Archive for September, 2007

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Caltrans repaved Point Reyes Station’s three-block-long main street, Highway 1, Wednesday and Thursday nights. Wednesday night the southbound lane was paved; Thursday night it was the northbound lane.

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Each night, a state highway crew ground off a three-inch-deep layer of the main street and then filled the trench with asphalt.

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Point Reyes Station resident Tony Ragona, owner of Windsong Cottages bed-and-breakfast inn, encountered the paving project Thursday evening while picking up his mail and was good enough to contribute these dramatic photos. Seen here at right is the Bank of Petaluma.
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Road crews wear highly reflective vests to make sure nighttime drivers see them.

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Preparing to lay down new pavement at the north end of the main street.

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Chief Anita Tyrrell Brown parks at Bolinas’ new firehouse. The new station, which replaces one that was not earthquake safe, had been in the works for more than eight years. It has now been in use for almost a week. Scores of people showed up Sunday for a grand-opening party for the firehouse and adjoining medical clinic.
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Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey Sunday told a grand-opening crowd that community clinics are a key to providing the United States with universal health care.

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Retired Dr. John Doss of Bolinas and (balancing on a concrete bar) photographer Art Rogers of Point Reyes Station. The new Bolinas Clinic is in the background. To the left is the south side of the new firehouse.

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Supervisor Steve Kinsey described the firehouse-clinic project as an example of cooperation between county government, which provided about $450,000, and the community of Bolinas.

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The new clinic, part of the nonprofit Coastal Health Alliance, went into service last week. Handling the front desk is Sharon Lee.

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Bolinas resident Mark Buell, who played a key role in fundraising, happily addressed Sunday’s throng. The firehouse and clinic project cost approximately $6.57 million.

Kim Bender of Bolinas, who has been directing the fundraising, reported half the money came from public sources and half from private and community sources. Public sources: Bolinas Fire Protection District parcel tax, $1.73 million; California Health Facilities Finance Administration (CHA), $750,000; County of Marin, $442,000; Fire Protection District operating funds, $237,000; other state and county grants, $108,000. Private and community sources: individuals, $1.2 million; Marin Community Foundation, $1 million; Fire Protection District bonds, $555,000; CHA mortgage, $300,000; Tides Foundation, $200,000; other foundations, $50,000.

Fundraising is still underway to repay $550,000 in loans, Bender said. Checks can be sent to Bolinas Firehouse & Clinic Project, Box 126, Bolinas, California, 94924. Contributions can also be made online at the project’s website.
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Photographer Art Rogers (on a ladder at upper right) arranges Sunday’s crowd at the Bolinas Firehouse and Clinic opening before taking a portrait for his Point Reyes Family Album. While he is best known in West Marin for that collection of photos, he achieved international recognition four years ago when he photographed 50 women lying naked on Love Field in Point Reyes Station, spelling out PEACE with their bodies. Sunday he declined a suggestion to have the crowd take off their clothes, lie down, and spell out FIRE.

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Tom Peters, president of Marin Community Foundation, congratulated Bolinas residents for working together to create the firehouse and clinic project. The foundation has donated $1 million. The new complex is on Mesa Road.

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In the lee of the new firehouse, the Fireflies (pictured), Bolinas Stinson School Singers, and Don Tshoot The Piano Player entertained the grand-opening-party crowd.

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Among those listening to Sunday’s speakers was Dr. Michael Witte, medical director of the Coastal Health Alliance, which operates the clinic in Bolinas as well as clinics in Point Reyes Station and Stinson Beach. The Bolinas Clinic previously operated out of a tiny office on Wharf Road.

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New firehouse with four fire engines in its bays. The firehouse, which will eventually be equipped for an ambulance, includes dormitory rooms, a meeting room, offices, a dayroom and kitchen, and facilities for washing firefighters’ contaminated garb.

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My houseguest’s tiny Bichon Havanese mix becomes acquainted with one of my resident raccoons. The raccoon could see the elderly dog better than the dog could see her, but neither could smell the other through the glass pane of my dining-room window, so both soon lost interest in each other.

A former neighbor, who through no fault of her own had to abruptly move out of a home on Tomasini Canyon Road, is staying at my cabin for a few weeks as she prepares to move into a new home in Santa Rosa. My houseguest, Linda Petersen, previously lived in Puerto Rico 21 years where she acquired a now-14-year-old Bichon Havanese mix, which is also staying in my cabin.

