Nowadays, our travel multitasks, combining business with pleasure, and usually, family. This past week, our visit to Austin, Texas centered on the Austin Bass Workshop, where my husband got to be with his people as both student and teacher during a four-day intensive course.
Meanwhile, I hung out with the in-laws in 100+ degree heat.
This involved a lot of trips from the comfort of the family living room to public spaces with air conditioning, like restaurants and malls. I’m an outdoorsy type, but with this heat, even I was longing for the cool, dark bliss of a movie theater. You know, when it’s so cold your glasses fog up as you hit the outside air?
My 93-year-old mother-in-law, God bless her, is still going strong. One afternoon, we forayed out into the rush hour traffic to attend an evening concert at the Austin Bass Workshop. It was a silent struggle between trying to get her out of the sun as quickly as possible and not dragging her on an inhumane sprint across the sloping campus of Huston-Tillotson University. Every surface emanated waves of heat, especially the dark metal handrails she needed to steady herself as she climbed the mountain of stairs. Amazingly, her sense of humor remained intact.
Another evening, we ventured downtown to take in the evening flight of the Congress Avenue Bridge Bat Colony, which has the distinction of being the largest urban colony of bats in the world. Probably 600 others joined us, above on the bridge and below on the water of Lady Bird Lake, to wait for the swarm of Mexican free-tailed bats to emerge in search of food.
These days, I’m a little at a loss to reconcile the generally courteous and friendly people I encounter in public with the overwhelming incivility I experience on social media. But there we were, together, waiting for bats. Playing with toddlers, petting dogs, enjoying the relative cool of the evening and idly reassuring impatient children, “Any minute now!”
First one, then several, then an amazing, steady stream of furry projectiles began to fly. Emerging from tiny crevasses in the bridge, they soared skyward. About 40 minutes later, we were among the last stragglers to leave and still, there seemed to be no end to the relentless stream of creatures streaming across the darkening skyline.
Nature always helps me keep it in perspective, and the Austin bats were no exception.