Archive for January, 2014

Anne R. Dick, 87, of Point Reyes Station is extraordinary in many ways. Already this year she has published one book of poetry, Friends & Family/Point Reyes Poems.

And that’s after publishing three first-rate volumes of poetry last year: Iliad Poems, Penelope of the Mind, and Space and Love.

The octogenarian author, meanwhile, is quick to credit her editor, Barbara Brauer of San Geronimo, with helping her “focus, clarify, and organize the poems.”

Currently in progress are two novels, the working title of one being Anne and the Twentieth Century or Gullible’s Travels, an Autobiography.

In addition, Anne has written two well-received books of nonfiction, Search for Philip K. Dick: 1928-1982 (published in 2009) and The Letters of My Grandfather Moses Perry Johnson: Written 1910-1928 (published in 2012).

Anne’s grandfather, she notes on the book cover, was “a successful St. Louis businessman [who in 1910] left his family behind to make a new life with a red-headed ‘Gibson Girl’ chanteuse in the Far West.” Johnson worked in a Washington lumber camp, was a paymaster of the Panama Pacific Exposition, and for awhile lived “in the far reaches of Yosemite.”

Anne and Philip K. Dick in Point Reyes Station in 1958. They married the following year.

Far better known, of course, is the subject of her other nonfiction book, science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. Anne, who was the third of his five wives, was married to him from 1959 to 1968.

Philip’s books received widespread recognition and won more than a dozen national and international literary awards for science fiction. Time magazine in 2005 ranked Philip’s novel Ubik one of the hundred greatest since 1923.

Hollywood turned 10 of his novels into movies, but paid him pittances. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? became Blade Runner starring Harrison Ford. The film grossed $28 million, but Philip (right) received a mere $1,250, the online magazine Wired reported awhile back.

In Search for Philip K. Dick, Anne writes that he told a neighbor his inability to contribute financially to their marriage ultimately caused him to resent her.

Philip was “a charming man and quite shy,” Anne told me Saturday. “He would listen too… He really was very brilliant.” However, Philip also experienced episodes of “paranoia,” she said. And he could be manipulative and controlling, she writes in her biography of him.

In An Odd Conversation with God from Penelope of the Mind, Anne remembers Philip as “that terrible, beloved, wonderful man whom I hated passionately and was mourning for every night in my bed (my empty bed).”

In 1974, six years after their divorce, Philip received sodium pentothal during a tooth extraction and subsequently was given Darvon.

Afterward he experienced weeks of hallucinations. The experience appears to have informed some of his later science fiction writing.

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________Anne

Anne acknowledges there are autobiographical echoes in many of her poems, and Families from Penelope of the Mind hints at what life was like with Philip:

Safety-danger, love-hate, loyalty-treachery

chains of commitment and rejection

power, power, power

Slavery

the bondage of guilt

MONEY, not enough, too much

envy

greed

conflict

I only love you if you’re useful to me

if you don’t disturb me too much

if you become the person I want you to be

Earning a living was less of a frustration for Anne. While she and Philip were married, she started a successful jewelry-making business, appropriately named Anne R. Dick Jewelry. She ran the business in Point Reyes Station for 47 years before selling it in 2007. By then, however, she was also an innkeeper operating Seven Grey Foxes B&B at her home on Mesa Road.

While her writing is sometimes personal, Anne doesn’t hesitate to laugh at herself. Here’s a short poem from Penelope of the Mind. It’s titled Ageism or I Thought I Looked Great That Day:

I dress young, look good

blonde hair, good features, good skin

a trace of lipstick

a little eye shadow, mascara

 

I was walking down Cypress Road

when a man in a big shiny car

slowed down and drove alongside me

with a wink and a smirk

he crooked his index finger

can I give you a ride?


I walked over to his car window

to say no thanks, I prefer to walk

he blanched when I got close

and said, I’m sorry madam

and sped away

My personal favorite among Anne’s new books is Iliad Poems, perhaps because I’ve been fascinated by Greek and Roman mythology ever since I was a boy.

In Anne’s case, she was still young when her father died and she moved with her mother to St. Louis where other family members lived.

“I was sort of a latch-key little girl,” she told me. And much of her time alone was spent reading Bullfinch’s Mythology and similar works, a practice she continued as she grew older.

Anne’s knowledge of Greek, Roman, and even Norse mythology is impressive, and by drawing on it, she is able to describe the universal nature of her own experiences while remaining succinct.

You can see a bit of this in her poem My Personal Chaos.

A reminder before we begin: the original Iliad by Homer (who lived around 800 BC) is, of course, a long poem telling the story of the Trojan War. Back then, the Greeks thought of Eros as the god of love and of Dionysus as both the god of wine and of ecstasy, including frenzied rituals.

