Monday, May 15, 2006

moments frozen in austin time

after a loooong day at work (including a painful 8 am -11 am conference call that we didn't realize would be videoconference, which meant that my co-worker and i had to surreptitiously sneak bites from our breakfast tacos from beneath the table), i decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and go for a run. i left the apt around 8:15, just as dusk was settling in and the sky was changing from one brilliant color to the next in a rapid succession of palettes. the weather was perfect for a run - cool, breezy, and just enough light left in the day before we'd be plunged into darkness.

as i ran across congress ave bridge, i had to wend my way around the crowds that had gathered there in eager anticipation of the nightly bat pilgrimage. austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in north america, and they all live under the congress ave bridge. in the spring season, right around dusk, it's become a well-known tourist activity to watch them come out to go feed for the night, all 1.5 million of them zooming off in crazy patterns in search of a good mosquito feast, i guess, before coming back to sleep through the day.

now i've heard about said phenomenon on many different occasions, but i've never been able to time my jogs/rides properly to actually glimpse it firsthand - until tonight. it was honestly like nothing i'd ever seen before. scores and scores of bats came pouring out from underneath the bridge (and this is an elevated bridge, so there were people looking up from below and people looking down from the bridge, like me) and went flying off into the dusk in a long, streaming, pulsing arc of black dots. it went on for like 15-20 minutes. the thing that struck me the most was how quiet they were. you could hear their wings beating, but it's not like they were honking or screeching like all of the stupid birds out there. reminds me of this calvin and hobbes comic strip where calvin had to do a book report on bats, procrastinated until the last minute b/c he was playing w/hobbes, and then wrote his whole book report on bats: fanged bugs of the night!... and eventually got in big trouble with miss wormwood b/c bats aren't bugs and he had clearly made up his entire book report.

but i digress. i continued my jog down on the trail under the bridge (unexpectedly running into my good friend KAT who is in town for business when i jogged past her hotel - more on that another time), trying out a section of the trail i'd never jogged before. there were still enough people on the trail so that i felt perfectly safe, but it was also empty enough so that i could enjoy the relative peace. dusk was settling in full force and i could still see the bats streaming in the sky above me. at one point i stopped for a breath and a stretch on a little curved bridge and counted no less than 19 turtles swimming in the water beneath me (along with a big-ass fish which seriously was freaking HUGE. like, disalarmingly so).

it's moments like these that make me glad i took the chance of moving out to a city that i didn't know, one that would take me away from the familiarity of cleveland park and dupont circle and bethesda, and plop me unprepared into a completely foreign territory. it's moments like these that i will remember when i eventually move away from here and look back fondly on my runs along town lake where i had to swat the bugs away from my face but i could still admire turtles and bats and enjoy the sunny weather as i dreamed about the next morning's breakfast taco (hopefully to be consumed at the more preferable solitude and freedom of my own desk).

austin - such a mystery sometimes (where are the friends that i can call upon? the bartenders that know my favorite martini? the restaurants where i know what's good on the menu?), yet sometimes so charming that i am completely and utterly bewitched...


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