November 11, 2012

Allen Afield: A fascinating book by a fascinating author with ties to Maine

By Ken Allen

(Continued from page 1)

That's the thread of "Life Everlasting," following how animals deal with the death side of the life cycle. Like a 19th-century transcendentalist, Heinrich's studies the process by highlighting examples in nature, such as carrion bees burying a field mouse and other processes that show humans the more base side of life and death.

Because Heinrich has studied ravens considerably, readers associate this species with Heinrich, who calls the big, black bird the "premiere northern undertaker."

Humans have long associated ravens with death. In my opinion, Edgar Allen Poe particularly gave this creature a bad rap in his poem, "The Raven," which most of us read in high-school English. But these days we love "Corvus corax."

Before leaving the topic of ravens, I must mention a point that crosses my mind each football season. Does the average pro football fan catch the literary allusion associated with the Baltimore Ravens? The franchise resides in Poe's hometown, where the great 19th-century writer highlighted a fictional raven that portended doom.

Deer hunters also have a growing affinity for ravens -- the big black symbol of the north woods that thoroughly cleans up after a successful hunter leaves a pile of viscera. Yes, outdoors wanderers surely notice this bird with the 2-foot body and 53-inch wingspan. That's a lot of bird with a legendary brain.

Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes is a writer, editor and photographer. He can be contacted at:


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