Late autumn lays bare the skeleton of the garden. A low wind moans over cold ground, and darkness falls at five o’clock with the call for evening meditation. The heritage fruit trees growing at the edge of the cultivated row drop their burden of overripe apples along with any pretension of pedigree, and stand naked in the gloom of the Day of the Dead.
I welcome this haunted time of year when dark swallows light with one swift lunge. Creatures at the shank of night travel undomesticated pathways of the dark. In this somber territory the common bat is my nocturnal teacher and guide, stitching together shadow and light.
I have never been frightened of bats. Curiously, I associate this mascot of Halloween with meditation. In 1990, when our daughter was a baby, we stayed in a tiny attic room in Plum Village, France, for a monthlong meditation retreat led by Thich Nhat Hanh. Under the outside eaves of our garret, a small bat slept, hanging upside down. This bat flew out into the dark every night as we returned from meditation and then came home at daybreak to sleep just as we went out for dawn sitting. Our rhythm of meditation and rest was marked by the counterrhythms of a small brown bat.
Far overhead we heard the rustling of a cloud of invisible bats rising out of the shelter of black fire scars, filling the autumn night with ancient joy.
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