General News

Seventeen years ago I launched this blog which I had been publishing as a newspaper column. For now it’s time to close the curtain on Sparsely Sage & Timely. In the past two to three months, a bout of Parkinson’s disease has substantially crippled me. My lack of balance when standing and walking pretty much confines me to one floor at home. I can’t drive, and just the walk down to where we park cars is so exhausting I rarely leave home.

I’m increasingly forgetful re basic matters. Just last week I had to tell my youngest stepdaughter that for the moment I couldn’t remember how many times I’ve been married. (Her mother in Guatemala was my fourth wife.) Lynn, my fifth wife, and I are about to start our fourteenth year together.

I knew nothing about Parkinson’s disease until I was diagnosed. Here’s how Google defines it: “Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that causes unintended or uncontrollable movements, such as shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination. Symptoms usually begin gradually and worsen over time. As the disease progresses, people may have difficulty walking and talking.”

However I’ve just started a course of a dopamine-producing medicine. Parkinson’s is associated with lower dopamine production in the brain, so I’m hoping the new med will be as effective as it’s been described by optimists and medical personnel.  

In the meantime, I’ll let the curtain close.

—Dave Mitchell

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.












Betty Grinshtein, a Ukrainian immigrant as a child now living in Point Reyes Station, on Thursday in the town library, told about conditions in her former country and showed photos from her refugee-relief trip to the Ukraine and Poland last year.. She said she wants to go back. Pictured with her is an aunt still living in Ukraine. Her aunt holds up the three-finger (with thumb and little finger pressed together) pro-democracy gesture used in Ukrainian greetings.


Thursday’s gathering also featured artist Maddy Sobel’s illustrations. Seen with her is Flynn Nichols, known for dancing and chanting in the street downtown. Maddy contributed part of the proceeds from the sale of her works to a couple of Ukrainian-relief organizations.

The talk and art reception had been rescheduled after a power outage two weeks ago blacked everyone out just as the event was starting. It was well worth another date.

Meanwhile back in Europe, the International Criminal Court Friday issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes in Ukraine. He’s accused of responsibility for the abduction of children, who have been transferred from occupied areas to Russia.

“The moral condemnation will likely stain the Russian leader for the rest of his life,” according to the Associated Press, “and in the more immediate future whenever he seeks to attend an international summit in a nation bound to arrest him.

“The court also issued a warrant for the arrest of Maria Lvova-Belova, the commissioner for Children’s Rights in the Office of the President of the Russian Federation.” The AP last October reported on her involvement in the abduction of Ukrainian orphans.












Flynn gives the newly learned Ukrainian pro-democracy gesture.

“Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia doesn’t recognize the ICC and considers its decisions ‘legally void,'” the AP reported. “He called the court’s move ‘outrageous and unacceptable.’”

It’s a fight that’s being closely watched here half a world away.


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.

It was almost as if Vladimir ‘Putrid’ expanded his war with Ukrane all the way to Point Reyes Station. Last week’s posting announced a show of Maddy Sobel’s art would open this week at the town library with part of the proceeds going to Ukranian causes. In addition Betty Grinshtein, who was born in Ukraine, would tell about her trip last summer from the Cowgirl Creamery to the Polish-Ukrainian border. For three months she provided travel logistics and aid to Ukrainian refugees fleeing into Poland by train.

Maddy Sobel (left) with Betty Grinshtein outside the library Thursday after their show was blacked out.

But just as the art show and talk were ready to begin, the lights went out throughout West Marin. PG&E said bad weather was probably the cause of the blackout but gave no details. In any case, the show and talk have been rescheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, March 16.


Sleeping wildlife












A raccoon last year took a nap on the front deck of Mitchell cabin.













A fox sleeping on a picnic table on our deck.













A blacktail buck half asleep uphill from the cabin.


A blacktail fawn resting between two clumps of daffodils.













A blacktail doe with a line of warts down her side.

The Maine Department of Inland Fish and Wildlife explains that these “deer fibromas are wart-like growths on deer that are typically caused by an infection with a species-specific papillomavirus. These manifest as firm, warty growths fixed to the skin of a deer…

“In most cases, fibromas will not negatively impact the health of infected deer, and fibromas are not known to be a significant source of deer mortality. These fleshy growths impact only the skin of the animal. In severe cases, fibromas around the eyes or mouth may impact a deer’s ability to see and to eat, and very large fibromas throughout the body may impede movement….

“Though similar diseases exist in other species, deer will not spread their fibromas to pets, livestock, or other species.” Or humans, so don’t worry.



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.

People with a variety of talents are called polymaths. An extemely talented polymath, for example, was Leonardo da Vinci. The High Renaissance scientist was also renowned as a painter, philosopher and sculptor.

