It was approximately 9:30pm, my husband and I seated on the sofa downstairs watching Victoria and Abdul, a bowl of popped buttered corn between us. Our son upstairs behind shut doors, our daughter and her friend taking a night dip in the pool after their evening run. The door dividing the screened porch open to the elements but screened from the bugs. Or so we thought.
“How did it get in here,” my daughter later asked.
“Maybe it was following a moth. They eat moths, don’t they?” someone offered in reply.
We can’t say for sure what drew it in. It had never entered our house before, nor had any of its kind. It seemed to be in a hurry though, its beautiful, silent body flying soundlessly through the opened doors of the porch, past the mesh screen to dance a circle around our heads in pursuit of an unidentified prey.
“There’s a bat in our house.” I don’t know who said it first. More husband or I. We were both equally startled. We’ve had uninvited visitors before, mostly courtesy of the cats, but no cat had invited the bat in. Nor had the dogs, which remained, somehow, blissfully unaware of our visitor for the 30-45 minutes it was with us.
And so began the pursuit of our graceful guest. How does one catch a bat? I am not sure. I got a net from the pool box used for retrieving frogs and the unfortunate rodents who have ventured over the edge. My husband, a pair of leather gloves from the basement. Thinking that the net might not be enough, I grabbed a thick cotton blanket from the closet and began to search the rooms with my husband.
Here’s the thing about bats. They are not only silent and swift, most of them, like this nocturnal flyer, rely upon echolocation for their sight. They are much better at navigating space than we are. It was a comical chase, to be sure, but we really didn’t think so at the time, well not all of us. Bats have a way of opening our fears, as well as our sense of wonder. I realized in those 45 minutes what our unexpected visitors was triggering in each of us.
My daughter and her friend found amusement, laughing when they discovered what we were dealing with. They were also safely outside. My son seemed satisfied enough to stay behind the closed doors to keep the bat out of the room. Those of us tasked with the challenge of leading the bat back out to where it came from, were not as stable with our emotions. I was fine until it flew by, my husband less so. “I’ve been bitten by animals before,” he reminded me when I told him that our panicking would likely only increase the bat’s panicking.
When we stop to observe and watch ourselves in these moments when our fears are triggered, we can learn a lot about ourselves. Having had more practice in this than my husband, because of my studies with the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, and yoga, I was able to step into that role of observer.
What if you get bit? I asked myself. I thought of rabies and decided I didn’t like that option, but I also thought about the bat as a teacher and as a guest who was there for a purpose that might not be entirely obvious at first. Here before me was this magnificent animal, a mammal like me, but with the ability to fly at will. We were, I realized, both night-flyers. While I released the weight of gravity while I dreamt, this night-flyer was showing me the beautiful blind dance of trust in my waking state. And, I realized, when I took the time to be still and let go my fear of being bit, that before me was a gift.
How remarkably beautiful you are I thought as the bat flew a millimeter in front of me in search of an exit. There were moments, many of them, when I had no idea where our visitor was until it soared past on its silent wings. There was even one moment when I was hunched in the hallway as it flew around me when I thought it had landed on me. It wasn’t, I discovered, an unwelcome thought. I had this
crazy notion that if I remained calm and still, it would land on me if it chose to, and we would both be okay.
Or was it so crazy? When we choose to dance beyond our fears into that state of stillness and peace, the world has a way of responding in kind. Those zen-like moments you read or hear about, and maybe even have experienced for yourself, are just that. The letting go of what binds us to our bodies and minds and allowing our cells to dance in unity with all that is around us. It is, in essence, like flying without effort. This bat, I realized while it was with us, had been a welcome visitor after all. I was almost sorry when my husband declared after our second attempt at releasing it (we had at one point thought it had exited an open door only to discover after we had settled back onto the couch and our movie that it had not), that he had, in fact, watched it exit the same porch door from which it came from. It’s job here, it seems, was done.