A 90-year-old man smoking pot on Mount Tamalpais this past July 3 sparked a blaze that set his clothes and the hillside around him on fire, according to the August edition of Tamalpais Guardian published by the Tamalpais Conservation Club. 

Mount Tamalpais

Were it not for a north wind that blew it toward the shore of Lake Bon Tempe, the two-acre fire could easily have spread through the watershed and the Cascade Canyon area of Fairfax, The Marin Independent Journal reported at the time.

 Of the various criticisms aimed at pot, its potential to start wildfires is not usually among them. But not all dangers are obvious. I just read about the danger of eating too much melon. Pope Paul II in 1471 died in the Vatican from a fit of apolexy after indulging his appetite for melons, writes historian Ross King in The Bookseller of Florence.

On the other hand, “some — mainly the pontiff’s critics — said that he had died [of a stroke] whilst being sodomized by a page boy,” according to Wikipedia. Another unrecognized danger, I suppose.

Pope Paul II

Anti Status Quo

Back before the mural on the neighboring post office was painted over, I got to know Laure Reichek at Toby’s Coffee Bar in Point Reyes Station. She lives in Hicks Valley near the McEvoy olive ranch, and I first met her at seasonal parties there.

This is the cover of her last book, which came out two years ago.

As noted in a posting here at that time, Laure was born in Paris in 1930 and in 1951 moved to the US with her husband. He was an American veteran she met after the war when both were studying in Paris. 

Laure at 19 in Paris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laure’s latest book of poetry in part reflects the trauma of having seen World War II and fascism closehand as a child. Anti Status Quo is a collection of mostly grim ironies.

A week ago, she and I reconnected at Toby’s where she presented me with the book. Here are a couple of biting poems from it:

Of Thee I Weep

Can a man, woman, or child

walk anywhere on this planet?

 

Our planet?

 

It depends

whether he/she has

the money.

 

Money

 

to buy required papers

to cross artificial borders

of nation-states.

With money

you are welcome

to go anywhere.

 

Without money

you are allowed

when needed.

 

Without money

the beacon of light

will lead you to prisons

and the doors

will be locked.

 

While the poor

walk over mountains, deserts,

drown in rivers,

the rich will fly

in comfort through the air.

 

Oh, Liberty

of thee I weep.

––––––––––

If They’re Poor

It’s their fault

for not choosing their parents well.

Instead of their labor to sell

they should have chosen oil wells

or football teams—

very profitable and clean.

My friends own pipelines

and the oil companies,

but I control the armies,

the press, the judiciary.

I’m the emperor of the

twenty-first century,

your thought content and context

your past present and future,

your freedom is the one I own.
I’m rich because I made the right choice.

If they’re poor, that’s their problem—

not mine.

 

–––––––––––––

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laure in Paris, 2019

This collection of her poems and her book Autrefois to Today are available at <reichek.org/Laure> (upper case L).

For the second September in a row, the art gallery at Toby’s Feed Barn is featuring an exhibit by the superb landscape artist Thomas Wood of Nicasio. The show closes Sept. 27.

“My paintings are meditations on nature,” Wood commented last year, and once again all the works on display are landscapes.

 

San Geronimo Valley Road.

 

 

 

 

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Rush Creek near Novato.      Sold for $3,200

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Wood has been represented in dozens of exhibits, the artist’s background is impressive, including the surprising fact that his painting California Hills was on display in the US embassy in Belize from 2005 to 2008, as I’ve noted here before.

 

 

 

Thomas Wood at Toby’s last year. <twoodart.com>

 

 

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Lucas Valley

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Limantour Wetlands

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North Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore

The public is at least as impressed as I by Woods’ artwork. In the exhibition’s first three or four days, paintings were selling for hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

I’m often amazed by the variety of wildlife around Mitchell cabin, but even more amazing is the variety that shows up on the cabin’s deck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A possum, fox, and raccoon peacefully dine on kibble together just outside our kitchen door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These critters dine peacefully even when I’m there to encourage them. I don’t encourage petting possums in general, but I happened to know this fellow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My wife Lynn feeds a couple of slices of bread to a fox at the kitchen door.

And they bring their friends. Here are three foxes that showed up for kibble on our deck.

A raccoon and skunk share a handful of roasted peanuts.

Roof rats are unusually numerous in Point Reyes Station this year, each evening showing up for birdseed that birds left behind on our deck. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A squirrel surveys the world from our birdbath on the deck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One surprising visitor on our decks awhile back was this blacktail doe near the hot tub on our lower deck.

