Blind as a Bat

A few years ago we bought a bat house to put up. My hubby has a thing about mosquitos and bats supposedly eat 1000 mosquitos per hour. I have since learned this is a myth. They eat insects (among other things) but not to this extent. The bat house is still sitting in my shed. There are too many inappropriate spots on our property to house the fascinating creatures of the night. So the idea of a mosquito-free summer evening got abandoned. However, the last week in October is #batweek, so let’s muse a little on their behalf, shall we?

Ontario Parks recommends bat houses.

There are 17-18 species of bat in Canada (depending on what site you visit). The “little brown bat” is the most common… and likely the one to roust in your attic. Who decided on such a name? Not only do you have to be the most common, did you have to be named as such? Anyway. Bats are weird-looking little things. Big ears, big noses, flappy leathery skinned armed wings, and belly buttons. The only flying mammal. Apparently, they don’t have too many predators either. The odd hawk or eagle will pick off some smaller bats but disease is one of their biggest dangers. Rabies is common, but a fungal infection is their most significant threat. Fungi love close quarters in damp dark areas… and so do bats… so you can see how quickly such threats spread among a population.

Let’s look at the whole “blind as a bat” thing. Bats, in fact, have excellent eyesight. They just happen to hunt at night, so they rely on echolocation in order to enhance their ability to catch prey in the dark.  A study carried out on bat behaviour said that “bat brains have to constantly integrate two streams of data, obtained with two different senses, to construct a single image of the world”. They typically use their eyes to find food during the daytime when it’s light and rely on their hearing and echolocation in the dark. Originally, their erratic flying patterns gave the impression that they didn’t see where they were going. We’ve now learned that the dips and dives are a result of bouncing sound waves here and there in order to navigate their environments. It’s a fun trick we used to play … jingle your car keys around a bat and see their reaction. Apparently, it sounds like bugs to them. Some species actually have advanced vision and can see Ultra Violet. Often, a bat’s vision is even greater than that of its human counterparts. Truly a unique presentation of God’s handiwork!

Mexican Freetail Bats. Flying off into the sunset. 2001-08

Aristotle once said, “For as the eyes of bats are to the blaze of day, so is the reason in our soul to the things which are by nature most evident of all.” (BlindasaBat). Which got me a-thinkin’… What can we learn from these little creatures? We recently had a few big events occur in our neighbourhood. One celebratory and one tragic. Both were far removed from God’s plan for our world. As a Jesus-follower raising a family in a pagan world, I am reminded how easily I become blinded to the darkness around me. I dip and dive around issues appearing to aimlessly snatch out tidbits of “good”. How quickly the fungus of “dark” finds its way in when we stay too hunkered down in our caves.

I need to learn to sharpen all my senses and use discernment whenever I can. Like a bat brain, I need to constantly integrate all the information that I filter through each day and be “in the world but not of it”. It’s hard. It’s tough to present only “One Way” in a politically correct world of constant clicks and echoes. Surround yourselves with others who are like-minded. Bats nest by the thousands! I’ll pray for us both that our vision is clear. Be blessed my little batty beloveds!

It’s a Jungle Out There!

I thought this week’s blog post was going to be about sweet peas. Pretty little flowers. Popeye and Olive Oyl’s cute little cartoon baby. The fragrant little plant that makes a great veggie. We have some peas… and I dunno if they are sweet peas or not… but I have them growing in our urban garden. I like them… they grow well and we’ve had some great harvests. I was going to tell you about how I went out to tame them with some clips and string and bamboo skewers and how proud I was of them. But that is not how this muse went.

I went out to discover the garden has become a virtual jungle. The great rains we’ve had in the last few days have turned the place into a labyrinth of green! Okay, I admit it. Perhaps I am not as diligent at weeding as I should be… but these are not just weeds… the actual veggies have exploded! Currently, we have some zucchini plants and some cucumbers which are holding their own and doing their “normal” spread. They are behaving. The peas and beans are now quite ladened down with heavy vines and I am not sure how to separate them. They have no more space to expand to, so they are growing into each other. Even my strawberries are shooting out tendrils!

Yet, my biggest “expander” (and I say this with a little excitement) is our pumpkin vine! The youngest wanted to try it this year, so we simply threw a few seeds in a space near the end of the garden before the sunflower patch. Well… as they say, if you plant it … it just might grow! Our pumpkin has now weaved it’s way through the sunflowers, down the fence and reaching up along the side of the lawn into Neverland! The vines have taken over!