Maddy Sobel in a self-illustration

She’s no Leonardo, but Madelyn Sobel of Point Reyes Station is definitely a polymath. Maddy, as she is known, holds a BA in Fine Arts from the Pasadena Art Center College of Design. Her studies focused on illustration. Over the years, her illustrations have been published as editorial cartoons, printed in posters, used to illustrate children’s books and much more.

Around Point Reyes Station, however, she’s best known for “Maddy’s Jammin” with its sandwich board sign in front of her home on Highway 1 downhill from West Marin School. In the kitchen of her home, she cooks at all hours, making raspberry jam, orange marmalade, apricot jam, and many more which she sells from her house and downtown.

In addition, she is a social activist, and a show of her art will open for a month at 6 p.m.  Thursday, March 2, in the Point Reyes Library with a portion of the sales of her art to be donated to Ukainian causes.

Another polymath activist from West Marin will also be on hand opening night.

Betty Grinshtein, who has been assistant cheesemaker at the Cowgirl Creamery, was born in Lviv, Ukraine, which is at the Polish border. Along with English and Ukrainian, Betty speaks Polish and Russian, and at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, she will tell of spending three months last year providing travel logistics and distributing aid to Ukrainian refugees fleeing into Poland by train.

Betty Grinshtein

“I’m back in West Marin,” Grinshtein comments. “However, my heart is still in Ukraine and Poland,” and she is still helping raise funds for an NGO called the Karkiv and Przemal Project (KHARP) “so they can continue to assist the refugees and the vulnerable Ukrainian population unable to evacuate from Eastern Ukraine.”

The two polymaths’ talk and art show at the Point Reyes Library next week will no doubt be fascinating.


 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.

My apologies for this blog’s two-month hiatus. Everything I’d wanted to write about was delayed by a series of doctors’ exams. It now appears that I’ve been consuming too much potassium, which over time could be bad for the kidneys. Then came the “bomb cyclone,” as weathermen called last month’s storm system. It repeatedly blacked out Mitchell cabin and created distractions such as downed limbs. One medium-sized branch cracked a wooden front step, which is nothing compared to the damage to some of my neighbors’ properties.











Point Reyes Arabian Adventures

Two neighboring families on Campolindo Road had trees drop in their yards while a shed at Point Reyes Arabian Adventures horseback riding  just around the corner was crushed when a huge cypress fell. Luckily the damage was limited to a couple of wheelbarrows in the shed. A similarly large tree fell on the Wells Fargo property downtown in Point Reyes Station but fortunately did not hit the bank.

Other homes and buildings in West Marin were not so lucky, with Bolinas suffering some of the worst damage from falling trees while neighboring Stinson Beach endured widespread harm to homes and docks when the high winds drove waves ashore. As a tragic bookend two weeks after the storm, at the northern end of the Marin coast near the mouth of Tomales Bay, a kayaker disappeared in the waves and presumably drowned.

The chaos could be a metaphor for America’s political craziness. Donald Trump’s repeated lies that he won the 2020 presidential election seemed the height of the nuttiness until New York Congressman George Santos raised the bar. As the British newspaper The Guardian reported:

“Santos has temporarily withdrawn from two House committees, to which he was appointed by party leaders, despite a spiraling scandal over his largely made-up résumé, bizarre past behavior and campaign finance filings….

“Earlier this month, the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, appointed Santos to the committees on small business and science, space and technology. The speaker did so despite confirming that a member of [the campaign] staff for Santos pretended to be McCarthy’s chief of staff while seeking campaign donations.”

But that was hardly the biggest news of Santos’ first month in Congress.

George Santos

“Found to have largely fabricated his educational and professional résumé, Santos has denied or deflected reports about past conduct, including an alleged fraud of a homeless veteran seeking medical care for his dog and appearances as a drag queen in Brazil, where he is also being investigated over alleged use of a stolen checkbook.

“Santos is under local, state and federal investigation in the US. Last week it emerged that the congressman, who has also been known as Anthony Devolder, faces a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice over campaign-finance filings that have prompted questions about the source of his [sudden] wealth and a possible link to a Russian oligarch.

“Santos’ [congressional] district party and other New York Republicans have been joined by New York and national Democrats in calling for Santos to quit. Polling in [his] district shows that nearly 80 percent of voters there now think he should do so.”

In an interview with OAN,  a friendly right-wing network, Santos said this week, “From now on, anything and everything is gonna be above-board. It’s largely been above-board.. .”

All this makes me wish that life would return to normal. Or are severe storms and increasingly dishonest politicians the new norm?






Awhile ago it began to feel like this country had lost its way, what with school shootings, political violence, and a former president’s describing as “genius” Vladimir Putin’s strategy for Russia to take over parts of Ukraine.  

