I saw a strange sight today. Driving northbound, on the Florida Turnpike, near Deerfield and Boca Raton, I saw something I’d never seen before.
Along much of that stretch of road, on the east-side of the Turnpike, there’s a six-foot-high chain link fence. Sitting atop each of the aluminum fence poles is an angled bracket, supporting three strands of barbed wire.
About every quarter-mile, or so – give or take – sitting atop the poles and angled brackets, I saw huge iguanas, soaking up the sun, one after the other. And, these were big iguanas – each, two to three feet long! I must have seen a dozen, at least!
Green iguanas aren’t native to South Florida. They’re an invasive species, from Central and South America, probably originally released by South Florida pet-owners. Now, South Florida is literally “infested” with them. Most South Floridians find them a nuisance. But, I think they’re pretty neat. They make me feel like I’m living somewhere exotic!
I see them everywhere, especially near water. I see small ones, huge ones (they grow over five feet long), and all sizes in between. But, I’ve never seen them sitting atop poles along the highway! That was a strange sight!
What were they doing up there? And, why were they all doing it?
They’re vegetarian, and there were no bushes or trees close by, so they weren’t climbing for food, or to spot prey.
They have no significant predators in Florida (though they take off like a rocket anytime I get near one – which I always try to do!), so they weren’t climbing away from a threat.
They were each perched alone, so it had nothing to do with mating, which could be awkward with all of that barbed wire, and such!
I don’t know how long they’d been there when I saw them, or how long they stayed after. But, as much as I could tell, speeding along at 80 mph, they appeared to be resting contentedly on top of their respective poles, enjoying the view, or something.
Curious, I thoroughly searched the web (for at least ten minutes) in hopes of finding answers to my iguana mystery. The best I could find is that iguanas live in trees, in their natural habitat, and that they love the sun, originating from warmer climates. Being cold-blooded, they just can’t get enough sun or heat. Today was a fairly temperate January day in South Florida, so maybe they were just trying to get as much sun as they could, by climbing as high as their lizard brains drove them to go, or until they ran out of fence pole. I don’t see how sitting awkwardly atop an aluminum pole is any sunnier or warmer than the ground. But, what do I know? Apparently Iguana instincts say, “climb,” and they do.
Since I had another three hours of driving, after seeing my last iguana for the day, I had lots of time to reflect and wonder. Strange sights lead to strange thoughts!
For whatever reason, an iguana’s love for the sun draws him/her upward. Instincts push them as high as they can reach, even if it means sitting atop uncomfortable poles.
Could that be a spiritual metaphor? What if I were so instinctively drawn to the “Son,” and his warmth, I’d climb a pole (or, whatever), as high as it would take me, just to be closer to his presence?
In ancient times, there were desert monks, known as Stylites, who lived atop poles as tall as fifty feet high, in order to be totally alone with God. Believe it or not, some lived atop their poles for decades.
Is it sacrilege to compare green iguanas acting on instinct with monks choosing a life of prayer? Maybe.
As important as my spirituality is to me, sitting atop a pole doesn’t have much draw. But, I do like the image of being instinctively drawn to climb higher and higher in quest of God.
Is an iguana smart enough to know what calls it to climb? I doubt it. It’s all instinct.
In contrast, I’m told I have significantly greater brain power than a lizard, and far greater ability to choose what I seek, and how I seek it. The trouble is, I often seem to forsake my higher mental capacity to think and reason, and act every bit as instinctively as the iguanas I saw today. But, instead of being drawn higher toward the “Son,” my instincts often drive me into the drainage ditch below.
Maybe I’m not as smart as I think I am. Maybe those iguanas are smarter than we give them credit for. Or, not.
So, let the iguanas be your inspiration. The “Son” is high and shining bright. May your spiritual instincts awaken, and may you climb to higher, more sublime, spiritual heights, to experience his great warmth for you! May you climb higher and higher, and experience more and more of his warmth!
Or, at least just take a look at the fences the next time you are driving north on the FloridaTurnpike. Maybe you’ll see an iguana, or two. It was a strange sight.