Geckos in the Garden
As we slide into summer, we spend more time pau hana on the lānai, listening to the sounds of the geckos calling to each other and swatting bugs…but do we ever think about the lives of those little creatures?
Two of our writers have, in very different ways.
In Gecko and Mosquito, a children’s book written and illustrated by the late Melissa DeSica, Gecko—the house bully—has embarked on a one-lizard mission to eat every bug in the hale. He’s only a few inches tall, but that’s still big enough to be a bully when there are smaller creatures around the house—like Mosquito and her friends.
“I’m the head honcho,
I’m bigger than you!
Who’s smarter? Who’s stronger?
Mo‘o, that’s who!”
“I must find a good way to stop him somehow,
And help save my bug friends from being kau kau”
So all afternoon she racked her bug brain
For just the right plan to make Gecko refrain
From serving her friends as his Catch of the Day.
Why, he’d never imagine the trick SHE would play!
What is Mosquito’s clever plan to free the household bugs from Gecko’s tyranny? You’ll just have to pick up a copy of Gecko & Mosquito to find out!
For a different take on the secret lives of geckos, turn to University of Hawai‘i professor Gary Pak’s short story, “Language of the Geckos” in the anthology Don’t Look Back: Hawaiian Myths Made New, edited by Christine Thomas.
Gary’s story was inspired by ‘aumākua tales of the mo‘o:
In the evenings, when I was small, I would look out the screened windows of our house at the geckos, their translucent undersides sometimes showing an egg or two. Geckos covered the outside of our house, scurrying this way and that, calling or challenging each other with staccato voices, and once in a while one would find its way inside. I never was able to see it inside; it was just too elusive, too fast, too deceptive. But once in a while, its call would give it away, or in the morning I’d notice droppings on the kitchen counter or along the inside of a window. Geckos were all around us all the time.
Back then, I never knew about their significance to the ‘āina, what they represented, their connection to Hawaiian mythology, or how some believe the mo‘o to be their ancestor or ‘aumakua (guardian spirit). It was something I never thought about. Like the spirits and ghosts that freely meandered all over the land of my birth, I just lived with them. They were just a part of me, and perhaps I could say that I was a part of them. Only later, as an adult, did I learn that geckos, or perhaps only some of them, were considered mo‘o and an important part of Hawaiian mythology and the Hawaiian ancestral belief system.
Click here to read an excerpt from “Language of the Geckos.”