I was taking mail out to the mailbox yesterday when I saw it, a strange flapping in the small stream of melted snow at the end of our driveway like a newspaper caught on the breeze but weighted down in a not-quite-newspaper way. At first I ignored it, but then the flapping came again and I came closer to investigate.
There, lying in the water with one wing folded in and one outstretched was a small bat. Of course, not being familiar with bats he may actually have been very large for a bat, but I wouldn't know.
My first instinct was to say "Ewww!" and go back inside. But then the part of me that read Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, the part of me that wants my children to know that learning extends beyond the bricks and mortar of a school building said "Oooh! Science lesson! Nature!" So I hurried inside, grabbed a shoebox, stuffed it with an old sweater that once was destined to be converted back into yarn, grabbed some other scrap material, and carefully transferred the bat, whom we shall call Edward, into the sweater lined box.
Inside I carried Edward down to the boys. Gates was immediately fascinated and we whipped out his digital microscope to get a better look at Edward, trying to see if we could spot an actual injury and just studying him in general.
We learned several things.
1. It is hard to take close up pictures of a bat with a digital microscope and not have them turn out blurry.
2. Bat fur looks very soft.
3. Bat claws and wing hooks are very tiny and look kind of gross.
4. Bats do not like having their claws gently poked at with a pencil tip.
5. Bats have sharp looking teeth.
6. Even injured bats can move really fast when they want to.
Yes, Edward had declared "Enough!" So far he had been wounded, nearly drowned, scooped up, had a bright light shone on him and now he was being poked at. Screeching with his wide open mouth full of very sharp looking little teeth he flung himself out of the shoebox, onto the desk and then onto the floor.
For a few moments chaos ruled as Edward shrieked and flopped, Gates and Indy shrieked and ran, and I maybe shrieked and tried not to run over Edward with the wheels of the desk chair. Once the chair was moved safely away I managed to corral him back into the shoebox and with the lid firmly in place Gates and I took him out to the back deck.
Carefully I transferred him out of the box and then we retreated to let nature take its course. I'm not sure what happened to him, at one point he had scooted to the edge of the deck, later he was gone. A search of the ground around the deck didn't reveal him so I hope he simply needed to dry out sufficiently to fly to shelter. Maybe he's hanging out in one of the old bird's nests under the deck.
I felt that I'd somehow failed at my grand attempt to introduce my children to Nature, but Gates declared it his most exciting day ever. Maybe that's all that matters, that moment when our children realize that the world is just a little bit bigger, a little bit more interesting. That there are moments when a bat becomes more than just a picture on the page and becomes the shrieking, flopping thing on your floor.
So farewell, Edward. May your nights be dark and the insects plentiful. And may the God who sees the sparrow fall watch over one small bat as well.