From: The Abstract Wild, Jack Turner, The University of Arizona Press, 1996. 136pp.

7

The Importance of Peacock

 

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Undoubtedly, all men are not equally fit subjects for civilization; and because the majority, like dogs and sheep, are tame by inherited disposition, this is no reason why the others should have their natures broken that they may be reduced to the same level. - Henry Thoreau

Men went to Vietnam young. Those who returned were old, aged by trauma and a reality so real their past lives were forever severed from their present. Once home they faced indifference, even hostility. There were no parades and few heroes.

With the publication of Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang in 1975, one veteran, a former Green Beret, became one of those heroes, not only to other veterans but to a nascent contingent of environmentalists who perceived themselves as radical. The hero, depending on your views of fiction and reality, was either George W. Hayduke, the novel's archetypal monkey wrencher, or Abbey's model for Hayduke, his friend Doug Peacock. There is no need to explain why Hayduke is a hero, but I want to explain why Doug Peacock is one of my heroes.

Because Hayduke arrived in the public's imagination before the real Peacock did, there was bound to be some confusion. Gary Snyder suffered the same confusion as the model for Kerouac's Jaffy Ryder in Dharma Bums and is quick to point out he is not Jaffy Ryder. And although Gary Hemming is not alive to say so, he is not the Rand of James Salter's novel Solo Faces.

Likewise, Peacock is not Hayduke, however much the public-and sometimes Peacock-loves the association. Hayduke was a caricature that allowed Abbey to indulge in some elaborate redneck posturing. Abbey studied philosophy and creative writing at the universities of New Mexico, Yale, Edinburgh, and Stanford. In Peacock's memoir Grizzly Years, we learn that he was doing gradu-

 

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ate work in geology at the University of Michigan before the war, that he likes Mozart, can compare a friend to characters in Dostoyevsky, sees a burning pine as a burning bush, describes his nemesis --the Black Grizzly--;is his Moby Dick, and is partial to expensive French wine. Abbey and Peacock were no more rednecks than they were Baptists.

Nor were they politicians. Neither believed in a life devoted to political causes, even though they were among the founders of Earth First!. The other founders of Earth First! were trained as, and have remained, environmental politicians. Peacock is not an environmentalist in any ordinary sense of the word, and he is anything but a politician.

The Monkey Wrench Gang is great fun as romantic fiction, but Hayduke remains stunted and pathetic-a warrior trapped in the old myth of destruction, unable to come in from the cold. True, he destroys for a good cause--he destroys the machines that are destroying the wild-but it is still destruction, and we suspect that like all destruction, its source is self-destruction; that he is less righteous than self-righteous, motivated less by an anger than by hate. One consequence of all this destruction is that Hayduke never heals from the trauma of war.

In contrast, Peacock didn't join the radical do-gooders, although he is said to have done some casual monkey wrenching (everyone needs a hobby) and in many ways served as a role model. But he didn't care enough about monkey wrenching to live up to the archetypal Hayduke. And he is clear about why: "Deep down I lacked any instinct for taking up causes, caring only about wild places and resurrecting a few of the dead."' Hayduke hates, Peacock cares. Hence unlike Hayduke, Peacock heals - somewhat.

Grizzly Years is not about destruction, but about how wilderness and wild animals might retrieve a soul. Since most of Pea cock's healing came from grizzly bears - their main gift to him it is little wonder that he loves them so. But another part of the healing came from his writing and later his film work, both expressions of the love he felt for - one wants to say "his" -- grizzlies. These expressions initiated the elaborate feedback and reciprocity that make love potent. And among those most needing a potent love are grizzly bears and men traumatized by war.

I believe all men are defined for life by how they spent their twenties. Peacock is a writer trained as a warrior and a medic;

 

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Abbey was a writer trained as a philosopher. Their apolitical stance is crucial to their influence. One Monkey Wrench Gang or Grizzly Years is worth a thousand monkey wrenchings. We can all drive a spike into a tree, but few can produce visionary fiction or memoirs that transform our beliefs and extend the possibilities of what we might come to love. To love Ursus arctos horribilis, North America's most formidable predator, requires either a firm philosophical stance or a warrior spirit. Probably both. That Peacock managedto love grizzlies and to form what can only be called relationships with some of them is as remarkable as it is singular, and the primary reason for his importance in the annals of preservation.