Havanese, which are related to Pekinese, were originally bred in Havana, Cuba, and this particular pup weighs less than five pounds. Sebastian is almost deaf and almost blind but still has a keen sense of smell. That’s not necessarily a good combination, for whenever the dog gets lost, it follows its nose — as long as its nose is pointing downhill.

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My houseguest Linda Petersen with Sebastian the dog at the mouth of the Russian River. Ten years ago, Linda’s daughter Saskia found Sebastian hunting for garbage in the streets of a densely packed suburb of San Juan.

Linda is a horsewoman, and a day or two after she moved in, she went for a ride in the Point Reyes National Seashore and left Sebastian in my care. No problem. The old dog sleeps most of the time. After working at my computer for a while, however, I thought it best to check up on Sebastian and discovered to my dismay that he had slipped out my kitchen door and was nowhere to be seen.

I searched around my house and a neighbor’s. No Sebastian. I then drove over to Tomasini Canyon Road to see if the dog had returned to his old home. Still no Sebastian. By now I was worried that the blind-and-deaf old dog would wander onto Highway 1 where it might be too small for a motorist to see it, so I drove up and down the highway, but still no Sebastian.

As I drove back up Campolindo Road to search my hill further, I surprised an unusually large red fox that skedaddled onto neighbor Jess Santana’s property. A short ways further up the road, I spotted another neighbor, Carol Waxman, and asked her if she had seen a small dog wandering around.

100_0904_1.jpgAs it turned out, Carol had seen Sebastian only two or three minutes earlier and took me to the place. “He ran off the road right here,” she said, pointing to the spot where I had just seen the fox disappear. That was alarming because Sebastian is far smaller than a jackrabbit and is no match for a fox.

Frantically, I crawled under nearby barbed-wire fences and through thickets of willows to look for the dog while Carol took over my search along Highway 1. The more time went by, the more I worried about the fox getting a hold of Sebastian.

And then suddenly there he was, at the edge of Jess’ driveway heading toward the home of another neighbor, George Grimm. The dog was clearly lost and seemed as happy to see me as I was to see him. As for the fox, it was probably pleased just to have me out of its thicket.

By now Sebastian has had several uneventful encounters with the wildlife on my hill although it’s not clear how much he was aware any of them.

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Two blacktail fawns watch Sebastian trot past them down my driveway too blind to see them. (Photo by Linda Petersen)

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State Senator Carol Midgen (center) on Sunday afternoon lent her support to a crowd of more than 50 people, who were protesting the Point Reyes National Seashore’s beginning to kill off its fallow and axis deer herds. The park began shooting deer last month, along with giving contraceptive injections to some does. The shooting has temporarily stopped but is scheduled to resume in the spring. Midgen told the group that shooting deer to eliminate the herds is unacceptable to members of the public in this region. She offered to cut red tape with State Fish and Game to facilitate the additional use of contraception to control herd sizes.


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Demonstrators of all ages and lifestyles took part in Sunday’s protest against the deer killing. This group picketed at Bear Valley Road and Sir Francis Drake Boulevard (the levee road). Organizer Trinka Marris of Point Reyes Station afterward said she was pleased at how many members of the public honked and waved in support. Although the public generally loves watching the deer, the present park administration is trying to eliminate them as “exotic.” They are definitely that; the all-white fallow bucks are among the most majestic creatures in the Point Reyes National Seashore. Long ago, California zoos imported fallow deer from the Near East and axis deer from India and Sri Lanka. Sixty years ago, some descendants of those deer were brought to Point Reyes for hunting. When the park opened in 1965, hunting was banned, and in 1994, the present park administration stopped culling the herds. The park now complains that, along with being exotic, the herds are getting too big.


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Bolinas resident Mardi Wood and her yellow Labrador Buddy were among the crowd of hopeful demonstrators.

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After Sunday afternoon’s demonstration in Inverness Park, I visited Drakes Beach where the tide was low, allowing long walks for the handful of people on the strand.
100_5204.jpgBrown pelicans hunt along the shore break for schools of fish.

100_5212.jpg Chimney Rock as seen from Drakes Beach.

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A windblown red-tailed hawk perches on a utility pole while hunting along the road down to Drakes Beach. Red-tailed hawks can weigh as much as 4.4 pounds and measure 26 inches long. Females are 25 percent larger than the males. The red-tailed hawk is protected by the Migratory Bird Act of 1918.

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100_5188.jpgRed-tailed hawks eat primarily small rodents but also birds and reptiles.

