Flying foxes over the Brisbane River
Brisbane river bats flying

Ever since I read Siddartha by Herman Hesse I've looked at rivers a different way, how he talked about the river being a teacher as it ceaselessly changes yet is somehow constant.  Like Plutarch's Ship of Theseus it asks us something about our lives, the way we should gracefully accept the changing of our ideas, our body, our world, without thinking we are losing ourselves.

Heraclitus too talked about how one could not step into the same river twice, we too should not want to be the same when we step into the river.  We should embrace change, the act of becoming.     

Actually, perhaps it was before I read philosophy that I started to look at rivers differently.  I remember watching an environmental documentary that talked about how human society and rivers are so interconnected, that we cluster around the rivers and strangle them, pollute them, make them inhospitable for the life that came before us.

It would be a rare day I did not walk or ride, over or along the Brisbane river.  Tamed and enclosed as it is by concrete and walls, it has a sort on unvanquished beauty to it, this great thing of nature that divides our city.  Birds come to find the fish in it, there are even small beaches along it, though few would risk it's polluted waters, not to mention the bull sharks who patrol it and somehow survive.

For some time at night, as dusk set in or on a cloudy day even earlier, thousands of bats would make their way along the river.  They are called flying foxes and it always amazes me that they aren't related to all other species of bats, nature having twice evolved this solution to the same evolutionary puzzle.  I think the flying foxes come from a colony further along the river, but don't follow its bends instead making for a building with a large purple light on it before joining the course of the river again.  For all the troubles we have caused the bats, I imagine buildings like that help them navigate the city.

They fan out amongst the native figs and other fruit bearing trees, making their short cat like calls to each other.  The flap of their large wings, and their constant chattering is a constant chorus to those who walk the streets of Brisbane at night.

Because their colonies are large, loud and have a certain smell, people chase the bats away from trees in urban areas.  They use loud noises and smoke to try to not let them get any rest during the day, when they usually hang upside down and sleep in trees.

I love to see their dark shadow against the night sky, yet of late I haven't seen these large flocks on the river.  Chased away maybe, or just moved on, I'm not sure.