Just this evening I went outside at 7:55 pm to look for a bat. Not the baseball kind, but the flying mammal, the little brown bat that once was common in the Maine forests. Since the white-nose syndrome decimated many bat colonies in eastern North America over the past decade, the sightings of these are rare in our area. Late this summer, on about one night out of two (and I try each evening when I’m home), I have been able to see one bat at dusk. I look up at the sky about 15 minutes after sunset, and this staring and waiting and hoping has affected me.
I don’t know how to paint a bat flying overhead. Its flight is an unpredictable zig zag. I tried to take some photos but all I got was a photo of a dark blur against the darkening sky.
It is a privilege to watch the sky intently as the planets and stars become visible. I count the stars as they come out, listening to the evening sounds of the crickets and cicadas, while I wait for a bat in the magnificent dusk. Now, how will I paint that? Maybe I will have to concentrate on how I feel about that moment. The sky is a peaceful dome, awaiting my interpretation of a lively bat flying across the forest opening.
I had a conversation with an older artist who has enjoyed recognition in his long career. He admitted to me, with some lament, that he is under pressure to paint the same picture over and over again. He moved on, but that old painting is what his audience wants. His implication is that the inclination is to try new directions, to grow and change as he paints outside the box. Yet he is constrained by the expectations that society has placed on him. I’ve been lucky that such pressures have not been part of my experience. I am free to paint what I wish, and no one is objecting.
The imagination is like an untamed creature, it goes where it will. If I try to force it into a certain direction, it might not fly as high or as far as it would if I can just learn to let it go. I will try to remain open to its erratic flight.
Alison C. Dibble | August 17, 2020