Archive for July, 2011


I don’t have pictures for this blog. You’ll understand why later.

The other day, after a glorious summer’s day of hot, sweaty, herb gathering and chicken tending, followed by a relaxing evening watching a favorite show with hubby, I decided to take a delicious shower before finally settling into a well deserved rest late at night.

As I stepped out, clean and wet with just a towel on, I noticed the bathroom door wide open and my nearby bedroom door was shut. Unusual. We have not closed the bedroom door in 17 years due to roaming German Shepherds who like to sleep with us, and in the past, a kid who might come and go in the night. I figured the door was open because of aforementioned Shepherds who like to check on my safety while I’m showering. However, the closed bedroom door was definitely odd.

“Why is the door closed?” I called out as I toweled off,  to my husband, thinking he was inside.

“There’s a Bat in there.” I heard from downstairs.

“Oh. My pajamas are in there.” I said.

“So is the Bat” he deadpanned.

As most of my friends know, I love bats. For many years while I earned my living as an Environmental Educator, I taught classes on the many benefits of living in harmony with them, and their documented social intelligence, economic and environmental boons.

However, late at night, naked, and half asleep is still not the ideal way to renew acquaintances.

Sigh.  I slipped into the bedroom, speaking softly to the still invisible Little Brown Bat. I knew s/he would probably have found a quiet little nook to re-evaluate this unfortunate turn of events. He didn’t want to be there any more than I wanted him to be there. I also knew it was likely a juvenile who was confused and most certainly this bat was more worried about me than i was about it. Important to remember when having to interact with another species is how dangerous that other species thinks you are. Hence, the quiet talk. The slow easy breathing and thoughts of how my only wish was to gather him up and gently escort him outside to the night.

Bats are vital – economically  and environmentally world-wide.  In 1994 (publication of the nearest book on Bats that I reached for off my bookshelf) more than 300 economically important plant species, producing over 450 commercial  products, were known to depend on bats for pollination in the Old World alone. For example, the Durian fruit contributes $120 million each year to the economy of Southeast Asia. (1994 data from my Golden Guide to Bats of the World).  This estimate has surely gone up since then. I invite you to look up current facts on Bats and all they do for us, and the current challenge they are facing. In our part of the world, bats are insectivorous and indispensable to maintaining insect balance for our crops and comfort.  Even the Vampire Bat (who only lives in South America) benefits humans by  having a component of their saliva that prevents blood clotting that may be used to prevent heart attacks in humans. Guano is not only a valued fertilizer but has bacteria in it that is used to treat  chemical wastes and in the production of gasahol and detergents.

I remembered that the Little Brown Bat doesn’t have a mouth big enough to bite me very easily with. Still, I don’t take chances, and I use common sense when forced into a situation of interaction. Having handled many of these while assisting Bat Conservation International with an Autumn Species Count many years ago, I still vividly remember late one dark cool night, being surrounded by hundreds or thousands of various species of bats as they darkened the stars behind them with their sheer numbers. They were having their last night or two of “partying” before hibernating. Swarming in a dense cloud, feeding on bugs to store up fat reserves for hibernation, making love, being social, and doing as yet not understood activities as they prepared for the long winter ahead, I was in complete awe of them. This time is important as the prepare themselves to make it all the way to Springtime without eating again or moving much.

We stretched a net nearby to interrupt the flight of what we hoped would be a representative count. All of us Naturalists then set to work gently extricating tiny bat feet and claws from the net, then sexing and identifying the species in our hands before setting them free. I started out with big leather gloves because I was a newbie then, and was a bit nervous. It soon became apparent that gloves were extremely awkward and just frightened the bats, as you really had to manhandle them to extradite them. So, off came the gloves. What I soon realized was that if I was calm and moved slowly and gently, the bats of whatever species would be placid and almost appeared tame. If I appeared nervous or hurrying, they would also often become agitated and sometimes even try to defend themselves from the giantess who was interrupting the party/shopping trip.  In a cloud that darkened  the moonlit sky considerably, as I stood among them, I marveled at how not even one ever bumped into me, though they swooped all around and close to me, catching bugs and doing who-knew-what.

