Bats and the Lake

They dove, then swooped back up at the last minute. Little winged creatures abandoning themselves to the dusk, black against the sunset’s muted orange glow. Fearless, persistent, bold, but somehow also wiggly, uncertain, halfhazard.

I didn’t notice they were bats until I had already begun to admire them.

In the second after the realization, images of Halloween cartoons filled my head. I heard the warnings I had absorbed in childhood, the warnings I had picked up through books and phobias and tv shows. Bats are not beautiful. Bats are not to be admired.

That’s what I told myself, anyway.

– – –

Armed with multiple sweaters and sitting on the grass, I stared into the sky and listened. The water whispered to the sunset. It rippled gently—a vain attempt to assuage its loneliness, for it would never reach the sky. I felt it reaching out gently, giving up hope even as it looked for answers.

The sky too seemed to ache.

Wanting to shine a million different colors but stuck with a fading orange. Wanting to spill each tube of paint across the horizon but only having two or three pigments at hand. Wanting to crack and let the glory of God spill down from Heaven but merely groaning under its weight.

Or maybe it was just my soul aching—bearing the weight of glory and the weight of sin, my eagerness and my fear, my openness and my concealment. All I knew was that each color struck a note in my heart, making music that flew into the sky. With the bats.

Why the bats?

– – –

A bat dived, too close to the lake.

It will come back up, I promised myself. I saw a splash in the water. I promised myself it wasn’t the bat and the bat was alive, but I’m not sure I believed it. Not at first. It was too reckless, too unplanned.

No wonder. It was a bat. What did it care of safety?

As I watched the bats, the sky sang the song that wouldn’t leave my lips. I felt its groan, the paradox that gave it beauty. Embracing the loneliness but mourning it, too. Or was it just me, wanting to be found? Wanting to be found as I watched the bats dive to the earth, abandoning all thoughts of safety.

– – –

I once heard that bats are blind.

Apparently, they aren’t. According to the USGS, it only appears that way because bats have small eyes with sensitive vision, which allows them to see in the dark. It’s easy to believe they’re blind, though, watching them plummet and almost crash, only barely pulling out of their nose-dives at the last second before fluttering weakly and diving again.

Do they feel blind when they’re falling? With the wind rushing into their eyes and their bodies spiraling to the ground, can they see a single thing?

I don’t feel blind. Maybe that’s because I prefer the spot on the grass to the one in the sky.

I live my live on the ground, my two feet firmly planted on the soil. Step after step, precaution after precaution. Worry after worry, fear after fear. And every time I try to leap, I see the distance beneath me and back out. I think I am jealous of the bats.

They don’t fear the fall.

What do they think about in the air? The rush of wind against their tiny faces? The zigzag of their path? The merciless water beneath them? Or nothing at all. And me?

I never make the dive.

Something in me aches to do it—to fly through the air, to plummet to the earth, to pull up at the last second, somehow trusting that it will all turn out fine. Trusting that when I resurface I will fly on the wings of God’s breath.

I am sitting on the grass.

But what will happen if I leap into the wind? If I try to meet the sky, I find joy in merely leaping; if I try to crack the heavens, God’s glory seeps through; if I obey the urge to leap, I find rest when I land.

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