History


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A Cal Fire helicopter on Thursday crosses Inverness Ridge to drop water on a containment line for the Woodward Fire in the Point Reyes National Seashore. Smoke from back-burns rises through the forest.

The Woodward Fire, which was started by a lightning strike Aug. 18, was 85 percent contained by this evening after having grown to more than 4,800 acres. Part of the containment has included setting back-burns along Limantour Road. Full containment is expected by Tuesday.

Smoke from the fire has at times made the air in much of West Marin unhealthy, and smoke from hot spots may last for months, the Park Service has warned.

Vidas Negras Importan

The Black Lives Matter movement is sometimes getting overshadowed by the chaos at just a very few of the hundreds of protests around the country. In these isolated cases, looters and vandals have taken advantage of there being crowds in downtown areas. On at least one occasion, however, a covert white supremacist damaged property during a protest to discredit the protesters. Despite all this, only 7 percent of all the protests nationwide have had such problems, The Washington Post reported this past week.

 In an effort to refocus public attention on what the movement is really all about — stopping the unwarranted killing of Black people by overly aggressive police officers in several cities — I came up with a sign in Spanish. Its intent is to show that criticism of the killings transcends the Black and Anglo Saxon communities.

Maddy Sobel, who often sell jams and jellies in front of the Point Reyes Station post office, is also an artist, and she illustrated one of my signs. Her thought is that if I make some copies of her illustration, she can give them to kids to color with crayons. Sounds good to me. I gave another copy to Toby’s Coffee Bar, and you can see it displayed there without illustration.

Bumping elbows but not shaking handsFrom left: Phil Jennings, yours truly, and Gordon Jones

Before the pandemic and sheltering in place, I went to the No Name Bar in Sausalito to listen to live jazz every Friday night. Sunday afternoon, two friends from the No Name dropped by for an outdoor visit. I gave them both copies of the sign, and Jones was so enthusiastic he said he may have it imprinted on t-shirts.

My own family’s efforts to get justice for Blacks date from before the Civil War. My great-grandfather Luke Parsons was a member of John Brown’s Army but did not take part in the debacle at Harper’s Ferry. Instead he went on to command a Union Army company of Native Americans fighting in the Oklahoma Territory.

My late father was a Republican who supported the NAACP.  I formally joined the movement in the spring of 1968 while I was teaching high school in Leesburg, Florida. At the time, Willis V. McCall was the sheriff of Lake County, Florida, where Leesburg is located. He had come to be called the worst sheriff in the US and in private bragged he’d “killed more n-ggers” than any other man.

When McCall came up for reelection in 1968, a well-regarded Leesburg police officer ran against him, and I signed up to canvass voters in Black neighborhoods for the challenger. Unfortunately, McCall again won but was defeated four years later after yet another cruelty: a mentally impaired Black man was kicked to death in the Lake County jail.

Civil rights activist Julian Bond (center) in 1970 with members of an Upper Iowa University group, the Brotherhood, who had invited him to speak on campus. While he was studying at Morehouse College in the early 1960s, Bond had established the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a.k.a. SNCC (pronounced “Snick”).

In the fall of 1968 I began teaching English and journalism at Upper Iowa University and the next semester became a faculty advisor to the new Black student union. As the group explained in a flyer: “The Brotherhood was founded and chartered in February 1969. It is an organized group open to anyone interested in furthering their knowledge of Black culture…

“Under the able leadership of our past president, Rick Weber, and the helpful assistance of our advisors, Mr. Mitchell and Mr. [Robert] Schenck, the Brotherhood has enriched campus life by promoting various social functions, such as the annual Black Night.” Besides that variety show, the Brotherhood has sponsored “an inter-racial forum, and a play, A Raisin in the Sun. Our biggest accomplishment was, of course, acquisition of a Black Cultural House.”

Half a century later, I still recall advising the Brotherhood as one of my most informative experiences.

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Last week’s drama of wildfire, politics, and coronavirus continues, and none of it is better.

The Woodward Fire in the Point Reyes National Seashore had grown to more than 2,800 acres and was only 8 percent contained as of this morning despite more than 10 days of ground and aerial (seen above) firefighting. Residents south of Inverness Park on Silverhills Road, Fox Drive, and Noren Way have been ordered to evacuate.

Because the fire started near the Woodward Valley Trail on the ocean side of Inverness Ridge, it was named the Woodward Fire. And where does that name come from? In 1890, some members of San Francisco’s Pacific Union Club formed what they called “the Country Club” in the area for hunting, fishing, and socializing, Inverness historian Dewey Livingston told me this week. The hunting club building was at Divide Meadow. As it happened, two of the original members were brothers, Henry and Robert Woodward, and the trail is named after them.

