There’s a scene in my book that is set in the wee hours after an ice storm. It was partly inspired by a terrifying morning 30 years ago, although the source of terror is very different in the fictional version. Yesterday’s dense snow created just the sort of atmosphere I remembered, every bit of vegetation weighted and every sound muted by the ice and snow. Memories are becoming extra loopy like that.
When it happened the first time, I looked out into the back yard and was distressed to see the way the ice had pulled an entire patch of bamboo toward the ground. The bamboo had annoyed me before, the way it spread and required machete control, but now it was injured and moved me to pity.
I made my way out to the distressed plants. I was over-bundled and fell down two or three times, skidding around on the ice when I was upright and crunching into the snow when I fell. When I freed the first branches, I heard a shuffling noise that seemed out of place, but I ignored it and proceeded to the next branch and the next. They didn’t spring upright nearly as well as I’d hoped. The branches remembered being bent.
I didn’t consider, as I disturbed this new formation in the yard, that the weighted bamboo had formed something very much like a cave. Animals like caves every bit as much as prehistoric people enjoyed them. It’s a good way to stay safe and defend a herd or a flock or a family of bats.
This new cave contained an entire dynasty of bats and they exploded in every direction. I might have heard all of them squeaking if I hadn’t been screaming so much. They swirled around my head, vamoosed past my sides and whooshed between my legs. Once released, the bats swarmed directly toward my house. I watched with a new kind of horror as most of them flowed into a previously unnoticed hole in the vent in the gable roof.
These bats may not have ever decided to roost in my attic if I hadn’t bothered them. I was very offended, and even though nobody bit me, nobody escaped eviction.
After the worst wildlife encounter of my life until then, I didn’t stop trying to rescue trees and shrubs, but I’ve never done it again without a very long pole and a wish for a helmet.