Bats’ and fairies’ return awaited

Snowthrower in action“The sky is falling!” That’s the cry around my home whenever the rain or snow comes down upon us. Tuesday afternoon, the sky was falling in a great white cloud of snow. Fifteen minutes after it began, it was over, leaving white patches on the still-green grass where the ground was a little colder than other places.

The mini-blizzard lasted long enough for a little girl whose home I passed on the way home to put on her coat with the hood and dash outside. She jumped off the porch to the sidewalk and, tilting her head up with her tongue out as far as it would stretch, started catching snowflakes.

I cherish four seasons. I would probably go nuts in Florida, where they have one season in three flavors: It’s all summer – hot summer, wet summer and cold summer. Even cold summer is not really cold. I once asked my sister-in-law, as I was about to leave her house in Miami, whether I looked like a tourist.

“Oh, you look like a tourist,” she said. “Sandals, short and a T-shirt in this weather – you have to be a tourist.”

Temperatures had been below freezing at night, giving citrus growers concern, but were in the 50s by the time I, as a vacationing tourist, was out of bed.

Locals, I soon discovered, were packed up in fur-lined boots and parkas.

Winter, up here where we still have it, is a time for the Earth to hibernate, to pull its covers over itself, sticking only its nose out into the ambience – and that only to test for Spring. The frogs that have graced our backyard stream have snuggled into whatever soft, insulative material they could discover, to await longer days and more direct sunlight. Trees have drained their sap into their roots, the way Dad used to drain our water pump to keep the line from freezing on sub-zero nights.

When we needed to pump more water, we poured some down the pipe and started pumping. I’ve occasionally wondered who primes the trees’ pumps. Probably the fairies who flutter on summer evenings near the edge of the woods, their flickering lanterns sparkling among the forest and the adjacent field. Some people think they are fireflies, but my granddaughter and I know differently.

Last summer, we lay crossways on the hammock, watching the lantern-bearing fairies, and a pair of bats that fluttered like tiny ghosts against the darkening sky, about 20 feet over our heads, hoovering mosquitoes and other insects that otherwise might be dining on us.

“Do they bite,” she asked.

“Not from up there,” I said.

She’s older now, and moved on from lying with Grandpa watching bats and fairies. One day, one can hope, she’ll have someone else with whom to share the story.

In a cottage in Maine several years ago, a bat slipped into the upstairs where wife and I were preparing to while away the darkness. As night fell, the little rascal began fluttering around the bedroom – looking for a way out, I suppose. After lying abed for 10 minutes or so, watching it flap around, we opened a window and spread a blanket between us, creating a movable wall.

Slowly, we moved the leather-winged bug killer toward the window. No humans – and apparently no bats – were injured in the performance.

I expect he and the critters that fluttered over my back yard last summer, have found some hollow tree or cave where at least not freezing seems possible – that one can, properly prepared, endure Planet Earth regional hibernation and wake to once more chase after fairies and their blinking lanterns.

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