To Escape the strong forces of Fate

I crammed my being

into a small corner of my psyche

 

One day something burst

and let me out

 

Everything changed—

The earth all around laughed

the mountain and its wild creatures joined in

“ha ha ha!”

 

My brain squirmed and squealed

twisted and turned

The childhood wound

I had brooded about so long

turned out to be a mirage

 

Now I gyrate in the whirlwinds of Eros

dance to the dissonances of Dionysus

While we talked Saturday, I noted that dancing comes up several times in her poetry and asked if she likes to dance. In 1947, Anne replied, she was a student at Washington University when she paid a brief visit to the University of Wisconsin, observed modern dance, and was captivated by it. She briefly considered becoming a professional dancer, but “it didn’t seem practical.”

Instead she took up horseback riding which, she remarked, is similar to dancing: “It uses the total body.” As a result of her fondness for horses, she coached horse-vaulting (gymnastics on horseback) for 10 years in Point Reyes Station.

Looking in on Anne Dick reading in the social area of her B&B.

Anne, who has written two science fiction novels herself, posited that in her riding she “was actually communicating with an alien” — and then laughingly added — “if you consider a horse an alien.”

Those wishing to order copies of Anne Dick’s books can contact the publisher, Point Reyes Cypress Press, at Box 459, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956. Or <www.pointreyescypresspress.com>.

Before Kent Reservoir was created in 1953-54, Lagunitas Creek was broad “like the Russian River” as it flowed past his present home, Tocaloma resident Pat Martin, 67, told me this week.

“It was all natural flow,” he said. During the 1940s and early 1950s, runs of coho salmon passing through Tocaloma were “incredible,” Martin remarked. No one disputes this. “Thousands” of coho salmon used to migrate up the creek annually, naturalists have likewise reported. In the years since then, however, the number of local coho dropped so precipitously the species is now listed as endangered.

A coho salmon swims upstream through shallow water on its way to spawn. (Bay Nature photo)

The fry of coho salmon are born in freshwater creeks. After a year or two, the salmon in their smolt stage swim downstream to the ocean where as adults they live for one to three years. Then guided by the smell of water from the creeks where they were born, the adult salmon head back upstream to their birthplaces to spawn and die.

Pat Martin  lives on Platform Bridge Road at a ranch that once belonged to his late stepfather, Louis Zanardi. Although some people blame the development of homes and dairy ranches in West Marin for at one time putting coho salmon on the verge of extinction, Martin says baloney. From what he has seen, the damage was almost entirely the result of building Peters Dam and then Seeger Dam.

In 1953-54, Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) created Kent Reservoir by erecting Peters Dam on Lagunitas Creek. The district didn’t release water from the reservoir in the summer, Martin said, and once that began, “I could step across the creek.”

Unable to get up Lagunitas Creek to spawn until heavy rains each year, fish would get stuck in pools around Point Reyes Station’s Coast Guard housing complex. There many of them would fall prey to seals, as well as river otters and lamprey eels, Martin added, and “kids in town would snag them.”

Years ago the late game warden Al Giddings of Woodacre likewise told me about the snagging, which involves dragging a fishing line with no bait on the hook against fish in shallow water. It’s illegal in California.

In addition, without enough water in Lagunitas Creek to migrate up it for months at a time, the salmon — which by then had been living in saltwater for a year or more — sometimes developed “fin rot” from remaining too long in freshwater pools, Martin remembered.

Platform Bridge is just downstream from Nicasio Reservoir’s Seeger Dam, and earlier this month, an artist painted pictures of migrating salmon on the bridge railing. Seeger Dam, which MMWD built 53 years ago, has eliminated salmon runs in Nicasio Creek, a tributary of Lagunitas Creek.

As part of building Peters Dam, logs were left in creek channels. In addition, the Park Service planted willows along the banks of Lagunitas Creek downstream from Jewell. All this has provided shade for fry but can also create pools that lock in fish, making them easy prey for raccoons, Martin said.

For months each year following the construction of Peters Dam 60 years ago, there wasn’t enough water in the creek to sustain much wildlife other than crawfish and bullhead catfish, he said. Brine shrimp, which had been a major part of the frys’ diet, largely disappeared, and mayfly larvae became a primary source of food.

Lagunitas Creek. Its main tributaries include Larsen Creek, Devils Gulch Creek, San Geronimo Creek, and — downstream from Tocaloma — Nicasio Creek. (Marin Municipal Water District photo)

But all is not lost. For the past five years, coho salmon had been making a comeback in Lagunitas Creek. Even some chinook salmon have been showing up. River otters have followed the fish as far upstream as Tocaloma. “There never was an otter in this [stretch of] creek when I was growing up,” Martin noted.

