I saw a bat last night against the dying of the light--a black dart, a zig, a zag, a fluttery flash. Not the owl's deadly glide or a hawk's pinpoint dive, a bat is quick and gone. I felt my breath catch and release, and thought: I saw a bat in the dying of the light.
I walk, most often alone, up a small mountain in my town. Perhaps I should be afraid of some things, but it won't be of bats. Why do bats have such fearsome reputations anyway? Is it our fear of darkness, of things we can't see in the full light of day? They fly at night and often live in caves. Eerie, enough. But does that make them Dracula?
I remember, as a child, being at a neighborhood gathering. It was held in some farm's outbuilding, not used much, I'm guessing. Suddenly, a bat was shooting from corner-to-corner like a pinball in an arcade game. The men dashed after it. The boys hollered. The girls and women covered their heads. Someone told me to do the same or it would get tangled in my hair. Why in the world would it want to do that?
I imagine that a goth girl might adore, not abhor, a bat hat--a swath of black net with a wing spread across her brow. These are the silly-crazy things I think at 2 a.m. when sleep won't bed with me, when the Sandman stands me up.
Poor misunderstood bats. We say people have gone batty or have bats in the belfry to mean they're nuts. Or we chide someone for being blind as a bat when, in fact, bats can see. They have eyes, noses, hands and feet. They also have echolocation, which is using sound waves and resulting echoes to find stuff--from them we learned to use sonar. Bats aren't flying mice like some people describe them. They are closely related to us, these tiny mammals.
Makes me itch all over to consider what would happen to us without them. About 70% of them eat insects, and the brown bat can consume 1,200 night-flying bugs, including mosquitoes, in one hour. At the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, you can watch 400,000 free-tail bats emerge at dusk like an endless black cloud, breaking apart and flapping away. It's not a sight you forget. Before they return at dawn, they will have snapped up tons of bugs. Tons, literally.
Other bats eat fruit and lap flower nectar. Some catch frogs and fish. And there really are vampire bats that suck blood from birds and beasts. Once again, I say, they are not so different from us. Perhaps that's what Dracula is really about.
Do you have a batty story, a tale of bat delight or dread?