One night last week, I went out on the verandah because the moon was so great, and it was rising like an African moon, the neighborhood was quiet except the evening call to prayer in the distance, and the bats were swarming and playing around as usual. They were sweeping in front of the rising moon and it was breathtaking. The feeling was different from watching day birds—no gliding, no goofiness, just stellar shadows and a little fear in me—a little feeling to go back inside. I resisted the fear and the desire to retreat, and soon I noticed something of a team effort happening among the bats. I watched as one returned to the mango tree and another came out, like baton-offering runners, or like ice hockey players as they glide onto and off the ice. It was beautiful watching them… who knew?
So I took a picture. I’ve never tried to take a picture of bats and I had a weird experience. They were pretty close, sometimes close enough that I felt the urge to duck, but when I took a picture and looked at it, they weren’t there. I knew I had caught them in the frame, I was almost certain that I had. I kept trying, and then I went inside to get more sophisticated cameras, and each time the wall, the jasmine, the wires, and the moon came out clearly, but no bats. It was like I held something in the palm of my hand that became a spirit when I opened it. I took pictures for over an hour, taking almost 100 pictures with three different cameras, determined to capture one bat, determined to capture these sweeping spirits.
This morning I was thinking (as I weeded the cactus garden, another new pursuit requiring way more skill than you can imagine)—-I was thinking about how the bats were like God: right in front of me—practically touching my face—and yet still not there.