General News


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Billy Hobbs last spring impressed me with this self-portrait that showed his face collapsing in a landslide.

Billy Hobbs first showed up in SparselySageAndTimely.com (click here to read) at the end of May when he wrote a letter to Marin County Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, suggesting ways county government could help its homeless population. Billy, who will turn 62 at the end of this month, grew up in Lucas Valley. He has been homeless for five years following the breakup of his 25-year marriage.

For a year, he has spent his days sitting on a bench near the Point Reyes Station postoffice, drawing in sketchbooks. For awhile, he slept in the postoffice lobby but hasn’t in recent months, instead lying down at night outdoors under an overhang.

When the weather is good, I usually have my morning mocha at Toby’s Coffee Bar, sitting at a picnic table not far from the postoffice, and that juxtaposition led to Billy’s and my getting to know each other.

Billy last May drawing pictures inspired by Native American, Buddhist, and Greek history while sitting next to the Point Reyes Station postoffice.

He may have looked scruffy, but I came to realize that despite his dirty hands and clothes, Billy was worth talking to. Previously, he had lived and worked (primarily as a carpenter) in Montana, Mexico, Novato, Tiburon, Ross, San Anselmo, Fairfax, San Rafael, and San Francisco, which gave him insights into a variety of cultures. Nonetheless, because of his appearance, aggressive men occasionally demanded he leave town, but of course he never did.

Then came the last couple of weeks of cold winds and rain, which made Lynn and me worry about his sleeping outdoors, so we invited him up to Mitchell cabin.

The new Billy.

Staying here not only let Billy sleep warm and dry, it gave him a chance to resume taking regular showers and getting his clothes cleaned. Then Danny at the Point Reyes Barber Shop cut Billy’s hair and trimmed his beard. Voila, suddenly there was a new gentleman in town, and more than one person complimented him on his appearance.

For Lynn and me, watching it all happen has been heartwarming, but it’s also been another demonstration of how appearance alone can determine how people fare in society.

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.

PG&E vs. LSD. Overheard outside the Point Reyes Station post office during the blackout a week ago, one Sonoma County evacuee grimly commenting to another: “Reality is like acid! It’s intense!”

At Mitchell cabin, thankfully, the absurdity was far more gentle. In time, we got used to leaving a candle burning in the bathroom all evening. (For safety, we placed it in a corner of the acrylic shower stall.) We briefly stopped using the woodstove because of a red-flag alert and couldn’t use our large, electric space heater. I therefore had to turn our propane furnace on for the first time in 15 years.

All that, just because of earlier wildfires elsewhere, which the President says are all state government’s fault.

President Trump expressed his contempt for California Gov. Gavin Newsom in a tweet, “Get your act together, Governor.” The President claims that California’s failure to “rake” its forests has been causing its wildfires, and now says he’s going to withhold emergency wildfire aid from the state.

The President holds Russian President Vladimir Putin in higher regard, calling him “smart,” and saying that Putin “has done an amazing job.” So four months ago he offered Russia aid in its battle against wildfires in Siberia. Putin hasn’t yet decided whether the aid is needed. No wonder House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last month observed, “All roads seem to lead to Putin with the President.

Lynn with our cornucopia. The decoration is a harvest-season tradition in Mitchell cabin. Having worked for several days on the Point Reyes Disaster Council’s response to the blackout, she’s now hoping to get some rest and forget about the disaster in Washington.

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.

Gallery Route One’s popular Box Show closed today with a silent auction, drinks, and hors d’oeuvres. A throng of art lovers and curious tourists filled the gallery within an hour after today’s show opened.

A box titled “XXI Century” by Ted Stoeckley, like several boxes in the show, amounted to artistic social-commentary.

“Thinking Outside the Box” by Rich Bolececk and Margaret Boehm.

A visitor studies “Celebrating Their Legacy,” a box by Bruce Burtch.

“Off We Go” by Dennis Ludlow and Prartho Sereno.

“The Bear Valley” by Bernie Schimbke.

“Where Are the Children?” by Suzanne Radcliffe.

More social commentary, “Immigration Policy” by Kieu Lam.

“Sticks and Stones” by Earl Speas.

The annual box show is both an exhibit and a fundraiser for Gallery Route One, and today’s show appeared successful on both fronts. Past Box Shows are archived on GRO’s website.

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.

A trio of East Bay bluegrass musicians known as Fog Holler on Saturday afternoon serenaded an enthusiastic crowd sitting on the lawn next to the Inverness Firehouse.

