Sunday, December 18, 2016


I love Jesus of Nazareth. 

I grew up in the church, a Presbyterian church.  I sang in the choir, joined the youth group, attended the special classes for confirmation and was proudly confirmed.  I remember our minister, Reverend Crawford.  Mostly I remember the kindness and acceptance.  Our church had one rule, the Golden Rule.  The Christianity that I was taught was the humility, generosity, and tolerance that Jesus showed us every day of his life regardless of hardships.

When our family moved to another town I found horses, and in typical teenage fashion I traded church for teenage activities.  But I continued to be inspired by the life of Jesus, and continued to celebrate his birth and his death.  While in college I once attended another Presbyterian church in Philadelphia.  The minister spent his entire sermon condemning us for the sins we had surely committed, never encouraging us to go forward in kindness and generosity and peace.  It was unfamiliar and unwelcome.  I did not return.

As I grew older I recognized that I don’t believe much of the Bible, or any other religious text.  I am an atheist.  This hardly precludes my love of Jesus, the humble carpenter who put love first.  I believe in Jesus as an example of the wondrous potential in each of us.  The man with the courage to speak the truth in the face of hypocrisy, to embrace the weak and the poor who could do nothing for him in return, to live his love despite the consequences. 
Unencumbered by various passages in the Old Testament, uncensored by organizations that may judge my actions by their own interpretation of faith, I am free to follow the Golden Rule, my conscience, and the example of Christ. 

This Christmas season think not so much of the child, but of the man he became, a man who loved and aided his fellow man, no exceptions.  Within each of us there is a capacity for kindness and tolerance and love.  Open your heart to the world, breathe deeply of the humble love that Jesus showed us.

Merry Christmas Everyone! 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Oh Little Town of Bethlehem

I was thinking of using my young dog Poe to put the sheep in the pen on town common for the living nativity. When I arrived with the trailer I realized that the pen was surrounded with caroling kings, robed shepherds, a few outside fires, and a veritable road map of votive candles. I decided to use Song, a seasoned veteran. Good thing. The replacement lambs came out of the trailer like wild deer straight for the woods, and once turned drove hard for Bethlehem, brightly robed pageant participants be damned. It took a sure partnership to settle them and gently guide them through the obstacle course into their waiting pen.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Trailing Sheep by the Moon

Setting fence at dusk
Because the day is short
And the soft gold sun asked me to stay
So I stayed in the fields
I trained some young dogs,
talked with a friend who walked down the way

As the sun lost its gilt
I left to move sheep
bring the ewe flock to a new graze
But night came too fast
Each day doesn’t last
The fall colors gone dark end of day

Then the moon came to see
Climbed the dais of trees
Each bright silver ewe watches and waits
I open the pen
and whistle my dog
The sheep eagerly spill through the gate

The light pewter sky
Framed with filigree trees
Moon cast shadows of shepherd and flock
The sheep graze as they go
Prodded on by my dog
Grabbing tufts of grey grass as they walk

They go through the next gate
Drop their heads to lush feed
The sheep never looked up at the sky
The air is too soft
The sky is too fine
We walk back slowly, my dog and I

©Maria Amodei

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Bartering Decency

Yesterday we traded human decency for personal benefit, whether financial, social or emotional. We elected a candidate who mocked the handicapped; denigrated women; explicitly incited the crowds to violence at his rallies; called Mexicans rapists and suggested banning Muslims from the country while relentlessly banging the drum of xenophobia. He did all these on national TV. Watching a Trump rally you saw him egging on angry crowds, chants of obscenities towards any who wo...uld disagree. It was grotesque.

I am a woman. I have friends who are black and friends who are Muslims. These are people I have worked with at various organizations in Boston. These are people who Trump supporters were willing to deny basic respect and human rights for whatever personal advantage they felt they would get by voting for Trump. I know people willing to deny basic human rights and respect to my friends if it is expedient.

I’m old enough to have learned that if someone is willing to treat others badly, then they will treat you badly if it is to their advantage. The profound sadness of this election is twofold, first a worry for the vulnerable populations in this country, and second the personal sadness of realizing and adjusting to people in our lives who would trade our basic rights and respect for some personal benefit.

