By Tracie Nichols

I’m writing this, sipping Earl Grey tea, listening to the l evening soundtrack of birds and insects.

Little Brown Bats (that’s the type of bat they are) are swooping and diving just outside my back door, scooping up the mosquitoes and other flying bugs attracted to the glow of our kitchen light.

I have to say, it’s good to see them here—the bats, I mean. I’ve been worried about them. White Nose Syndrome is decimating their colonies during hibernation in my part of the world, so seeing five or more healthy, well-fed, bats returning nightly helps me hope. Maybe they can hang in long enough to develop an immunity to the fungus like their European cousins did. 

The Forest Service doesn’t think so, though. You see, humans are probably the vector for introducing the fungus to the North American bat population, and our visits to caves are the likely reason it’s spreading so rapidly. 

“The once-common little brown bat has suffered a major population collapse and may be at risk of rapid extinction in the northeastern U.S. within 20 years due to WNS.”

EXTINCT. IN OUR LIFETIME. (insert favorite expletive)

My family has already noticed their physical absence. Our local mosquito population is the red flag. There are so many more of them than usual. Without the Little Brown Bats to eat them, there are more of them to snack on us. 

But the deeper question for me is this: what happens to our souls when they’re gone? How do we cope with the hole their loss leaves in the weave of our living system? How will our collective being-ness feel whole without the unique presence that is Little Brown Bat? 

Which leads me to wonder how we’ve filled the holes left by other species who are extinct as a direct result of human action, or inaction. Is their energy still with us, or do we simply have holes in our collective awareness? 

I sense that we’re left with something like an energetic echo of their presence in place of the vibrant hum their physical energy once contributed; there but not there. Ghostly remnants. I find that heartbreaking.

My primal self aches with longing for the wild kin who are missing.

My irrepressible optimism insists we can change the headlong tumble into losing these, and other, animal and plant kin. We can. But we need to take action now, not stop at noticing and grieving.

Mindfulness encourages me to pause and be with the grief, anger, pain, fear, impulses to do (anything), or hide, or pretend I don’t know what I know.

My soul reminds me that my nature is wild nature, that I am not discussing something outside myself.

It would be so easy to let my practicality tie all this up into a tidy list of things we can do to save the Little Brown Bat.

But, that would miss the point of this article.

The Little Brown Bat is at risk because all too often we act without being mindful, and we suffer loss without remembering that it is more than emptier night skies we risk. We risk incurring the permanent ache of losing a family member.

We risk creating emptier selves.

Photo: floweringtk/tumblr

Editor: Dana Gornall