I realize that not everyone loves bats. In fact, the photo below may make some of you shudder involuntarily. Forget all the arguments for their usefulness and their harmlessness, they just give you the creeps. But bear with me a moment, because I think there is a lesson to be learned from this particular little bat.
I found this little brown bat on the ground when I was putting out some yard bags this past weekend. He was lying on his belly in a dirty bare patch on the still-dormant lawn beneath the lone ash tree on our street (perhaps in the entire city of Lansing) that has thus far miraculously survived the onslaught of the insidious emerald ash borer and getting run into by a car.
I could see this little bat was breathing and, knowing a little something about bats, I knew first of all that it could not fly from a ground position (bats must drop from a height to fly) and that I should by no means touch it, even begloved in thick leather, because if it bit me (which, being frightened and/or hurt, it surely would) I would have to get an expensive and painful series of shots to ward off rabies. So I went to the garage to get a long-handled flat shovel, not to bash the poor thing to death, but to pick it up safely.
I carefully scooped it up, eliciting a threatening display of tiny white teeth but little more in the way of resistance. Then I walked it to the large mostly-dead sugar maple by the garage, well away from the road and any possible contact with unsuspecting children or adults with no sense. I placed the blade of the shovel against the tree and let it slowly grip the bark and huddle against the rough bark. It crawled around a little to find a place sheltered from the wind and remained. A day later it was still there.
I wanted so desperately for it to fly away. I wanted it to leave the shelter of the tree and fly off back to the group of bats it must have wintered with. I suspected that that might be at the top of the very tree I put it on since it has hollow parts. But it hunkered down and did not move. Perhaps it was injured and could no longer fly. Whatever the reason, despite my efforts, it remained frozen in place.
Here’s why I bring this up here on a blog that is mostly about writing. Sometimes as a writer you get knocked down, whether you are a bestselling megastar or someone who has shared your work with only a few close friends or a bunch of strangers on the interwebs. You get a bad review (or maybe lots of them). You get a rejection letter (or maybe lots of them). You get silence (which is sometimes worse than negativity). You’re face down in the dirt wondering what hit you.
I hope that each of you have someone in your life who cares, who scoops you up, talks tenderly to you, and helps you get back on your feet. That person may not have the power to make you fly again, but maybe just knowing that there are those out there who care about you and your work will give you some sense of camaraderie, some feeling that you matter. Because you do. Whether or not you ever sell that screenplay or ever capture an agent or ever make a dime from your writing, you matter.
Then, once you’re back in the shelter of that tree, that place of safety, I hope you will take off and try again. Don’t hunker down and give up. Because your best days are waiting for you up ahead. Create your art. Share your stories. Take flight.