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A baby bat, not much bigger than the one on our step. (Photo credit: Animals of the Planet Earth website)

A baby bat, not much bigger than the one on our step.
(Photo credit: Animals of the Planet Earth website)

By Faith J. H. McDonnell (@Cuchulain09)

I saw the small black object out of the corner of my eye as we approached the step. I assumed it was more trash left by one of the unruly children that live noisily above our heads. Either that, or it was some wet leaves or a clump of mulch. After all, we had rain for about three days in a row. I avoided that part of the step and continued on.

But teenage daughter Fiona had stopped to investigate further. “It’s a baby bat!” she exclaimed. “Poor little thing.”

“Are you sure?” I asked. I returned down the steps and took a closer look. She was right. I saw a perfect little head with tiny pointed ears, delicate, wide-spread wings, and tiny legs. “Poor little thing,” I echoed.

Fiona said that she should bury the little bat. “Really?” I demanded. I couldn’t imagine touching the thing. I preferred to forget about it.

“Don’t you think I should?” she questioned.

“Well, if you don’t bury it, you can be sure that somebody — probably one of the kids upstairs — will end up stepping on it,” I admitted.

That clinched it. She went off in search of something with which to pick up the tiny mammal. “Not a kitchen utensil,” I begged. Luckily she found a plastic paint spatula and disappeared out the door with it. A few minutes later, and the baby bat had joined the two frogs, three salamanders, and a mollusk buried under the bushes that lined the front of our front porch.

I’ve been thinking about the whole event since then. Mostly, I am happy not to see any bats. But looking for a baby bat photo to accompany this blog post, I could see how intricately they are created – as a marvel of aerodynamics and ultrasonic sounds. Some of them are cute.

I still don’t have an affinity for bats, but it makes me happy that Fiona took the time to see what was on the step and cared about the dignity of something that was less than a square inch in size, but that had contained life.

One of God’s Creatures, Dead and Buried

A small mound of
Freshly turned dirt:
Another grave below our front patio.
Where others saw
A sodden black leaf or
Some undecipherable object,
Or saw nothing at all,
Fiona recognized a tiny, perfect
Baby bat, lying dead on the steps.
How could the rest of us
Have missed the delicate outstretched wings,
A miniature angel?
Only the eyes of one who has buried carefully
Two frogs, three salamanders, and a mollusk
In that impromptu cemetery
Where dignity has been assigned,
Could see.

Faith McDonnell, June 17, 2013