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“Do you see that blonde over there?” a friend asked me in town today. “She’s a little hottie.”

“A little haughty?” I replied in confusion. “That’s too bad.” Then it was my friend’s turn to be confused.

—        —         —

 A livestock-feeder bowl on the railing of Mitchell cabin’s deck is used as a birdbath where numerous birds both bathe and drink. Here a towhee takes a bath.

Other critters also use the birdbath, including raccoons such as these yesterday. Almost every evening, a mother raccoon and her four kits try to squeeze into it together. And like the birds, they’re not at all squeamish about drinking their own bathwater.

The kits’ struggles for space in the bowl sometimes worry me a bit, for one side of the bowl is about 20 feet off the ground. Ironically, another side is above Mitchell cabin’s hot tub, and more than once while in the tub, I’ve been surprised by sprinklings of cold water that turned out to be splashes from a bird taking a bath.

A skunk or two also show up on our deck virtually evening to eat any kibble the raccoons leave behind. This one showed up Wednesday. They raise their tails when disturbed but never spray, at least while on the deck.

A lonely peacock, which mostly hangs out near Highway 1 a quarter mile away, occasionally wanders over to our yard, but we’re mostly aware it’s in the vicinity because of its cries at night. During the breeding season, peacocks scream to attract peahens and sometimes merely because they hear other peacocks.

Got him. Two weeks ago this blog published photos of a young great blue heron hunting gophers near our cabin, and a few days later neighbor Dan Huntsman snapped this great shot of the heron holding a gopher it had just caught.

A bobcat made one of its periodic visits to Mitchell cabin this week. Like the heron, bobcats like to hunt gophers here.

—        —        —

As has been in the news a lot lately, some police actions warrant special scrutiny — both in the US and abroad. Here’s a incident reported in the June 17 San Francisco Chronicle:

A man in Vienna was fined $565 for breaking wind loudly in front of a group of policemen on June 5. The man had behaved provocatively during an encounter with officers, according to police, and when he got up from a bench, he “let go a massive intestinal wind apparently with full intent.” The man was cited for offending public decency. Police later commented online, “Of course no one is reported for accidentally letting one go,” but “our colleagues don’t like to be farted at so much.” The Chronicle headlined its account: “Farting fine,” which it clearly wasn’t.

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

The rainbow-striped LGBTQ pride flag was created in 1978, and three years ago in Philadelphia, a black stripe and a brown stripe were added. The flag initially symbolized support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people, who are often discriminated against. The black stripe and the brown stripe were added to explicitly support brown and black LGBTQ people.

Three weeks ago, our board of supervisors voted to fly the Philadelphia flag at county buildings throughout Marin during national Pride Month, which is June. I first saw it last week flying in front of the firehouse and sheriff’s substation in Point Reyes Station. Few other people seem to have noticed; today while I was doing my “essential business” at the Palace Market, the post office, the gas station, and the pharmacy, I didn’t encounter anyone who was aware of the flag flying in town. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

A flock of Brown Pelicans over Mitchell cabin Sunday evening, probably headed for Drakes Estero.

A family of quail in our field Sunday. Perhaps because quail once had a reputation for being particularly amorous, “quail” in times past also was a word for “harlot.” In “Troilus and Cressida,” for example, Shakespeare wrote that Agamemmnon is “an honest fellow and one who loves quails.”

A female wild turkey landed on the railing of our deck Friday to partake of seeds we’d scattered there for other, smaller birds.

It would be hard to imagine an uglier neck than a wild turkey’s — unless you’re another wild turkey. “When the male turkey gets to courting the hens,” the Audubon Society reports, “extra blood rushes in, and the wattle glows bright scarlet for maximum visual impact.”

The wattle consists of a “wrinkly mass of bumpy, warty-looking red skin,” Audubon notes. “On a hot day, with the sun bearing down, the bare skin of neck and wattle helps release excess heat. Birds don’t sweat.”

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

While sheltering at home, Lynn and I are taking even more photos than usual of the creatures around the cabin. Here are a few new shots.

Seen out our front window. A blackbird feeds birdseed to her chick as a Band-tailed Pigeon watches and a crow shows up to share in the birdseed.

A female Brewers Blackbird looks up from pecking birdseed off the railing of our deck to find a large, dark creature looming over her.