Friday, September 23, 2016


The leaves are suffused with the colors of farewell
Brightly they engage, a visual embrace
Bathed by late sun, carried by crisp air,
The colors call out, bid us adieu,
Like the daily sunsets,
but the autumn goodbye is longer, bittersweet.

 ©Maria Amodei 2016

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Shots

I re-vaccinated my lambs for CDT this past weekend since two of them have gotten enterotoxaemia despite having been vaccinated in spring. They are about 6 months old now, strong and supple, not at all accustomed to being handled. Normally I just lift the front end of lambs and push their hind feet forward to pop them on their bum for shots. But 6 month old lambs are too large for this. They were able to plant their hind feet, moving them back as needed to keep their feet under them. With their hind feet firmly on the ground they can perform maneuvers that much resemble the royal Lipizzan stallions. Except that instead of impeccably clad riders and music there is just me, filthy and frustrated and swearing a blue streak.  So I tried leveraging their head over their back like you would drop a ewe.  The moment I’d put a hand on their head it was like I was holding the head of an angry 80 pound cobra, entire spine snaking and swinging their body.  And this is with them pressed in a corner by a dog.  I can barely move through the velcro pack but they apparently can slide along each other like greased ball bearings.  They make moves that ewes only dream of, and the shorter body makes it very difficult to get them in position to actually tip.  I did mention how strong and incredibly supple they are right?  I may as well have been trying to out-maneuver the US women’s gymnastics team.  Indeed maybe I should name my replacement ewe lambs Simone, Laurie, Aly, Gabby and Madison.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Make Friends with The Stars

Walk into the night
Leave the hull of man’s home.
Make friends with the stars
and you’ll not be alone.

Bright or mere promise,
the moon waxes and wanes.
Make friends with the moon
and she’ll light the dark lanes.

The night sky engulfs,
commonplace yet unknown.
Make friends with the sky
and you’ll find you are home.
©Maria Amodei 2016

Monday, August 22, 2016


I like to get my young dogs out a few times on small courses.  The most important thing they learn at a trial where their sheep are easily visible is that the sheep from the last run are never theirs.  I wait right at the gate for the prior run to end and hurry onto the field to make sure my dog gets to watch the sheep being exhausted.  Then I go to the post and send my dog.  I walk to a position some 5 to 10 yards behind the post so that when I turn and walk to the post I’m walking directly towards the sheep.  I show the dog where the sheep are by my gaze, my forward shoulders, and the line I walk.  My dogs understand this because I do it in training, right from the beginning.  I square myself to the stock even for tiny gathers in the round pen.  I walk a few steps on that center line with the dog beside me before sending as I begin to lengthen their gather.  I do it every time I walk to the post at a trial even if the sheep are easily seen and my dog is already looking at them.
None of this is unique to me.  I was taught by other Open handlers to use my body to communicate the location of the stock to my dogs. 
Back to the exhaust sheep...odds are the exhaust pen is somewhere behind the post.  It is not in the direction I’m sending my dog.  My dog might swing back towards the exhaust pen the first time they’ve witnessed sheep traveling there moments before.  I don’t make an issue.  Those sheep are now gone.  I continue to watch our sheep, watching the dog in peripheral vision.  Once or twice I’ve had a young dog make a significant foray towards the exhaust.  If needed, the dog can be called back towards the sheep that are standing in plain sight waiting for them.  I’ve never had a young dog repeat the run towards the exhaust the second day.  I’ve never had to scold them.  Most of my young dogs have correctly understood when I turned my back on the exhaust sheep and headed towards the group on the field.  Throughout the dog’s trial career I walk out to the field before the prior sheep are exhausted.  Seeing the prior packet disappear off the field is as much a part of the background as the judge and scribe to them.  Those sheep are never theirs.  Their sheep are waiting in the direction I set them. 
I’m not alone in this either.  Many handlers treat the exhaust sheep as just another aspect of trialing and don’t put out effort hiding them from their dogs.  This weekend I asked a couple handlers who also walk on the field before the sheep are exhausted.  They shared my experience that it is quite easy to teach your dog to ignore the exhaust sheep and look for stock in the direction they are set. 
I’d rather know my dog expects and ignores sheep being exhausted and focuses up the field when I’m walking to the post at a big trial than hope and pray I’ve successfully hidden the regular parade of exhausted packets from their view.
Daylight is limited.  Depending on the field layout you may need to wait some time before you can even walk on the field, give your name to the scribe, then walk to the post if you can’t let your dog see the sheep being exhausted.  And your sheep may have been waiting at the top this whole time, starting to fidget.  And the delay in getting to the post can add 30 seconds per run easily.  That’s 30-40 minutes of waiting for people to come out of hiding on a 75 dog trial.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Baptism of Rain

