Archive for June, 2015

A year ago I was hit with a medical problem called temporal arteritis, which sent me to the emergency room at Kaiser Hospital in Terra Linda. As I wrote here at that time, it was a big headache, but left untreated it could have led to blindness.

Temporal arteritis amounts to inflammation of an artery that goes through the temples (hence the name “temporal”) and feeds blood to the eyes. The problem is common enough that rheumatologists have developed a standard treatment using the steroid Prednisone. The cause of temporal arteritis is unknown, but it mostly hits us older folks.

Well, the Prednisone worked in that it took away the headache, but I had to consume it every day, and that itself produced temporary problems ranging from less-focused thinking to a loss of balance. I began taking increasingly serious falls. The worst was on Memorial Day when I fell to the ground from a standing position. I landed on stainless-steel metal and badly bruised the right side of my ribcage.

I had just about recovered from that fall when today I stumbled on my deck and landed on the left side of my rib cage. What a pain! As a result, I’m taking it easy on myself, which is why my posting this week consists of photos from my collection— not ruminations. Most of them have appeared here previously.

Gray squirrel at my birdbath.

The raccoons around Mitchell cabin are amazingly adventurous. These walked right in when I left the kitchen door open.

Three animals who seldom hang out together in nature — a possum, fox, and raccoon — were convinced to eat peaceably together when I scattered honey-roasted peanuts on my deck. Animal populations, however, go up and down, and I haven’t seen many foxes or possums around Mitchell cabin recently.

A blacktail doe takes a rest behind my woodshed.

Two does and a flock of wild turkeys forage side by side uphill from Mitchell cabin, both species seeming oblivious of the other.

Two years ago, a lone peacock began keeping company with the turkeys. It’s pretty but its calls sound like a woman in distress.

Coyotes can often be heard at night howling around Mitchell cabin. Getting a chance to see one is far less common.

It’s far more common to see bobcats. Here one takes a rest while hunting downhill from the cabin.

A mother badger with her kit. The most ferocious predators near the cabin are badgers. Even a bear would be no match. Badgers live in burrows up to 30 feet long and 10 feet deep, for they are remarkably efficient diggers thanks to long claws and short, strong legs.  Although they can run up to 17 or 18 mph for short distances, they generally hunt by digging fast enough to pursue rodents into their burrows.

Lost in thought, a gray fix sits on my picnic table.

Jackrabbits, of course, are always around. Jackrabbits, which are also known as black-tailed hares, avoid predators by using “an element of surprise and escape that works well,” Point Reyes Station naturalist Jules Evens notes in his Natural History of the Point Reyes Peninsula.

“When a potential predator is detected, the hare will usually take shelter in the shade of a convenient clump of vegetation or behind a rock and freeze motionless. If the predator approaches very closely, the hare leaps into stride, zigzagging across open country until it finds shelter.”

Two young does graze beside Mitchell cabin. To me all this is my home on a hill, but it could just as easily be a zoological garden.

 

 

 

If you go out in the woods today
You’re sure of a big surprise.
If you go out in the woods today
You’d better go in disguise.

For ev’ry bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic.

Ev’ry teddy bear who’s been good
Is sure of a treat today.
There’s lots of marvelous things to eat
And wonderful games to play.

Beneath the trees where nobody sees
They’ll hide and seek as long as they please
Cause that’s the way the teddy bears have their picnic.

If you go down to the woods today
You’d better not go alone.
It’s lovely down in the woods today
But safer to stay at home.

Written by the Irish composer Jimmy Kennedy (1902-84), who also wrote Red Sails in the Sunset.

A Western fence lizard basking in the sun on my front steps last week. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

Male Western fence lizards do pushups to intimidate other males. In the process they reveal their blue undersides, which is why they’re sometimes called Blue-bellies.

A pair of Cliff swallows tried for three weeks to build a mud nest under the second-floor eaves of Mitchell cabin only to have the mud come loose from the wall and the nests come crashing down. Each collapse was disheartening for me and no doubt worse for the swallows. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

Finally a couple of swallows got a nest going, building it with pellets of mud from the nearby stockpond. A typical nest is made up of approximately 1,000 pellets, which represents 1,000 roundtrips to the stockpond. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

A week ago the swallows completed their nest. Stain on the bottom of the eaves shows where previous nests had been attempted. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

The female lays three to five eggs, and both parents take turns incubating them. The eggs typically hatch in 12 to 17 days. The young begin to fly when they’re 20 to 25 days old. The young live in or near the nest for a few days for their parents to feed them, and they remain in the area for several weeks. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

Rounding out this tour of nature around Mitchell cabin, a covey of quail hunt for birdseed that has blown off my deck and landed in the grass below. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

We’ll end this week’s program with a faux-Irish lullaby sung by Bing Crosby. Click here, then sit back, feel nostalgic, fall asleep, and we’ll see you here next week.

Point Reyes Station’s 66th Western Weekend this past Saturday and Sunday continued a colorful tradition that began in 1949 when a women’s group, Companions of the Forest: Circle 1018, held a festival, fashion show, and cake walk in their hall. (The Foresters’ Hall on Mesa Road still survives under private ownership. It’s immediately north of the Old Creamery Building.)

The following year, members of the local Lions Club, many of whom were married to Circle 1018 members, added a parade and a livestock show for 4-H and Future Farmers of America members. The event was called a “junior” livestock show because all those showing animals were 4-H and FFA members.

When I came to town in 1975 and my newspaper called the event Western Weekend, as many people by then did, more than a few oldtimers told me the proper name was the West Marin Junior Livestock Show. “Western Weekend,” they grumbled, was the name of the livestock show in Novato.

Western Weekend queen Graciela Avalos in Sunday’s parade.