Inverness has been holding community fairs off and on since 1946 — sometimes pausing for years. The fairs, for example, stopped from 1950 to 1953.

In the June issue of Under the Gables, which is published by the Jack Mason Museum of West Marin History in Inverness, Meg Linden writes that “in 1953 there was a community fair sponsored by the Inverness Improvement Association and many other community groups, including the Inverness Garden Club, the Volunteer Fire Department, the PTA, the Inverness Recreation Council, and St Columba’s.

“In addition to normal fair activities, games, food, items for sale, it included a demonstration of military hardware by the Sixth Army Anti-Aircraft Unit from Fort Barry [Sausalito].” After that, there were no more Inverness Fairs until 1965 when an elaborate celebration was held at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church. 

Bill Barrett, a director of the fair’s sponsor, the Inverness Association, told the crowd a bit of the Inverness Fair’s history. 

People and dogs paced around a circle during two cake walks. When the music stopped, so did the walkers. The number under people’s feet when they stopped determined who the winners were, with the winners receiving cakes.

Martha Martinez, assistant program manager at West Marin Community Serves, serves a tostada in a booth beside the firehouse.

Kids encountering kids. Youngsters were fascinated by two young goats being tended by Kegan Stedwell. Inverness Fire Capt. John Roche brought the kids (at right) with him to the fair.

A used-book sale outside the Inverness Library raised funds for the library.

Inverness Garden Club as always sold a variety of plants during the fair.

Numerous nonprofits and local craftspeople lined Inverness Way with booths selling everything from oysters to jewelry to handwovens.

It was a day to put aside our cares. At the Outside Lands Festival, which was being celebrated at the same time in Golden Gate Park, “no fewer than 23 metal detectors awaited customers at the main gate,” The San Francisco Chronicle reported. “Beefy guards checked pockets, purses and packs.” The paper quoted San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott as saying, “We are addressing the current incidents that have occurred in the state, country, and world.”

In Inverness, however, the world on a sunny Saturday seemed far away. There were no metal detectors or searches for guns. Nor did I see a single cop. In fact, several people expressed relief at being able to escape — at least for a day — the chaos of national affairs.

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The number of homeless people living in West Marin is rising while it’s declining in Marin County overall. In a meeting at West Marin School hosted by Supervisor Dennis Rodoni and the Point Reyes Village Association, county representatives last Wednesday reported on what’s occurring here and what county government plans to do about it.

Speaking for the county, along with Supervisor Rodoni, were representatives from county Health and Human Services and West Marin Community Services, and they presented three graphs of the situation.

There’s been a 275-person reduction in homelessness countywide in the past four years.

In contrast, the homeless population of West Marin increased by 79 people during the same period. Of course, not all the homeless are living outdoors. Many are living in their vehicles.

The increase, moreover, is probably under-reported. Taking a count of all the homeless people here and there around West Marin is incredibly complex, and the county is about to devote more time to doing it.

County staff and members of the public who spoke Wednesday stressed that too often people assume drug use, or alcohol, or mental-health problems, or laziness, or personal choice accounts for almost all homelessness. That, however, turns out to be far from true. “The primary causes of homelessness are things that most people will experience in their lives without losing housing,” Health and Human Services reported. More than half of the people without permanent shelter became homeless when their households broke up or because of physical-health problems.

Billy Hobbs, who is homeless in Point Reyes Station, lost his housing when his 25-year marriage ended. He now spends most days sketching outside the post office and spends nights sleeping inside it. He showed up for Wednesday’s well-attended meeting but did not address the crowd.

One young man living out of his van told Wednesday’s meeting that he, like numerous other homeless residents of West Marin, does various kinds of work. The problem is earning enough to afford housing, he said.

Here on the coast at least, homelessness definitely isn’t a ploy for getting public assistance. In fact, the county noted, “many people who experience homelessness in West Marin are less inclined [than the homeless in East Marin] to accept services.” County government says it is now going to give particular attention to getting past that resistance and helping the homeless navigate the hurdles to receiving medical care and housing.

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.

This week’s posting is a gallery of wonderful cartoons from old New Yorker magazines, accompanied by relatively old (1980) Readers Digest jokes.

1930

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“The people upstairs are very annoying,” complained the tenant. Last night they stomped and banged on the floor until midnight.” His landlord then asked, “Did they wake you?” Shaking his head, the tenant replied, “No. Luckily I was up playing the tuba.”

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“Kind of makes one proud to be an American, doesn’t it?”

Making America great back in 1932.