Rain, blessed by the sky,
Washes away dry despair
Bringing new life, hope

©Maria Amodei

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Ramp

Dare’s knees started going bad around 10 years old. The orthopedic vet diagnosed partial ACL tears, but felt that management was the best course at Dare’s age. So I started NSAIDs and some moderate restrictions on Dare joining the more exuberant activities. I also put a ramp up to my bed. Dare liked to join me when I first went to bed to say goodnight, then hop off and stretch out on his favorite stretch of hard floor under a window. Each morning he’d be back up to wish me a good morning. At first I had to make him take the time to go around and use the ramp. As the years went by he began to choose the ramp himself. He also began to spend the entire night on the bed.

The ramp has its drawbacks. It took some time before I learned to navigate around it when I got up at night. Worse, it gives puppies access to the bed. Puppies who may not be fully housebroken and find the expanse of soft comforter a suitable substitute for soil. I can tell you that it takes forever to dry out an egg crate memory foam mattress topper, days. The good aspect of the incredible absorbent capacity of this mattress topper is that the mattress itself has always managed to stay dry. Small consolation when I want to go to sleep but instead find myself with loads of sheets and blankets to wash.

Despite the drawbacks of the ramp, I can’t quite bring myself to take it down just yet. It has been there for 4 years. I can still hear Dare’s footsteps going up and down.


Monday, June 13, 2016


“Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself” Franklin D. Roosevelt
Fear is the most powerful of our feelings. It is a link to survival. Fear holds us back from excessive risk, makes us think hard about the possible outcomes, risks and rewards of our actions. Fear in good measure helps us make decisions. Fear in excess is panic. It keeps us from thinking rationally. We become too busy running or fighting to look closer at the threat to see if indeed it is the evil we imagine. Adrenalin powers reactions, not thought.
Marketers have known this for years. Watch the ads for bleach laden cleaners with worried mothers trotting around behind their children in spotless homes, wiping every surface with disinfectant. To sell disinfectant they sell fear of sickness in children. People react, buy disinfectant, and seldom take a moment to consider if this is really necessary.
Internet information "gurus" have known this for years. Dramatic language whips up fear of vaccines, food ingredients, etc. Once people are engaged with the fear they begin to react rather than consider. The fear mongers reap their benefits in advertisements and products.
Animal predators have known this for years. A pack of coyotes will worry stock behind a fence in a small paddock, building panic until the stock goes through the fence that had kept the coyotes out.
Preachers of all faiths have used fear to control their congregations. Salvation is offered by striking out at that which you are taught to fear.
Politicians have known this for years. A powerful speaker can tap into fear then invite the audience to join them in battle against whatever scapegoat has been chosen.  The speaker offers to save us.   The unified surge of adrenalin brings people to battle, not to thought. Who looks at the story and the faces of the enemy when the bugles are blowing?
Maybe we should.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Road Crossing

I need to start carrying the GoPro in the van because life gets interesting without any warning when you have livestock. 
I went out to move sheep to a new graze. Enroute I get a call and end up diverting to gather a couple loose lambs from a neighbor's front yard. I'd sold them to someone this past weekend and they'd escaped the fence and gone walkabout. Getting a pair of weanling lambs back through the thickets was not easy.

That done I head back to move my lambs. They... need to move across the road to a new field. The problem is the road is Route 113, very busy, fast, and the crossing is fairly blind. I need traffic stopped to take them across. On my way there I pass one of the Dunstable police officers. I ask if he can swing by and stop traffic when I'm ready. We set a time and I go prepare. We have a great police force. At 7 PM two cruisers show up and we make our plan. I'll move the last piece of fence and call to them when I'm ready. Then I'll wait till they have the cruisers in place. They'll hold traffic till all stock is across the road and down past the the little red one room schoolhouse that sits in the middle of the new field. I've already got the fencing ready. My only concern is that I must bring the sheep off a field and into a narrow band of woods and brush by the road that has a steep drop over a stone wall to the pavement. I'm not sure the stock will be comfortable traversing this. I did leave a few adult ewes in with the lambs knowing I would be making this trek. 
Fence moved I let the officers know. They parked the cruisers diagonally across both lanes on either side of my crossing. I sent a flank whistle over the knoll where Song and Levi were parked watching the sheep. They brought the flock with commitment. I was across already by this point, watching the sheep flow down over the wall into the road between the two cruisers with blue lights brilliant in the low light. What a picture it would have been!