When Peacock returned from Vietnam after three consecutive tours of duty as a Green Beret, he bought a Jeep and drove west to his favorite wild haunts. In Vietnam he had carried a talisman, a tattered road map of Montana, to remind him of both beloved country and mythical place. So when Peacock drove west, he didn't just drive in a westerly direction, he headed for Thoreau's West - the West that is but another name for the Wild -- and he went therefor a reason: "Something was wrong. On the outside I was calm, even passive, but there was something frenzied on the inside."' Sickened by the killing and destruction of war, he sought a different kind of challenge, one that embraced risk and its teachings without destroying the source of risk. For just as there is no cure without risk, there is no cure if you destroy the source of the risk. In short, Peacock required what is required of all seekers and wanderers - a mixture of danger and love. Like many who have endured a dark night of the soul, he headed into the wilderness and spent long periods of time there, often alone.

This is extremely rare in the culture of modernity. I am certain that less that one percent of our population has ever spent a day in truly wild country, and the number who have done so alone is infinitesimal. Can the citizens of modernity understand the values of a Muir or Peacock? Can they, to use modern parlance, understand the discourse? Yet if more people go into the wild to gain this understanding, will not their presence further undermine the wild? And why don't more do so! If wilderness is a tonic for the evils of civilization, the percentage taking the cure is diminishing exponentially with urbanization and the turn toward virtual reality. So Peacock is also important because Grizzly Years de-

 

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scribes how wilderness can be a strong tonic for trauma. It is the story of a cure, a spiritual cure.

Going into the wild to be restored from the traumas of war is a tradition of sorts, After World War I, R. M. Patterson roamed the Nahanni River country of the Northwest Territories and wrote one of the classics of adventure literature, The Dangerous River. More recently another Vietnam veteran, James P. McMullen, went into the Everglades and wrote Cry of the Panther. There are many other examples. In Across the Wide Missouri, Bernard DeVoto speaks of "a type not uncommon after the Napoleonic wars, after all wars men to whom campaigning and battle had been a climactic experience, giving them a sense of reality and function surpassing anything peace had to offer, convincing them that in extremity they had been most truly themselves, and leaving them to spend the rest of their lives looking for an experience, any kind of experience, that for even a moment would restore that lost splendor" (21). Perhaps the most famous example is Hemingway's short story "Big Two-Hearted River:' in which a war-weary Nick Adams returns to a favorite trout stream on Michigan's Upper Peninsula to calm his soul.

The Big Two-Hearted River was also an important place for the teenage Peacock. In Grizzly Years he recounts his first long solo backpack trip there, and the spirit of Hemingway's story pervades the book. After the war, Peacock, like Nick Adams, returns to his favorite wild places, in his case the canyons of the Colorado Plateau and the alpine lakes of the Wind River range in Wyoming. Like Nick, he camps and goes fishing. But there the similarity ends. For unlike Nick Adams, Peacock remained enraged, aggressive, rude, physically ill, depressed, not a little paranoid, and "armed to the teeth with a .22 Magnum derringer of Saturday night manufacture, 357 and .44 Magnum Ruger single-action handguns, plus a boltaction .30 = 06 rifle and a 12-gauge Ithaca Lefever double-barreled shotgun." As if this is not enough, he also carries "a complement of more primitive weapons." 3

Peacock is plagued by memories of Vietnam and presents them in a clean prose reminiscent of Michael Herr's Vietnam classic Dispatches. At the same time, he loves wild nature, sensing, correctly, that the wild will free him from his anguish. But how! Camping and fishing do not go far enough. The cure must be equal to the terror of its origin, and camping and fishing are not Vietnam.

 

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Just what might be required is hinted at near the end of "Big re-Hearted River" when Nick reaches a cedar swamp and decides not to continue. He reacts against wading "in fast deep water, in the half light." Then an odd note: "In the swamp fishing was a tragic adventure. Nick did not want it" (198). This turn y from risk keeps Hemingway's story at the level of sport, just as Hemingway's own relation to nature remained at the level of sport. The prose mirrors the timid narrative. The threshold at which Hemingway's literal description would prove inadequate to experience - the point at which myth and nonlinguistic practices would be required to communicate -- is the point where Nick, and Hemingway, turn back. Peacock went on into the metaphorical wild swamp. This is the second reason for his importance.