In contrast, life in our northern neighbor appeared mostly calm and friendly. Maybe it would be a happier place to live. Helping create that impression was my late mother’s being an immigrant from Canada who’d become a naturalized US  citizen.

On a lark, I looked up what all I’d have to do to go back and become a Canadian citizen. As it turns out, not much. In fact, I may be one already. Here’s how a Canadian law firm specializing in immigration-law, Allen and Hodgman, explains the situation: “Was your mother or father born or naturalized in Canada? Under recent amendments to Canada’s Citizenship Act, nearly all persons whose parent was born or naturalized in Canada are now Canadian citizens.

“This is true even if your parent left Canada as a child; married an American citizen (or other non-Canadian); or became a U.S. citizen (or citizen of another country).

“These new laws apply to the first generation born abroad. So if your mother or father was born in Canada you are likely a citizen…. Canadian citizens are free to live anywhere in the world, so you can obtain your Certificate of Citizenship without having to leave the US.”

All that sounded like an invitation from extremely attractive neighbors until I read Friday’s news. David DePape, the man who tried to attack House Speaker Nancy Pelosi but instead injured her husband Paul, is a Canadian. Overstaying his visa, he has been in the US illegally for the past 14 years.

Apparently he was progressive and liberal 14 years ago, but ultraconservative  conspiracy propaganda turned him into a rightwing terrorist. (DePape’s now said he’d planned for the attack on Pelosi to be the first of several.)

Apparently not everybody is happy no matter where they’ve lived.


At least life in Point Reyes Station has been relatively happy in the past week. Here is the highpoint of happiness — the Halloween celebration Monday:












It ranged from children in costumes celebrating….












to Davis (his first name), the town’s postmaster, doing the same. Evidently one doesn’t have to live in Canada to enjoy himself, so I guess I’ll stay put.



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.

On Oct. 10, 1978, attorney Paul Morantz reached into the mailbox of his Pacific Palisades home and was bitten by a 4.5-foot-long rattlesnake whose warning rattles had been cut off. The snake had been placed there by two men whose truck’s license plate was traced to Synanon headquarters.

Morantz a week earlier had won a $300,000 judgment for a woman who said she’d been abducted by Synanon and abused. Synanon founder Charles Dederich was offended by the judgment and was repeatedly heard asking his followers, “Why don’t you break his [Morantz’s] legs?” an ex-member told me.  A few days before the rattlesnake attack, Morantz himself called me to say he was aware a campaign against him had been launched in Synanon and that he was concerned about a possible attempt on his life.

Synanon attorney Phil Bourdette subsequently turned over to Los Angeles police two members of the cult suspected of the crime. They were Lance Kenton, 20, son of bandleader Stan Kenton, and Joe Musico, 28, a Vietnam veteran who had entered Synanon as a drug addict.

Paul Morantz in his younger days.

Morantz went on to litigate against brainwashing by a variety of cults, including Scientology, Peoples Temple, the Hare Krishnas, and the Rajneesh movement. He represented various clients pro bono and was frequently described as heroic.

But he never completely recovered from the snake’s bite. “To this day,” Oxygen Crime News reported two years ago, “Morantz suffers from a lifelong illness related to the rattlesnake venom, which requires him to receive blood transfusions every other week.” The music magazine Shindig noted that Morantz said he got blood disease from the venom. 

On Monday I received a sad email from Morantz’s son Chaz, saying that his father “passed away yesterday at the Santa Monica hospital. I was with him when he let go peacefully after far too much pain and suffering these last couple of years.”


Chaz wrote that this photo “was taken just a couple of months ago when we took him out for his 77th birthday, for sushi in the Palisades.”

The San Francisco Chronicle on Thursday carried a front-page story headlined, ‘Birdseed Lady to blame for rat swarms?’ The Chronicle reported a woman, who “appears to be experiencing mental illness,” daily leaves “mounds of birdseed throughout [the] commercial corridor” of the Glen Park neighborhood.

In doing so, she appears to be “fomenting the area’s formidable rat and pigeon problems.” As the article noted, city government still hasn’t figured out how to deal with her even though “city law forbids spreading birdseed in public places.”

The problem is more than esthetic. “The issue exploded into public view this month when health inspectors temporarily shuttered Canyon Market, Glen Park’s posh and popular grocery store, after finding gnawed pasta bags, rat droppings, and other evidence of a severe rodent infestation.”

I’ve seen the pattern on a small scale at Mitchell cabin. The birdseed Lynn and I put on our deck daily for our feathered neighbors also draws a handful of roof rats.

The birds such as this towhee act as if the roof rats were just other birds and are quite content to eat alongside them.

