No, I don’t have a Jamieson swilling, jig dancing Irish bat but I do have a bat. The mammal with a heartbeat type of bat not the wooden tubes used in baseball. He hangs, literally, inside the wall separating my living room and dining room. This is where my AC unit is and the back-end, the bat end overhangs on the right hand cubby off my semi-circle balcony. How he goes in and out of the thinnest space is mind-boggling, and irritating. I wish I could flatten myself out in such a way and slide in and out of the tiniest spaces. That trick could come in handy for myriad reasons least of all to appease my fondness for eavesdropping.

I relocated here end of April 2009 and since I’m a light sleeper and enjoy the sounds of silence, it was easy to hear his movements and find him. He, I assume he’s a he, has never been a problem. Last year when my best pal and I were sitting outside engaging in one of our marathon chat-fests, he flew like a bat out of hell and scared the hell out of us. Holy Bat Shit, Bat Women.

Taking a deep breath in I announced, “Oh, I have a bat.” Words seldom strung together and used in that context.

I am loath to do anything about “it” you see. The flying freeloader never bothers me with the small exception of commanding a fly by at dusk seeking sustenance. “It” cares not if I’m reclined, reading and enjoying a glass of Rioja on the balcony. Zoom past my head he does mainly due I think, I hope, to the low clearance of the archway. We have not had a collision. So to the new roommate I say, live and let live.

Bats, I’m told are good creatures to have about. They are often thought of as gory and ghoulish due to past and now, ever-present vampires stories but bats are extremely beneficial. They pollinate, disperse seeds and control insect populations, enjoying mosquitoes, YES!!!  It’s okay to keep it right, if it’s beneficial.

I have also been made aware from a survival standpoint, bats are in serious trouble. According to Bat Conservation International, “White-Nose Syndrome” has killed over one million bats since it was discovered in a cave in Upstate New York in 2006. Named for a cold-loving white fungus typically found on the faces and wings of infected bats, White-nose Syndrome causes bats to awaken more often during hibernation and use up the stored fat reserves that are needed to get them through the winter. Infected bats often emerge too soon from hibernation and are often seen flying around in midwinter. These bats usually freeze or starve to death.

Bats are quite amazing. The more than 1,200 species of bats about one-fifth of all mammal species are incredibly diverse. They range from the world’s smallest mammal, the tiny bumblebee bat that weighs less than a penny to giant flying foxes with six-foot wingspans. Except for the most extreme desert and polar regions, bats have lived in almost every habitat on Earth since the age of the dinosaurs.

I think my guy is a Little Brown Myotis (Vespertilionidae) or in Latin, Myotis Lucifugus. I like a combo of the two names and have decided that he is now a she named Little Luci.

Primary predators of night-flying insects, including many of the most damaging agricultural pests and others that bedevil the rest of us are hunted by more than two-thirds of bat species, and they have healthy appetites. A single little brown bat like Little Luci can eat up to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in a single hour, while a pregnant or lactating female bat typically eats the equivalent of her entire body weight in insects each night.

2011-2012 is also, the Year of the Bat as proclaimed by the United Nations, not by Chinese Astrologists. There are Adopt-A-bat Programs to help increase their numbers by providing bat habitats. Who knew? With no effort on my part, I am consciously doing what I can to keep these much needed mammals on the planet.

Regardless of whether or not my bat buddy is beneficial or not, she’s staying. I will not mention on dates however, I don’t live alone, I live with a bat. I’m fairly certain it would diminish my odds of a second date and I may get a reputation for being, wait for it, “Batty.”

Canadian Geographic photo, fire-breathing enhancement by Chris Gilroy.

Expressions to do with Bats:

Bats fly by sonar waves and cannot see clearly thus the expression, “Blind as a bat.”

“Bat an eyelid,” has nothing to do with bats and simply means to wink or blink.

“Bats in the belfry” means to be crazy, eccentric.

Since Jacobean times at least, bats have been associated with witches and the occult and therefore thought to originate in the bowels of hell. As they fly and fly quickly as if in panic thus, “Bat out of hell.”


TRY TO BE GOOD: A Year of Compassion

I’ve been trying to think of something interesting to write about daily, or almost daily and nothing was coming to mind. As a writer and screen writer, looking to flex my creative muscle, this was indeed perplexing. Currently, the creative lanes of traffic in my head are overshadowed by the first draft of a screenplay that has haunted me far too long. Two ongoing novels and two half completed canvases share space on my easel. I’m in a creative traffic jam. The projects are still moving, they’re just jockeying for position. I wanted no needed something light, lighter, more about being than creating.

Last Tuesday evening on the way to flamenco class I found it. Or rather, it was thrust upon me when a female driver, perhaps giving birth in her vehicle, attempted to force me to drive faster than the speed limit. This of course made me drive slightly below the limit in a smart aleck attempt to show her the error of her bullying ways. Ha, I doubt I taught her to leave herself more time, or to lose the road rage or  employ patience because when she passed me she laid on her horn multiple times forcing me of course to flip her the bird, smiling the evilest grin I could muster while focusing on turning. Then, feeling a bit of a lunatic with my raised middle finger held forcefully aloft, I wondered how I could have handled that better. Hmmmm, stumped again.  I couldn’t come up with anything suitable to the circumstance. In that moment I realized how hard it is to be a good person, to look the other way, to stalk the walk of compassion.

Others feel the same way I’m sure, while others never question their goodness.  BUT, big but….Inherently humans want to be loved. It’s our most basic need and to be loved we have to be lovable. Lovable in the sense that we never, never, never, never ever…. rock the harmony boat.

The theory and ideology of compassion I understand, I think, having read numerous books on Zen, Buddhism, Judaism. I was baptized, schooled and raised Catholic and follow the talks and teachings of the Dalai Lama religiously. Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself which, ironically, is yet another example of how hard it is to be good. Humor in the wrong place, at the wrong time, or is it? How is that judged? How is anything judged, especially goodness? We can confirm with earnest that Mother Theresa, His Holiness and other Saintly humans truly live a life of compassion but they are human and I imagine, have faltered from time to time. It was then I realized I could write about how hard it is to be good person. A story, little snippets of how hard or easy it is to be a good person in one full year. What mischief and maligning will I inflict? What opportunities for acts of compassion will I encounter and choose to perform in my tiny, yet lovely life.  April Fool’s Day is a great day to start. The one day a year set ahead to be foolish and, to be excused for being a fool. As a prankster, this is the day to involve myself in as much malarkey as possible, on this wonderful day of forgiveness. After that, let the goodness begin.