The Road Washes Out in Spring

A Poet’s Memoir of Living Off the Grid

Baron Wormser

For nearly twenty-five years, poet Baron Wormser and his family lived in a house in Maine with no electricity or running water. They grew much of their own food, carried water by hand, and read by the light of kerosene lamps. They considered themselves part of the “back to the land” movement, but their choice to live off the grid was neither statement nor protest: they simply had built their house too far from the road and could not afford to bring in power lines. Over the years, they settled in to a life that centered on what Thoreau called “the essential facts.” In this graceful meditation, Wormser similarly spurns ideology in favor of observation, exploration, and reflection. “When we look for one thread of motive,” he writes, “we are, in all likelihood, deceiving ourselves.” His refusal to be satisfied with the obvious explanation, the single thread of motive, makes him a keen and sympathetic observer of his neighbors and community, a perceptive reader of poetry and literature, and an honest and unselfconscious analyst of his own responses to the natural world. The result is a series of candid personal essays on community and isolation, nature, civilization, and poetry.

Paper: $24.95 | E-book: $23.95
ISBN-13: 9781684581603
Pages: 216 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: March 7, 2023

All in all, this is the best book about rural New England life since Jane Brox’s Here and Nowhere Else…the book asks to be read slowly, savored, because, as Wormser says of the entire enterprise of living off-grid, “There was no sum. Only infinite entries.”

The Boston Globe


  • All in all, this is the best book about rural New England life since Jane Brox's Here and Nowhere Else. Its scope is narrow, but its reach is vast. Its short but wide-ranging essays seem like the dozens of jars of canned tomatoes Wormser and his wife put up each year to provide the base of their winter meals, each one carefully, thoughtfully, and lovingly prepared. The order in which they are taken off the shelves does not really matter, but it is evident that each is part of the same impulse of mind and heart and body, and each in return nourishes all three. As such, the book asks to be read slowly, savored, because, as Wormser says of the entire enterprise of living off-grid, "There was no sum. Only infinite entries."

    Boston Globe
  • His ruminations on crafting poems and thoughtful considerations of the value of literature will be of great interest to readers and fellow writers. Wormser counters any comparisons to Thoreau, and, in fact, has a far greater sense of humor than the iconic backwoodsmen, but his endearing memoir about living simply, yet richly, in woods he clearly loves certainly does extend the tradition Thoreau exemplifies.

  • What separates this memoir from the often clichéd back-to-the-land life story is that the author's choices are always seen through the lens of language, especially poetry. As he describes the characters who reside in his small community in Maine, the demands of keeping up with kerosene lamps and wild gardens, the dashed hopes for the community library lost to fire, the wear and tear of time, roads, wells, and woods--he never loses the context of literary history. Wormser's authorial consciousness is permeated with Frost, Keats, Shelley, and the force of Romanticism--the individual's journey toward and examination of what life ought to be in light of what is.

  • Intelligent and engaging, following no chronology, [The Road Washes Out in Spring] rambles and wanders its way in an almost Byronic fashion, slowly and modestly revealing the making of a poet.

    Down East
  • In engaging and elegant prose, Baron Wormser writes about the challenges of intimacy-with the land, family, language and mind, and with the traditions of other seekers. This is a spiritual memoir that does what only the best of this genre can do: question and haunt, while evoking our own longings for such a deeply felt and imaginative life.

    Barbara Hurd
    Author of Stirring the Mud: On Swamps, Bogs and Human Imagination & Entering the Stone
  • This is a book that both evokes a life and is full of life.

    Portland Press Herald

About the Author

Baron Wormser

Baron Wormser is the author of twenty books and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. From 2000 to 2005 he served as poet laureate of the state of Maine. He is the founding director of the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching. Essays of his were included in Best American Essays 2014 and 2018. His poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies.

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