The creature turned out to be a Band-tailed Pigeon, one of the many who started showing up in numbers near Mitchell cabin in the past year.

A young Scrub Jay scans the hillside from a bamboo stick being used to prop up a young pine. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

Probably the most-interesting bird hanging around Mitchell cabin this past week has been an immature Great Blue Heron, who has repeatedly shown up to hunt gophers. (Coincidentally, the previous posting here features an egret likewise hunting nearby.)

After standing poised above a gopher mound for several minutes, the young heron suddenly speared a gopher the moment it stuck its head up to look around. The alignment of a heron’s neck allows it to shoot its beak forward in a split second.

A Blacktail doe yesterday led her fawn on a walk around the cabin.

The fawn appeared to thoroughly enjoy the adventure, but when it got even a short distance ahead of the doe, it would look back to make sure its mother was close behind.

A moth caterpillar on our deck railing approaches an unrecognizable fellow insect. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

With Covid-19 regulations causing everyone to stay at home most of the time, we who have the good fortune to live in rural small towns at least have nature to keep our days interesting. Along with all the raccoons, deer, skunks, rabbits, and coyotes (which we hear most nights) around Mitchell cabin, Lynn and I also have an immense variety of birdlife to entertain us.

An egret walking at the edge of Mitchell cabin’s parking area last week.

We sometimes don’t see egrets near the cabin during the winter, but in springtime, they usually start showing up.  Around the end of the 19th Century, it became popular to use egret feathers to adorn hats, and in North America, egrets were hunted for their feathers almost to the point of extinction. Thankfully, they were saved by passage of the federal Migratory Bird Act of 1918. Each spring, colonies of egrets and great blue herons, can now be seen nesting high in evergreens at Audubon Canyon Ranch beside Bolinas Lagoon.

The strike. After standing motionless for a brief time, the egret suddenly spears a frog in the grass.

Holding a dark green frog (barely visible) with the end of its beak, the hunter contentedly walks off.

The beauty of an egret taking flight.

High flyer. On Sunday, I spotted a heron sitting near the top of a tall pine tree on which ravens frequently perch to survey their kingdom.

A blacktail doe running lightly along the edge of our driveway on Monday. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

Her fawn meanwhile had to bound through the grass to keep up with her. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

Just like national affairs, West Marin’s sunsets have been dramatic of recent — but the drama’s been happier here. This is how Sunday ended. Yea for nature.

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

The  previously announced closing of the Station House Café this coming Monday has been postponed until after July 4, owner Sheryl Cahill said this week. It could stay open through September if revenue is  keeping up with costs. Cahill dismayed West Marin three weeks ago when she said she would close at the end of May because new landlords planned to raise her $100,000 per year rent to $252,000, which she couldn’t afford.

For the next three months, however, her rent is frozen. Once she does close, Cahill hopes to find a new site, and landlord John Hural hopes to find a new restaurateur to rent his building.

This New York Times headline from 10 years ago still amuses me, for it implied that the Palestinian Authority considers indoor plumbing unacceptable in a Muslim country. As it turned out, Hamas was actually upset with women smoking hookahs.

A mother raccoon, who shows up outside our kitchen door every evening begging for kibble, brought four new kits with her the past two nights. They’re very cute and often climb the lattice to the railing but then have trouble climbing back down. They do it headfirst, so it’s a challenge.

Even more of a surprise was this blacktail doe who showed up on our lower deck two mornings ago and then went down some stairs to a still-lower level to inspect our hot tub. My wife Lynn already suspected that a deer had been venturing onto the lower deck at night because some buds in a flowerpot there were getting eaten. I was skeptical, but I guess she’s right.

A male red-winged blackbird repeatedly buzzes a raven drinking from our birdbath and eventually drives him away. Since ravens sometimes eat baby birds, the blackbirds don’t like ’em.

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

The closure of the Station House Café scheduled for the end of this month will be the closing of not only a restaurant but also of the meeting ground for many West Marin residents. Last week, I republished Jack Mason’s column set in 1966 when he owned the restaurant while also contributing to The Baywood Press, as The Point Reyes Light was then called.

Pat Healy once told me that before she added the “Station House Café, Wine-Bar” sign, the only identification on the building was the word “HAMBURGER.”

