Sasquatch, Blindness, and Good Old Carl Jung

In Eric Wiener’s review of John Zada’s new book “In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond: In Search of the Sasquatch” we learn that “you see a Sasquatch only if you’re undergoing a personal crisis.”

Alright. I admit it. Though I’m visually impaired, I’m seeing Sasquatches everywhere. This is Trump’s America after all and its one hot ugly mess.

Yesterday in the elevator of a suburban Washington, DC Hilton I saw a tiny Sasquatch with a head like a hairy anvil. He was having trouble pushing the buttons so I helped him. He was checking in to the executive suite.


Now it’s true that when people are distressed they see things. The blind are no different. I once saw a Russian businessman eat an entire bear in a Helsinki restaurant. He pocketed the claws.


Lacrimae rerum—or Disability 101

Always the doctor leaning close, saying you’re different. You raise your hands. The doctor is shabby. He’s asymmetrical like a Roman Emperor. There’s something wrong with the doctor. And even though you’re the monster—hence, proprioceptive, fast and clear, you know you’ll never get the doc to admit his shortcomings.


Maybe Sasquatch are defrocked doctors roaming the hinterlands. Plastic surgeons who ruined boobs and noses.


When I was eleven years old I fell onto a pricker bush. It’s hard to say how I did it, but I was impaled on hundreds of thorns. My sister who was six at the time, and my cousin Jim who was maybe nine, fell to the ground laughing as if they might die. I begged them for help which of course only made them laugh all the harder. I remember tears welling in my eyes and their insensible joy. I also knew in that moment they were right to laugh—that I was the older kid, was a bit bossy, disability be damned. I was the one who told my sister and cousin what to do. Now I was getting mine. My just desserts. In the end I tore myself from the monster shrub and stormed into the house. I sulked while they continued laughing outside.

Now sulking is an interesting thing. The word comes from the mid 18th century, from the obsolete word “sulke” which means “hard to dispose of” and is of unknown origin. In general I love words that have unknown origins.

The verb “to sulk” means “to be silent, morose, and bad-tempered out of annoyance or disappointment.” The most famous instance of sulking in literature is in opening of The Iliad where we see Achilles sulking in his tent, refusing to fight with the rest of the Greeks. In America where there’s a lot of sulking, perhaps the most famous sulker of all was Richard Nixon, who said in a press conference after losing the gubernatorial election in California that “you won’t have Nixon to kick around any more.” If you’re a sulker you can’t deliver the Gettysburg Address.

In this way, successful sulkers know the cave of hard dispositions must be visited but only for the briefest of repairs—like a toilet on a moving train.

At eleven I pulled those damned prickers out of my arms and legs, my neck. I asked for no help.
And as a disabled kid this was always the way of things. I remember the day a substitute teacher (who must have been all of 20) made fun of my blind eyes in an eighth grade math class. “Who are you looking at?” she said, with what today they call “snark”—and my “Lord of the Flies” classmates burst into laughter. I got up and fled the room.

I sulked. All alone. I knew a good place in that school. In the bomb shelter. I wept among empty aluminum water cans with radiation logos stenciled on them.

After that I reported the teacher. Sulking has power if you know when to quit. Achilles knew.


I suspect Sasquatch are sulkers. Or better: they’re the archetypes of sulking. I’m going with Carl Jung on this.

Stephen Kuusisto and HarleyABOUT: Stephen Kuusisto is the author of the memoirs Have Dog, Will Travel; Planet of the Blind (a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”); and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening and of the poetry collections Only Bread, Only Light and Letters to Borges. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a Fulbright Scholar, he has taught at the University of Iowa, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Ohio State University. He currently teaches at Syracuse University where he holds a University Professorship in Disability Studies. He is a frequent speaker in the US and abroad. His website is

Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey is now available for pre-order:
Barnes and Noble

Have Dog, Will Travel by Stephen Kuusisto

(Photo picturing the cover of Stephen Kuusisto’s new memoir “Have Dog, Will Travel” along with his former guide dogs Nira (top) and Corky, bottom.) Bottom photo by Marion Ettlinger 

Adult on Campus

When I was a child I spake as a child but then I got my act together. If the time ever does come when I stand before my maker and speak about my life I hope to say I became a man. I do not mean the craven, self-absorbed, meretricious boy-man of my era as they’re merely children in big boy clothing. By my lights a man acknowledges his neighbors and fosters what used to be called civic standards. Call me a boy scout if you wish. But kindness, loyalty to virtues, the courage to tell the truth—even about the self—trustworthiness—and yes I know its hard to take anyone seriously who evokes the boy scouts but let’s think of them as having been liberated by their rhetoric if not by their leadership.

In this way I stand before you. I’m a 64 year old blind guy who’s spent the last thirty years fighting for what we call “inclusion” nowadays though I prefer the term civil rights. Inclusion is so clean. Civil rights are tougher to promote as they require knowledge of the law, ambition for those who’ve been marginalized, and a willingness to insist on equal treatment for all. Inclusion seems tidy—seems to suggest that equality has already been achieved and all you need is a ticket to get into the pleasant, inclusive big top. Where civil rights are concerned its best to consider the ways that human systems resist moral scales whenever it’s convenient.

The man or woman or child who insists on civil rights is inconvenient. (S)he’s likely outspoken when the moment calls for garden party politeness. Meanwhile, as Michael Eric Dyson has said: “Justice is what love sounds like when it speaks in public.” The speaking can be uncomfortable to hear. Invoking an approximate analogy or metaphor, speaking truth about civil rights must necessarily be irate love. Inclusion, for me, doesn’t cut it.

Inclusion is a fine term but its subordinate to a larger expectation that civil rights, equal rights have been achieved. I’m a university professor. See me in your mind’s eye, walking across the campus with my guide dog. I struggled all morning to get an accessible version of an academic article; I argued with a dean about the needs of a learning-disabled student whose accommodations didn’t happen in a timely way; I learned that a major renovation to an audito­rium won’t be accessible to wheelchair users—these things within a single morning. Now multiply this five-hour period by 365 days per year, minus college vacations—make it 276—then again, multiply by years. Do not think me rebarbative or an agitator. I am not a bellyacher. In this instance I’m walking the agora, head up, fleet of foot, holding ambitions for every disabled learner who stands at the portcullis.

In this way I’m an adult.

Reader I’m Sorry….

Let’s go up river though the current isn’t easy. Spiders skate in the shallows. A thunderstorm is coming. Open your eyes as wide as you can.

How easy it is to appeal to the reader.


Reader I’m sorry. I should own what I need and leave you be.


Last night I lay in wet grass among fireflies. Somewhere far away a dog was barking at something no human could hear.


I grew up beside a river.


The trick was this: I grew. I admit just this. I was sad at windows. I thought my boyhood shoes were hideous.


I was so busy with things under the trees, mushrooms, crickets, I paid insufficient attention to the sky—blindness be damned.

Emmanuel Kant and the Barometer

In the early summer of 1798 Emmanuel Kant decided to publish his lecture notes on metaphysics so that future scholars might use them. The Enlightenment was not without transparency—a matter easily forgotten in late post-modernity. It’s also often forgotten that Kant’s primary research topic was human nature.

For Kant, “virtue” was the point at which morality makes contact with human nature. Lately I’ve been (in my mind’s eye) viewing (daily) the Kantometer—like the barometer it measures pressures unseeable. Its point of departure is virtue as recognized above. There are other indices of course. They’re tiny gradients etched at the margins.

Morality meets the Aristotelian idea of the good, virtue index 12. A good score. Now a certain greasy American senator announces black people should go back where they came from and the Kantometer, measuring the virtue contact drops like the barometer in the Caine Mutiny.

Kant believed virtue and the pursuit of moral life are the duty of humankind.

The Kantometer is busy and mostly sinking.


I have tried to be a good man, though I fail, much as anyone must. The clouds come close, deer nest under the apple trees. I fancy vengeance as I want so much to consign all the meretricious bureaucrats to Hell. I ask Jesus to forgive me my lambent distress. I want to be good. I wish the love my animals show me to be merited. I want to be the kind of poet who builds houses for people.


I agree with Jurgen Habermas: “each murder is one too many.” I wander around grieving. There is so much death and its industries are fed by good and bad citizens alike. This is why terrorists hate the nation states. Try and locate the moral centers of the United States or France. Refugees stream across uncivil borders desperate for food and medicine and they’re met with realpolitik. Neither Vladimir Putin or Trump wants to save the children of this thirty years war. As I write, the half starved deer are nosing among the daffodils in my yard. I see them as children.


