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Day 96 – Happy Valentine’s Day. From this Bat.

Today was no ordinary day at Open Play. First, it was Valentines Day. So we had a party at the community center. We all brought treats and it was really fun for the kids and the parents.

I made some gluten free cookies and modified them to make them also vegan for those in the group with that restriction. These almond meal cookies with chocolate chips and coconut are so, so good. I dare you to make them and not eat the whole pan.

Photo Courtesy of The Minimalist Baker

Photo Courtesy of The Minimalist Baker

So this was all very special and all, but the day was about to get even better. First, I must remind you about “the cave,” and our very, very unfortunate afternoon when the girls went to the cave without permission. After that day we made a plan. They would be allowed to visit the cave only with a group (3 or more) and they would have to take their walkie-talkies. This plan worked out beautifully. Sera was the liaison and kept me updated about the whereabouts of the group. If a kid needed to go home, I would “call” Sera and tell her to send him or her back up to the gym.

So there I was, chatting with the other moms and inhaling cookies (seems like a pretty good Valentine’s Day to me), when the girls BURST into the gym from the cave yelling, “A BAT A BAT A BAT!!”

At any other time in my life, I might have just nodded my head and said, “Yes, that’s very lovely, now be a dear and go get mommy another cookie, or five, mmkay?” But I have been studying biology/sustainability for half of my major and the thought of seeing and photographing a bat in broad daylight just about sent me leaping over the other moms and metal folding chairs.

I ran down to the cave…

Cave

Walked to the back….

Cave

And we saw a bat hanging upside down in the middle of the day for the first time ever!

Bat

Here is a not-so-good close up I got with my iPod.

Bat at Cave Spring

You should have seen me, in the rain, with an iPod and a giant Canon camera trying to get the perfect shot. You can’t tell from the pictures, but it was SUPER dark in the cave. I tried everything to alter the lighting (used my iPod light while balancing the big camera on my head–seriously) but in the end, I used the iPod and the flash and got a couple of decent images just as it started to pour down rain.

As I ran back to the car through the rain, I thought about how funny it probably looked to see a grown woman sprinting around in the rain just to look at a bat. But the girls didn’t think twice about running through the storm…barefoot even.

Cave

I suddenly felt 10 years old again, and I remembered sailing down the mountain side on my bike–over tall golden grasses and rugged California rocks–to find lizards and wildflowers and newborn farm kittens.

I was going to begin this post by talking about how another amazing nature day was dropped into our laps, but immediately I knew that wasn’t true. This wasn’t just the fortuitous timing of being in the right place at the right moment. The girls found something amazing because they went looking for it.

Imagine all the things that are around us that we never notice?

When we got home, we looked up the bat on the TWRA website, and thought it looked a lot like a Tricolored Bat. We also made another discovery: “The Cave” is not simply some sort of gross storm drain in the middle of suburbia. It is actually Cave Spring, and there is all sorts of fascinating history (both cultural and geologic)  tied to it. This is an excerpt from geocaching.com:

This location is an example of a karst spring emerging from the side of a hill exiting through a cave. Though only the entrace to this cave is big enough to explore, the water you see flowing out of the right side comes from a well-developed karst conduit system. Much of the water a karst spring receives is drainage from all the sinkholes and sinking streams within its groundwater basin, equivalent to a watershed on the surface.

This what the cave looked like a century ago!

Historic Cave Spring

Photo Courtesy of Geocaching.com

So today we found a bat, a spring, and a bit of Tennessee history. You never know what you might find when you go looking. It has been a Valentine’s Day that we will never forget!

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