A red moon rose through the smoke Monday.

A pin given to me by Inverness friends Sunday takes note of a serious national security problem.

And while the fire raged,  Republicans again nominated Donald Trump as their presidential candidate although on Sunday night he retweeted misleading Russian propaganda about his Democratic opponent Joe Biden’s communications with the Ukraine. Significantly, the US intelligence community had already identified the propaganda as part of Moscow’s ongoing effort to “denigrate” the Democrat ahead of the November election.

“The President of the United States should never be a willing mouthpiece for Russian propaganda,” responded Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

More bad news. Osteria Stellina on Point Reyes Station’s main street served its last meals Tuesday. Lynn and I had one last dinner there Monday. (She’s placing her order with a masked waitress at left.)

In the midst of the pandemic, with customers having been relocated to tables set up in a parking lane of C Street, owner Christian Caiazzo announced that for financial reasons he was closing the upscale Italian restaurant. He will now operate a pizzeria in Petaluma.

Deer Naked Ladies. In front of Mitchell cabin Saturday, two does, each with a fawn, grazed beside a patch of Naked Ladies, as Belladonna Lilies are commonly called. They were all very cute.

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The rainbow-striped LGBTQ pride flag was created in 1978, and three years ago in Philadelphia, a black stripe and a brown stripe were added. The flag initially symbolized support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people, who are often discriminated against. The black stripe and the brown stripe were added to explicitly support brown and black LGBTQ people.

Three weeks ago, our board of supervisors voted to fly the Philadelphia flag at county buildings throughout Marin during national Pride Month, which is June. I first saw it last week flying in front of the firehouse and sheriff’s substation in Point Reyes Station. Few other people seem to have noticed; today while I was doing my “essential business” at the Palace Market, the post office, the gas station, and the pharmacy, I didn’t encounter anyone who was aware of the flag flying in town. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod Mitchell)

A flock of Brown Pelicans over Mitchell cabin Sunday evening, probably headed for Drakes Estero.

A family of quail in our field Sunday. Perhaps because quail once had a reputation for being particularly amorous, “quail” in times past also was a word for “harlot.” In “Troilus and Cressida,” for example, Shakespeare wrote that Agamemnon is “an honest fellow and one who loves quails.”

A female wild turkey landed on the railing of our deck Friday to partake of seeds we’d scattered there for other, smaller birds.

It would be hard to imagine an uglier neck than a wild turkey’s — unless you’re another wild turkey. “When the male turkey gets to courting the hens,” the Audubon Society reports, “extra blood rushes in, and the wattle glows bright scarlet for maximum visual impact.”

The wattle consists of a “wrinkly mass of bumpy, warty-looking red skin,” Audubon notes. “On a hot day, with the sun bearing down, the bare skin of neck and wattle helps release excess heat. Birds don’t sweat.”

News that the Station House Café in Point Reyes Station will close at the end of this month has shocked many of us in West Marin and has generated newspaper and TV attention throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Owner Sheryl Cahill says the new owner of the restaurant building wants to up the rent to approximately $700 per day, which she can’t afford. She hopes she can eventually reopen somewhere else.

For years while I edited and published The Point Reyes Light, I ate breakfast there almost daily and often used my mealtime to also pick up news tips, so I’m particularly chagrined by the upcoming closure. In fact, the newspaper and the restaurant have been associated in various ways for more than 50 years, beginning when the paper was published by Don DeWolfe and called The Baywood Press. Back then, the restaurant, which was located where Osteria Stellina is today, was operated by historian Jack Mason of Inverness, a retired Oakland Tribune editor.

Mason, who bought the restaurant in 1966, also wrote Funny Old World for DeWolfe’s paper, and years later in the same column, he described what the restaurant and DeWolfe were like back then. The column was reprinted in our 2013 book, The Light on the Coast. In case you missed it, here it is again:

By Jack Mason

“I’ve got an idea,” Don DeWolfe said.

I laid his medium-rare hamburger on the counter in front of him. “If so, it’s the first time,” I said, in the kidding tone one uses with an old friend, even if he is the local editor.

He didn’t bother to parry the thrust, but handed me a mustard container he had been fiddling with. “This one’s empty,” he said.

I gave him another from under the counter.

