I consider my work optimistic in that the people, during the period I’m writing about them, are experiencing intense emotion. It is my belief that this is all there is to it.
We sit in the backyard, watching late adolescent or early twenties men light and occasionally leap over the sort of fireworks that would serve as a beacon to the police even in states that do not ban them. Amber is beyond tipsy from half a bottle of red wine (our default contribution to picnics until the wedding, so we can sample potential bottles without leaving it in our apartment to turn to vinegar) and a bright blue Jello shot offered by our hostess Gayle.
Bigfoots are occasionally mentioned, usually as a sort of "Sooo... do you believe in sasquatch?" among strangers in greeting. Amber pronounces herself ambivalent (I try to suggest "agnostic" as a replacement but Amber declines it), I say that, but in a more long-winded way with wiggle room. I feel the story brewing here, given if I can't quite imagine its finished product, and I don't want to seem closed off to a potential resource. That said, aside from Gayle and Peter (the latter of whom entertains other partygoers with a table apparently containing new pictures of the mysterious beast), I sense curiosity and amusement far more than certainty.
Yet this is a picnic, once delayed by torrential rain. Aside from asking if Amber and I might like to take a boat out or go squatching. Gayle mostly chats with guests. Amber exhausts her sobriety talking to older women about our coming wedding. I remain quiet, feeling observational and sedate. The property is gorgeous, earned from a $100 payout for a Civil War ancestor of Gayle's husband, and one's eye wants to get lost among the forest surrounding their lake. If that were not enough, I am surfing the conversations being held around us, searching for useful mentions of fortean phenomena, though I pick up very little. But it is a beautiful day, my chair is comfy, and Amber's talk of catering and venues is oddly soothing.
As Amber's sobriety slips, we make our way to the lawn, where she cuddles in my lap and holds a detailed recap of her college experience and how she wishes she could return to college with me. She seems peculiarly herself and in love in these moments, her walls of shyness crumbling into the overflowing alcohol moat. Coupling that with a summer's night where the fireflies dare to outshine the fireworks, it is not hard to feel particularly smitten.
There is a societal urge to believe people in the thrall of the weird are solely that in order to fit them into a comfortable, sitcom narrative. Giorgio A. Tsoukalos doesn't go out for anniversary dinners. Stanton Friedman never watches romantic comedies. And Gayle obviously cannot throw cute, folksy picnics for the fourth of July. I mentioned in a prior entry how she brings up being "someone's grandma" but that is not an aspect of her personality to be dismissed. There is no convenient narrative. Gayle, like most people experiencing the paranormal or any circumstance the majority labels too weird, has a rich history and life outside the experience. Yes, she had sasquatch soaps in her bathroom, but she also has a shrine to Jesus. She cannot be reduced to a stereotype. She is a Bigfoot researcher, whatever that may mean to you, but that is far from all she is. Though she barely knows me-my presence in her life boiled down to my giving a card to her associate-she has always treated me with trust and kindness. Also, she gave my fiancée the Jello that induced her to cuddle in my lap as we watch fireworks and wish I had been a part of her life far longer, and for that I am infinitely grateful.
Soon in Xenology: Marrying Amber.