All sheep were across with the older ewes kicking it into overdrive as they saw the familiar net fence and thick grass of the next graze. I was a bit worried as Fluffy the llama was just getting to the thicket on the other side. She was not thrilled but did pick her way through the brush, over the old wall and down the bank to the road. Then she put those long legs to use sailing across the grass to catch up.

The Strawberry Festival is held on these grounds late June each year. They like having the sheep there. I hope I've timed the grazing so we'll have cleaned out most of the field and be in the back corner where people can see the sheep on festival day. The officers checked in to make sure all was set and we chatted a bit. Did I mention the great police force we have? Boy I wish I'd been wearing my GoPro to get that photo of the sheep pouring down that bank onto the road between the two cruisers with the lights flashing.

Monday, May 2, 2016


I love the woods in spring.  The new growth is iridescent.  Looking through the trees the light is suffused with the glimmer of spring green.  It is the kingdom of fairies and unicorns.  Where summer provides an endless canopy of green, spring frames each bright new leaf against the backdrop of the forest floor.  Nature is delicate and intricate where it soon will be robust and abundant.  You easily see every detail, an unfurling fern, moss brightening a decaying stump, lichen on an old wall.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Raspberry Patch

My raspberry patch went wild, as raspberries tend to do.  I put these plants in about five years ago.  They were pressed on me by a friend who had to reduce his patch.  I was hardly consumed with enthusiasm to receive a bundle of sticks, bare roots wrapped in wet newspaper.  I had nowhere to put them so dug up some land by the kennels, the easiest solution at the time.  I was quite sure they would die, but not only did they all survive, they produced a decent harvest the first year.

Raspberries are imperialistic.  They annex adjoining land freely.  Little else can grow where they establish themselves.  Stalks are short lived, a couple years, and in death continue to reinforce the prickly fortress with their bones.  Within two years my raspberries began jumping their boundaries, marching across the ground like an endless army.  Kill one and two more appeared in its place.  They surrounded kennel doors, swarmed the fence, advanced on flowers, relentless in their expansion.

The harvest was epic, hundreds of berries sprinkled through the foliage, sparkling in the sun.  Fueled by greed for the ruby fruits I turned a blind eye to the transgressions of the bearing plants.  But as the years passed more and more of the fruit was inaccessible in the thicket.  Picking berries required long sleeves, long pants, and maybe a machete.  I considered buying a pith helmet to complete the picture. 

The patch needed to move, a big job that I postponed regularly.  Finally I laid out a new location and began digging.  The new habitat is bigger, more room for walking to harvest, and more accessible for pruning.  Most of my feral plants are coming with little argument, but a few have required a high powered rifle and tranquilizer darts to wrestle them out of the jungle.  I’m about 2/3 of the way through.  I’m a bit late with the transplant.  I should have started before the spring growth began.  The stalks have buds and some small leaves.  I think they’ll be okay with plenty of water and TLC.  A new kingdom that I’m already picturing covered in ruby red berries.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Good Enough

What is good enough in dog training?  It is vast gray area that we need to pay attention to.  Demanding  perfection in every move will sour a dog quickly, eating away at initiative, instinct, and desire.  In training stock dogs we are constantly accepting performances that are less than perfect.  A young dog who is a bit unsure will get more leeway in being a bit rough when handing challenging situations.  A dog just starting to find it’s outrun will be left to figure it out through some tight and wavy casts.  A dog with a naturally careful pace will be forgiven pushing too hard (or even encouraged).  We give green dogs room to work out the moves for themselves, find their style.  We give room for dogs to explore methods they are uncomfortable with, such as pushing or extracting stock from tight places.  As long as the dogs are trying to solve the problem,  there is room to let them work it out and disregard errors along the way. 

