A Year in the Maine Woods

A Year in the Maine Woods

by Bernd Heinrich

Escapist fantasies usually involve the open road, but Bernd Heinrichs dream was to focus on the riches of one small placea few green acres along Alder Brook just east of the Presidential Mountains.

The year begins as he settles into a cabin with no running water and no electricity, built of hand-cut logs he dragged out of the woods with a team of oxen.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Environment
  • Rating: 3.95
  • Pages: 272
  • Publish Date: November 8th 1995 by Da Capo Press
  • Isbn10: 0201489392
  • Isbn13: 9780201489392

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I could see this display every year and not grow tired of it, like seeing the flight of geese, or hearing the bird songs in spring. A year in the Maine woods sounds dreamy, doesn't it? Until you remember that a year also includes WINTER. Nature writer Bernd Heinrich takes to the woods to spend 365 days discovering the world around him . I've spent every single day this year looking at the hills. Nevertheless, its subtle beauty is assured by the long months of winter when the snow swirled through the trees and only the hardiest animals stayed in the world of white birches, gray maples, and black-green spruces. Right now, spring is my favorite season.

You accidentally find a book written by a dude who decides to move his shit to the woods for the year with only a wild bird and a weird appetite for supermarathons and caterpillar counting. Turns out that Bernd is a famous scientist and a sorta famous distance runner and has written a ton of sciency books.

He comes to the cabin to refind himself, to slow down and also to raise and continue his studies of ravens. I preferred both The Snoring Bird: My Family's Journey Through a Century of Biology and Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival. This naturalist is continually puzzling out how our world works. On every walk, with every thought, with every action, on every viewing of the world around him he poses questions about nature. He measures growth of trees, he watches red squirrels and discovers how they make syrup, he studies animals and bugs and plants and the formation of the earth. In this book he puzzles out and explains in detail how all parts of his world in the woods works during the summer, fall, winter and finally spring. I would have preferred more about his relationship with Jack, the raven.

I have a mailbox at the foot of the trail, and rural delivery brings the outside world that far, which is far enough. Yes. A year in the Maine woods. Heinrich is interested in the small things, in a place where the subtle matters and the spectacular distracts.

It is these tiny critters that help keep Maine green, by keeping people out." (Emphasis mine!) "Every time I build a fire to heat up a cup of coffee, it represents precious time that I have had to invest." "Today I did a 30-mile run, painfully, but at the end I discovered the absolute tip-top of pleasure. The tip-top of pleasure is sitting down at your desk in front of a window with a view toward Mount Bald, with a cup of hot coffee beside you and nothing to do but think or ruminate and scribble with your pen in a notebook." "On the grass this morning, there was unmistakable white hoar frost. The geese fly mechanically, calling unvaryingly and beating their wings at a steady disciplined rhythm like soldiers marching off." "But, above all, trees can make forest and wilderness, at the same time that they are making energy." "Until now the hard discipline to follow through has rousted me outdoors on sub-zero days even before daylight. There is a limitation of vicarious experience, which reminds me of why I came to these woods in the first place." "Around a bend, a pair of wood ducks makes squeaking calls and rises with splashing and then whistling wings.

Last night I finished A Year in the Maine Woods by Bernd Heinrich. The author, who is a professor at the University of Vermont, took a sabbatical to live in his cabin in the Maine woods for a year and explore all that was around him through the seasons. We had a 24-hour observation period on the live specimens, although I remember one time we could not identify the creature and ended up keeping it an extra day so that we could take it to the local University and have a biology professor take a look at it with us--we got some strange looks that day but finally found one willing to indulge a four year old and his mom. One of my favorite observations is of a red squirrel in the late winter running from sugar maple to sugar maple, making bite marks into the branches and then returning days later to eat the maple sugar left behind after the sap had run from the wounds and evaporated. As Bernd heads back to his cabin he decides to stop in at his closest neighbors' home to tell them about the moose.

Although I enjoyed reading this book, I would not recommend it to most people.

He observes everything around his cabin--birds, bugs, frogs, weather, people, stars and planets.

Bernd Heinrich was born in Germany (April 19, 1940) and moved to Wilton, Maine as a child.