Mason eventually sold the restaurant to Claudia Woodward, who in 1974 sold it to Pat Healy, a former nightclub singer who had moved to Point Reyes Station in 1972. The café quickly became popular, and in 1980, California Living (a magazine that came with the Sunday San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle) noted the Station House is “the heart of the West Marin community, and an institution known as Table 6 is the heart of the Station House.” I remember that table well.

The piece written by George Nevin added that Table 6 “is actually two burlap-and-acrylic tables pushed together between the piano and the reach-in refrigerator. Here of a morning can be found the damndest bunch of regulars to be seen anywhere.

Table 6 with Nevin’s article lacquered onto it moved, along with the rest of the restaurant, from the building where Osteria Stellina is today to its present location in 1988-89.

“It’s the same crew, day after day, fog or shine, six days a week,” wrote Nevin. “It would be seven days, but the Station House is closed Tuesdays. Regulars include the following: Dave Mitchell, who copped both a Pulitzer Prize and Publisher of the Year award last year for his Synanon coverage; Art Disterheft, West Marin’s beloved sheriff’s lieutenant, who is a prizewinning cook, holds a law degree, and is building his own house out of salvaged lumber; Allan Ruder, the town pharmacist who peddles T-shirts that say, ‘I Get My Drugs at West Marin Pharmacy’; Art Rogers, the town’s photographer laureate, who somehow has become an artistic success that reaches far beyond this cow town; Elizabeth Whitney, who once challenged publisher Mitchell with a rival weekly, The Tomales Bay Times, and who is likely to fly off to the ends of the earth in search of a good solar eclipse (she just got back from an eclipse trip to Kenya).

“That’s not all Table 6 has to offer. There are many others of perhaps less renown but no less important to the town: the hippie mechanic who has visions of opening a Mercedes dealership in Point Reyes and easing into semi-retirement; the man with a PhD in psychology who now pounds nails for a living; a fellow who drives possibly the most beat-up Volkswagen in West Marin, who lives in what appears to be genteel poverty but who, they say, has storage bins of exotica like antiques and espresso machines throughout the Bay Area; the skilled workers in stained glass, cabinetry, and windows.

Table 6 regulars, café staff, and friends on a Monday morning in April 1980. The Point Reyes Light last week published this Art Rogers photo in announcing the upcoming closure. Pat Healy is third from the left. This is the same photo that California Living had published with Nevin’s article 40 years earlier.

“The conversation of a morning covers an astounding range, from financial matters to science, politics, religion, computers, military matters, education and law. There’s nothing they won’t touch, nothing sacred, hardly anything so esoteric that someone doesn’t have some intimate knowledge of it. And when breakfast is over, they scatter to their jobs making useful things, creating, contributing to what photographer Rogers calls the Point Reyes Nation.”

In 2005, Healy sold the restaurant to its manager, Sheryl Cahill, but retained ownership of the building. Healy died on  Dec 8 at the age of 92 and left the building to her stepsister, Melinda Benedict, and two stepchildren, Kirsten and John Hural. The new owners now want to raise the rent from $100,000 per year to $252,000 per year. Cahill says that’s more than the restaurant can afford, which is why it will close. However, she hopes to reopen somewhere in the area. Anyone who knows a suitable building ought to contact her. The Station House has long had good food and drinks, as well as having good music in the bar on Sunday evenings, but its role as a community meeting place is just as important.

 

News that the Station House Café in Point Reyes Station will close at the end of this month has shocked many of us in West Marin and has generated newspaper and TV attention throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Owner Sheryl Cahill says the new owner of the restaurant building wants to up the rent to approximately $700 per day, which she can’t afford. She hopes she can eventually reopen somewhere else.

For years while I edited and published The Point Reyes Light, I ate breakfast there almost daily and often used my mealtime to also pick up news tips, so I’m particularly chagrined by the upcoming closure. In fact, the newspaper and the restaurant have been associated in various ways for more than 50 years, beginning when the paper was published by Don DeWolfe and called The Baywood Press. Back then, the restaurant, which was located where Osteria Stellina is today, was operated by historian Jack Mason of Inverness, a retired Oakland Tribune editor.

