Monday, February 23, 2009


“Bats are people from the land of souls, land where moon dwells. They are listeners to our woes, hearers of changes in earth, predictors of earthquake and storm.” Linda Hogan

Photo by Albert Wong

My classmate Becca has posted on bats and others have responded to her posting and to our recent reading from Linda Hogan, but my El Paso bats still have more to say through me. Here in El Paso, the most common bats are the Mexican fruit bat and the Mexican free tail bat. Both species are larger than Becca’s Indiana bats and they have huge bat-wing ears to match their flight equipment.

I’ve been fascinated by bats from back in my high school and college days when we went spelunking in the central Kentucky limestone caves that riddle the earth under our homes and crops. There is something fey and uncanny about walking into a cavern room; the only sound is the scrunching of your footsteps and yet, there is another presence in the room with you. Look up and you will see hundreds, thousands of bats hanging side by side like the woolly socks on my drying rack. Their sensitive sonar is disturbed by the change in air made by your entrance. They are not still, they rustle and move. Although they sleep as one, they are so alive and aware of you in an indescribable way. I am short but their folded wings brush my hair when I do not duck quite low enough. This is their space. You are the intruder and so step warily. A thousand bats taking flight at once is not your goal.

A few hours from my El Paso home is the Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Carlsbad is not as big or as beautiful as the gypsum caverns from my days in Mammoth Cave National Park or Diamond Caverns back in Kentucky, but Carlsbad is impressive for another reason. During the summer, once the weather warms up, tourists and visitors gather in the amphitheatre outside the cave entrance (exit?) at dusk. We are chatting quietly until someone sees the first one, then another. Then we all join in awe as thousands upon thousands of Mexican free tail bats leave the cave to hunt for the night. The swoop and dive right above us intent only on insects. They repeat their performance every night until it is too cold in the fall.

NPS Photo by Nick Hristov

I cherish even more my local bats. We mostly see a combination of the Mexican fruit bat which is huge and the Mexican free tail. By May, I will be on my front porch watching and waiting for the first bats to appear. Every bat that hunts outside my door is an affirmation of humans living in harmony with nature. Every bat is a celebration of my garden. Linda Hogan says, “How do we learn to trust ourselves to hear the chanting of the earth?” I say listen; the bats will chant the earth for us.

23 February 2009

No comments: