According to author Nick Jans, “Words, like map and compass, tell one story yet fail at another.”
If there is meaningbeyondwords – well – Nick Jans is a literary guide I urge you to read – as he details the stories of his life among the Inupiat people of Ambler, Alaska.
Jans has a way of writing that affords the reader the privilege to envision, imagine, see, smell, hear, taste, feel — to journey intimately to those places where – for far too many authors – their ability fails to open these mysterious dimensions for our souls to wander, to live, to explore. Jans writing creates a yearning in the reader to return to his work – to immerse oneself into the marvelous milieu that Jans is uniquely gifted to create.
A Jans writes, “It’s not the death of the elders I mourn. It’s what’s dying with them and what’s taking their place.” There is an intimacy to Jans writing that allows you to feel what he is writing about – how he actually feels about the subtleties of his many years of living in Ambler reveal. He possesses an uncanny ability to observe and relay for the reader the human dimension of feeling that many writers simply are unable to accomplish.
This book is a song. It’s music for the soul. Listen to Jans sing:
“And beneath it all is music – a delicate, liquid shattering, a song of returning, of breathing again after long silence. I should join the others in their celebration, but just now, I want to sit alone, to watch and listen as the winter breaks apart.”
Nick Jans is an artist whose literary gifts allow the reader to enjoy dimensions of meaning and sensory stimulation amidst a literary topography that has been characterized as — “meaning beyond words,” a place beyond.
Enjoy A Place Beyond – Finding Home in Arctic Alaska by Nick Jans. Trust me – you’ll fall in love with this book. I did.
Epistemology is defined as “the study of the nature of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity.” ( Admission: I stole that definition off the web). Translation: Epistemology is the study of the process and context regarding “how we come/came to know what we claim/claimed to know.” Epistemological inquiries are multi-dimensional. These dimensions include – but are not limited to – time, people, places, myths, beliefs, literature, norms, attitudes, values, mores, writings, prejudices, fears, beliefs, belief systems, practices, orally transmitted stories passed from one generation to the next – and the means and methods through which the aforementioned are transmitted within and among sub-cultures — and the broader cultures they inhabit. In every sense of the word, these types of inquiries are a journey through a multi-dimensional maze. Oftentimes, the written results of epistemological inquiries insult and inflame the passions of those who hold most militantly to a particular perspective populated by living, breathing, adrenal, beliefs, life experiences, opinions and “knowledge” that is threatened by the guide assigned to illuminate the complexities of the entire matter. For the author, it can be a grizzly challenge.
Translation: What we think we know is momentary. It exists in the time, place and space we inhabit. If the history of human civilization demonstrates anything – it is the fact that what we think we know is momentary. It’s temporary. It is “Knowmentary.” Knowledge, beliefs, values, attitudes, fears, perceptions, observation, mores, practices, memes and norms are all perishable (thank heaven!). Even emotions appear and disappear in terms of their actual behavioral expressions by humans. What we think we know is embodied in terms like certainty, truth, love, affection, accepted practice, guidelines, policy and procedure, rejection, questions, doubt, fear and confusion – they all morph, evolve, ebb and flow as emotional states, practices, attitudes, beliefs and language expressed in human existence.
Enter author Nick Jans of Juneau (now Haines) Alaska – our guide through this particular “Grizzly Maze.” A story that baits the reader to enter into an environment with the subtitle – “ Timothy Treadwell’s Fatal Attraction With Alaskan Bears.” Honestly, I would NEVER have selected this book to read without being curious about the sub-title – and- in the spirit of full disclosure – that the death of Timothy Treadwell and his companion Amie Huguenard actually occurred in 2003. Finally, I recently read Jans book “A Wolf Called Romeo” and was both enthralled by the story and indelibly impressed with this particular writer’s amazing acumen to craft a compelling, compassionate, riveting, real-life treatment of an actual life experience.
As a hiker in the “lower 48” who enjoys spending countless days exploring wilderness areas every year, a fisherman, and a photographer – Nick Jans work “The Grizzly Maze” is, in my opinion, THE BEARBIBLE.
To treat this work as solely an in-depth analysis of what led to the deaths of Treadwell, Huguenard and and two Alaskan Grizzlies – would be unfortunate, at best. This volume is, much, much more than that – albeit Jans treatment of the central story/sub-title is expansive, poignant and fair – it is amazingly well-balanced. To treat this book as an educational tool limited to Grizzly bears – would also be a miscue. The treatment that Jans provides regarding bears in general, black, brown, Alaskan and lower 48 species is, once again, practically beneficial for anyone who journeys into areas inhabited by bears. I am better prepared having read this book.
I confess that I never watched any of the number of video/movie/documentary productions about Timothy Treadwell, The Grizzly People, Alaskan Grizzlies or otherwise – prior to reading this book. Yes, I recall the national media attention in 2003 that accompanied the deaths of Treadwell and Huguenard. Yet, that’s about all the foreknowledge I had before I picked up this book.
A few observations about the author Nick Jans: He’s a craftsman – weaving prose, research, interviews (with innumerable sources) – into an outstanding literary work. He has the ability to capture the reader on page one and keep you turning pages through page 251. Jans life experiences – including living in Alaska for 25+ years – provides a unique depth that thoroughly enriches his ability to manufacture marvel for the reader. A first class writer. A sage of a story-teller. A lion with language. Yet, having said all that, as a reader you feel like you’re being guided through a maze by a guy you can trust, somebody you can depend on, someone who illuminates the questions without pretending to possess all the answers (particularly when there are none). He is honest, forthright and fair. Jans writing is refreshing, informative, appetizing — and keeps the reader yearning for more. His treatment of the myriad of subjects and story-lines contained within this story is expansive – without crossing over into boredom for the reader. For me, Jans style is enthralling and engaging. Frankly, Alaska might do well to recognize writers like Jans.
“The Grizzly Maze – Timothy Treadwell’s Fatal Attraction With Alaskan Bears” is an outstanding example of the value of humans called to write – to tell our stories – the stories of others – and the creatures we inhabit this planet with. For people who enjoy the outdoors, The Grizzly Maze is THEBEARBIBLE. Buy it! Devour it! Digest it! Learn from it! The next time you or others around you seem absolutely certain about something subjectively, think “Knowmentary.” See if it changes the way you perceive life, self, creatures, world and others – for the better.