Back to the present. Once I  had on some clothing, I evaluated my options. Having 35 years as a trained Naturalist and Wildlife Rehabilitator, a deep appreciation for the scientific order of Chiroptera, and being inoculated against Rabies, gives me a real advantage in such situations. I still do not handle bats (or any wild animal) with my bare hands. This is called common sense. My most used options are a box and stiff cardboard to sidle him into and carry her outside, or a towel to place over her and gently pick him up with wings pinned while carrying to the open window.

Once I found the little guy, at one point  he dropped down and landed on the back of my calves, as I was kneeling on a wooden chest. The  furry little microchiroptera looked very uncomfortable and as I twisted to try to pick her up, she crawled over to my other calf. It tickled.  Bats can’t take off from the ground like birds can. Totally different wing, bone and body structure make it so they need to drop down and take off from a height. The resulting swooping around a room that happened when my first pick up attempt failed, is the result of how awkward it is to fly in a tight space where you have to land up high enough to drop down for your next take off. The myth about bats becoming entangled in your hair is just that – a myth. When I was surrounded in the darkest night at the bat hibernaculum, while they swooped around and above me, not one ever touched me in any way. I was the only one who broke the polite and real distance bats prefer between us. If you’ve ever tried to swoop around a 15 foot square room with webbed wings, well then you’ll know why it appears that bats are coming at you  – it’s almost impossible to navigate gracefully that small a space while flying, even if you do have better radio radar capabilities than our military’s best.

Finally, I was able to very gently pry him from the stone wall where he was clinging, and quickly open the towel outside the previously opened window and watch him fly into the night. A healthy, grateful bat was gone, relieved to be far away from me, and most likely wiser for the experience.

FOOT NOTE
Most bats are clean, healthy and non-aggressive to humans. Precautions should be taken as with any wild animal, and people must avoid handling or unnecessary interactions (which most are). Rabies is present in less than 0.5 % of the population, a percentage no higher than what is observed in most other mammals. Like other mammals, bats cannot carry the virus without becoming sick and dying. Rabies does not spread extensively among bats and is only extremely rarely transmitted to humans. Fewer people have died from bat rabies in the last 50 years than have died from dog bites and bee stings in one year alone. That being said, if a bat appears sick, common sense must be used and greater care taken. Anyone being bitten by any wild animal should wash the wound well with soap and water and seek medical care immediately.

As I typed this title thinking of one idea, instead the movie by the same name came to mind. One of my old favorites. A vision of a life where old age becomes full of joy and contentment, with a new adventure to boot. That’s my vision for Old Age.

However, the reason I originally wrote this title was because of something I saw yesterday.

“What is this?”, you might ask. When I first saw it yesterday, it was  a mere net, a gossamer sheet of threads over a florescent green, bulbous and  huge caterpillar.  There were ants busily moving in, through and around the space being created as this net was spun, seemingly a happy part of the green worm’s creation.

I didn’t take a picture then because I wasn’t sure which way it was going. Somehow it appeared that perhaps this worm was on its way out. I remember thinking – how does a caterpillar come out of the cocoon, as a caterpillar? Am I missing something?

Yes, I was. When I approached the area I found it in this morning, I realized it was almost done building a very firm abode to rest in while it transformed into its next stage.

Wow.

Talk about creating your own safety. It seems like a perfect metaphor for the necessary times of introspection, meditation, rest, retreat and inner nourishment. Winter always seems like a natural time for this, but I realize that perhaps we need mini-cocoons – shorter periods of withdrawal, more frequently. Momentary retreats where we nourish and transform ourselves. Take an unkind word and change it in our heart into a more thoughtful one so that it doesn’t fester and burn. Keeping our inner Self clear and full of Light to support this vision of an old age filled with Joy and Contentment. I love that thought.

