Bat Catching

Most evenings in reasonable weather, winter and summer, I walk counterclockwise around the Unitarian church across the street before I go to bed. I cut through their side parking lot, through an adjoining parking lot belonging to an MRI medical facility, and turn left onto the sidewalk along Concord Pike. I am facing the oncoming traffic. They pass me only a few feet away doing 50 mph. I unrealistically think I could leap out of the way of an out-of-control car. I carry a walking-stick for stability.

Traffic is sparse. Fast, but sparse. The malls close at nine, and I am usually out later than that. The customers have already left, and the ones driving on the pike are the salespeople who have closed out their cash registers, clocked out, and are anxious to get home.

I turn left again at the first street, Whitby Drive, and left once more back onto my own street, Halstead Road, that leads back to the church parking lot. All of the streets have sidewalks. The trip sounds longer, but it is only about 1/2 a mile.

The streets are silent of any human sounds, except for the hum of an air conditioner at each house. The sidewalks are deserted. The summer is running out for the cicadas and crickets, and they frantically call for a mate in the dark trees, but I am barely aware of them. They are not calling to me. Lightening bugs timidly blink their lights over the grass. A single airplane glides low overhead, engines throttled back, wheels down, the landing lights on, heading for the Philadelphia Airport. The cabin lights flick on as I watch. I imagine the passengers bringing their seat backs forward. securing their trays, and closing their cell phones. A cabin attendant is walking down the aisle with an open bag, collecting any remaining trash.

Click, and the red traffic light at the corner of Whitby Drive and Concord Pike turns yellow, pauses, then, clicks again and turns green. For no purpose. No cars are waiting to turn onto Concord Pike. Only I change color as I walk by in the colored lights.

The Unitarian church entrance faces Whitby Drive, and they have placed a very nice wooden bench along the sidewalk. The bench is mainly decorative to mark the entrance, but I often rest there for a short time, watching the passing cars back on Concord Pike and the occasional car that slowly drifts down Whitby Drive.

Above me is a light on a pole high over the bench. Tonight, I looked up at the light, and I am ten years old again on a humid summer night in East Lansdowne, and it has just turned dark. I am passing the few minutes with my friends until my mother calls me in for my bath. Bill Scott and Eddie Vetter are there. We are gathered under a streetlight filled with hundreds of insects frantically circling the bulb.

A dark shadow skims through the insects. I know it is a bat. The light attracts insects, and insects attract bats. Many people think they have never seen a bat on the wing, but they have, often, without realizing it.

Long ago in East Lansdowne, we caught the bats by putting a stone in a knit cap, and throwing it up into the light. We had to throw it several times, but, eventually, the path of the falling hat would intersect the path of a skimming bat, and both would come tumbling down together in a tangle of wool and bat fur. The bat was stunned and confused, but unharmed. We examined it, marveled at its ugliness, and released it.


About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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