For many people, opening a book leads to realms of fantasy, discovery or insight. That was the case for me in my youth. But there was one interruption to book openings during my freshman year of high school. On the initial day of classes, I pulled an ill-conceived, lunkhead stunt. Rather than reporting to the freshman English room, I opted to settle into an adjacent study hall. The two rooms shared a common wall of large windows, affording full visibility between them. Figuring that the teacher would quickly note my absence during her class roll call, and come to retrieve me, I sat expectantly during that day of class. The busy, new teacher did not notice me, however. I got the same results in following days. And, after a full week of skipping the class, I was fearful of revealing my guilty truth, and I clearly dreaded the inevitable future consequences.

When the first-quarter ranking period ended, two months later, my teacher met me at the school entrance one early morning. We had to talk, she said. With a blushing face, she tried to fathom the dilemma I had created, apologizing to me for losing my grades for the entire quarter. Wanting to soften the blow and soothe her angst, I offered my condolences. But the jig was up. I admitted that I hadn’t attended any classes, and actually possessed no textbooks or other language materials.

That evening at home, I announced all this to my stunned parents: this was a memorable occasion for us all. On ten subsequent nights, I labored into the wee morning hours, composing essays, reading books and writing reports. I completed the bulk of assignments and, surprisingly, gained my teacher’s compliments on some. I was extremely relieved by a generous C+ grade for the quarter, resulting from “no class participation.”

I share this background story only because my objectives changed for my high school career. That caring teacher became a significant mentor and ally. Under her patient guidance, I came to savor the writing process, before choosing to major in English in college.

As for birds, I had developed an abiding interest in them during adolescence, noting their specific appearance and habits and striving to learn their basic songs and calls. Later on, I moved through progressive phases of photography. Next I started leading local field trips, teaching adult education classes, and participating in Christmas Bird Counts through Mid-Coast Audubon Society.

Those years certainly zoomed by. In 2007, I inquired of then-Free Press editor Alice McFadden about a possible column about birds. “Let’s give it a try,” she answered. Since then, I’ve written several hundred columns on all manner of bird life and recounted some personal experiences and perspectives gained from six decades of local nature observation.

Now, I’ve finally published a book, entitled “Seen Anything Good?” I never set out to become an author; it was urgings and encouragement from loyal column readers that tipped the scale for me.

The subtitle, “Seasons of Birds in Midcoast Maine,” sums up the book’s contents. Its 86 essays and 40 color photos touch on basic tips to bird identification, bird ecology and behavior, migration trends and relevant conservation issues. The book is currently available online through Maine Authors Publishing and at Maine bookstores, including all Sherman’s locations.

These days, when I reflect back on high school English, I smile with simple gratitude.