Last night I got the kids in bed and went outside to watch the bats.
Our old farmhouse has an attic -- an apparently insecure attic -- with gaps between the rafters and tiny spots where bats can slip in and find a place to sleep. During the day, you would never know they were there, but once the sun is gone from the sky, the bats go to work.
As dusk settles in and the sky turns pinky, then midnight blue, one little black form after another appears on the edge of the roofline. They hover there for a moment and then drop and rise up, winged black silhouettes against the gray sky. Some of them hang there longer and wait for something -- a sign, a sound, a specific level of darkness? -- before they take fluttering flight.
Watching the bats has become a beloved ritual this summer. For about ten years, our bat population had thinned. I'm glad they're back after their hiatus and I'm glad the colony seems to be healthy but most of all I love the way watching them forces me to stop for a moment every day and think about work and rest.
My other ritual this summer has been moving our sheep from a lower pasture back to one nearer to our house. Normally we would leave them in a lower pasture for a week or two before shifting them but we have four new lambs this year and there have been coyotes hanging around lately and . . . well, my husband kids me about it, but . . . I worry.
So each evening, once the sun has dropped below the horizon, I walk down to the lower pasture with a handful or two of grain and walk the sheep back up to their barn.
The sheep can hear me coming and they wait anxiously by the fence, ready for the ritual. For them, the routine is meaningful because it always ends in a little taste of grain.