In contrast to the controversy raging in town and in the press this week over the sorry state of The Point Reyes Light under its new publisher, life has remained fairly bucolic at my cabin.

100_4638_1.jpg

In preparation for the fire season, tractor operator Gary Titus from Tomales on Saturday mowed my pasture and that of my neighbors Dan and Mary Huntsman.

Homes uphill from fields of dry grass are particularly vulnerable to wildfires, county firefighters remind West Marin residents each summer.

Titus, who mows our pastures annually, told me that ours — like other fields he’s mowed this year — were faster to cut than usual even though the grass was higher. It apparently has to do with which types of grass grow best as the timing and amount of rainfall vary.

The mowing provides quite a show, for crows continually fly in circles around the tractor looking for insects, snakes, and other small creatures killed — or at least stirred up — by the mowing. It is not uncommon for West Marin’s ubiquitous gopher snakes to get chopped up by mowers, but Titus was happy to report that this year he hasn’t killed a single snake.

Most of the wildlife around my cabin have, of course, not been affected by the mowing.

100_4200.jpg

Possums at night still climb lattice to drink from the birdbath on my railing.

And the raccoon that my stepdaughter Anika photographed last month peering in my dining-room window is back at it. Standing on my firewood box outside, the raccoon (which appears earlier on this blog) initially seemed to be merely checking on what those of us inside were doing.

100_4602_1.jpg

This week when I spotted her again, however, the raccoon had more on her mind. On my window ledge is a ceramic candlestick with the lifelike shape of a small bird. The raccoon obviously wanted to grab it, but there was a pane of glass in the way.

In contrast to the rural tranquility around my cabin, protesters in Point Reyes Station milled around in front of The Point Reyes Light Monday morning. Some were upset by the paper’s sensationalism, which which under publisher Robert Plotkin has been heavy on gratuitous gore. Others complained that the newspaper no longer provides West Marin with the coverage it needs. “It’s lost connection to the community,” protest organizer Elizabeth Whitney of Inverness told the press.

The demonstration, which got advance coverage in Saturday’s San Francisco Chronicle and by the Associated Press, was covered live on Monday by Sonoma County public radio and the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

In a lengthy article by Paul Payne, The Press Democrat quoted Plotkin as calling the demonstration a “march to mediocrity, a protest against excellence. I bought the newspaper to make something extraordinary.”

Payne also interviewed Joel Hack, owner of The Bodega Bay Navigator website, who plans to launch a competing weekly newspaper in West Marin on July 5.

Hack told The Press Democrat and The Chronicle that his newspaper would cover school board and other public meetings (as The Light did before Plotkin bought it in November 2005). He also promised to also cover the special accomplishments of everyday residents, such as “aunt Mabel’s prize-winning raspberry jam.”

The new paper has been temporarily dubbed The West Marin Pilot until readers chose a final name, and Hack last week told The Chronicle that scores of people have begun subscribing before the paper even exists or has a definite name. He has also reported significant success in lining up advertisers.

Editing the new newspaper will be former Light editor Jim Kravets. In Saturday’s Chronicle, Kravets is quoted as saying, “It’s a journalist’s dream to work in a community where people don’t just pick up the paper out of rote, but run to it.”

Kravets has called for a community meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, June 18, in the Dance Palace “to tell editors and staff of the West Marin community newspaper what they want and don’t want in their newspaper.” He described the meeting as a chance for West Marin residents to ensure the “paper is not merely relevant but essential for the enlightened practice of West Marin citizenship.”

Notwithstanding the protest and a new competitor, The Light itself got some good news this week.

Missy Patterson, who runs the paper’s front office, has changed her mind and will not work for the new newspaper, Hack reported. He said Patterson did not explain her reasons in detail, mentioning only that she was uncomfortable with her earlier decision to jump ship.

And on Wednesday, The Independent Journal reported that former Light bookkeeper LaShanda Goldstein has pled guilty to embezzling $62,000 from the weekly.

Goldstein, 29, of Santa Rosa remains in Marin County Jail in lieu of $62,000 bail, The Independent Journal added.

On Monday, she pled guilty to “one count of embezzlement with an enhancement for stealing more than $50,000,” the paper reported. “She could face a maximum sentence of four years in state prison, but Deputy District Attorney Rosemary Slote said Goldstein may be sentenced to probation because she has no prior record.”