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1932

 Before the ICE Capades got started, the Statue of Liberty welcomed refugees with: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” However, as the cartoon points out, not all Americans in 1932 were welcoming when certain desperate people wanted to come here.

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“I slept there once,” 1967

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July 4 was a unique holiday. Where else but in America can you find people who are paying off a revolving charge account, a home-improvement loan, a 48-month car loan, and a 30-year mortgage — and still celebrating their freedom?

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“Curiosity,” 1991

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A philosopher went into a restaurant and ordered a chicken-salad sandwich and an egg-salad sandwich — to find out which one came first.

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“Mind if I put on the game?” 1986

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A golfer sliced the ball from the tee over the hill into a valley. Hearing a yell, he dashed to the top of the hill to see a man lying unconscious below. When the golfer ran down to the man, the stricken fellow opened one eye and said calmly, “I’m a lawyer and I’m going to sue you for five thousand dollars.” The golfer replied, “I’m so sorry, but I did yell “fore.'” To which the lawyer responded, “I’ll take it.”

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“During the next stage of my development, Dad, I’ll be drawing closer to my mother — I’ll get back to you in my teens.” 1991

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A Little League coach told his young charges after a game, “Don’t take it too hard, fellas. Losing is no disgrace. The important thing is that you played hard and you played clean. You showed a lot of spirit, and your parents can be proud of their sons — just like the parents of the other team can be proud of their daughters.” At this one boy murmured to another, “I knew he was going to rub it in.”

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“Now, you wait right her while I go and ask my wife for a divorce.” 1985

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When the Browns had a son, they decided they didn’t want a common name for the boy and so named him “Fantastic.” While growing up, their son hated the name, and as an old man on his deathbed, he asked his wife to leave “Fantastic” off the tombstone and just put “Brown.” His wife complied with his request but felt that Brown by itself was too plain, so she added, “During his marriage, he never looked at another woman.” Now, everyone who passes the tombstone murmurs, “Fantastic.”

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I’ll sign off with three New Yorker cartoons parodying some of the various ways that men and women may see things. As should be evident, the magazine’s humor today remains part of that whimsical tradition, which is one reason I subscribe.

1951

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1976

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1952

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Washington High’s mural showing George Washington beside a dead American Indian.

In an April posting about Inverness artist Igor Sazevich’s new memoir, Time in My Coffee,  I noted that 83 years ago Igor’s father, Zygmund, helped artist Victor Arnautoff create the mural at Washington High that San Francisco school leaders have decided to cover over or obliterate. The mural shows George Washington standing over a dead American Indian and includes Washington’s black slaves.

School leaders believe showing the cruelty is offensive to native Americans and blacks. I criticized the proposed removal and quoted a San Francisco Chronicle editorial: “The paintings should stay for several important reasons. They’re hardly a one-sided glorification of the past. Instead they underline the harsh treatment of Indians and slaves. To miss this shot at the Founding Fathers era is to miss the subversive message by muralist Victor Arnautoff, a noted Depression-era leftist.”

Unfortunately, for thousands of years there always have been people ready to destroy the art of past eras on grounds the subject matter isn’t proper for their own era.

The Great Sphinx at Gaza, Egypt, was carved around 2,500 B.C. and survived mostly intact until 1378 A.D. when a Sufi Muslim named Muhammad Sa’im al-Dahr destroyed the nose.

By some accounts, Egyptian peasants had been making offerings to the Great Sphinx in hopes of controlling the flood cycle in order to have a successful harvest. Outraged by this blatant show of devotion to a god other than Allah, Sa’im al-Dahr destroyed the nose and was later executed for vandalism.

In the 6th century BC, ancient Greeks erected numerous phallic statues around a temple to the god Dionysus on the island of Delos. The statues survived intact for almost eight centuries until Victorian era explorers found the marble erections and broke them off as indecent.

Another crushing blow to cultural history occurred in March 2001 in Afghanistan. Two giant statues known as the Buddhas of Bamiyan were destroyed by the Taliban, on grounds they were “anti-Islamic.”

The two Buddhas, which were dynamited, dated back to 544 A.D. and stood 180 feet and 120 feet tall in a religious site. They were carved directly into a cliff and were the largest Buddhist statues in the world.

If Washington High’s murals are painted over, perhaps they can be replaced with a picture of a Buddha blowing up. This would demonstrate that San Francisco Unified School District’s censorship is in line with international practices.

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.