What’s making the difference? To get a permit for raising the height of Peters Dam in 1982, MMWD was temporarily ordered to release enough water from it year round to meet the needs of fish in Lagunitas Creek. That order became permanent in 1995.

Before 1982, there were fears that Lagunitas Creek was on the verge of losing all its coho. However, as MMWD’s fishery program manager Greg Andrew reported in June, last winter the coho spawning run “approached our long-term average of about 500 adults.”

A century ago, tourists from San Francisco often took the narrow-gauge train from Sausalito to Tocaloma to fish where salmon were abundant. Here a fisherman casts his line into Lagunitas Creek just downhill from the majestic Bertrand House hotel. (Copied from historic photo in the Olema Farmhouse restaurant.)

By 1889, Tocaloma “had one of the finest hotels in Marin County, the Bertrand House,” the late historian Jack Mason wrote in Point Reyes the Solemn Land. “When fire razed this establishment in 1917, it was replaced by Caesar Ronchi’s tavern.”

Mason added that “Caesar was a portly Italian tenor whose connection with the world of grand opera was as nebulous as his reputed alliance with San Francisco’s prohibition gangland.”

The late Don McIsaac, who lived across the creek from the tavern, once told me Caesar, who had somehow gotten in trouble with other bootleggers, had to leave San Francisco for his own safety. McIsaac recalled hearing Caesar’s operatic voice periodically reverberating through the canyon.

With salmon numbers improving now that MMWD is releasing enough water into Lagunitas Creek, everything had been looking good, Martin remarked. And along with the increased flows from Peters Dam, some small dams at the Inkwells and upstream have been removed.

And then came this year’s drought. At the moment, Marin County is on its way to experiencing its driest year on record, and this is taking a toll on coho in Lagunitas Creek.

Adult salmon swimming up Lagunitas Creek often use the little “side creeks” along the way for spawning grounds, and at the moment, many of these side creeks are dry. Female salmon create hollows in the gravel creekbed called redds, which is where spawning occurs and eggs are buried. Counts of redds in Lagunitas Creek and its tributaries this year have found far fewer than had been found for several years.

Some naturalists are again worrying the salmon may still be in an “extinction vortex,” to use their obscure jargon.

Martin is more straightforward. The coho salmon population, he said with a frown, is “still not stable.”

The Dance Palace started off its new year of shows Saturday evening with a dazzling musical/theatrical performance by Legends of the Celtic Harp, comprised of musicians Patrick Ball, Lisa Lynne, and Aryeh Frankfurter.

Publicity photo of the trio distributed by the Dance Palace.

Advance publicity quoted an unnamed reviewer of one of the group’s performances as writing: “Legends of the Celtic Harp is a blend of music and oratory falling somewhere between concert and theater. It spanned nearly the range of human feeling, from humor to tragedy, tenderness to rage, reality to mysticism, and more besides.”

From that description, I didn’t know just what to expect, but I went anyhow, and I’m sure glad I did.

Patrick Ball, who’s performed in West Marin previously, is both a master of the Celtic Harp and an engaging storyteller.

Although they have been called among the best in the world, Ball modestly said the name Legends of the Celtic Harp does not apply to the group itself but to the material in their performances. Indeed, Ball — usually accompanied by music — retold fascinating stories from Irish legend about harps and “harpers.”

Speaking with a wonderful Irish brogue (learned while spending time in Ireland), the harpist recited Irish poems and even a prayer. Ball, who holds a master’s degree in History from Dominican College, not only told tales of ancient harpers, he occasionally threw in a traditional Irish dig or two at the English. (England colonized Ireland in the 12th century, resulting in eight centuries of rebellion against the British throne.)

Lisa Lynne publicity photo.

Harpist Lynne, who played other stringed instruments as well, told a miraculous story of how her life had been changed by playing the harp. She started out as a bass player in a Heavy Metal band, she said, and later moved on to a biker band. While still in these bands, she began introducing harp music into their sets and found that audiences loved it.

In 1999, the nation was stunned by the Columbine (Colorado) High School massacre, in which two boys shot to death 12 students and a teacher, as well as injuring 24 others, before committing suicide. Not long after this, the family of one of the injured students, a girl who had become paralyzed below the waist, contacted Lynne. It turned out the one thing bringing the injured girl any comfort was a recording of Lynne’s harp music.

Lynne then traveled to Columbine, played for the girl’s family, and helped get a harp for the girl. It was the first thing the girl was given when she was able to sit up, and she took to it immediately, Lynne said. By this point in her story, half the Dance Palace audience was in tears.

Very quickly, word got out that a harp’s happy, soothing sound comforted and brightened the lives of people in hospitals, nursing homes, and even facilities for juvenile delinquents.

