A YEAR IN THE MAINE WOODS (258 pp., Addison-Wesley,1994)

From the book jacket: "Escapist fantasies usually involve the open road, but Bernd Heinrich’s dream was to focus on the riches of one small place—a 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. There, alone except for his pet raven, Jack, he rediscovers the meaning of peace and quiet and harmony with nature—of days spent not filling out forms, but tracking deer, or listening to the sound of a moth’s wings. Throughout this year when 'the subtle matters and the spectacular distracts,' Heinrich brings us back to the drama in small things, when life is lived consciously. His story is that of a man rediscovering what it means to be alive."

REVIEWS (4.5 stars on Amazon): "These passionate observations of a place where the subtle matters and the spectacular distracts superbly mix memoir and science."—The New York Times Book Review

"A Year in the Maine Woods is quirky, unassuming, humorous, enlightening and just a little bizarre. If you're a stranger to Heinrich, it's an ideal time to make his acquaintance."—Washington Post Book World

"Bernd Heinrich's work cuts across disciplines and genres. He is an entomologist and an ornithologist who may approach his subjects through physiology or through almost heroically sustained field observation. He is, at the same time, in an informal but more than anecdotal way, an autobiographer, one who has the geniality, humor and elan of a fine personal essayist. His work convinces you that science originates in the amateur curiosity we all possess as children, when the world is new."—Down East magazine


Like another book later (The Trees in my Forest), A Year in the Maine Woods started at a specific moment from a specific idea rather than morphing gradually from my research. I recall the circumstances associated with the start: I was in the Student Union building at the University of Vermont having a cup of coffee, and as often during a morning break, sitting alone and dreaming. I was deep into my expanding raven project in Maine, and wanting to spend even more time there to study learning behavior of young birds in the aviary. Could writing a book sponsor my way to pay the bills? Mmm, it seemed that it might be an adventure to stay at camp all year long. This idea was a bit fanciful. But, on the other hand, why not? Earlier that year, as my wife had greeted me at the door after I had once again spent an intensely grueling four days sitting in the cold in a blind built of spruce branches watching the ravens, her first words were, "I want a divorce." No wife, I was free. Now, by being at camp in Maine full-time, I could work with my ravens full-time. In fact, I could learn a lot from a young raven I could take with me, getting to know it, to then be able to ask appropriate questions. The raven would be my companion, too. A dream since childhood had been to live in the woods with a crow, and this, the raven, was the ultimate crow.

As these thoughts animated me as while sipping my coffee, I said to myself, "Make this an adventure, and write a book about it"—and I started scribbling. I wrote to Addison-Wesley, the publisher of my previous book, to see if they might be interested in another one. They were! I could take a one year leave of absence from my teaching duties, and did.