How to be good? “Hell isn’t other people. Hell is yourself” (Ludwig Wittgenstein) I think, “even Jesus went to Hell, and he came back, stronger.” We’re here to endeavor for strength. Such proud words. I fail and often. Old Ludwig Wittgenstein often sounded like my Finnish grandmother: “we’re not put here to have a good time.”

I’m the electrolysis of good—you too. That’s how we’re wired. God grant me more volts.

Church: Or, Freshman Year

I couldn’t help it. I was just a child who thought the crows were far more interesting than the Sunday school lesson. Moses was in his basket. Shit. I was only five and I thought: “good for him.” Later I’d see something of myself in Huck Finn and much later I’d admire a series of ruinous literary boys but not just then. The crows were fighting over something dead. How could the bullrushes compete? I wondered if Moses heard crows as he floated. This was one of my first lessons in art as I saw early there was no one I could ask.


Sometimes I think that if I’d been a sighted person I’d have avoided attending college, been like Orwell and gone off to Burma. But I couldn’t see and had no training in independence and with no idea about how to live or what to do I attended the University of New Hampshire in the Fall of 1973. I was too blind to pursue higher education without serious accommodations. My parents were certain that I’d just go on living my life of half successful “pretend sight” and really, in truth, they couldn’t care less what happened to me. Too blind to read more than an hour a day and heavily reliant on marijuana I stumbled around Durham, New Hampshire in a depressive fog. My dormitory was less than a mile from the church where I’d admired the crows just thirteen years prior. One cold morning I went there alone and sat under the crow tree.


The war in Viet Nam was raging. Even the largely square UNH students were against it. Some were innocent by which I mean they went streaking for 1973 was the heyday of throwing off clothing and running wildly across campus. I joked with a friend, said, “they’re doing this because the food is terrible.”


A boy across the hall from me called me “blindo” almost every day. I found out where he parked his car and pissed in his gas tank.


My year at the University of New Hampshire went poorly. I smoked pot daily and earned “C’s” in the few classes I bothered to attend. I couldn’t see shit. There were no reliable adults in my life.

I took to sitting under my church tree at least once a week.


The crows got to know me. I was convinced of this. Even when they were mobbing and spatting they knew me and some would take food from my hands. Some sat in the branches and talked. The thing is, I had no one to tell.

I understood my fierce loneliness as being other than a happenstance thing.


When you’re blind as I am you can still see tiny motes of light appearing and disappearing.

Calling All Enfant Sauvages

Everyone knows what the “enfant terrible” is and to the extent one values resistance to conformity may have a private E.T. Hall of Fame. I’ve had one since junior high school. There are no photos or news clips scotch taped to my walls. It’s all in my head. So who’s in there?

Samuel Beckett; Rosa Parks; Robert Nesta Marley; Sojourner Truth; Leon Trotsky; Carolyn Forche; Wislawa Symborska; John Lennon; Cesar Chavez; Pentti Saarikoski; Frederick Douglas; Richard Wright; Langston Hughes; Chance the Rapper; Voltaire; The Clash; Rodney Dangerfield; Groucho; Allen Ginsberg; all graffiti artists; Wanda Sykes—they were all young and pesky at one time or another—and yes its a long list and unending so long as I have consciousness….Desmond Tutu; Malala despite her saintliness; the young people of Hong Kong and Puerto Rico….

Now a group of enfant terribles is called “enfant sauvage” which means just what you think it means—a savage collection of children. The current putative president of the United States is just now launching his campaign for reelection and his strategy is to label the opposition party enfant sauvages which is to say, primitive, dark skinned, extremist, and dangerous. What’s worse than a socialist? A woman socialist wearing a scarf.

Trump is clever. He will bill his racializing slanders as simple ideology. That will be enough to get the older infants in his corner. We’re going to need a lot more young and angry voters and those formerly known as savages to come out and vote. This is obvious. What’s less clear is whether opposition candidates can sidestep the conditioned interview questions we’ve come to live under—no one questions the questions. The enfant terrible resists conformity. Trump pretended to be one. I think we need a genuine fighter from the left.

I’ll vote for a former savage child but only if she or he understands the plight of Americans who’ve not been helped by Trumpism. By this I mean “deeply” understands. Without such a viewpoint and without this fire the 2020 election will be a humiliating debacle.