Through a program she helped launch, Lynne said, harpists now play for patients throughout hospitals “except in post-op wards.” They don’t want patients freaking out at hearing harp music as they wake up from surgery, Lynne explained, drawing prolonged laughter from the audience.

As it happens, Aryeh Frankfurter is Lynne’s partner, and he sometimes played a Celtic Harp with Lynne and Ball. More often, however, he played an instrument most of the audience had never seen before, a Swedish Nyckelharpa.

The Nyckelharpa is bowed like a violin but uses piano-style keys, not fingers, to fret the chords. The reason we’re not familiar with it, Frankfurter said, is that the instrument is played primarily in Swedish folk music.

After the performance ended, I spoke with several people who, like I, had wondered ahead of time what exactly to expect. All of us, it turned out, had been enchanted by what we’d just heard.

Unfortunately, there won’t be another chance to hear Legends of the Celtic Harp around here soon. Although they’re from the Bay Area, the trio spend most of their year on the road. Their next stops are in Oregon. Ball then plays Mendocino and Willits before the trio head to the Southwest and then on to the East Coast.

I’m using the start of the new year as an occasion to exhibit a number of wildlife photos I’ve shot around Mitchell cabin during the past three or four years. I make no pretense to having produced photographic masterpieces, for I still use a Kodak EasyShare, a primitive digital camera that’s no longer made.

Wild animals in unlikely juxtapositions, whether deliberate or serendipitous, are some of my favorite subjects, so let’s begin with a few.

Deer in particular are curious about other creatures that are not big enough to be threatening. Friendships such as that of Bambi and Thumper are not all that unusual in the real world. Indeed, I once saw a young deer trying to cozy up to a jackrabbit; the rabbit, however, retreated under a bush when the fawn got too close.

Here a blacktail doe sticks around to watch Linda Petersen’s late Havanese named Sebastian when the dog wandered down my driveway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The blacktail around Mitchell cabin appear particularly interested in housecats.

Here a nosy doe watches a cat on a woodpile cleaning its fur.

 

 

 

 

 

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Deer and housecats seem pretty much at ease around each other — somewhat in the same way that deer get along with cows and horses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A bit more surprising — to me at least — was seeing this doe and great blue heron hunting together in my pasture. The deer was there to dine on new clumps of green grass while the heron was there to dine on gophers. ________________________________________________________________

Some creatures, however, need encouragement to fraternize. Foxes and raccoons aren’t terribly fond of each other, but they will show up to the same feast — which in this case consisted of honey-roasted peanuts I’d scattered on the deck. __________________________________________________________________

Possums and raccoons are even less companionable under normal circumstances. If a raccoon gets too close, a possum will often bare its fangs although it’s all a bluff. But both critters will peaceably attend ecumenical dinners when honey-roasted peanuts are served. _________________________________________________________________

Possums, in fact, can be convinced to undertake almost any endeavor if the reward is honey-roasted peanuts. In one notable case, I was able to use sweet-roasted goobers to teach a possum table manners. __________________________________________________________________

One of the most popular photos I ever posted involved my using the same peanuts to encourage a bodhisattva possum along his path to enlightenment. Word of the photograph must have gotten around. For months after I posted it, one of the more-frequently Googled terms bringing people to this blog was “bodhisattvva possum.” __________________________________________________________________

Turning now to birdbaths — A towhee keeps its feathers in good condition by washing in the birdbath on the deck of Mitchell cabin. Such ablutions are why we call the these basins birdbaths. _________________________________________________________________

And, of course, many birds count on birdbaths for their source of drinking water. Here a mourning dove leaves the birdseed to a towhee for a moment while it takes several gulps. Because so much of their food is dry, these birds need regular drinks to wash it down. I place a couple of bricks in the birdbath for birds that like to stand in water. ___________________________________________________________________

Birds are not the only creatures who use the basin for bathing and as a source of drinking water. I’ve seen as many as four raccoons squeeze into the birdbath to wash their paws after eating. Here three kits balance effortlessly 15 feet above the ground on the narrow railing of my deck as they clamber in and out of the basin at night. ______________________________________________________________________

Nor do I discriminate. My birdbath also provides drinking water for any creature that can get to it. Honeybees frequently show up to drink although a few inevitably fall in.

Probably the drinkers with the worst reputation are the roof rats. These rats originated in southern Asia, and you’ll recall it was their fleas that spread the Black Death throughout Europe in the 14th Century, killing roughly half the people.

I don’t mind roof rats’ drinking from the birdbath and stealing birdseed from my deck, but I’ve periodically had to trap rats that got into my basement. The problem is their unfortunate habit of gnawing on everything chewable from paper to dishwasher drain hoses to electrical-wire insulation.

It’s really too bad they’re such nuisances because, as you can see, they’re awfully cute.