Going Thoreau-ly batty out in the wild

09/23/2010 12:00 AM |

One of the great advantages of traveling in an RV is getting close to nature.

I may bring all the comforts of home when we hit the road, but we park those comforts alongside babbling brooks or deep in the woods or in the shadows of tall mountains. That way I’m able to zap a frozen Hot Pocket in the microwave then take it outside and be one with nature. Not very Thoreau, but way more comfortable. The only downside is when nature gets a little too close, which happened during a trip to New England.

I don’t normally blend all that well with nature, probably because I’m a housing development brat. Even after nearly 30 years, I’m still not comfortable living in a house on an acre instead of eight per acre and full of trees instead of sidewalks.

Know what we development kids called a house on an acre when I was growing up? A farm. When we wanted to see a tree, we’d go to a park. We’d hear talk of families who lived in homes surrounded by trees instead of sidewalks. Know what we called them? Poor people.

Bugs did not thrive in our development, most likely because of no trees and all sidewalks, but also because a pesticide truck would cruise the neighborhoods, spewing a cloud of mist. We used to run behind the truck, chasing the cloud, which, in hindsight, may explain some of the quirky traits shared by too many of us development-raised baby boomers.

But I digress — back to my recent close encounter with nature. We were camped for the night deep in the woods and when I first turned out the lights it was totally dark, but gradually my eyes adjusted and I could see light from the quarter moon filtering through the trees and faint moon shadows on the window screen.

The only sound was the occasional flutter of a bird near the RV. A little bird settling down for the night, snuggling in its little nest, just like us. Then the little bird fluttered itself right into the window screen. I could see its shadow as it passed by the window, went away, then came back.

Not only could I hear its wings all aflutter, I could also hear its little skull making contact with the screen, over and over. It was getting annoying, so from my bed I reached over to the window (in an RV nothing is more than an arms-reach away), tapped the screen and whispered into the darkness, “knock it off, bird!”

The little bird knocked it off, but for only a moment, then the darn thing was right back at it again.

Enough with nature! I turned on the light. “Get outta here!” I whisper-shouted more loudly. It became very, very quiet. No fluttering. No skull bashing. But as soon as I turned out the light, again with the fluttering and bashing.

I woke my husband (he grew up in a house surrounded by trees with no sidewalks, poor boy) who determined that the bird wasn’t outside, it was in the RV. With us. And that was the good news.

The bad news? It wasn’t a bird. It was a bat.

Let me say, first, that I have come a long way since those development wonder years. I have touched caterpillars, pretended that pet mice were cute and even leaned against a tree, once, but I do not like bats. And don’t bother reciting that long list of reasons why bats are our friends. I’ve heard it before and maybe I inhaled too much of that pesticide but it never sinks in. Consequently, I do not behave rationally when there’s a bat in the room. Especially if I’m in the room, too.

Once I was trapped in the basement with a bat and my husband. I raced up the steps, six at a time, and then held the door to the basement shut with my body for an hour so the bat couldn’t escape. Even though my husband banged on the door I wouldn’t open it because, as I explained later, I thought he was the bat trying to trick me. It was not my most noble moment.

I didn’t act nobly in the RV, either. I covered my head with a sheet and screeched as the bat ricocheted off the walls’ confined space even with the lights on (nice bats aren’t supposed to do that!) until my husband opened the door and the bat flew outside, where it belonged.

I spent the rest of that trip in the “wilds” with a pillowcase over my head and a flyswatter in my hand. I didn’t relax until our last night in the RV, which we spent camping in the Foxwoods Casino parking lot, on concrete and under noontime-bright lights.

Finally, I felt Thoreau-ly one with my surroundings.