Saturday, December 24, 2011

Some Questions on Bats, Christmas, and the Wild World

We had a bat . . .  

. . . show up with our Christmas tree . . . 
Yes, it seems that the first real tree we have had for Christmas in over a decade came with a bat tucked into one of the branches. The bat, poor thing, didn't make itself known until the tree was bedecked with lights and hundreds of ornaments, and until, most likely, it had come out of its semi-somnolent state now that it was in a warm, well-lit house. I didn't get to see the show, unfortunately. Steve discovered the bat, rather like a "large moth fluttering around the lamp," when he was getting ready for bed one night while I was at work. 

I wish I had been there. I have been paying attention to bats for the last four years when Bat showed up in the first sandtray landscape I created during my first appointment with my Jungian expressive arts psychotherapist. For those of you familiar with sandtray, Jungian, expressive arts, and/or depth psychotherapy, you will know this is of deep significance. The first dream, the first images, the images that follow you are the ones to pay special attention to. And when an image or symbol comes to you in person, well, it is an extraordinary and snychronistic event. However, the bat didn't come to me. It came to my husband, and it came because of my insistence that we have a real tree this year. I felt an intense need for the bracing smell of evergreen, for the perfect imperfection of branches that are crooked and unbalanced, for the nuisance of needles littering the floor. I felt that I couldn't bear not to have these in the house this year. 

It was just a few weeks ago that Bat showed up in my journal pages, in a story of a young woman named Artemis who found an old house on Crescent Place filled with scurrying creatures within and powerful totem animals without. Here is the image of the bats issuing in the address of her residence, which was a Found piece of paper I've had for some time:

I wonder if I was issuing an invitation for something wild to enter our home. It would seem so. 

And not just any wild thing, but one of the most bizarre creatures to grace the planet. In researching for this posting and looking for images, I came across this meandering exploration of Bat:
"All is mystery, darkness, and imposture in this transitional series, in all these moulds of the ambiguous, branded at the edge of the abnormal, the hideous and the fantastic." - Conrad Roth

Roth is so right. All is mystery, darkness, and imposture. The bat is on the edge of air, cave, and earth. It is mammal and bird. They glide and also engage in sustained flights of power without feather or wing. They hang upside down to sleep, give birth, and nurse their young. They see in the dark by hearing, truly a synesthete creature. They inhabit the eaves of houses, woodpiles, caves, and the trunks of undisturbed trees, including those standing on a hillside Christmas tree farm. They fascinate us, frighten us, and awaken something primitive deep within us. 

"Bats carry our projections of a 'reverse' order that forces our perspective into the nocturnal, the underworld, and the equivalent cavernous depths of psyche. The twilight emergence of bats in the thousands or millions to forage embodies for us the concealed, 
primordial forces of the netherworld breaking out in expansive liberation."  
- ARAS Book of Symbols

Somehow, that a bat traveled to our home in a Christmas tree on this particular year comes as no surprise to me. Pay attention, Bat seems to be saying. Pay attention to the Wild World. It is clamoring for us to listen with our own bat ears, singing out for an echolocative response from us, wanting us to come to the edges and see what terrible mystery and magic might meet us there. 

And, really, is that not what Christmas is truly about? Not the presents, the eggnog, the Santa, the holly and the ivy. If we can remember back, back, back long ago in our earliest times at the edge of our memories as two-legged creatures, this time of year was about the world getting dark and darker. It was a time when the sun stood still for just a moment before, thank the Powers That Be, it began to move again, and we knew there would be Light and warmth again. Christmas is when we remember this Grace, this journey down and through Darkness so that we may see Light again. Because there is no Light without Darkness. Nor is there Darkness without Light. Christmas is when we remember that it is, indeed, a possible miracle that the Wildness of Love can be born within the human heart. It is when we reach out to one another because the world can be so lonely. 

The Bat is a question mark in our psyches. Neither this nor that. Residing in a world turned upside down. Awake when it is neither dark nor light. Liminal time and liminal space. The Bat is a question we must hold before us, with never a promise of an answer. Yet it is the questions themselves that can save us. 

"There was, however, a keen awareness of this Presence in her house. Was it even her house? 
Maybe she was residing in the House of the Other? Animal? Mineral? Vegetable? 
The Twenty Questions of relationship with the Other: 
Will you see me, really see me? 
Will you hear me, really hear me? 
Will you tune your ear to the drumbeat that pulses deep in my gut? 
Will you touch me here and here? 
Will you elicit music and starlight from my throat? 
Will you forever know my name and call me by no other? 
Will you let me carry my own heartache and yet make it beautiful? . . . 
Will you be my Key, my Thread, my Doorway, my Nothing and Everything? 
Will I be your Cup, your Bowl, your Vessel? . . . 
Will you be my hiding place, the wing that covers me when the storms come?" - 
Artemis at 107 Crescent Place, from author's personal journal


  1. Fantastic! You, Bat, Wild Child within and around, the Wild World. Fantastic (as Roth says), is this dream. I appreciate you dreaming the dream forward and with us. I appreciate the thin veils between sleeping life and waking life from which poetry and The Twenty Questions erupt. The particularity of this tidbit especially resonates with me as I reflect on Wilderness in the midst of holiday season: "...we remember that it is, indeed, a possible miracle that the Wildness of Love can be born within the human heart."

  2. Thank you, Dianne. Especially precious words of praise when they come from you.

  3. Thank you Shiftless Wanderer for visiting my space and sharing a thought or two.

    I have looked back on a couple of your latest postings here and went back to the first few. I shall be back to learn more and would like to congratulate you on this blog.

    I like the idea of of this blog as a kind of meandering along some undefined journey - this is good because in allowing your thoughts to run free, no doubt you will have the opportunity to stop, gaze at the things around, share a thought or two, appreciate the beauty in the smallest things and then resume your journey without thinking too much about where you want to go. Very wise.

    ... As for Christmas ... well, what can I say? I enjoyed the bat story and allowing yourself to meander back to the time where people understood the light/day balance of North European winters. I'm reticent to say it sometimes because as a Muslim I don't have to opt in to Christmas. The version of Christmas that I have always known has been very commercial and quite warped particularly since Christmas, Santa, reindeer and elves and the like are not mentioned either in the Bible or anything to do with a spirit of peace, hope and renewal.

    PS I like that you like Rumi :)

    tor_khan تور خان

  4. Thank you, Tor_Khan, for visiting! Thank you for the feedback regarding the blog. Still learning the ropes here. While some of the symbols of present day Christmas can be traced back to the spirit of peace, hope, and renewal, I think, like you and like many, that it's all pretty much lost to the shopping malls. Very sad. There are some, however, that are beginning to rethink the season, including my family. We're getting there, anyway!

    As you can see, you are on my blog list, so I'll be visiting your site often. Nice to meet you.