Junior grand marshal. Heidi Gonzalez, a junior at Tomales High, was named junior grand marshal of Sunday’s Western Weekend parade. She earned the title in competition with two other young women by selling the most raffle tickets; half the proceeds were allocated to nonprofits and the other half to furthering their education.

The bagpipers in Sunday’s parade carried placards that read: “What’s on Our Streets Flows into Our Creeks” and “Please Pick It Up — Every Little Bit Helps.”

 

Dancing down the parade route was a group from Esforço Carnival, San Francisco.

Also dancing in the street were Aztec dancers, a highlight of every parade.

At the head of the parade was a procession of fire engines, as is also traditional.

The parade entry of KWMR FM won first place in the adult-float category of the parade. Four baby goats owned by truck owner John Roche Services, which uses goats to trim grass, were in the cage at right. In the center clapping is my wife, Lynn, a member of the community-owned radio station’s board of directors.

Coco McMorrow, 14, of Inverness was one of two deputy junior grand marshals of the parade.

Deputy junior grand marshal Hana Cassel.

The weekend was so packed with public events that I’ll spend a moment now showing snapshots of the main ones.

Point Reyes-Olema 4-H Club members get training Saturday for the rabbit-show competition in Toby’s Feed Barn where most of the festivities were centered. Back in the 1970s and 80s when there was more ranching in West Marin, horses and livestock were a major part of the “4-H Junior Livestock Show,” as the celebration was then called. No more.

Inside the Feed Barn’s gallery was a display of children’s arts and crafts. The caption on this display explains, “DeeLynn Armstrong’s 1st grade class at Inverness School, alongside Esther Underwood’s 5th grade class at West Marin School, created a rainbow mosaic using recycled plastic bottle caps.”

“Melissa Reilly’s kindergarten class at Inverness School studied animal habitat and made snakes from felted wool. The process starts with raw, unspun wool which is wetted with soapy water,” explained the caption. “The snakes are shaped by hand and once dry, the wood fibers contract and become felted. This project was facilitated by Jillian Moffett.”

A Saturday evening barn dance was held in — appropriately enough — Toby’s Feed Barn. With a band and a caller setting the pace, children and adults took part in a variety of line dances.

Angelo Sacheli (center) describes the low-cost-housing accomplishments by Mark Switzer (left) in naming him grand marshal of Sunday’s parade. Avito Miranda prepares to translate the remarks into Spanish.

Competitors in the junior grand marshal ticket-selling competition were (from left): Coco McMorrow, Heidi Gonzalez, and Hana Cassel. Miss Gonzalez ended up junior grand marshal while Ms. McMorrow and Ms. Cassel were named deputy junior grand marshals. Last year’s junior grand marshal, Mollie Donaldson (in back), hung the sashes on the three.

Ms. Gonzalez’s junior grand marshal recognition came with both flowers and a trophy.

After the awards ceremony, the dancing resumed.

Waiting for Sunday’s parade proved tiring for at least one youngster.

Mainstreet Moms, political activists who meet weekly at St. Columba’s Church in Inverness, carried placards urging people to vote.

Straus Dairy’s entry is always a hit because it gives out free cartons of ice cream. Dairyman Albert Straus is at left.

Petaluma dairy princess Amanda King and first alternate Camilla Taylor.

Bill Barrett leads the parade entry of the Coastal Marin Fund, which benefits local nonprofit organizations by selling artistic brass coins to use for local purchases and for tourists to take home.

West Marin Community Services, which runs the food bank and the thrift store in Point Reyes Station while also providing many other forms of assistance to low-income people.

Vern Abrams, who has been living in his car in Point Reyes Station, used a musical parade entry to remind parade goers of the needs of West Marin’s homeless residents.

The Inverness Garden Club, which maintains several public flowerbeds in Inverness and Point Reyes Station, handed out flowers as it proceeded down the street.

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.

If you like wildlife, state government wants you to kill some of it.

California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced it will try “to recruit new hunters and anglers throughout the state” because hunters provide 60 percent of the funding for fish and wildlife conservation through license fees and taxes on guns and ammunition, The San Francisco Chronicle reported three months ago. 

That funding has been steadily declining. “Only about 5 percent of Americans 16 and older hunt — a 50-percent decline in just five decades,” The Chronicle explained. “The decline is attributable to urbanization, the rise of media entertainment, restricted access to hunting territory, and a lack of free time. Additionally, hunting declines as the population ages, and as the Baby Boomers grow ever older, the number of hunters will continue to plummet.”