I looked again at the safety net and saw how common, ordinary bits of the surrounding environment had been utilized to form this shining gossamer fortress. A tiny piece of leather, a withering leaf, stems of leaves long gone. This is part of the way of thinking that permaculture comes out of.  To use whatever surrounds us naturally, is already present in our local surroundings, and utilize it to help create or reinforce the cycle of  life and make it better. Or in the case of this one, protect us from the environment while we sense and change and meld with our deepest desires.  There is a sense of completeness that comes from noticing local availability, and what is literally in our own back yard,  before having something shipped across the country or the world.

I am watching this Cocoon each day to see what miraculous creature will unfold from its time of introspection, or perhaps it’s just resting and nourishing its Self with beautiful thoughts and visions of radiant mirth. More to come.

Yesterday a very green 6 legged one presented himself to me on my desk.

I was delighted!  So delighted, in fact, that I photographed him, admiring his exquisite lines and colors and beauty. I looked him up in my Insect field guides, the closest match being a juvenile katydid. However he didn’t exactly match the images for Katydids, who have an elongated thorax and wings. Perhaps any Entomologists reading will comment on this.

After admiring, oooing and ahing over him (or her), following the explosions into space which he navigated when I got too close, I was amazed at the way he would use his back legs to condense his whole body into a coil spring, and then be flying through the air to land on yet another surface where I could study the green harmonic lines of his body again.

Then, in the midst crawling around on the floor after him, I was struck with the thought – wow ! My girls (chickens) would love this tender morsel! Now, before anyone is too horrified, I want to state why I firmly believe in the predator – prey relationship.  Our natural world revolves around it. In fact, insects are the foundation and the basis of what physically nourishes the rest of us. If we want to take it further, plants nourish those who nourish us, and microbrial activity nourishes all of us. Every time we breathe we are breathing in thousands of microorganisms that are either essential to life, intruders or perhaps neutral and our immune system is immediately wiping out a great deal of these. Eating other beings is just part of breathing no matter what species you are. I think of “Horton Hears a Who” everytime I try to picture the order of size and relative importance, although of course there is so much more to it than that. The difference I strive for is appreciation, respect and honoring the life I participate in consuming or helping others consume, in the case of an animal in my care.

First, I gathered him up very gently and carried him in loose hands outside. I told him how much I appreciated this opportunity to give my hens, who at this time are giving me daily nourishing fantastic delicious eggs,  a special treat. I asked if this was okay with him. I felt the answer was that letting them eat him is in harmony with what could happen, would happen sooner or later in the world. He is seen as a tasty morsel to many. I was respecting his comfort and life. I walked to the fence where the hens set in the afternoon sun, and placed him carefully on it. I gave him an opportunity to jump away before I let them know he was there. He didn’t. Soon, one of the hens waddled over and gobbled him up.

I thought about him all day. What a fascinating face! What a vibrant color! What a lucky hen to catch him!  And most of all, how great that I got to see such a beautiful representation of the insect world up close and personal.

I’m still thinking about him today.

Yesterday, as I watched the honeybees buzzing in my pumpkin patch, I marveled at them. It’s always exciting for me to see honeybees after they have been so painfully absent from our gardens, struggling with diseases I believe were brought on by persistent pesticides and a resulting weakened immune system.

Covered in golden pollen so heavy they can barely fly, they appeared drunk and immersed in revelry, a perpetual party of seeking out what they love and then immersing themselves fully in it.

What nourishes each of us? Conversely, what is it that slowly poisons us and therefore we need to avoid or protect ourselves from being exposed to?  What is it that we are inherently drawn to, and what attracts us because it is feeds the Core of our Being? What do we allow ourselves to get wrapped up in fully, before bringing it back home to nourish our family and friends with?

It’s becoming more and more important to me, no matter what,  to let my Inner Wisdom draw me to that which I know to be best for my Soul, no matter how it looks to a casual observer or critic who is on the outside looking in.

Can anyone else ever really know what nourishes each one of us us, and are they ever in a position to take it away from us simply with their disapproval? No.

My loved ones benefit when I am following the wild call of my Wild Heart. The critics will never be happy or smile at me, no matter how much I sing to them.

I know it’s time to pay more attention to what nourishes me, less time worrying about why people hurt each other, and then fill myself up with the nectar of life until the pollen is dripping off my sides.

Honeybees have the right idea.