Discover more from Eye Witness
A Forgotten Bat:
stories held in communal memory.
Our memories are finely tuned things, and as we get older, it is hard at times to tune right in to the details of a memory. Friends and the relationships we maintain, even strangers for that matter, serve as reservoirs of memories: places in which memories are held by us or for us, by those who witness our lives. Those communally catalogued memories are shaken loose when something jogs that memory bank. Like a carefully balanced ecosystem of stories, one story pollinates the memory of another into full fruit.
Each one of our communally held stories is a like a flower with so many grains of pollen. The sharing of our stories, is like a pollination process. As listeners, or readers, we pause for a moment and enjoy. We may or may not pick up a grain or few of pollen. If we do pick something up from the story, the reaction may be purely internal: a change within us, a deepening, a quickening, a letting go or the lightening of something that was heavy or dark to bear without that pollination.
Sometimes the reaction is more external. We give a like or thumbs up, we mention some catalogued memory of our own that got jogged loose by the story we just encountered. And in that kind of sharing of a reaction, we are reminded that our lives are not lived alone, that we witness each other’s lives, each other’s stories. In the end, in this collective witness, all of our lives’ stories are held in the sacred palms of communal memory: by friends and strangers alike, a finely spun ecosystem of intersecting lives.
My last bat story made me deeply aware of this dynamic of communally held memory! It jogged loose a bat memory which my dear friend Ange had been holding. Ange wasn’t even there but the story I told must have been memorable in how I told it right after the fact! When that long forgotten bat incident happened I was sharing a home with James & Ange, on Church Street in Kitchener. James had recently bought this duplex, and took to renting every possible space in it! I was the proud tenant of the basement for a while, before an upstairs bedroom became available.
James and Ange had gone away in the summer, perhaps camping or on holiday somewhere. I had the house to myself, and was washing up dishes in the kitchen, when the reflection of some movement caught my eye in the kitchen window. I spun around, and like a ghost - there was nothing there. I turned back to the sink, this time keeping a more careful eye on the reflective surface of the window! HAH!
There it was again, the movement! And you guessed it: a BAT.
This time I was clothed (thank God). It was about 10 pm I think, so a considerably more godly hour to go looking for help. The home, being a duplex allowed me to knock on the neighbours door (this time they were strangers). They were not afraid of bats, so they came to have a look. By this time, the bat had roosted somewhere in the living room. With a carefully designed, highly technical, bat catching device (made of a broom, a mop and a sheet if I remember correctly) the bat was safely gathered up and delivered outdoors.
Many thanks were expressed, and if I remember correctly, the neighbours were pleased with themselves and their ingenuity in the design of a clever bat catching contraption. Me? I was pleased with myself for having the sheer good luck of such awesome neighbours!
When James and Ange came home, I told them the story and we figured out the bat had gotten past a window-air conditioner James had installed.
This pollen grain of a bat story was brought back to me by Ange, the keeper of the memory, not quite an eye witness, but a witness nonetheless.
In everything we do, we have the option to witness, to be witnesses. We never know when that witness may serve up a precious gem in someone else’s lost memories. We never know when that witness may pollinate an internal movement of our own that goes on to bear rich fruit.
Consider paying attention to life as it unfolds around you - opportunities to witness abound.
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