten week of a cold and a major brain busting project, I knew this weekend would be the perfect time to take him to see one of his favorite things: An entire exhibit of snakes and lizards!
Yesterday afternoon found us driving downtown together, and headed to the parking garage near the museum, where a two story high banner advertised the exhibit. At that point I asked Bernie if he knew what we were going to go see.
He was so focused on the crowded entry that he had not even glanced at the banner! Still no idea...
Finally I told him to look up and read.
Ahh...it all worked out perfectly...it really was a surprise!
The museum had done an excellent job of creating environments for a variety of colorful lizards.
The green basilisk posed in haughty splendor.
Multicolored dots decorated this specimen.
A larger skink: the pink hued relative of our local tiny blue tail skink...I think this skink had a blue tongue. Lizards have longer arms, the short arm is the clue that it is a skink.
It's sculptural patten leather shiny pink head was elegant, and the pink/gray pattern on it's back made me think of the classic pink sweater, gray skirt combination so often found in fashion.
A gecko...not selling insurance. His flat little tail reminded me of the beaver. and also our cat Hart who enjoys sprawling on his belly with his back legs and tail stretched out just like the gecko.
This was a bonus treat: An adorable little girl in jeans and tank top, a necklace and sandals, and the most BEAUTIFUL hat! She didn't even seem real, she looked a bit like Haylee Mills as a very young child, but with white blond hair. I walked over to her and her mother, to compliment her on her hat. She immediately lifted it from her head and asked if I would like to try it on.
I am so disappointed in myself for declining the honor; I explained to her that since the hat fit her, it likely was too small to fit me. Her face fell a bit at that, but brightened again as I told her I thought she looked so beautiful wearing her hat.
She headed off to look at another reptile, and her mom explained that her daughter had been with them in an antique mall and had selected that hat on her own, completely out of the blue, and has been wearing it ever since.
I told her mom that when she gets a little older to please have her join up with the rest of us Hat Lovers in the Houston Hat Net. And that we'd love to have her come join us for tea. Her mom replied that she would love that!
I got such a kick out of the signage. The symbol for food, a crossed fork and knife. How funny when applied to reptile dining.
A green iguana. I think I do like the blue ones better....
Bernie had a small green one when he was a kid. It used to enjoy eating dandelions!
There were lots more snakes and lizards to be seen, I just posted the ones that I thought were the prettiest.
The was also a FROG exhibit as well!
Frogs are just sooo cool. So here are a few of my fave frogs!
Chinese moss frog. Yup, that is a frog butt you are looking at. He is facing away from the camera, and blending in perfectly with the surrounding moss.
A display of frog food included this enormous katydid. My finger is on the other side of the glass, the katydid is right next to the inside of the glass. I had no idea they could get that big!
When we first entered the exhibit, Bernie commented that what he knows most about frogs is that they are good at hiding from people, and that they like to blend in so they can't be found. Why? Because everyone likes to eat frogs!
It was true; trying to find the frog in each display was like playing a game of "Where's Waldo?"
Perhaps you've heard of the Frog Prince. I think that is from a Fairy Tale. But there really is a Frog Queen.
Her crown has a pale green frog design made from emeralds in the center!
(Gee, I wish I could have been a Frog Queen. Wonder if it is too late...oh well, you never know what life may bring you!)
The blue Poison Dart Frog was so active, and really, really cute. He headed over to an orange quarter and gave it a lick.
I had always wanted to see a blue frog!
After the frogs, we did what any Prince and Princess ought to do:
We looked at gems and jewelry!
Not for sale; these gems and minerals were on display in a dark, dark room, with a single light over each specimen. Soft classical music was played in the background, a soothing contrast after the piped in frog song recording playing in the Frog Exhibit, and the squealing screaming tots in the snake exhibit.
I never cease to be amazed at the myriad of colors and patterns in Creation. Whether it be in a reptile's scales, or a frog's smooth skin, or on a rock dug up from deep inside the earth.
I imagine digging in dirt, and finding something like this...seen and enjoyed for eons only by God. A crystal flower in a hidden garden.
Which is more priceless: That gems exist at all, or that they are re-fashioned by man to adorn a beautiful woman's throat?
We finished up our date with a stop in Rice Village, at a little French cafe, where we had a latte and shared a slice of cheesecake.
I have to admit: Our simple life is sweet.