We regularly take “good enough” as the dog learns the job.  What we accept today we may not accept next week.  We take “good enough” when the dog has a bad day, or we’re having a bad training day, end the session rather than fight.  We take “good enough” when we are asking the dog to apply what it has learned in a new situation.  Again, giving the dog room to work it out based on its current skill set.

Perfection is in the eye of the beholder.  We all have our preferences for work style in a dog.  Sometimes we get a dog that has a different style, and risk degrading that dog if we cannot adapt ourselves to this new dog’s methods.  Sometimes we need to step back and realize our demands are more directed at the innate style of the dog than the quality of the work.  We need to accept the different style as good enough.  The more dogs you have trained the easier it is to recognize the natural style of the dog as it evolves, and adapt your criteria to that.  Or, if the dog is truly unsuited, find someone more comfortable with that type of dog.

When you are working on skills that do not come naturally to a dog then there is not much room for “good enough”.  You need to be entirely consistent in your criteria or the dog will not figure out what the requirements are.  Examples are dogs that are difficult to stop, dogs that don’t turn off the stock on their flanks, dogs that are overly flanky and substitute a flank for a walkup.  With each of these you have criteria that you need to enforce virtually every single time.  You will need more time on simple foundation exercises to be sure the dog understands the requirements.  If you accept “good enough” because working on these basic skills can get boring or you are not paying attention, then good enough is what you are teaching your dog. 

Currently I’m working a very direct young dog.  Getting him to turn his gaze from the sheep to flow by them on a flank is like getting a toddler to walk past a plate of Oreo cookies.  Every time we come out to train it seems he has forgotten that “away” and “come by” mean turn your head and release the sheep then flow along them.  Once he begins his flanks properly the shape and speed are quite good, though he is prone to turning in early.  He’s a talented young dog, biddable and determined.  I am so very tempted to go forward and spend time on more advanced exercises.  But if I allow him to learn that my flank commands mean anything less than to break his gaze and turn to flow along the sheep then his weakness will become a long term liability.  If I persist and teach him that those commands have a clear and distinct meaning then we will have the tools to succeed.  Because he is not naturally inclined to break his direct mode, he has needed quite a bit of work on those flanks, often boring or frustrating.  I’m not expecting any miracle breakthroughs.  This will take work, and will take maintenance.  His flanking exercises began when balancing the sheep to me, then on the fetch when he is working further off, and again for inside flanks.  The correct flank has needed to be taught in each scenario separately, particularly inside flanks.  Certainly I’m enjoying some more advanced work, lengthening his outrun, the occasional split, allowing him to drive for longer stretches.  In all of these I’m careful to make sure any flanks are correct.  For if I accept “good enough” because I’m “impatient enough” then I’ve taught him that “Come by” means move to the left and march on.

Pay attention to "good enough", your decisions on what less than ideal work you accept, and where you intervene.

Monday, March 7, 2016


Life is made more of bits
than great shares of splendor.
The soft caress of dawn
A joke, smiles, and laughter

Some bits we craft ourselves
Alchemy of delight
Others are strewn as gifts
Mere moments shine bright

We sift the bits like gold
Wash mud and silt away
Prospectors panning life
We seize the bits each day

©2016 Maria Amodei

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Wheelbarrow

I sit on the cold pavement of the drive
surrounded by tools,
wishing a third hand to hold the braces
while I work the bolts.
Fix it, there’s joy in good tools. 

When this wheelbarrow began its decay
I bought another,
Bigger, with two wheels, and a plastic bed.
Why try to recover?
Save it, there’s purpose left. 

I took it apart, cut new wood braces,
painted the steel bed.
But for a wheel and new bolts it was set,
yet lost in the shed.
Find it, there’s use in the pieces. 

I would notice the collection of parts
on the shed floor,
Waiting for me to finish, make it whole,
make it work once more.
Finish it, there’s always need for tools. 

A trip to buy bolts, order a new wheel,
oil the thirsty wood,
Cut old bolts and wrestle parts into place,
the tool now stood.
Build it, there’s growth in the process. 

The fix defies the death of disposal.
Building from discards
allows a longevity of purpose
to which we aspire.
Create it, there’s a whole in the parts. 

