“Don’t forget to look up!” That was the tip I heard from an older gentleman some years ago while I was taking an early morning walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney. Relishing every free minute while on business in Australia, I was almost mesmerized by countless beautiful features in the park. I hadn’t even noticed other walkers. As I stopped and turned to the man, he pointed up in the sky and repeated, “don’t forget to look up, you’re missing the show.”
It turned out the Gardens were home to a colony of fruit bats, also known as Flying Foxes. Most people would not associate the word “majestic” with bats, but the flight of these large and graceful creatures was truly something special.
We stood together watching the aerial wonder for a good five minutes before we began talking, all the while looking up at the bats more than looking at each other. He was walking to rehabilitate his heart after surgery. He spoke in very technical terms about his health and I soon heard an amazing story of him having been born in Vietnam to French parents who later settled in Australia. He had been a “flying doctor,” traveling by airplane to see patients who lived in remote outback regions of the country. He was eager to learn something of my background and what brought me to the Gardens on such a wonderful morning.
The conversation stopped abruptly when he said, “Oh my, I’ve interrupted your walk and I must get on with my exercises, too… Remember, don’t forget to look up!”
We only spoke for 15 or 20 minutes, but the brief conversation that took place quite a few years ago remains vivid when I am in a new place. I can’t help but take in a landscape and then sweep my gaze upward to see if there are any treasures waiting to be seen. I can no longer tell whose voice I hear, the flying doctor’s or mine, but the phrase repeats, “Don’t forget to look up!” It is magical and it applies to every aspect of life.
Even now, as we are unable to travel, maybe there is something new to see when we pause and take a look at what might be up there, whether a bright star at night or a bird carrying nesting material back to a tree.
For readers who are curious about the Flying Foxes, the good news is that they are protected in Australia. There are two species of the “megabats” that call the area home, the grey-headed flying-fox and the black flying-foxes. Unlike small “microbats” that use sonar, megabats like the flying-foxes use eyesight and smell to hunt. They feed at night, play an important role as pollinators and seed dispersers feeding on fruit, nectar, and blossoms of gum tree flowers.1 I was lucky enough to see them before they went to bed high up in trees for the day.
1 Source: The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Flying Foxes at Centennial Parklands. Introducing flying foxes.
R.A. Kroft writes about her day-to-day journey in living a smaller, more sustainable life and other topics that interest her.
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