The birds also share their bath with the rats, who like to take sips from it.


So far the roof rats are not an insurmountable problem although they do nibble on flowers Lynn planted in our garden and — worse yet — on the wiring for her car’s engine.

The rats are amazingly predictable. We tend to put out seed around 5:30 p.m. daily, and the roof rats show up around 6:30 p.m.


Among the other trends in wildlife around Mitchell cabin are changes in the fox community, which had mostly kept out of sight during the past couple of years. Foxes, nonetheless, made their presence known by frequently peeing on my morning Chronicle. It’s all about marking territory. Thank goodness subscriptions are delivered in plastic bags.

Last week I spotted two foxes together on our deck until they were scared off when two young raccoons got into a noisy tiff.


A young man in town told me he wants to wear a pest-control uniform for Halloween. I told him to gopher it.

Have you ever wondered why cats eat fur balls. They do it because they love a good gag.

And why do bears have hairy coats? Fur protection, of course.

Most days I get a caffeine hit in the late morning at Toby’s Coffee Bar in Point Reyes Station. It’s a convivial place with good pastries as well as good tea and coffee. I was sitting at a picnic table inside the barn a week ago when an older gentleman came up to me and asked if I was “Dave Mitchell’s father.” Unsure whether he was joking or serious, I replied, “I’m Dave Mitchell himself.” In either case, I took his comment as reflecting how much older I look these days. My hair’s gray, I’m stoop shouldered, and I often shuffle when I walk. Old age is a bitch.












On another day last week, I was again seated inside the barn when I heard a loud crash. Assuming two vehicles had collided on the main street out front, I went outside to look. Instead I found that a balcony on the front of the building had partially collapsed. A forklift raised too high had slammed into a lateral beam.

A different older gentleman had been sitting on the deck under the balcony, and he too had heard the crash but didn’t realize at first that the balcony overhead might come down on him. He wasn’t upset, but since then he’s taken to sitting inside the barn.












With the deck encircled by a yellow warning ribbon, the feed store moved its flower display indoors too. Here Danny Holderman enjoys having lush bouquets beside his table.






Toby’s might as well be a community center so much goes on there. Beside the store and the coffee bar, a farmers’ market is held in the parking lot every Saturday each summer. Behind the store, art exhibitions are frequent, such as the current Marvelous Marin Landscape Show, featuring works by 14 artists.


As for events closer to Mitchell cabin, more rabbits than usual are around this summer. This jack rabbit, which is technically a hare, not a rabbit, frequently hops close to the cabin but never comes in.

Also seen around the house in early summer are baby cottontails, which are true rabbits.



Buoying Ukraine: West Marin residents’ opinion of Russia has fallen pretty low since its invasion of Ukraine. In a show of support, the blue and gold Ukrainian flags are being flown at the Peace Garden next to Toby’s, along Highway 1, and elsewhere around town.

As it happens, crab-pot buoys periodically break their harnesses and wash ashore in the National Seashore where I’ve found several. A couple of them have Ukraine’s colors, so a blue-and-yellow buoy now adorns our garden.


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.

National Night Out block parties and cookouts are held across the country, US territories, and in military bases in the beginning of August, to help develop neighborhood camaraderie and develop positive relations between communities and law enforcement.

Point Reyes Station holds one every year in front of the Arthur Disterheft Public Safety building, and this year’s celebration — complete with a barbecue, ice cream, and a band — was held Tuesday. Pictured center-left in sunglasses is Marin County Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Bret McTigue. In khaki (and a mustache) to the right is Marin Sheriff’s Sergeant and Public Information Officer Brenton Schneider.    

Several county fire department personnel, including Battalion Chief Bret McTigue, standing behind the Hog Island Oyster grill were on hand. The barbecues were set up in front of the public safety building, which houses the Point Reyes Station firehouse and the sheriff’s substation.

On a more serious note, last reports were that the Marin County Fire Department sent crews running five fire engines and a bulldozer to help fight the McKinney Fire, northwest of Yreka in Siskiyou County. We wish all first responders a safe return. The wildfire started Friday, July 29, and has now grown to almost 59,000 acres with only 10 percent containment. There have been four deaths of residents.

Lineup of community members (L to R):  Ron Wagner, my wife Lynn Axelrod, Tom Quinn, Ken Levin, Jeri Quinn. Ron is perusing disaster readiness info at Lynn’s table. Lynn is coordinator of the Point Reyes Disaster Council. (Photo by Rhonda Kutter)

Cindy Morris of Point Reyes Station and Supervisor Dennis Rodoni hold up some disaster readiness information. More is available at

The free barbecue drew a large crowd of West Marin residents and lasted until 8 p.m. If you missed it, be sure to attend the one next summer.

Next Page »