Nigel, left, and his cousin Annabelle make contact during the West Marin 4-H Fair on Saturday at Toby’s Feed Barn. Sisters Olivia and Phoebe Blantz of Nicasio brought them as they have in past years, so they are all regulars.

 

Eva Taylor, 6, holds an eight-week old Champagne D’Argent rabbit. The breed was brought to the U.S. from France in the early 1900s. They are known to have been bred since the 17th century, according to Dorothy Drady of Nicasio, who oversaw their care at the fair.

Megan Binford, 14, of Tri-Valley 4-H, shows a four-month old Broken Black Mini-Rex doe named Ribbons, or, as a local rancher quipped, “a Holstein rabbit.”

A float in memory of Dorothy Rocca, who died this past year. She was the longtime owner of the Palace Market. The entry took first place in adult floats.

The exciting music and dance of Ballet Folklorico of Petaluma Paquiyollotzin wowed the crowds all along the parade route.

KWMR Community Radio and The Point Reyes Light marched together in a media section of the parade. The entry took 2nd place among adult floats.

Lynn Axelrod was among the MainStreet Moms calling for people to drink tap water rather than bottled water, which clutters the environment with plastic bottles. Mom Kathryn Callaway created the signs for her sisters.

The Coastal Health Alliance on the march.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation is dedicated to eradicating childhood cancer. The organization is named after a child who sold lemonade to raise funds for other kids, leading to a global effort that totaled more than $1 million. Ezequiel  (Ez) Powell and the Porrata-Powell family will hold their own lemonade fundraiser Sunday, June 14, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Town Commons.

Two young ladies took turns singing to the crowd as the Dance Palace Kids Musical Theater proceeded down the main street.

Towtruck driver Tim Bunce (right), who entered a 1953 Farmall Tractor in the parade, photo-bombs Sheriff’s Lt. Doug Pittman’s picture. Bunce took first in the Farm Vehicle division and first in the best-vehicle division.

More of the vibrant Mexican dancing in stunning costumes.

The littlest ones waved and snoozed from their float in the mid-day sun.

The Aztec Dancers took the first-place award for best street show.

Richard Kirschman and Doris Ober promoted the West Marin Fund, which encourages people to spend West Marin currency in West Marin.

Point Reyes-Olema 4-H Club took first place in the kids’ street show awards.

Mexican food was offered and mariachi dancing after the parade continued until about 8 p.m. in the West Marin Commons on the north end of the main street.

A woman draped in the colors of the Mexican flag dances at the Town Commons.

I’m still a bit gimpy as a result of a fall I took three weeks ago (and wrote about here), so my partner Lynn was good enough to fill in, shooting most of the photos for this posting and writing about half the text.

Hundreds of people gathered in and around the Dance Palace Sunday to celebrate the life of Marshall artist and political activist Donna Sheehan, who died April 17 at the age of 85.

Paul Reffell, Donna’s partner for the past 21 years, took the microphone to start Sunday’s memorial, during which more than a dozen friends and relatives of Donna told about their often-amusing experiences with the multi-faceted artist/activist.

The memorial was a potluck, and a large amount of food (such as these oysters) and drink was consumed.

Paul and Donna at her 80th birthday party, which was celebrated in Toby’s Feed Barn five years ago.

Paul was 21 years Donna’s junior, but they often collaborated on newspaper columns and books. Together they wrote a book titled Brainlines and another titled Seduction Redefined, which advanced Donna’s belief that women, not men, are the natural pursuers. Seduction and orgasms were central to Donna’s world view, and she never had a problem talking or writing about either. One of Sunday’s speakers, Toni Littlejohn of Point Reyes Station, told of the time Donna called her to report with hesitant pride that she’d had 25 orgasms that morning.

Donna’s nephews Erik Oehm (right) and Jacob Day told of the joy of having her as an aunt. Local musicians performed after the speakers were done.

Photo by Lynn Axelrod

An altar adorned with photographs of Donna and with her art was set up in the Dance Palace’s “church space.” Also part of the display was the hat she often wore.

Photo by Lynn Axelrod

Donna’s art, as usual, drew numerous compliments during the wake. She had little art training but had studied design and printmaking.

Photo copyright Art Rogers 2002

But it was political activism for which Donna was best known. During a chilly rain on Nov. 12, 2002, Donna gained worldwide attention when she assembled 50 “unreasonable women” at Point Reyes Station’s Love Field. Lying naked on the wet grass, the women spelled out PEACE with their bodies while Point Reyes Station photographer Art Rogers recorded the event.

Donna at the time explained she got the idea from a similar protest in Nigeria earlier in the year. Women fighting corporate exploitation stood nude in a vigil that lasted several days outside of Nigeria’s parliament, she noted. “[The Nigerian women] shamed the men and won their cause,” she said. This photo of the demonstration, which was published in The Point Reyes Light, was immediately republished throughout the world and inspired many similar demonstrations.

Donna had previously garnered widespread attention in West Marin when in 1983 she organized a group called MOW (Mow Our Weeds) to pressure Caltrans to start mowing weeds along Highway 1 and stop using herbicides.

Photo by Lynn Axelrod

The crowd for Donna’s wake was so large it spilled out onto the Dance Palace’s front deck and lawn. In a testament to how many people were in Donna’s world, more than a few people remarked that they kept running into old acquaintances they seldom get to see.

A movie with and about Donna and her lifelong pursuits was shown in the church space. Photo by Lynn Axelrod

Donna died of “an overdose while I was away for an hour, shopping in Point Reyes Station,” Paul explained at the time. Her suicide was not unexpected. “We had talked many times, including [with other people] about her finding a way out as her health deteriorated and her pain increased,” Paul wrote the next day.

Sunday’s wake was organized by Robin Carpenter in accordance with Donna’s wishes.