 

 

Once upon a time, I taught this possum proper table manners.  🙂

Getting him to eat with a knife and fork instead of his fingers was the biggest challenge. 

More oddities. Last February,  this blog reported: “The oddest West Marin news in the past fortnight came in the Feb. 3 Point Reyes Light. Here it is word for word. ‘Sheriff’s Call — Sunday, Jan.10: NICASIO: At 7:42 p.m. a woman who said she was moving to town from Southern California reported that someone who works at the post office was shooting metaphorical arrows, meaning witchcraft and sorcery, and that God had told her she needed to eradicate witchcraft and sorcery. She said the man was going to make her have demonic serpent offspring and she could not report him to his supervisor because the supervisor was likely in the same region of warlocks, and she wanted to assure deputies that she had not been struck by the arrows because she was protected by the blood of Jesus — she had an X-ray to prove it.'”

Postal sorcery seems to have now spread west. A sheriff’s call in the Aug. 11 Light reported: POINT REYES STATION: “A woman moving back to the area from Los Angeles said a former postal worker was tracking her with witchcraft and sending arrows to her head.” If it is the same woman, I hope the blood of Jesus is still protecting her.

 

Three roof rats scamper around our deck eating some of the seeds we’ve put out for wild birds. A professional gardener in town this week said the local roof-rat population “exploded” this year.

 

Roof rats take advantage of our bird ‘sanctuary’  in more than one way. Here a roof rat drinks from our birdbath. The roof rat’s pale underside helps distinguish it from brownish-gray Norway rats. Despite their name, Norway rats are believed to have originated in Asia and spread westward through Russia. Once in Europe, Norway rats in the 18th century were inadvertantly introduced worldwide when they hid on trading ships, often in the cargo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Norway rats are sometimes referred to as sewer rats because they are often found in big city sewers. Here a sewer rat pokes its head out its front door. Norway rats can damage homes with their gnawing and can spread diseases. MPHonLine photo

Most days I get a caffeine hit in the late morning at Toby’s Coffee Bar in Point Reyes Station. It’s a convivial place with good pastries as well as good tea and coffee. I was sitting at a picnic table inside the barn a week ago when an older gentleman came up to me and asked if I was “Dave Mitchell’s father.” Unsure whether he was joking or serious, I replied, “I’m Dave Mitchell himself.” In either case, I took his comment as reflecting how much older I look these days. My hair’s gray, I’m stoop shouldered, and I often shuffle when I walk. Old age is a bitch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On another day last week, I was again seated inside the barn when I heard a loud crash. Assuming two vehicles had collided on the main street out front, I went outside to look. Instead I found that a balcony on the front of the building had partially collapsed. A forklift raised too high had slammed into a lateral beam.

A different older gentleman had been sitting on the deck under the balcony, and he too had heard the crash but didn’t realize at first that the balcony overhead might come down on him. He wasn’t upset, but since then he’s taken to sitting inside the barn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the deck encircled by a yellow warning ribbon, the feed store moved its flower display indoors too. Here Danny Holderman enjoys having lush bouquets beside his table.

 

 

 

 

 

Toby’s might as well be a community center so much goes on there. Beside the store and the coffee bar, a farmers’ market is held in the parking lot every Saturday each summer. Behind the store, art exhibitions are frequent, such as the current Marvelous Marin Landscape Show, featuring works by 14 artists.

 

As for events closer to Mitchell cabin, more rabbits than usual are around this summer. This jack rabbit, which is technically a hare, not a rabbit, frequently hops close to the cabin but never comes in.

Also seen around the house in early summer are baby cottontails, which are true rabbits.

 

 

Buoying Ukraine: West Marin residents’ opinion of Russia has fallen pretty low since its invasion of Ukraine. In a show of support, the blue and gold Ukrainian flags are being flown at the Peace Garden next to Toby’s, along Highway 1, and elsewhere around town.

As it happens, crab-pot buoys periodically break their harnesses and wash ashore in the National Seashore where I’ve found several. A couple of them have Ukraine’s colors, so a blue-and-yellow buoy now adorns our garden.

 

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.


National Night Out block parties and cookouts are held across the country, US territories, and in military bases in the beginning of August, to help develop neighborhood camaraderie and develop positive relations between communities and law enforcement.

