I’ve always felt that even the sunniest-seeming lives are ringed with darkness, like scraps of paper slowly burning. The fire that eventually consumes us also gives us light.
When I was a kid in the 1970s, I was, for a time, absolutely terrified of Bigfoot. This happened, I think, for a couple of reasons. I’d seen a movie called Monsters! Mysteries or Myths? on television, and this dubious documentary introduced me to the infamous Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film. It also, as I recall, showed a woman brushing her hair at a night table, when suddenly a massive, hairy arm shattered a nearby window and reached for her … I don’t remember what happened after that.
Right around the same time, my grandmother purchased a cottage on a small lake in northern Michigan as a gift to her extended family. My mom and I began spending our entire summers at the cottage, while my father went back home to Cleveland, for weeks at a stretch, to work. Those nights he was gone, I lay in my bed, surrounded by windows and swaying, dark trees, waiting for that hairy arm to break through. A Freudian psychologist–which my mother just happened to be, by training–would have had a field day with this nightmare/fantasy, and so I kept it to myself. Instead I gobbled up a seemingly endless supply of paperbacks about Bigfoot at the nearby bookstore.
What was I after in seeking out all this “information”? The comfort of understanding, or greater terror? Looking back, it seems like both; that scary time feels, in retrospect, also magical. In writing my novel, Bigfoot and the Baby, I wanted to capture that feeling above all–that place, at the margins of our ordinary nights and days, where curiosity, desire, and fear intersect.
But Bigfoot, perhaps more than any other legendary creature, is also funny. We seem to like laughing at all our ape relatives, but that laughter partly comes from nervousness. They’re just a little too close to us, reminding us of the wildness in ourselves. We can cage chimpanzees, and dress them up to calm ourselves down, but Bigfoot’s too big and too elusive for that. Always just beyond our capture, he’s the fear we have to live with.
You can find out more about Ann at her website or on Twitter: @AnnBGelder.