Bats and Palaces

As an organizer, it’s a bit of a mind game to make a plan to get your best work done and still be okay with whatever happens. When the Universe is synchronous around you, it’s a great reminder that all is well, that there’s a pattern in your life, and that things are happening as they’re meant to happen. When you recognize and appreciate synchronicity, it helps you work toward an end without being too attached to the outcome. And breathing into this gives you a wonderful feeling of settled Zen.

I had a synchronous moment last week between a wild animal presentation on bats, and a book I was reading, Palaces of the People, by Eric Klinenberg.

First the bats: Bats are much maligned. They look like dark, flying mice, have fangs, only come out at night, and can carry rabies. That’s not a great resume for warm and fuzzy, I know. But here’s what I learned about Maine’s large brown bats (which are actually very small) at a talk by the Center for Wildlife. Katie, our rep from the Center, brought two bats to her talk at the library: Betty and Brownie. Both had sustained wing injuries making it impossible to send them back into the wild. Thus their new role as animal ambassadors.

  • Large brown bats live in colonies in caves in the winter to stay warm. In the summer when warmth isn’t as critical, they live in smaller colonies segregated by male and female.
  • Bats are very cuddly with each other. There’s lots of hugging among bats!
  • Bats “name” their 1 to 2 “bat pups” and when they re-enter a cave to nurse their young, they call out to them by name. Other bats pick up that name for the little bat and it stays with them for the rest of their life.
  • Female bats keep all their babies together in a “nursery” that’s in the warmest part of the cave.
  • Less than 1/2 of 1% of bats carry rabies.
  • Bats live to be 30-40 years old.
  • Unlike birds, bats wings don’t “flap” to create lift to fly. This means they need a high perch to start a flight and if they end up on the ground, can’t fly off without first climbing a wall or tree. If you see a bat on the ground and it looks like it’s struggling, don’t assume it’s hurt. It just may be walking till it finds something to climb!
  • Bats have a long tail that’s wrapped inside a “sack” at the base of their back. They use this sack to carry home large insects to feed their children when they are weaning them off of milk.

After the talk, I’m home reading Palaces for the People, which is a really important book about how we don’t have as much social infrastructure as we used to. This means in emergency situations, like heat waves, floods, and snow storms, we have less of a network to turn to for help. It used to be that many people in a town belonged to the same church or synagogue. They met up at bowling leagues and bridge clubs. Their kids all went to the same school, and they saw each other as they helped out at school events. And you saw people on the street at neighborhood gatherings.

As populations have grown and we’ve turned more inward with social media and at-home entertainment, we have less of a sense of community. And in an emergency, this can be fatal. If no one knows you and doesn’t know you’re in trouble, how can they help?

The author suggests that libraries are picking up some of the slack, which I loved to hear. Have you gone to your library lately to check out the programs they offer, most for free? Libraries are a great place to learn and to meet people. Or maybe it’s time to lend your organizational skills to starting a book group. A running group. Or maybe you want to audition for a play. Theater people are so much fun! Or how about joining a singing group? Or even a bowling league?

Bats survive in the wild because they work as a community to take care of each other. We have a lot we can learn and be impressed with from this small rodent. And if you find joy and community at the same time, well, what could be better?

I hope you have a fully organized (hah!), joyful week. Happy holidays from Cape Elizabeth, Maine!

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