Grizzly Years transmits a message about wildness that is difficult to communicate. It differs from most contemporary nature writing. Peacock lacks the sheer mastery of Barry Lopez and Peter Matthiessen, the scientific inclination of David Quammen and Gary Nabhan. He moves too much to ground his writing in the sense of place that marks the work of John Hay, John Haines, or Wendell Berry He is not a poet like Gary Snyder, he is not primarily a writer, like, say Annie Dillard. What, exactly, is Peacock?

In his introduction to Words From the Land, Stephen Trimble interviews some of our finest nature writers. The result is surprising. Many deny they are environmentalists or naturalists, much less inhabitants of wilderness. They are, they say, first and foremost, writers. Annie Dillard admits, "I distrust the forest, or any wilderness, as a place to live." And in her fine book, The Writing Life, she says, "The writer studies literature, not the world" (68).

Trimble's interviews reveal how much our love of nature has become a bookish love and how rare it is, even among nature writers, to find someone whose primary study is the physical world. How many nature writers walk Thoreau's four hours a day, or wander the wild for years like Muir, or spend several months a year in the presence of a wild animal like a grizzly bear? Not many. This is the worm in the rose of nature writing, for there is little reason to believe the wild earth will be preserved by writers with little experience of wildness and wilderness.

At its best, this bookishness elaborates other important traditions. Wendell Berry's too-page essay "Poetry and Place" pro-

 

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duced 187 footnotes. Ann Zwinger's A Desert Country Near the Sea lists hundreds of references. This prodigious scholarship presupposes the 2,500-year-old traditions grounded in the typologies of Aristotle and the hexameters of Hesiod, traditions that provide rich sources of reference, allusion, apprehension, response, and authority. Wendell Berry can echo Virgil, Ann Zwinger can echo Pliny. Whom does Peacock echo?

There are no footnotes or references in Grizzly Years, no books for Peacock to call upon for authority. The experts on the natural history of grizzly bears are not necessarily experts on how to "get along" with grizzlies. The people capable of teaching Peacock about grizzlies are gone, and they did not produce books. He tells us that the Blackfeet, the only tribe that truly respected the grizzly (calling them "Real Bear"), vanished before they could transmit their wisdom, and many of the tribes that remain match our ignorance and greed toward the natural world. What Peacock required was a context, but he was be-wild-ered, lost, not in space, but in mind; lacking not direction, but a usable tradition. Grizzly Years and Peacock are sui generis - one of a kind.

Edward Hoagland wrote that "Henry David Thoreau lived to write, but Muir lived to hike. Peacock is like Muir. He writes well and his film footage is magnificent, but one feels that for him, as for Muir, the experience, not the writing, was primary. Grizzly Years carries within it an injunction: "Get out there, make contact." It is a defense of a kind of experience, one that only a few nature writers have shared.' Nothing is more endangered than experience of the wild, and Peacock's defense of wild experience is the third reason he is important.

How can we express this experience, especially in the absence of a rich tradition? Confronted with the wild near the summit of Maine's Mt. Katahdin, Thoreau's uncommonly acute powers of physical description were replaced by Milton and Creek mythology, and Thoreau thought myth was the most appropriate literary form to express what he called the wild. Walden is his myth, perhaps our only modern myth of the wild.

Faulkner would have agreed. The section of Go Down, Moses called "The Bear" is a myth, the one most relevant to Peacock's experience with grizzlies. In "The Bear:' the wilderness of swamp and forest dies, the bear, Old Ben, dies, the wild dog Lion, who

 

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brings Old Ben to bay, dies, and with their deaths, Sam Fathers, the old half-blood Chickasaw Indian, dies. Their deaths are honored by ritual. There is a tin box containing "Old Ben's dried mutilated paw, resting above Lion's bones" and another box nailed to a tree that the young boy Ike McCaslin fills with "the twist of tobacco, the new bandanna handkerchief, a small paper sack of the peppermint candy which Sam had used to love" (312-13). The vehicle of meaning here is not language but a practice, in this case what would now be called shamanic practice, which Faulkner perhaps knew from Chickasaw religion or black voodoo culture.

