Predators are perhaps our most accessible experience of the wild. To come upon a grizzly track is to experience the wild in a most intimate, carnal way, an experience that is marked by gross alterations in attention, perception, body language, body chemistry, and emotion. Which is to say you feel yourself as part of the biological order known as the food chain, perhaps even as part of a meal.
‘In Wildness is the Preservation of the World’ in The Abstract Wild by Jack Turner (2/5)
One of Turner’s themes is the contrast between the de-fanged nature we tend to experience in zones that have been mapped and signposted, criss-crossed with trails, described in guidebooks and furnished for recreation, versus the raw experience of actual wilderness.
When every moment potentially brings the bladder-sluicing realization that something deadly is watching you, then you know you’re in the real wild.
In ‘The Importance of Peacock’, Turner quotes Vietnam vet Doug Peacock on his first encounter with a grizzly:
The big bear stopped thirty feet in front of me. I slowly worked my hand into my bag and gradually pulled out the Magnum. I peered down the gun barrel into the dull red eyes of the huge grizzly. He gnashed his jaws and lowered his ears. The hair on his hump stood up. We stared at each other for what might have been seconds but felt like hours. I knew once again that I was not going to pull the trigger. My shooting days were over. I lowered the pistol. The giant bear flicked his ears and looked off to the side. I took a step backward and turned my head toward the trees. I felt something pass between us. The grizzly slowly turned away from me with grace and dignity and swung into the timber at the end of the meadow. . . . I felt my life had been touched by enormous power and mystery.