Hunting doesn’t appeal to me. As I see it, the state’s encouraging hunting — accompanied by purchases of guns and ammunition — in order to bolster license fees and taxes makes as much sense as it would to encourage double parking in order to collect more in parking fines.

Solar panels.

The curse of solar panels. Solar panels are becoming popular in Afghanistan, The Economist reported last week, but they’re not being used primarily for homes. They’re mostly used for growing opium to make heroin, which “helps fund the Taliban, as well as pro-government warlords who are scarcely better.” The panels provide the electricity for opium farmers to pump water from deep wells, and that’s lowering the water table, the magazine noted. “Shallow wells have gone completely dry.”

Judaism’s Star of David

Still another, but happier, surprise. In a review of the book Sacred Liberty: America’s Long, Bloody and Ongoing Struggle for Religious Freedom, the same Economist also reported that in contrast to historic anti-Semitism, “Jews are now the country’s best-liked religious group — but the warm attitudes transcend philo-Semitism.” What’s happened? “By 2010 around half of all Americans had a spouse of a different religious tradition. Neighborhoods, workplaces, and friendships have become more religiously diverse.” It’s clearly counterproductive to be prejudiced against one’s friends and associates.

The Victorian-era poet Robert Browning (1812-1889).

One of the English poet Robert Browning’s most memorable lines is: “God is in His heaven, all’s right with the world,” which is from the poem Pippa Passes. “But,” as the linguist/journalist Bill Bryson points out in his book The Mother Tongue, “it also contains this disconcerting passage: ‘Then owls and bats/ Cowls and twats,/ Monks and nuns in a cloister’s moods,/ Adjourn to the oak-stump pantry.’

“Browning had apparently somewhere come across the word twat — which meant precisely the same then as it does now but pronounced with a flat a — and somehow took it to mean a piece of headgear for nuns. The verse became a source of twittering amusement for generations of schoolboys and a perennial embarrassment to their elders, but the word was never altered, and Browning was allowed to live out his life in wholesome ignorance because no one could think of a suitably delicate way of explaining his mistake to him.”

The rainbow flag of the LGBT movement.

Another racy surprise. Researchers had concluded that gay men tend to have more older brothers than straight men. Harper’s magazine, however, last October reported further research has found that “holds true only for those who are prone to be the receiving partner during anal sex.” Make of that what you will. I won’t hazard a guess.

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.

Hail hitting the deck at Mitchell cabin on Feb. 15. Nor was that the end of it. As recently as Saturday morning, spots on Inverness Ridge were hailed. As it turned out, the hail three weeks ago gave a strong hint that West Marin was heading into a spell of heavy weather.

Spring weather, so to speak. By Feb. 26, so much rain had fallen that an artesian spring bubbled up from a gopher hole near Mitchell cabin.

The rain created a much grimmer scene downtown that day. All the roads in and out of Point Reyes Station and other West Marin towns were flooded, mudslides caused structural damage, trees came down on houses, roads, cars, and utility lines, resulting in a series of blackouts.

And it was at least as bad elsewhere in Marin County that week. Three homes in Sausalito were destroyed by a mudslide. Multiple homes in the hills above San Anselmo were isolated by downed trees and mud. Highway 37 east of Novato was completely flooded for days.

Papermill Creek as seen from the Green Bridge on Feb. 26. Homes and businesses on the eastern end of the levee road in Point Reyes Station were flooded when the creek rose. One person was evacuated by canoe.

A doe takes shelter from the rain under a coyote bush in our field.

Even though larger wildlife are generally stuck outdoors when it rains, most animals handle bad weather amazingly well although I suspect that some of them don’t fully understand what’s going on. I was watching a nearby fawn today when light rain began falling. From the fawn’s reaction, it appeared that she at first mistook the droplets hitting her head for flies and tried to shake them off and brush them away with a hoof.

A bobcat goes on a gopher hunt in wet grass during a pause in the rain a week ago. The fields around our cabin are filled with gopher holes, making them a good hunting ground, for we’re seeing the bobcat almost every day now.

After the rains had subsided, I spotted 25 doves in a tree uphill from our cabin, and it almost seemed Biblical.

“Noah sent forth a dove from him to see if the waters were abated off the face of the ground. But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him in the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth.” A week later Noah sent the bird out again “and the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew the waters were abated from off the earth.” Nonetheless, Noah remained in the ark for another week and again “sent forth the dove which returned not again to him any more.” — Genesis 8

In the aftermath of the floods, a lot of repair work is needed around Marin County. People who lost homes or cars are suffering. And I keep trying to stop small-scale erosion in my driveway.

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