Grizzly Years opens in Yellowstone National Park with a ritual that is clarified in the remainder of the book. Peacock honors a bear killed by a sheepherder. He honors her spirit by returning her skull to her den. "Moving quickly, I set the skull on the framework of woven willow facing the den. I slipped a small bear paw of silver and turquoise off my neck and draped it over the skull; your fur against the cold, bear. When my skull lies with yours will you sing for me?" (n). We also learn he has "brought together a ghost herd of bison skulls, decorated with feathers of crane and eagle, the recipients of bundles of sage and handfuls of earth carried in from sacred mountains and offered up in private ceremonies" (82). And at the end of the book, we find he has constructed a cairn on a remote ridge in the Piedras Negras Wilderness, a monument "to those I had loved and lost." It contains skulls, feathers, arrowheads, shards, pieces of white shell, candles, and some paper. When he visits this wild memorial, he feels each object carefully, lying them one by one in the sun. Then he adds some new items from his pack and sits cross-legged and mourns.

This is not a common use of national parks and wilderness areas. Some, no doubt, will disapprove. But I believe these rituals are important attempts to fill a void in our traditions, an attempt to integrate the wild and the self by myth. The influence is American Indian--Chickasaw, early Sioux scaffold burials and Assiniboin medicine signs painted by Karl Bodmer, the personal decoration of the Crow and Blackfeet -but it is just influence: Peacock is trying to figure something out for himself.

Peacock is not a shaman; he lacks that tradition and he's too wise to think he can simply give it to himself. But he made contact with the forces that drive shamanism, and these forces are expressed by a mixture of the self and wildness. His attempt to integrate the

 

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wild and the self without a tradition simply magnifies our loss of these traditions, and his difficulty is an omen: it registers the complexity of myth-making under conditions of modernity.

In "The Bear:' Faulkner has the older McCaslin explain the loss of the wild by evoking some of the most beautiful lines in the English language: "She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss / Forever wilt thou love, and she be fair."s The young McCaslin says, "He's talking about a girl." But the older McCaslin explains, "He was talking about truth. Truth is one. It doesn't change. It covers all things which touch the heart--honor and pride and pity and justice and courage and love ... and what the heart holds to becomes truth, as far as we know truth" (283-84).

One does not kill, destroy, or exploit what one truly loves. Neither Sam Fathers nor young Ike McCaslin could kill Old Ben, though both had the chance. "He did not move, holding the useless gun which he knew now he would never fire at it, now or ever" (194). In Grizzly Years, Peacock reaches the same point of not killing. His memoir raises the possibility that we might still, at this late moment, hold a predator - the ultimate Other -- to our heart, might actually come to love its wild and utterly different life, might actually achieve a unity. I believe the preservation of wilderness and wildness in all it forms depends upon this possibility.

The bear, the gun, the possibility of killing, the decision to limit one's power, the urge to honor the spirits of the Other-- all these are present in Grizzly Years when Peacock begins to heal.

Peacock's journey led him to Yellowstone, a place with "magic. He needed isolation and wildness, and this soon led to grizzly bears. In his first terrifying contact with a grizzly he found something greater than himself, a redeemer who is not a god but an omnivore at the top of the food chain. A self-willed predator fully equal to the terror of war. The grizzlies give him an experience of wildness that breaches ordinary experience and brings Peacock to the edge of epiphany:

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.

 

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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. (61)

Confronted with a grizzly, Peacock--"a trained killer"-finds restraint. The not-killing opens his heart and, as Faulkner suggests, gives him access to the wild realm. The bear bestows a gift from the bear realm to the human realm, a gift Peacock reciprocates when he returns the bear's skull to her den. These practices re-create a web of interconnection with the natural world that we have lost. They immerse the self so deeply in the wild that boundaries of self and Other dissolve. This identification of self and wild carries Grizzly Years beyond the therapeutic jive of most nature writing into a possible landscape of reciprocity and redemption. This fusion of restraint and merger with wild animals creates a different kind of self and is the fourth reason for Peacock's importance.

The restoration of wilderness is a fad that, for many reasons, I do not believe will work. But we can restore our relation to wildness, for "wild" names the quality of a relationship, one in which we are not in control.

To restore is to reestablish a prior condition. Restoration is a return to a past state, conceived as normal or healthy, that preceded the current corruption. Contact with this state is deemed therapeutic and healing-Thoreau's tonic. We return from the wild more capable of coping with the burdens of what Charles Taylor calls "ordinary life"-our fundamentally Puritan focus on work and family at the expense of nearly everything else. Perhaps most of our love of wild nature is explained by this tonic, but there are other possibilities.

