Nick Jans - The Last Night Breaking - Clarence
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Nick Jans - The Last Night Breaking
Clarence is awake by seven. "Where's the coffee?" he asks.
I know that camp chores are my duty; traditionally, a young man serves as apprentice to a more experienced hunter, and shows respect by serving him. I shiver as the stove crackles to life, then duck outside for more wood. Though our little valley lies in cold shadow, the mountains glow in the rising sun. Ptarmigan chuckle in the willows twenty yards away, and whir into flight.
Clarence is quiet this morning. Then again, he's usually that way.
Even if he stops by my cabin in town to pay a social call, he'll sometimes sit without speaking, with no sign of discomfort no matter how long the silence continues. It seems to be a stillness born of the land, of a life spent listening, watching, and waiting. I've often tried to imitate this quiet, but that's all it is-an imitation.
We sit eating oatmeal and drinking coffee, listening to the stove hiss. Finally he lifts his cup, nods to himself and says, "Too much think about bullshit. That's what makes you nervous."
For a moment I'm nonplussed, not sure what he's talking about.
Then I remember: my questions last night regarding Inupiat culture, philosophy, and the future. Asking about a canyon or a river was one thing; asking if he worried about the changing world was another.
Clarence's vast knowledge is anchored in the practical and the immediate-reading snow conditions, building sleds, picking out the best caribou from a herd. Abstract notions are superfluous; no, worse. Bullshit. The Inupiaq language, I remind myself, has no future tense.