First-rate Writing will be a series of posts quoting a passage by a given writer. Some writers will be well-known; others in my opinion deserve to be better known. Nick Jans published The Grizzly Maze (Plume, 2006), an excellent book on Timothy Treadwell, the guy who made the fatal mistake that he could relate to grizzlies. His work also appears in Alaska magazine.
This passage is from Jans's earlier The Last Light Breaking (Alaska Northwest Books, 1993). It describes what he thinks about when he looks at the remains of a moose killed by wolves in winter:
I spent more than an hour near the kill, circling as the wolves had done, reading their story in the snow, studying spots of blood, bits of hair. The intertwined trails seemed graceful, as if the wolves and moose had danced together. At the end of their dance lay the kill, beautiful in its simplicity. Here on this silent white hillside, there was no horror. This was their life--an endless hunt, an endless celebration of death.
As I stood within the circle of the kill, looking down at wolf prints frozen in blood, I brushed against their secret: wolves understand death perfectly. That's the bright, cold wisdom we see in their eyes, the thing that makes us afraid. Death is their art, their beauty, while it's our darkness and terror. If we ever understood what they know, we've forgotten. Maybe we're drawn to them because they remember.