On Ignoring Private Property Signs … and More

Winter Vigil: Raven knows that squirrels’ tunnels all lead here…..

Sandra Neily here: With a bit of everything: recent lines from book #3, some great Maine winter events to join that fit into the spirit emerging in my novel, and a repeat, by request.


(In novel #3, “Deadly Assault,” Patton and Pock are spending the night high up in a tree stand built by her old wildlife biologist boss.)

Lit by a full moon so intense my shadow copied me as if I had quiet company, I scraped lynx scat off the floor boards, hauled up the backpack I’d clipped onto another rope, and thought about the towel I’d brought for my dog to sleep on. He snored on the Colonel Bisbee sleeping bag, so I lifted its edges over his shoulders. If I spooned inside with him later, I’d have dog warmth—some violent twitching and dream yelps, but that was expected.

I pulled a chair over to the edge of the deck, drank the rainwater collected from Ken’s funnel and hose system, and chewed on beef jerky.  Thoreau’s book of Maine travels sat on my lap, but I didn’t need it open, and I didn’t daylight either. Spread out before me was the same kind of forest he saw hundreds of years ago.

Burnt Jacket’s steep slopes sent clear streams tumbling down into lowlands where beavers dammed the current into pools. Bogs and wetlands ringed by soft, green moss fed ducks and countless other creatures. Individual trees disappeared into black, shaggy shapes looming over clearings lit by shafts of light. House-sized boulders abandoned by retreating glaciers glinted as the moving moonlight caught minerals that winters had scoured to the surface.

Two deer tiptoed up the game trail, snorted as they caught human scent, and crashed away into the trees. During the night other hooves, paws, and slithering small ones would use this trail. Like the moving moonlight, they’d flow across the landscape, hunting up high or down low near water, hiding in snags of ancient trees or in muddy dens. Everyone who lived within the reach of the moon’s rays knew no boundaries and ignored all the Private Property signs. I envied them.    

Gilsland Farm Bird Walks – Winter hours

Beginning in December, walks shift to 8-10 am for the winter.  Free, no registration required.  Join us for a weekly bird walk at Gilsland Farm, led by Maine Audubon’s Staff Naturalist Doug Hitchcox and others. Meet in the parking lot, in front of the Visitor Center, where we’ll begin a slow walk around the property to look and listen for birds using Gilsland’s diverse habitats.

Lily Bay State Park

Kennebec Land Trust 2023 Lyceum Lecture Series
Maine’s State Parks and Public Lands: Conserving Nature, Managing People, and Embracing the Future
Thursdays March 16, March 23, and March 30 ~ 6:00 – 7:30 PM
Winthrop High School Auditorium

Join Kennebec Land Trust for our annual winter lecture series to learn more about Maine state parks and public land from Maine State staff.

Recreational and Cultural Importance of Maine’s Parks and Public Lands
Thursday, March 16, 2023, 6:00 – 7:30 PM

Conservation of Wildlife and Biodiversity of Maine’s Parks and Public Lands
Thursday, March 23, 2023, 6:00 – 7:30 PM

Looking Forward: Land Acquisition Partners and Priorities
Thursday, March 30, 2023 6:00 – 7:30PM

Apologies for reposting something so soon (see below), but I when I sent this out December 23rd, many, many folks were like me: buried in the run-up to holiday cooking, wrapping, pleasant sipping, or just watching the moon rise.

My friends and relatives who got a link to it in holiday e-letters, encouraged me to share it again in the new year.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about good and evil and feeling the power of evil way too much.   Over two decades ago I wrote a letter about good and evil to my daughter as she was deep in despair after September 11th. Today I share it with you on the darkest night of the year. More light coming soon…


September 12, 2001

Today I woke, thinking of the plane hitting the World Trade Center… and thought of you and how you told me last night that you did not want to live in such a bad world.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I turned away from my “church” religion because no one at my church could explain why children suffered and died in huge famines, floods, and wars. Years later, in college, reading widely about how people have always tried to reconcile the nature of both good and evil existing in the world, reading about how we have evolved into better creatures while at the same time committing atrocities against each other, I must have come to my own resolution about good and evil.

I hope that you will also come to your own understanding and not feel defeated by yesterday’s horrors.

“It is these undeniable qualities of human love and compassion and self-sacrifice that give me hope for the future. We are, indeed, often cruel and evil. Nobody can deny this. We gang up on each one another, we torture each other, with words as well as deeds, we fight, we kill. But we are also capable of the most noble, generous, and heroic behavior.” ― Jane Goodall, Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey

In fact, recently, you gave me a reminder of how we accept evil and good as part of our world, how we find triumph and goodness in the middle of despair. You asked me to read Jane Goodall’s book “A Reason For Hope” and I did. Jane thought the world of the chimps was a more perfect, natural world. Their society was caring and nurturing; how could humans be destroying such creatures, she thought. She and her research staff were shocked to witness the chimp wars where (probably maintaining territorial control) they snatched and killed the babies of family members, pulled apart chimps they had known for years, and committed various atrocities against each other.

