“Huh.” I say, looking out my kitchen window as I rinse the last dirty dish. “There’s an alligator in the pond.”
And there he lays, just as pretty as can be, tail extended up on the shore and resting just so at the base of a birch tree. His forelegs tuck forward, like he’s resting his chin on his hands (claws?) and back legs splay off to the side in a pose typical to a predator feigning relaxation. Part of his neck is immersed in the shallow water and his angular head and long snout look for all the world like a log floating where the blue heron normally stands to fish.
He isn’t too big a fellow, about the size of a caiman, I would say. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal. It’s just I’ve never seen an alligator in my pond before.
For folks from Florida, such a sight is not unusual. I imagine you routinely take care not to leave your small dogs outside, and keep a close eye on the kiddos. My dog runs free, and I have no small children around to watch out for.
So, today part of me is startled into alarm at the sight of this rare guest, but the rational side of my brain is fascinated and wants to investigate it closer.
Because I know something my eyes don’t know.
There are no alligators in the ponds of Southern Illinois.
I move to a window closer to the pond (not because I’m afraid to go outside, but because it is all of twenty-some degrees out there) and look again. Sure enough, from this new angle, this new perspective, I see more clearly: this fascinating phantom of my mind’s conjuring, is nothing more than shadows and sticks seen with just the right angle of sunlight, from just the right window in my house, and with my imagination in just the right frame of mind.
And my eye’s interpretation was all wrong.
I’m sure there’s a lesson in this somewhere.
Keep on smiling,