Mason, who bought the restaurant in 1966, also wrote Funny Old World for DeWolfe’s paper, and years later in the same column, he described what the restaurant and DeWolfe were like back then. The column was reprinted in our 2013 book, The Light on the Coast. In case you missed it, here it is again:

By Jack Mason

“I’ve got an idea,” Don DeWolfe said.

I laid his medium-rare hamburger on the counter in front of him. “If so, it’s the first time,” I said, in the kidding tone one uses with an old friend, even if he is the local editor.

He didn’t bother to parry the thrust, but handed me a mustard container he had been fiddling with. “This one’s empty,” he said.

I gave him another from under the counter.

“What’s your idea?” I said. My interest was only lukewarm. Certainly I was not flattered that he would ask me for my opinion. Editors do that — ask everybody in the place what they think, then do their own thing regardless. It’s the way Great Battles have been fought and lost since the dawn of time.

He squeezed some of the brown stuff onto his hamburger patty, then pressed down hard on the bun as if afraid the meat might get away. Those were quarter-pound hamburgers I served at the Station House in 1966 — and the buns all had sesame seeds on top.

Jack Mason as owner of the Station House Café in 1967.

“The coffee will be ready in a minute,” I said. “We had a couple of customers in here awhile back, and they drank it like it was going out of style.”

“You mean you have other customers?” Don exclaimed. He dug into his burger, reaching for a napkin. “This napkin holder is empty,” he said.

I pushed one towards him from further down the counter, just as the phone rang. “Probably Willi Reinhardt,” I said. “The toilets are plugged up. That ought to take care of your crack about other customers!”

But it was Bob Vilas at the bank. “Jack,” he said, “these checks you wrote Farmer Brothers and Schwartz’ Meat Company last week. What do you expect me to do with them?”

In red-faced confusion, I told Bob it was good of him to call, and said I would be right over to take care of it, as soon as I got rid of my customer.

“You have a customer?”

“Yeah, Don DeWolfe.”

Standing beside his printing press, DeWolfe in 1967 looks over his recently renamed newspaper. Back then the newspaper was produced in the building where Rob Janes Tax Service, Coastal Marin Real Estate, and Epicenter clothing boutique are today.

“Well, tell Don for me, will you, that I think his new idea is great!”

I was really taken aback. “You mean he’s tried the idea out on you? What is it?”

“You don’t know?” Bob cried. “I thought everybody on the street was in on it.”

I hung up, stung, and stood there for a moment letting my anger cool. Here I’d been writing a column for DeWolfe — free. Writing editorials in my spare time, absolutely free of charge! And I’m the last one on the street to know about this great, world-shaking idea of his!

“What is it — I mean, your idea?” I demanded.

He was wiping his hands on four paper napkins at once. Finally he rolled them up into one big ball and dropped them in the green hamburger basket.

“Oh,” he said. “The idea.”

“Yeah, you’ve told everybody else. How about telling old Jack?”

He worked his way off the stool, and pulled some small change out of his pocket — and I mean small. “How much is a hamburger?”

“Did you have cheese on it?”

“No, I can’t eat cheese.”

“Fifty cents. And don’t bother to leave a tip.” I dropped his five dimes and three pennies in the cash drawer. The spring was broken, so we always left the drawer open.

“My idea,” he said, “is to change the name of the paper.”

I felt let down. “What’s wrong with The Baywood Press. It’s been called that for 16 years. It has tradition behind it. People are used to it. Why change it?”

“I thought Point Reyes Light would tie in better with the area,” he said. He inspected me momentarily for my reaction. “I’ll think it over,” I said.

He had to bring all his weight to bear against the door before he could let himself out — the pneumatic catch was stuck. Then he stood there a moment screwing his mouth into an odd shape.

“This is the only hamburger joint I was ever in,” he said, “that didn’t have toothpicks by the cash register.”

The name Baywood Press was changed to Point Reyes Light with the issue of September 8, 1966.

— March 2, 1978

The next posting on SparselySageAndTimely.com will reminisce about the restaurant in more recent times.

Well, hello there. In West Marin, the past couple of weeks have been full of surprises, such as this inquisitive gopher snake which greeted me as I headed down the driveway Thursday.

It was a good-sized snake, more than four feet long. The snake eyed me as I leaned over it but made no attempt to slither off.