Redemption requires more than restoration; it requires an exchange. When we redeem, we give; in return, we receive-- nickels for coupons, cash for stocks, salvation for our sins. Thus, Christ was the Redeemer. Redemption leads to freedom and transcendence, to a higher state, not a return to a former state. Redemption is not about our ego and psychotherapy but about an anguish in the soul.

 

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Grizzly Years is a religious text, a chronicle of a religious transformation of the self using wild nature. It is filled with the language of love and the spiritual. Peacock says he was on "a larger quest of some kind." The bear he faces commanded "awe:' and the "muscular act of grace" when the grizzly grants him quarter is described as a "transcendence." The result is salvation: "These bears had saved my life" (67).

What follows are years of "Zen-like days" of careful observation indexed to visits with particular bears - part of a pilgrimage, another religious practice. "My year begins when I see the Bitter Creek Grit in April; then I see Happy Bear at Glacier in the summer, the great Black Grizzly at the Grizzly Hilton, also in Glacier in autumn, and then the strange Blond Grizzly I first saw the same day a woman was fatally mauled ten miles east at Many Glacier. In late October I drop back down from the Glacier Park area into Yellowstone" (95)

By repeatedly making pilgrimages, Peacock achieves an intimacy with particular grizzlies. They become individuals. The facts of their lives allow Peacock to present information about their natural history, biology, behavior, and their place in myth. Many books on bears describe the genus Ursus arctos horribilis, its history and behavior, but Grizzly Years inverts this abstract emphasis with an intimate and personal account that strongly suggests that tonics, cures, redemption, and salvation arise from long-term contact with particular wild creatures, not with an abstract concern for preservation, conservation, ecological integrity, or ecosystems management. The potential of this inversion is the fifth reason for Peacock's importance.

As Peacock opens his heart to the grizzlies, there are dose calls and humorous mistakes, but he continues to survive because his manners, as a guest in the wild, are impeccable, a detailed study of how to treat wild animals as something more than entertainment. This, in turn, has consequences for how he views wilderness. He doesn't treat wilderness as a piece of federal property.

At one point he exclaims, "The entire concept of wilderness as a place beyond the constraints of culture and human society was itself up for grabs" (65) UP for grabs! What a wonderful attitude, enough to make postmodernists apoplectic. At a time when some environmental philosophers are trying to convince us there is no

 

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such thing as wilderness, Peacock is trying to figure out what to do with what is left.

Our federal institutions have done everything they can to assure that the concept of wilderness is lot up for grabs and that intimate relations between wildlife and humans will not occur. The rhetoric of preservation implies separation: we belong here, the grizzlies belong there. With this separation the National Park Service and the Forest Service -- always with our welfare and the welfare of wild animals and wild places in mind--prevent precisely the kind of experience that assumed fundamental importance not only in Peacock's life, but in the lives of Thoreau, Muir, Leopold, Marshall, and Murie.

Until now the preservation movement has primarily addressed issues of species and acreage. Although these remain important, they are not the only issues and, unfortunately, those concerned with preserving wilderness--from John Wesley Powell to David Brewer and Dave Foreman -- provide little guidance on its appropriate "use." Some are even appalled by such a notion. Their concern is preservation, not use. Indeed, except for the mildest forms of recreation and scientific investigation, they oppose use. Wilderness is a refuge for biodiversity, a collection of nice scenery, a playpen where we can escape our trying lives.

All this was explicit in the language of the Wilderness Act. The purpose of wilderness, according to the act, was "to secure ... an enduring resource of wilderness ... devoted to the public purposes of recreation, scenic, scientific, educational, conservation and historical use." In retrospect, one wonders why anyone believed that wilderness devoted to those public purposes would long remain wilderness. One wonders why anyone believed those public purposes encompassed what Thoreau and Muir were talking about. Indeed, the list ignores precisely what was most important to them: the human spirit and its experience of the wild.

Grizzly Years forces us to question what our appropriate use of wilderness is. It doesn't just tell us about grizzlies, it suggests a model of interaction appropriate to their wildness. Although Peacock is devoted to the preservation of the grizzly, he also used the wilderness and grizzlies. His experience suggests that wilderness will be usable as religious and mythic space only if we transcend one set of structures and practices with another set of structures and practices. Preservation and scientific study are merely infra-

 

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structure for the important work to come -- the years of work to establish a relationship between ourselves and grizzlies, one that approaches in richness and reciprocity the relation between the Juwa Bushman and the African lion.

