That Old Bat Magic

It is dawn, I tiptoe down the stairs, and a bat flies across the living room.  I assume it’s a bird, but then it flies back in its herky-jerky way and lands on the wall.  I am making noise now — a gasp and muffled cry and then quiet sputterings of, “There’s — a — BAT — in — the — HOUSE!”

Our son is sleeping in the den at the foot of the stairs and he peeks around the curtain-door with a big smile.  “I stepped on that bat last night,” he says.

This is a rare, precious day when two of our three twenty-something kids are here.  The middle-child nurse who works nights and is not a morning person anyway is zonked out in the second bedroom upstairs. Our son is here during his break after summer classes which started at 7a.m. every morning, so he’s still got a bit of the morning habit.

He laughs and whispers the story to me, but I can hardly take in the incredible details yet.  I’m all about the bat on the wall.  It takes off and flutter-flaps, zigs and zags, back and forth and around and down and then up and over my computer and clings to the vaulted wall ten feet up.  Thankfully our daughter’s bedroom curtain-door is closed, or there would be a scream to wake the dead.

Our son is now standing on the stairway landing in his boxers and tee-shirt, staring up at the bat.  “Look at how little it is,” he says.

I must tell the Bearded One, I decide.  We’ve never had a bat in the house before.  He’ll want to know.  Quietly, I wake him from a deep sleep.  “I’m sorry, Sweetheart, but there is a bat in the house.”

He slowly opens his eyes.  “Don’t touch it,” he manages to say, and then, “Don’t let it get in here.”  Then he closes his eyes.

As I quietly close the bedroom door, I notice the bat has moved. I look over the railing and see our son by the front door pointing to it on the entry mat.  “Get a bowl!” I whisper and scurry down the stairs.

He carefully places my green plastic mixing bowl over the little bat.  I slip a cookie sheet underneath and we’ve got it trapped.  It doesn’t move.  We both know that now we can go outside and release it safely without touching it or harming it.

But the moment is too memorable to rush. We stand before the bat bowl in wonder.  “You stepped on this bat last night?” I say, trying to roll back to the moment when I first came down the stairs.

“Yep.  Over by the couch.  It’s really soft.”  He laughs.

I can hardly wait to check my animal spirit book to find out what bat energy is all about.  But first we carry the cookie sheet up the stairs and out on the upper deck next to the cedar tree and release it.  I get the camera.  Our son puts his hand in the photo for scale.

Hours later the nurse gets up.  “Your brother stepped on a bat last night,” I say to her in the kitchen as she pours her coffee.  The Bearded One is reading the paper at the table.  “Where?” she asks.  “Over by the couch,” I say.  “And what pray tell was my brother doing up in the middle of the night?”

Before I can answer, she says, “I’m going to interrogate him.”  Her bare heels come down hard on the floor and we follow her in to the living room where her brother is sprawled on the couch massaging his recently surgerized knee with a special cream.

Even though he got a perfect score from his knee doctor on the healing and rehab, it still hurts and he is taking an official sabbatical from his beloved Ultimate Frisbee team, Mamabird, this year.  He also has almost all new roommates, and he has fallen in love with French, of all things.  His game is changing, he’s in transition, and he probably feels a little lost.

In the hours since we released the bat, I’ve done some reading.  Bats are nocturnal mammals that eat tons of insects.  Most in the Pacific Northwest are very small and don’t suck blood.  Only one in 20,000 carries rabies, and they hibernate.  In the world of animal guides or totems, bats are powerful medicine.  I am giddy to read that bats symbolize Transition — precisely our son’s state.

“Okay,” our daughter says to her brother, “what happened?”

He woke up and remembered that his phone alarm was set for 4a.m., and so he got up in the dark to go turn it off because his phone was in here on the couch where he left it.  Ruby was sleeping by the couch, so he stepped over her and that’s when his foot came down right beside the bat, brushing it with his toe.

It felt soft and furry. It squeaked and flapped away, and our son said he muffled a shriek.  Then he turned off his phone and went back to bed.

The nurse sips her coffee and muses.  The Bearded One says something about the bat having gotten in under the new Magic Mesh screen door to get out of the heat.

I maintain that it is magic, plain and simple.  That animals can help us understand and adapt to what comes our way in life.  This event is hardly mere coincidence.  “He who steps on a bat is in Big-Time Transition.”

“Help!” says our son to his sister in mock exasperation of his mom’s mystical thoughts on the whole thing.  I gently toss the animal spirits book into his hands.

“Not a coincidence,” the nurse pronounces, pointing to the book, “Read it.”

The Bearded One gets up and stretches, smiles skeptically, and says, “I’ve got to go to the bat room.”

9 responses to “That Old Bat Magic

  1. love that your son was also “batman” when he was little….i’m curious now about ducks in animalspeak….might have to be a new addition to my library 🙂 great blog as always!

    • Thanks, Leslie! And I just looked up your beloved ducks and the keynote is Emotional Comfort and Protection. Sounds just a bit like you, eh?!!! Looks like ducks are all they’re quacked up to be. 🙂 I’ll send you the rest of the Duck section by email. Love you!

  2. Wonderful post from Olalla and very interesting about the bat. We don’t have rabies here in Tasmania (I don’t think we have it in Australia?) so we don’t have to fear our wildlife. How sad that you have to be afraid of something tiny because it may bite and that your immediate response is fear rather than wonder. Fear is geographical! (and so is rabies…) I love how you wended your way through that lovely retelling of a night and morning shared communally on Farmlet. I also love that you were backed up by your daughter. Good to see you are not alone! ;).

    • Thanks for the high praise, Fran! And I completely agree, bats are wondrous creatures, but they do have a bad rap here as disease carriers. This magical one who visited Austin (and us) was as sweet and healthy as it could be.:)

      • A little tiny black furry messenger from the powers that be to remind us that transition is on its way. Of COURSE it is! It looks like your children are prone to the 15 year cycle also 😉

  3. Snail mail is fab Seestor! Got it today….”Ducks can remind us to drink of the waters of life as well as to nurture our own emotional natures….community oriented….show affection…return to wherever they feel safe and comfortable”…we miss our duckies….and will forever have them in our hearts….hmmmm….good recommendation to have a duck as a totem….thanks for sending the info and as always, LOVE the blog! and you, too 🙂

  4. I laughed my head off “got to go to the bat room”. What a dry sense of humour.

  5. Christine Widman

    Hi Christi,
    lolololol “Don’t touch it…..don’t let it get in here.” The sleeping Bearded One’s sage advice.
    Here – lots of bats! I am in awe of bats.
    This summer my love and I have created a little ritual after a very hot desert day.
    We take a mile walk at dusk, then drive to the Dairy Queen and buy a small vanilla cone dipped in chocolate. We then drive to a secret secluded spot to watch the last rays of sunset, sharing the sweetness of our ice cream cone while oohing and aahing over the bats flitting across the darkening sky.
    Bats eat tons and tons of insects.
    Bats are exquisitely irreplaceable in nature.
    And – for certain – they keep mystery alive.

    • Our neighbor told us to throw a white hankerchief with a pebble in it into the sky after dark and bats will appear to chase it. We haven’t tried it yet. We need to get the ice cream first, I guess.:)

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