Point Reyes Station holds one every year in front of the Arthur Disterheft Public Safety building, and this year’s celebration — complete with a barbecue, ice cream, and a band — was held Tuesday. Pictured center-left in sunglasses is Marin County Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Bret McTigue. In khaki (and a mustache) to the right is Marin Sheriff’s Sergeant and Public Information Officer Brenton Schneider.    

Several county fire department personnel, including Battalion Chief Bret McTigue, standing behind the Hog Island Oyster grill were on hand. The barbecues were set up in front of the public safety building, which houses the Point Reyes Station firehouse and the sheriff’s substation.

On a more serious note, last reports were that the Marin County Fire Department sent crews running five fire engines and a bulldozer to help fight the McKinney Fire, northwest of Yreka in Siskiyou County. We wish all first responders a safe return. The wildfire started Friday, July 29, and has now grown to almost 59,000 acres with only 10 percent containment. There have been four deaths of residents.

Lineup of community members (L to R):  Ron Wagner, my wife Lynn Axelrod, Tom Quinn, Ken Levin, Jeri Quinn. Ron is perusing disaster readiness info at Lynn’s table. Lynn is coordinator of the Point Reyes Disaster Council. (Photo by Rhonda Kutter)

Cindy Morris of Point Reyes Station and Supervisor Dennis Rodoni hold up some disaster readiness information. More is available at pointreyesdisastercouncil.org.

The free barbecue drew a large crowd of West Marin residents and lasted until 8 p.m. If you missed it, be sure to attend the one next summer.

Doreen Miao and I were neighbors for at least a couple of decades, but I never got to really know her until her life’s difficulties were compounded by a freak traffic accident on Highway 1 north of the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road on Oct. 25, 2010.

I have only just now learned that she died peacefully at home this past April 26 with her caregiver Tina, her sister Amy from Mendocino County, and her sister Vida, from New Jersey, present. Here, as a memorial, is a synopsis of a posting I wrote about her 10 years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heroically cheerful despite bizarrely bad luck, Doreen Miao, then 57, and her dog Tully after her release from the hospital in 2010.

I first met Doreen after she was the human victim when a deer bolted in front of a passing car. The car hit the deer and threw it onto Doreen as she walked her dog Tully beside the road. Doreen later said that all she remembered was walking beside Highway 1 and then being in an ambulance.

Photographer Marty Knapp, who at the time lived on nearby Tank Road, told the Highway Patrol, as well as me, he saw the oncoming car, saw the buck and heard the crash but did not see it. Marty said he was not immediately aware that Doreen was lying on the ground, but two neighbors who could see her rushed over to help.

Marty added he felt certain the car hit the deer and didn’t hit Doreen. The sound of the impact was what one would expect if a car traveling 25 mph were to hit a 200-pound buck, he explained —  far louder than if a pedestrian were grazed. Despite the blow, the blacktailed deer managed to recross the highway and disappear. The driver stopped and told officers he’d hit a deer, but he was not aware of Doreen’s involvement. His car received only minor damage, the Highway Patrol noted.

Doreen, meanwhile, was knocked down and suffered a compound fracture to one leg, a broken clavicle, and rib damage. She then spent six days in Marin General Hospital, using a walker when she left. Doreen had already been dealing with an inability to straighten her fingers — a result of rheumatoid arthritis.

A native of Shanghai, Doreen lived most of her life in the United States. At the time of the accident she walked her dog Tully to the post office and back almost every day. Her three-mile round trip was mostly over steep hills.

After the accident, Tully, a miniature Australian Shepherd, returned to the post office where townspeople recognized him. Vicki Leeds of Cabaline tack shop took Tully and Doreen’s cat Maui to the Point Reyes Animal Hospital. After a week away, Tully and Maui joyfully returned home. And despite her injuries, Doreen was heroically joyful to also be back in Tomasini Canyon.

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 past few days have been filled with unexpected events. Here are a few.

On Saturday evening, urban crime drove to Point Reyes Station. To quote West Marin Feed: “Apparently a truck was stolen in SF, pulled over in San Anselmo, then led CHP on a chase through West Marin. The front tire was blown out. [The thief] circled around Point Reyes Station a couple of times, ditched truck [near the gas station], tried to run and [was] arrested.”

Photo from a video by Marc Matheson

Update as of July 22: The Point Reyes Light has now reported the truck is owned by Cathy Schoop of Fairfax. When it was stolen, one of her employees followed it to the Red Hill Shopping Center in San Anselmo and summoned the Highway Patrol as well as Ms. Schoop. The Light reported that Ms. Schoop “just bought the 2022 Isuzu for her business, Annie’s Hot Dogs, which operates several food carts in San Francisco. A coffee cart, an ice cream cart and the day’s cash were in the back when it was stolen, she said. [All this was] worth about $40,000 in total.”