We have a long, long way to go. In the autumn of 1994 a hunter armed with a 375 Holland & Holland magnum rifle-a powerful weapon usually used on African game--shot and wounded a grizzly while hunting in the Teton Wilderness Area in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The grizzly still managed to maul him and was later killed by authorities. The man sued the Wyoming Game and Fish Department for a million dollars on the grounds that the state knew or should have known that the grizzly bear "was dangerous and likely to cause damage and injuries:' yet "no precautions were taken." This in a wilderness area. His wife sued for another quarter million."

Because our culture lacks traditions appropriate to Peacock's experience, Grizzly Years ends on an unhappy note. This is not Peacock's fault. As the book chronicles Peacock's life, a wild world of mast and corm and the signatures of individual bears gives way to a world of television talk shows, lecture circuits, and books. The primacy of raw experience shifts to the primacy of recording raw experience. Records can be sold, a living made. The result is desperation. "The man living with grace in the wilderness was an utter fuckup at home. I once imagined that the acquired ease with which I lived my life in the deserts and mountains might be transferred holistically to more domestic corners of my life. Apparently not" (286-87).

Indeed. Myths do not pay bills.

Returning a grizzly's skull to her den, being startled by a breaching whale, discovering a stone horse intaglio on the desert floor, hearing the deep silence of mountains-the potency of such experience will not easily translate into postmodern life. We hunger for a kind of experience deep enough to change our selves, our form of life. We realize that our ecological crisis is not, at the roots, caused by industrialization, capitalism, and technology, but by a particular form of the human self. We perceive, dimly, that preservation will have to alter this particular self, its greed, hate, fear, ignorance, and seemingly infinite desire for control. But in the context of postmodern culture, that will take courage, and courage is the rarest of virtues.

 

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Peacock had the courage to transform his self in ways I do not fully understand. I do understand that he is stranded by his transformation. In this he is not unique, as Paul Zweig suggests in his study The Adventurer.

Like the shaman, the adventurer crosses over into the mythic realm and returns with the story of his journey. By extruding his humanity beyond the frontier of human events, he embodies a victory over the visible world. For this he is condemned to a life of endless mobility. Because he is at home everywhere, he will be at home nowhere. His existence will be humanly pointless. The gods are angry with him, for he is a thief; men distrust him, because he is not entirely one of them. This is the sort of man Odysseus is: a danger to himself and to everyone he knows, a bringer of trouble, yet a figure worthy of epic, for he brings the knowledge which men need. He is a great storyteller too, because stories are his bond to the human world. Only they are able to vanquish the distance which his character secretes around him. He enthralls his audience, while remaining separate from them, expressed but also hidden by the tale he tells. (32-33)

Unfortunately, Peacock can no longer tell his story by the campfire, point over the ridge, and say, "Beware when you go there; there you will meet the Bitter Creek Grit. If so, take care; this is what I experienced." Gifts move by use and reciprocity. The elder gives, describing carefully; the apprentice receives, listening carefully--for tomorrow he may confront the Bitter Creek Grit.

These fires are gone now. Instead of apprentices, Peacock has a readership, an audience, strangers disembedded from the world of grizzlies, indeed, disembedded from the natural world and the wild creatures we insist must be preserved. But his story is still powerful for the same reason all well-told stories are powerful. As Waiter Benjamin remarks in his essay "The Storyteller:' "The value of information does not survive the moment in which it was new. It lives only at that moment; it has to surrender to it completely and explain itself to it without losing any time. A story is different. It does not expend itself. It preserves and concentrates its strength and is capable of releasing it even after a long time. ... It resembles the seeds of grain which have lain for centuries in the chambers of the pyramids shut up air-tight and have retained their germinative power to this day" (go).

 

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Peacock's story is a story with strength. It suggests that survival of the grizzly and a human teaching of the grizzly will develop together--or we will lose the grizzly. The necessary work of science produces information, but what we need are stories, stories that produce lore. Grizzly Years begins a modern lore of grizzly bears. This is my last reason for Peacock's importance.

Peacock is important because he managed to love large dangerous predators, to accept their wildness on its own terms, to defend his experience with them as important and curative, to merge with them psychologically and spiritually, to demonstrate the importance of intimacy with individual bears, and to begin a modern lore for the grizzly. This, alone, is an achievement. To write about it with emotion and intelligence is a considerable achievement. We should honor his odd and singular triumph, and take heart from his courage, so that our own lives may be rendered bolder by his victory.