You know the game. It’s best played in a pool where the “It” person is blindfolded and yells Marco and the rest of you yell Polo! The idea is for the “It” person to find and tag one of the others using only sound. Once you are tagged, you are the new “It” person. I couldn’t swim (still can’t) so throughout my life, I have watched the game of Marco Polo from the safety of the poolside beds.
The game shares its name with the 13th-century Italian trader and explorer. There does not appear to be any real connection between the game and the explorer of the same name, although according to one whimsical explanation, “legend has it that the famed explorer didn’t really have a clue as to where he was going”, this being reflected in the “It” player’s behavior.
I am deathly afraid of moths! Stick with me and this will all make sense, I hope! I am terrified and irredeemably useless and hysterical in the presence of a moth. I am not talking about those itsy-bitsy things that fly around the light at night. I am talking about moths the size of Apache Helicopters, with a similar attitude to boot! Those are the moths you encounter at the farm when the rainy season is in full swing. I live in a state of constant fear during the wet season just in case I encounter said Apache Helicopters. In an effort to help me make sense of this, my friend told me the fear of moths is called Lepidopterophobia! I still cannot pronounce the word! To be clear, Lepidopterophobia refers to the fear of both butterflies and moths. I have no problem with butterflies – it’s their nocturnal cousins I cannot abide by!
I have been scared of moths since I can remember. My Mother tells me I would run screaming from the darn critters and lock myself in the bedroom sobbing uncontrollably. This was at age 3. I have no idea where this came from, but I have lived with it all my life.
On the farm house patio, lives one of my best friends. We have never met. Had we met, she would know she is my best friend. She is a bat. I assume she is a she. I have no idea how one tells the gender of a bat. I tolerate her because she eats moths. How do I know this? Because after some months of relentless terrorism by the Apache Helicopters, one day I went onto the patio in the morning and found moth wings. Big ones. I was a little puzzled as to why the moths had chosen to shed their wings. And if this was a choice, how did they hope to get around going forward?
That evening, the penny finally dropped. I heard the unmistakable clicking of the bat and I knew what was happening. A highly adapted game of Marco Polo was playing out on the patio. The bat went “Marco” and the hapless moth went “Polo” and promptly became dinner. At least that’s how I explain it. Unlike the clueless explorer Marco Polo though, the bat’s “Marco” has pinpoint accuracy as it uses echolocation. The Apache Helicopter does not stand a chance!
That bat became my instant BFF. A friendship borne of desperation on my part and complete obliviousness to my existence on said bat’s part. I named her Luna. How can one have a BFF who is nameless?
This relationship with Luna has left me with so many questions. Why doesn’t Luna eat moth wings? Are they nutritionally vacant? Or just impossible to fit into her mouth? What is the lifespan of a bat? Is this game of Marco-Polo taught across generations? How is that lesson taught? Will she have a good student to hand over her skills to? Can I influence that handover process? It is critical that Luna, and the generations to come after Luna continue to protect me from those moths!