As young boys in the 1960's, my two brothers and I haunted the flickering street lights of Bluff . With fists full of pea gravel, we attempted to bring down the acrobatically elusive bats which also frequented the lamps after dusk. Drawn by hoards of insects, which were in turn attracted by the weak illumination, the bats demonstrated the efficiency of their highly developed radar with amazing mid-air maneuvers. Darting in from the deep darkness to snag a meal, the bats were often surprised by our unexpected assaults. I recall how easily they avoided our onslaughts, only to disappear into the summer gloom, and also remember our youthful amazement at seeing such effective countermeasures.
I learned a great deal from those creatures of the night; perseverance, caution and the art of disappearing into the shadows when the unexpected occurred. These attributes came in handy when someone's misguided hand-shot shattered a lamp, pelted a nearby car or ignited a rock fight among our spontaneously combustible inner ranks. Later in life, I was introduced to the role of Bat in the Navajo cultural stories, and began to see how it had played a role in my younger days. I feel fairly comfortable relating my story about these winged creatures, because I am certain the statute of limitations has expired on my youthful misconduct.
Back in those days, our parents, frustrated neighbors and the local constable suspected "the Simpson boys" were responsible for many unsolved wrongdoings in our mostly peaceful community. There was often discussion about whether the miscreants needed a little incarceration time to calm their errant ways. There is something about confession that is good for the soul, especially when accountability is no longer an issue. It may have been the bats though, through their unassuming manner, that provided me with direction and turned me from my misguided path.
There are certainly benefits to being brought up in close proximity to the rich and thoughtful culture of the Navajo. In rare instances, a benevolent care-taker like Bat crosses cultural boundaries and takes a needy knucklehead under its leathery wing to educate him to a higher standard. I often wonder if I inadvertently caught the attention of Bat while attempting to bring his family to earth with my hand-held buckshot.
Looking closely at Bat, and his role in Navajo culture, I have learned that certain beings assist the deities, man, and without prejudice, even malcontents. Bat is one creature which bridges the supernatural distance between man and deity, and plays a major role in instruction as a 'mentor'. Mentors can be few and far between, but are invaluable in helping we humans understand how to approach the supernatural hierarchy when aid, protection and lifeways to understanding are required. Bats are connected to darkness, and are therefore considered by the Navajo to be night protectors and highly effective advisors. Bat mentors are often described as being ever-present, and differ from the deities in that they do not require an offering or payment; they volunteer their aid in a selfless manner.
I have known many mentors in my life: diligent, loving parents; patient teachers; reverent spiritual leaders; true friends; outlaw in-laws; an incredibly patient and understanding wife; and maybe even a bat or two. These days, I do my best not to cast stones at individuals or circumstances I do not understand. I am on constant look-out for new positive and imaginative mentors. There is much knowledge to discover, and I look forward to expanding my horizons in as many dimensions as possible.
If you happen to be passing through Bluff and spy a group of renegade kids frolicking under the night lights, scattering rocks in every direction, my advice is to keep your distance. I know for a fact there is a new generation of Simpsons out there, and pea gravel stings, miserably, when it is slung in your direction up close and personal. The pinon nut does not fall far from the tree.
With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.