Wednesday, May 01, 2013


Tam Nguyen

The full moon meant a good time for my family in the Highlands of Viet Nam.  My father always told me interesting stories.  The story of the bat was my favorite because it always left me with curiosity about night life.  I did not have books or the Internet as I have nowadays.  Now, I can read or search around at the school library.

The full moon was very bright so we didn’t need turn on the lights or make a fire.  My father described to me the anatomy of a bat, the wings were as beautiful as opened umbrella.  I remember that the bat was a wonderful animal.  It had the ability to fly fast in the dark of night.  It had keen visual ability at night.  It also heard well.  It can hear highly pitched sounds.


My father told me a story about the bat and Buddhist lama.  The bat heard that the Buddhist lama was talented.  He understood about universe.  He also practiced divinity so that he could influence all the matter on the earth.  This is the reason that the bat came to confront the Buddhist lama.  Because of the bat’s jealousy of the lama, war happened.  The war was between two of most two equally talented beings on the earth.  It was interesting because they used their best skills, and because they were equal no one won.  Year after year, the bat and Buddhist lama fought and the war kept going.  It was making storms and dry seasons.  The weather was changing.  The war affected human beings.  People who lived by the weather and agriculture lost their crops and hunger was everywhere.  
Finally, the Buddhist lama commiserated with suffering human beings.  The tears ran down the cheeks of the Buddhist lama.  The Buddhist lama had sympathy the poor of human beings.  The bat surrendered to the Buddhist lama because the bat did not have a soul to understand suffering.  The bat was a good, intelligent, and talented animal, but the bat did not have a human sense of love as do human beings.  The animal just survived and went on with natural process.

The war was finished when the bat surrendered by kneeling down. This was the way my father explained to me why the bat sleeps with his head down.  Also for this reason, human beings honor the Buddhist lama by painting bats on the walls or tapestries behind the statues of the Buddha.  The talented Buddhist lama triumphed over the bat because he had big heart to love and accepted the talented animal which was also called the king of dark night.
When there is the full moon, I recalled a good childhood with my father with his stories which he told me occasionally when we harvested crops, corn, beans, and rice and brought them home from the field.  The neighbors gathered together, elders, children, and young people.  The children played hide and seek.  I could not hear well so I was always the loser because I couldn’t seek other children.  My father gave me a trick.  I did not need to move a lot to seek other children or hear their foot steps. I just stayed on one place and moved my head around to see the bushes moving.  I could guess where the children hiding.  Their favorite place to hide was under the bushes on the side of front yard within 3 or 4 meters of the area play.
The musk of night gave off an aroma, cooling, quite, and the smell the earth, and also at night I could hear sounds more clearly, the cricket and soft sound from nature.  The night breaks down the limitations of time.  The moon’s effervescence was like champagne.  The night is extraordinary, something like a stream of consciousness, allowing me stronger perceptions of my feelings as my mind floats.  These intimations of mine made me feel different from my friends who told me that I was crazy when I told them stories.
After the games, we got snacks of steamed fresh corn, steamed fresh peanuts or soy beans from my mother.

Tam Nguyen of Tam’s Gardening Service (853-6111) is a Master Gardener and a student at NAU and the Literacy Center.  Dana Prom Smith and Freddi Steele edit GARDENING ETCETERA and Smith blogs at and emails at   



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