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One bright April morning a dozen years ago, Clarence Wood and I stood on the crest of a birch knoll, looking out over the upper Kobuk valley. Before us, thousands of caribou grazed, dark specks trailing off into the blue-white distance. Clarence turned, his weathered Eskimo face split by a wide grin. "Lots," he said quietly. "Lots." The longer I live here and write, the more I find myself following Clarence's cue-turning to simpler words, and fewer of them. My hope, in these twenty-eight brief essays about life in the Alaskan arctic, is to find words not big enough, but small enough for a landscape and a place without end.
In A Place Beyond, Nick Jans leads us into his "found" home-the Eskimo village of Ambler, Alaska, and the vast wilderness around it. In his powerful essays, the rhythms of daily arctic life blend with high adventure-camping among wolves, traveling with Inupiat hunters, witnessing the Kobuk River at breakup. The poignancy of a village funeral comes to life, hordes of mosquitoes whine against a tent, a grizzly stands etched against the snow-just a sampling of the images and events rendered in Jans's transparent, visual prose. Moments of humor are offset by haunting insights, and by thoughtful reflections on contemporary Inupiaq culture, making A Place Beyond a book to savor.
Nick Jans is one of Alaska's most recognized and prolific writers. A contributing editor to Alaska magazine with his long-running column, On the Edge, and a member of the USA Today's board of editorial contributors, he's written name books and hundreds of magazine articles. Jans has also been the recipient of numerous writing awards, most recently two Ben Franklin medals (2007 and 2008). He currently lives in Juneau with his wife, Sherrie, and travels widely in Alaska. He returns each year to Ambler, the arctic Inupiaq village he still calls "home."