Years ago I had the great opportunity to study local bat populations.
At first thought, you might think "Oh, those horrible, evil, devilish creatures that creep out of the shadows of the night to suck our blood.... I shudder to even think of seeing one."
Pre-conceived notions and generations of folklore, myths, books and movies have left a lot of people feeling afraid - preferring to even avoid the thought of them.
Putting my own pre-conceived notions aside, I jumped into their world and even had the pleasure of raising 2 abandoned infants. My work with the bats would prove to be enlightening, to say the least.
Right away I could tell these creatures were gentle, social creatures who were very curious and very intelligent.
One of my bats, Virgil, was a cute little brown bat, and after getting a clean bill of health, would rest inside my shirt pocket for warmth and motherly love.
He kind of looked like this one......only a bit darker and not such dorky ears.
When he got older, he would greet me with a few short clicking noises. If I had a big juicy moth for him, he would show his excitement with a long series of 'clicks and zip' noises. When he was learning to fly, he was just like any other timid baby, and needed a little encouragement before taking the plunge and landing on my shoulder. He didn't bite once, even when his wing got broken one day after getting tangled in some wire. Off to the vet's we went to take care of it. Like any other baby, he cried in his own little bat way. He sat in my hand and let the vet create a little splint just his size. It was a first for the vet and like any mother, I felt so bad for Virgil in pain, trying to comfort him. He did amazingly well for a little guy.
Unfortunately, I only have a few grainy photos from back then, but the point is this - Virgil taught me the true value of overcoming pre-conceived notions and approaching the world with a sense of discovery and being open to possibilities. Of course, this doesn't mean I'm about to jump into a tiger pen at the zoo and offer to play a game of tag.
Whether you snap photos or create illustrations, having an open mind is vital to 'seeing' the elements that give the picture it's purpose and finding the deeper meanings in the world around us that we might have previously overlooked or avoided. You never know what you'll discover.