By Shel Silverstein
The baby bat
Screamed out in fright,
“Turn on the dark,
I’m afraid of the light.”
It’s been my habit for quite some time now to start my day in meditation or contemplative prayer. One of the things I love to do most is sit in my breakfast room with the windows and screen doors open just after dawn, feeling the cool morning breeze brush against my face while my mind is being still.
I interrupt this tranquil image to reveal that on this particular morning, actual wings brushed through my hair and broke my meditative silence.
This particular bat was extremely active, circling my downstairs with a much larger wing span than I was expecting to see. When it landed…regrettably on the edge of a cupboard door I had left slightly ajar which I now worried would become a bat house…its body was about the same size as a large mouse. Actually, what went through my mind was, “it’s as big as the hedgehog!” (the African Pygmy hedgehog, Clover, is the nocturnal animal who shares our house with us, intentionally). Apparently, there’s some good bat eating in our neighborhood and this creature had been enjoying the buffet. After a moment to get my bearings, I managed to slowly move in its direction and close the cupboard door (sending the bat circling again). I walked under its circling bat path several times, acknowledging its presence, watching it closely and showing it my front door. It seemed decidedly uninterested.
I recalled at this moment that bats seek darkness rather than light, and it was this bat’s bedtime. So, I turned on every light in the house, in hopes that this would give an appeal to the not-yet-fully-light outdoors. The bat circled for several more minutes and finally swept by me one more time as if to give its regards before heading out the front door. I sighed in relief and closed my house back up again, now fully awake and aware of every nuance of darkness and light lurking in the corners of my house. And grateful to once again find myself in solitude.
I am struck by how aware we become when something out of the ordinary catches us by surprise. Darkness and light are simply the patterns of the day until they become integral to the visitation of a nocturnal creature. Then, we are thrust into awareness not only of what may lurk in dark corners, but also how to dispel unwanted guests by showing them a different path. I suppose I could have freaked out, or screamed, or called for help, or swung at it with a broom. But, that resolves nothing. There would still be a bat when I was done causing my ruckus. And then, we’d both be hyper-vigilant of danger and likely become more impulsive in our actions toward each other. Really, it reminds me more than anything that knowing the nature of something helps us control it.
True of bats. But, also true of the dark corners of our own inner lives. Acknowledge what is there, and be aware of the dark places in which it could take up residence. Be willing to see patterns of darkness and light as essential to the path. And be grateful when, after the circling is done and your awareness is heightened, the uninvited visitor departs in peace…
Rising on the wings of this morning, I will take that awareness with me.