So, I did a little research. Apparently there are two different kinds of “vine” expansions: twining or hold fasts. Vines that use tendrils wrap around their supports using thin, leafless stems… those curly cues you see on grape vines, for example. Other climbers use “sticky” pads or aerial roots to adhere to almost any smooth surface. Like ivy growing on ancient castles. So how do they know to grow up and wrap around something? They don’t. Vines do something called “thigmotropism”. Those little stems grow until they mechanically “hit” something… by wind or whatever… and end up twisting around the structure to hold on. This is why you can “train” vines to climb a trellis. (Obviously my jungle proves we have not done this!) There are some very cool looking slowmo videos of “thigmotropism” out there. Look it up!

Not my peas…but Sweet Pea (lathyrus Odoratus) is a photograph by Maxine Adcock/science Photo Library which was uploaded on February 24th, 2021.

So… what’s our take away from my jungle adventure? You got it… John 15:5 comes to mind. “I am the vine, and you are the branches…” Growth occurs when we are attached to a stable structure. Heaven knows we certainly need something stable in this ever changing world!! Especially when we are facing struggles. Or the unknown. Or simply putting the “feelers” out on a big decision we need to make. Wanna know another cool thing about thigmotropism? The bigger the stimulus the plant receives, the faster the tendril growth and the stronger the coils become! Sound familiar? Yup, often our biggest valleys in life produce the greatest and strongest amount of spiritual growth!

Well… turns out my fragrant and pretty sweet peas were not as encouraging this week as my jungle of pumpkin vines! I guess that is just the way it is sometimes in life. Here’s to “thigmotropism” and to you, my growing friend! Hold fast this week!

Seasons of Change

As many of you know, our little urban garden is up and running again. Thanks to lockdown and Covid-19, we were ahead of our game and started seeds indoors this year. As always, there are learning curves with such things and we’ve had various degrees of success. Traditionally, the long weekend in May is a fairly “safe” time to transition seedlings to outside. So, last week we did just that… off our little seed babies went into the ground with high hopes of bountiful growth. And then it snowed.

Frost damage on Corn crop (photo from agriculture.com)

I see my neighbour (who has a beautiful garden) promptly shielded her tomatoes with warming pots. A seasoned farmer I follow on Instagram threw tarps over her raised beds in a last ditched effort to protect her asparagus that finally will be big enough to harvest after waiting for three long years. We did not. Our second attempt at scraggly corn shoots look very shriveled. The others may survive with a little prayer and a lot of hope.

“Farming” is a risky business. I recently searched out what our “growing zone” is, as this seems to be a fact I should know. The website starts out with “…To determine zone number, Canada uses a formula that consists of 7 climate variables. Canada’s hardiness map is divided into 9 zones…” and continues on for about 9 paragraphs and ends with “…website includes several links intended to clarify the hardiness zones, but which seem instead to be very complicated and confusing.” 1 Ya think?? Hats off to the men and women who make their livelihood on the whims of the weather and their wage on the likelihood of storms and forest fires. They say that in Canada, we can have all four seasons in one week… and it is true. Weather is unpredictable. Life is unpredictable too.

Which had me musing about the seasons of life this week. Psychology tells us there are “stages” we go through in our average life span — seasons of growth and development, seasons of change. Many of you have eluded to these in your comments as we muse along together. That’s the beauty of exploring and sharing our faith journeys, too… we encourage each other as we go. The scriptures are scattered with references, not only to the physical four seasons we see throughout the year, but also in our “spiritual seasons” as well. God reminds us through nature how our world is in constant change… and He designed it that way.

I often question: why? Why did He design it that way? Why do things have to change? Why do we have to grown old? Why has He allowed the corona virus to infect the world at this moment? Why did He choose to come to earth at the moment He did? What will the future hold for us? Seasons of bitter cold, and seasons of preparation, growth and warmth. Each season holds something to offer, but none of them are ever perfect. Weeds grow just as rapidly in summer as the sunflowers do. Yet, the constant through it all is God alone. James 1:17 tells us there is no variation or shadow of change in the Father. We can take courage in this thought. Even in the midst of life’s seasonal changes.

My zinnias (a first time plant for me!) have sprouted cute little dichotomous leaves all tucked up in a row. I’m not sure how the frost will affect them. I’m also not sure what life will hold for us in the next year, or the next month, or even this week ahead… but we move forward through the season, and grow and adapt just as God designed it to be. As will you. Blessings fellow seedlings!

  1. (2020, https://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/askagardener/plant-hardiness-zones/)