Smoke from a fire at the old Foresters Hall in Point Reyes Station drifted over the town on Friday, April 24. The blaze damaged the northeastern exterior of the landmark, including a porch and staircase. Water damage to two apartments forced the tenants to move out. (Marin County Fire provided this photo)

The Foresters of America, a benevolent group, opened a chapter, Court No. 219, in Point Reyes Station in 1905. Its members began designing the hall in 1916. When I arrived in West Marin 45 years ago, the building was called the Sandcastle Gallery, which Jeanne Booras and her husband Bill operated. Kathryn de Laszlo and Stephen Marshall of Petaluma now own the building. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. (Sheriff’s artistic photo)

Another surprise. Sheriff’s deputies in Bolinas on Sunday, April 27, arrested a bicyclist allegedly toting bags of methamphetamine and armed with a loaded revolver, as well as multiple knives, on charges he had just stabbed a friend during an argument. The suspect, Derek James, 39, of Bolinas was jailed with bail set at $50,000.

Last week, Marin County eased the coronavirus lockdown enough at golf courses to allow residents here to play but with groups limited to two people. No doubt many golfers were happy, but evidence for the Marin Independent Journal’s headline was hard to spot in its photo of golfer Nate Siedman from Bolinas.

A small bone surprised us by showing up beside our birdbath Wednesday, and I’m fairly sure a raven brought it there for rinsing. From appearances, it is a chicken bone probably found in someone’s garbage.

For a few years now, ravens have occasionally used our birdbath for preparing dinner. Here a raven brings a mouse’s head to the birdbath for washing.

Obviously feeling at home, raccoons often take naps on our deck at night, which makes us feel — surprise — like housemates.

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

Newspapers are publishing poetry these days as an antidote to the gloom of isolation. More people are writing it too. Maybe face coverings, so obviously concealing a lot of who we are, have led to this increased self-expression. My wife Lynn tells me that the writing of poetry was on the rise before sheltering-in-place was imposed. She herself returned to it some years ago after decades of a prose-filled professional life. Recently an Irish literary journal published the following poem of hers. 

How Much

Low stream flows, deceptively gentle
incubate fish eggs, keep them safe,
while storms would sweep them away
toward predators downstream.

Birthing salmon and steelhead, fins flinch,
shudder in waters too calm for swimming
to tributaries, their birth canals.

In the main stem, they dig up
each other’s eggs, lay their own. Animals
fond of ikura, meaning salmon eggs
and also how much, quickly feast.

Sword of storm, sword of calm hangs above.
How often we celebrate, scoop caviar,
lives swallowed like casual swords
cutting through first life.

Custom of delicate spoons, as if fearing
fragility of wealth, prone to slip away
overnight, glistening pearly ounces, as if
taking less dignifies the taking, as if

life’s thrashings disappear beneath
gleaming dishes of roe, as if
too much would reveal our gaze
deciding who survives cycles,
dying, regenerating.

Fish ache to fly upstream like birds
swim through clouds like blooms
welcome the sun, as fawns bond
in faint cries to their does.
Doe and fawn graze, lie on grass,
each blade holding its own weight.
                                                Lynn Axelrod

With friends and relatives sheltering in place because of coronavirus, many are trying to brighten the gloom by forwarding humor. In that spirit, I’ll pass along a couple of recent examples.

And these sentences actually appeared in church bulletins or were announced at church services:

• The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.

• Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.

• The sermon this morning: ‘Jesus Walks on the Water.’ The sermon tonight: ‘Searching for Jesus.’

• Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.

• Don’t let worry kill you off – let the Church help.

• Miss Charlene Mason sang ‘I will not pass this way again,’ giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.

• For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.

• Next Thursday there will be try-outs for the choir. They need all the help they can get.

• Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.

• A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.

• At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be ‘What Is Hell?’ Come early and listen to our choir practice.

• Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.

• Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.

• The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.

• Pot-luck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM – prayer and medication to follow.

• The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.

• This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.

• The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the Congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.

• Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM.  Please use the back door.

• The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7 PM. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.

• Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at the First Presbyterian Church. Please use large double door at the side entrance.

And this one just about sums them all up…

• The Associate Minister unveiled the church’s new campaign slogan last Sunday: ‘I Upped My Pledge – Up Yours.’

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