There are years left in this wheelbarrow now.
I’ve made it complete.
The lines of the braces are not so true
But sturdy like me.
Use it, there’s joy in good tools.

©Maria Amodei Feb 2016

Friday, February 5, 2016

Night Run

I just got back from a wonderful 4 mile run in the dark. By the time I finished work, cleared the driveway, and did sheep chores it was dusk. But I'd put the sled on the roof racks, loaded my gear and brought the entire team when I went to check sheep. My heart was committed. So I decided to try a local paved rail trail.

It was glorious.  Winter had dropped over the trail.  The route is not well maintained, trees leaning over the way heavy with snow draped like wedding veils.  Running with a headlamp the backdrops came upon me suddenly then were gone, lost in the silence behind us.  The snow was still falling, reflecting the beam of my lamp.  Snow filled fields and woods alongside the trail returned every lumen.  Softly visible they drew the eye. 

The dogs wore LED collars making it easy to watch how they were working, and they were working well.  It was heavy going.  After the first road crossing, I came to some trees downed across the trail.  I almost turned for home, but saw a bit more clear way after so took a bit of time to break a way around the obstacles.  I decided to turn for home before the second road crossing, but after ducking under a silvery tunnel woven of trees draped over the trail I saw the lead dogs were already on the shoulder.  We continued across for another stretch. 

I turned around reluctantly.  My dogs are not that fit and the heavy snow made hard going.  The return trip lacked the magic of surprise.  The trees we’d brushed through were now taller having lost their snowy load.  The dogs settled to a moderate pace and worked strongly to the end.

I did not have my GoPro which does well with night.  I did what I could with the iPhone, but given the regular need to duck behind the handlebars as we pushed through the heavy powdered trees I could not keep it out. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

First Run of the Season

The euphoria of 4 inches of fresh snow was too much.  Only an inch was forecast.  This was like winning the snow lottery without buying a ticket.  I could not get away from work till afternoon, when I gathered my mushing paraphernalia and started getting ready.  Icy winds made getting the racks on the van a rather punishing task.  Then I sorted the gear in the sled bag.  Note to self, next time order the medium booties in a different color than the small booties.  I brought the sled inside to check if the runners needed maintenance.  The sight of our chariot began the fires of anticipation in the dogs.  Finally all loaded I went to the town forest in Hollis, close, lovely, and in my mind groomed.  But there’s not enough snow for grooming so I really knew they would not be.  My mind also envisioned the snow on top of frozen ground, a relatively safe surface.  Pure optimism as all the rain we got converted most of the existing snow to ice.  The parking lot was difficult to traverse on foot, slick ice under the light snow. 
The hitch went smoothly.  Then I turned and walked to the sled, stepped on the runners, and pulled the release.  IKE YOU IDIOT!  He’s in the middle grabbing various lines in a giant compulsive tug of war.  And of course now we are too far from my tie off so I have to fix this loose on the trail.  I did not like Ike.  My poor open dogs wanted to hide under the sled.  Ike did not much care.  Finally off the run was not bad except for one dreadful hill.  This is always a dreadful hill, steep and winding.  A tree sits on the inside of the curve at the top like a sled trap The taut line from the climb pulls the sled right to that tree as the dogs curve left to continue down the other side.  I have to stop them at the top and pull the sled out to the center of the trail, stand on the brakes, and ask them on again.  Except today that hill was like a bob sled run with a dusting of snow on top.  Today I had 6 dogs on the line, 4 of which were crazy to go.  Today, despite my attempts to ease them into motion with a quiet word (and both feet on my bar brake) they hurled themselves forward at the slightest whisper, whether it be my voice or the wind in the trees.  My snow hook was useless on the ice.  My drag mat brake skittered along even with both feet on it.  My bar brake couldn’t hold me even with all my weight on the two studs.  I managed to piece them down the hill partially on the sled, partially leading, always bellowing LIE DOWN.  At the bottom, with the dogs, sled and me in one piece, I said three Hail Mary’s and hopped on the runners for the rest of the ride.
On my way out in the van I had been thinking to leave the sled on top tonight and maybe go out after dark tomorrow.  Now that I’m crystal clear on the trail conditions I’ve put the sled away.  Maybe during the day Friday, but not after dark tomorrow.  If I’m going to die in a cold New England wood I’d like to see the winter sun one last time.