It was a dark time for her. This darkness was reflected in the evil Jane felt around her as the jungle was destroyed and as she came to feel strongly about our cruelty to animals in labs and research. At the end of her book, she comes through the darkness, sees beyond the evil to the essential goodness in the chimps, to our ability as humans to make progress: regrow the jungle, plant trees, enact new laws and procedures for lab animals, develop products without animal testing. Faced with evil in a very personal way, she decides that hope and goodness are the stronger element and she finds clear examples of their stronger powers.

I hope that you do too.

Humans have always had to deal with the problem of evil. Every culture tries to explain how they are related, linked, even useful to each other. Without the blackest darkness of night, could we celebrate the rippling sunshine on rivers. Can we know the light—feel the joy of light—without knowing the darkness? That is the question.

Christians believe the Bible’s good and evil origin story. Eve is expelled from the Garden of Eden (a perfect place where there is no good or evil), because she listens to the devil (serpent) and eats the apple that gives her the knowledge of good and evil. God expels her from the garden, saying she will live this knowledge. She will “bring forth children in pain.”

So he sent us out with pain, but in this story, he sent us out with children. And for me, (as you know) that has been the greatest gift. In our creation story, we were sent out with both pain and joy … and children.

All cultures around the world have stories about the origins of good and evil, but always the good—the hope—triumphs.

Magazine cover: Bill Cosby’s accusers.

I can-actually see that around me. When I was your age, assaulting women was considered a private affair or not worthy of much attention. Unless the woman died. Now we have evolved to understand the evil of the misuse of power and rage. Women (in many countries) have the right to a safe life. Does this stop the evil of abuse? Not always, but we made progress recognizing the value of women and their right to be protected.

I see this evolution as the triumph of good, not in a perfect world, but the growth of goodness because we are working to protect and take care of people and we did not do that before.

Haines, Alaska’s version of the Women’s March. January 21, 2017

In Maine, The Great Works dam comes down. In the text, check the amazing video link to the story.

Years ago, people tried to dam every river in sight. Even today in China, the mighty and gorgeous Yangzee is dying underneath the crime of the biggest dam on the planet. I believe that one day, the Chinese will know the evil of this crime against nature. Here today, in our country the dams are starting to come down. I never thought that in my life, I would see this turn of events, that people would see this particular evil, this crime against the value and health of rivers and actually begin to reverse the process. I do see examples of the triumph of goodness and knowledge over the forces of darkness, evil and ignorance.

But I do believe we will always have both in the world.

Last night after you went to bed, on the news they showed the long lines of New Yorkers waiting to give blood: out the hospital doors, down the streets—people all waiting hours to give blood, to do what they could. That is an image of powerful good that is at least as powerful to me as the one of the plane slamming into the building.

I know that you have experienced your own darkness, but you have been lifted up and carried on by the goodness and light of the many people who love you and have helped you through the darkness. I know you must sort out your own personal truth about good and evil.

I wrote you this letter to let you know that we are all on a search, we all have moments of doubt, and that we all have questions about evil. For me, the goodness of your being here outweighs any evil the world may toss my way. I have confidence that you will find your way as you walk between the darkness and the light; and I DO love you more than all the chocolate chip cookies on earth.



Thank you for the tree, Bob!

Sandy’s debut novel, “Deadly Trespass, A Mystery in Maine” won a national Mystery Writers of America award, was a finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Rising Star” contest, and was a finalist for a Maine Literary Award. The second Mystery in Maine, “Deadly Turn,” was published in 2021. Her third “Deadly” is due out in 2023. Find her novels at all Shermans Books (Maine) and on Amazon. Find more info on Sandy’s website.

About Sandra Neily

Sandy’s novel “Deadly Trespass” received a Mystery Writers of America award, was named a national finalist in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association “Rising Star” contest, a finalist in the Mslexia international novel competition, a runner- up in Maine’s Joy of the Pen competition, and recently, an international SPR fiction finalist. Sandy lives in the woods of Maine and says she’d rather be “fly fishing cold streams, skiing remote trails, paddling near loons, or just generally out there—unless I’m sharing vanishing worlds with my readers. "
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9 Responses to On Ignoring Private Property Signs … and More

  1. John Clark says:

    I, too ponder the coexistence of good and evil quite often. Until I am granted my godlike powers, I’m limited to doing good when possible and hoping the ripples on the pond end up affecting someone elsewhere.

  2. maggierobinsonwriter says:

    Even at my age, I continue to question just about everything. Your post’s wisdom is pretty perfect, and I thank you for allowing us to share in it. Have a wonderful holiday.

  3. Kate Flora says:

    I take this, as I take many things in this season…and in all seasons, as a reminder to do more good, be more kind and patient, and not let the darkness be in charge and overwhelming. Thank you for sharing this today.

    • Sandra Neily says:

      A belated Thank You, Kate!! You know? I wrote it with one eye, as some strange double vision thing attacked me, just when, of course, I waited until the last night to post. But I knew what I wanted to do and had the pics.

  4. kaitcarson says:

    Wonderful, touching, and profound.

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