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The Horick Ranch overlooking Drakes Beach has not been in operation since 1999. Vivian Horick, the last member of the family to live on the ranch in recent years, died in 1998. The ranch, also known as D Ranch, is the last tenant ranch in the park. James Shafter, owner of most of Point Reyes, in the late 1800s divided it into ranches with alphabetical names. Although the ranch bears witness to how dairy ranchers lived on Point Reyes for more than a century, the buildings are getting minimal protection from the elements.

Let’s start with the wildlife and move on to language and politics.

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A female Anna’s hummingbird at my cabin. The website Hummingbirds in Motion reports, “The hummingbird (scientific family: trochilidae) does not fly in the same way other birds do. They can fly forward, backward, up, down, and even upside-down. The motion of their wings changes its angle with each flap. Unlike other birds, hummingbirds flap their wings horizontally in the shape of a figure 8. They also expand and contract their tail feathers, which allows them to hover in mid-air. However, hummingbirds flap their wings like this on an average of 50 times per second, and during courtship they can flap their wings up to 200 times a second.”

100_4979.jpgRed-winged blackbirds, with a few tri-color and Brewer’s blackbirds thrown in, forage outside my kitchen window. Stanford University researchers say the diet of the locally ubiquitous red-winged blackbird “includes few spiders; grass and forb seeds; rarely fruit. Young [are] fed 100 percent insects.” And what, you non-gardeners may ask, is “forb?” Wikipedia notes, “A forb is a flowering plant, with a non-woody stem, that is not a grass. Since it is non-woody, it is not a shrub or tree either. Thus most wild and garden flowers, herbs and vegetables are forbs.”

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Male red-winged blackbirds fight ostensibly over seeds but mainly to establish their place in the flock’s hierarchy.

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Harbor seals sunning themselves at the mouth of the Russian River in Jenner. Harbor seals spend roughly half their time on land and half in the water. They need their time on land to maintain body temperature, meaning that people should view them from a distance lest they be scared back into the water.

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A blacktail doe watching me on my deck.

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A young buck in the shade of my persimmon tree. Blacktails love both the tree’s fruit and its leaves.

Turning now to language… As we were chatting last week, Inverness Park resident Linda Sturdivant was toying with her blonde locks when suddenly she said, “I don’t like the way my hair looks. I’m going to go home and dye it.”

“You don’t need to diet,” I assured her.

“I always dye it,” she responded.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because it makes my hair look better.”

“Why would your hair look better if you diet?”

To an eavesdropper, we would have sounded like George Burns and Gracie Allen, with me playing the role of Gracie.

As it happens, former Point Reyes Station resident Sheila Castelli sent me a similar story last week from her new home in Taos: “The County Ag Fair was this past weekend at the ‘One Eye Gonzales Building,’ as announced on the radio. I thought this a quite funny name for such a substantial building. But I happened to see a banner in town for the fair, and it actually is the Juan I. Gonzales Building.”

Obviously words mean different things to different people. Nina Howard of Inverness and I were discussing the meaning of the word “politics” a few months back. “Can union organizing be considered politics?” I asked. “Or are politics limited to government?”

“If they’re not, they should be,” replied Nina flatly. End of discussion.

Unfortunately, political rhetoric in this God-forsaken country no longer bears much resemblance to rational thought. Take, for example, the campaigning of Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson, formerly a lackluster senator from Tennessee. In courting the conservative vote, Senator Thompson has claimed “the Virginia Tech massacre proved that students should be allowed to carry guns on campus,” to quote the Sept. 1-7 Economist.

If Senator Thompson were right, highschoolers should also be packing heat to defend themselves. Year after year, they’re far more likely than college students to be gunned down in the vicinity of their schools.

To keep order in a well-armed classroom, teachers would, of course, have to be able to outgun their students, but that would merely require state-of-the-art weaponry plus a mastery of marksmanship and fast draw.

Senator Thompson may argue that because college students are older, they would be more responsible with their guns than high school students, but don’t believe it. Around the time I was a student at Stanford, members of an on-campus fraternity got drunk one night and shot out windows in a women’s dormitory across the street. That couldn’t happen at a high school because the students wouldn’t be old enough to drink.

As Winston Churchill aptly observed in 1920: “Politics are almost as exciting as war — and quite as dangerous.”

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Another snake in the grass… Friday morning, I spotted this small gopher snake warming itself in the sun near the top of my driveway. Gopher snakes can grow to nine feet long and often live to be teenagers. In captivity, they sometimes live into their 20s. The snake has a large shield on its nose for burrowing in search of small mammals.