Ms Shoop told The Light, “she pleaded with officers to seize the empty truck, but because they couldn’t confirm it was stolen, they waited until the driver returned and sped away from the parking lot, headed toward West Marin. They could have gotten my truck back undamaged.” Instead of doing that, she told the newspaper, the officers asked her, “How do we know it’s really your truck?” To this she added, “They completely screwed me over with their lackadaisical attitude.”

One way the truck was damaged was in being driven around Point Reyes Station after losing its right front tire (see photo) and riding on the rim until it ran off the road. Scrapes from that episode are still evident on several streets in town.

The driver, a construction worker, Dylan Kane Wilson, 21, was charged with two vehicle-theft felonies and two misdemeanors — for evading a police officer and driving without a license. In addition, he faces outstanding warrants for a probation violation, failure to appear in court, and two drug misdemeanors, The Light reported.

A skunk that got away. Sunday morning my drive into Point Reyes Station was unpleasantly smelly. Downhill from West Marin School  I spotted the problem. Across Highway 1 from the “Maddy’s Jammin'” sign, I passed a large dead skunk lying at the edge of the pavement. The better part of the day passed before someone moved it to a roadside ditch where it continued to stink.

These days, Marin Humane Society (415 883-4621, ext. 1) picks up dead skunks for $75. Back in the 1970s, county government paid a man with a pickup truck to gather the corpses of skunks, most killed by motor vehicles.

As editor and publisher of The Point Reyes Light in those days, one of my responsibilities was to deliver bundles of papers to stores as soon as copies arrived from the printer. One day, I was dropping off a bundle at the Olema Store when the skunk gatherer parked his truck out front and went inside, leaving a number of roadkill in the pickup bed. Unfortunately, their stench immediately started drifting into the market, and the grocer had to somewhat awkwardly ask the skunk gatherer to park elsewhere.

Death of an old horse. A 33-year-old horse belonging to the Point Reyes Arabian Adventures stable along Highway 1 died of a heart attack Sunday afternoon. Thirty-three horse years are equivalent to 93 human years, and it had enjoyed a good life.

The Arabian Adventures pasture stretches to within 25 feet of Mitchell cabin, and my wife Lynn soon noticed the dead animal lying on the ground and covered with blankets.

The deceased, which was named Chainsaw, had a brother in the stable’s herd, and they frequently hung out together (note the two black horses at left). Owner Susie Rowsell later told me she had seen the two running up the hill together and Chainsaw collapse when they stopped. His sibling was obviously disturbed, she noted.                                                                                                                 

Four raccoon kits dining on handfuls of kibble outside our kitchen door. These raccoons are becoming surprisingly at home at Mitchell cabin. Not only do they show up for kibble, they often head for our birdbath, from which they drink and in which they bathe. They take naps on our deck and hide quietly behind our wine barrel planters when a friend’s dog shows up.

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.

Headline in July 1 San Francisco Chronicle. I’ve been wondering in recent years whatever happened to Life magazine. Is this a clue?

Outside our kitchen, an appropriately named “wake” of eight buzzards (aka vultures) takes a rest while on a search for corpses.

As a 35-year newsman, I’ve covered a lot of grim news, such as the trailside killer in Marin County and combat in El Salvador. Nonetheless, I’ve been unsettled by the current combination of news from around the world: the Covid pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, mass shootings (which have killed more than 300 Americans already this year), the US Supreme Court’s overturning Roe v. Wade abortion rights, the court’s also revealing plans to throw out a number of environmental protections.

For my own peace of mind, I’m turning my attention to goings on in the animal world around Mitchell cabin. Here’s a bit of what I’ve been seeing.

Two quail watching over nine of their chicks. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

A raccoon appearing to be in prayer. She’s probably praying that the chaos in the human world doesn’t also devastate the animal world.

A great blue heron hunts in our field for gophers. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

Mother raccoons have taught their kits to show up on our deck each evening in hopes of receiving handfuls of kibble. The kits are shy but curious and sometimes show up by themselves (as these four did on Sunday afternoon) hoping for food even though mom wasn’t there yet.

A raccoon mother climbs down out of a pine tree beside Mitchell cabin while her kit prepares to follow her.

It’s this sort of domesticity in nature that gives me relief from our human world.

 

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