Sunday, 31 August 2008

Last Bat of Morning

I came across this wonderful piece of writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg, originally published in the New York Times. It really captures the essence of dawn and dusk outside a bat roost.

It's 6 a.m., a dark, gray morning in late August, the dim light a reminder how far we've gone on the downhill side of summer. Ethel, a border terrier, and I are behind the house investigating a woodchuck scent. There is a dark smudge in the mist above us, and then another. The bats are returning to their bat house, a thin, slatted box, high up under the eaves. Each bat comes in over the roof, makes a dive for the ground and then swoops upward toward the narrow entrance of the bat house. Some slip inside on the first try, some fall back and try again. After a few minutes, the air is still, the last bat home. Ethel and I turn toward breakfast.

I have seen the bats come out at evening again and again. It is one of the joys of living here, watching them drop one by one into the night. But I've only seen them coming home a few times. The bats of evening are the last flutter in a world that is growing still. The bats of early morning have already been engulfed by birdsong, rooster-crow, the stirring of nearly every creature on this place. Their flight is less erratic just before roosting, no longer distracted by an insect in the air. It's as though each bat brings a scrap of night's darkness home with it, leaving the sky pale and brightening. It's as though night itself were being stored in the bat house till dusk.

When the last bat had vanished, I felt almost absurdly alone, strangely vacant in that thin slice of morning. It reminded me of a feeling from the city a long time ago - that moment, after staying up all night, when you can feel the world gathering pace and energy just as you're beginning to fade. Watching those dawn bats, I imagined them punching out of their night's work as they settled, and I felt as if I'd somehow clocked into their schedule. And it seemed that the best use of a dark, gray morning with mist in the air was to go back to bed, only a few feet, and a couple of walls, away from where the bats are sleeping.

(Normally I have a thing about horrible US English spelling, but writing this good deserves to be left as the author intended!)

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