“What’s your idea?” I said. My interest was only lukewarm. Certainly I was not flattered that he would ask me for my opinion. Editors do that — ask everybody in the place what they think, then do their own thing regardless. It’s the way Great Battles have been fought and lost since the dawn of time.

He squeezed some of the brown stuff onto his hamburger patty, then pressed down hard on the bun as if afraid the meat might get away. Those were quarter-pound hamburgers I served at the Station House in 1966 — and the buns all had sesame seeds on top.

Jack Mason as owner of the Station House Café in 1967.

“The coffee will be ready in a minute,” I said. “We had a couple of customers in here awhile back, and they drank it like it was going out of style.”

“You mean you have other customers?” Don exclaimed. He dug into his burger, reaching for a napkin. “This napkin holder is empty,” he said.

I pushed one towards him from further down the counter, just as the phone rang. “Probably Willi Reinhardt,” I said. “The toilets are plugged up. That ought to take care of your crack about other customers!”

But it was Bob Vilas at the bank. “Jack,” he said, “these checks you wrote Farmer Brothers and Schwartz’ Meat Company last week. What do you expect me to do with them?”

In red-faced confusion, I told Bob it was good of him to call, and said I would be right over to take care of it, as soon as I got rid of my customer.

“You have a customer?”

“Yeah, Don DeWolfe.”

Standing beside his printing press, DeWolfe in 1967 looks over his recently renamed newspaper. Back then the newspaper was produced in the building where Rob Janes Tax Service, Coastal Marin Real Estate, and Epicenter clothing boutique are today.

“Well, tell Don for me, will you, that I think his new idea is great!”

I was really taken aback. “You mean he’s tried the idea out on you? What is it?”

“You don’t know?” Bob cried. “I thought everybody on the street was in on it.”

I hung up, stung, and stood there for a moment letting my anger cool. Here I’d been writing a column for DeWolfe — free. Writing editorials in my spare time, absolutely free of charge! And I’m the last one on the street to know about this great, world-shaking idea of his!

“What is it — I mean, your idea?” I demanded.

He was wiping his hands on four paper napkins at once. Finally he rolled them up into one big ball and dropped them in the green hamburger basket.

“Oh,” he said. “The idea.”

“Yeah, you’ve told everybody else. How about telling old Jack?”

He worked his way off the stool, and pulled some small change out of his pocket — and I mean small. “How much is a hamburger?”

“Did you have cheese on it?”

“No, I can’t eat cheese.”

“Fifty cents. And don’t bother to leave a tip.” I dropped his five dimes and three pennies in the cash drawer. The spring was broken, so we always left the drawer open.

“My idea,” he said, “is to change the name of the paper.”

I felt let down. “What’s wrong with The Baywood Press. It’s been called that for 16 years. It has tradition behind it. People are used to it. Why change it?”

“I thought Point Reyes Light would tie in better with the area,” he said. He inspected me momentarily for my reaction. “I’ll think it over,” I said.

He had to bring all his weight to bear against the door before he could let himself out — the pneumatic catch was stuck. Then he stood there a moment screwing his mouth into an odd shape.

“This is the only hamburger joint I was ever in,” he said, “that didn’t have toothpicks by the cash register.”

The name Baywood Press was changed to Point Reyes Light with the issue of September 8, 1966.

— March 2, 1978

The next posting on SparselySageAndTimely.com will reminisce about the restaurant in more recent times.

Well, hello there. In West Marin, the past couple of weeks have been full of surprises, such as this inquisitive gopher snake which greeted me as I headed down the driveway Thursday.

It was a good-sized snake, more than four feet long. The snake eyed me as I leaned over it but made no attempt to slither off.

Smoke from a fire at the old Foresters Hall in Point Reyes Station drifted over the town on Friday, April 24. The blaze damaged the northeastern exterior of the landmark, including a porch and staircase. Water damage to two apartments forced the tenants to move out. (Marin County Fire provided this photo)

The Foresters of America, a benevolent group, opened a chapter, Court No. 219, in Point Reyes Station in 1905. Its members began designing the hall in 1916. When I arrived in West Marin 45 years ago, the building was called the Sandcastle Gallery, which Jeanne Booras and her husband Bill operated. Kathryn de Laszlo and Stephen Marshall of Petaluma now own the building. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. (Sheriff’s artistic photo)

Another surprise. Sheriff’s deputies in Bolinas on Sunday, April 27, arrested a bicyclist allegedly toting bags of methamphetamine and armed with a loaded revolver, as well as multiple knives, on charges he had just stabbed a friend during an argument. The suspect, Derek James, 39, of Bolinas was jailed with bail set at $50,000.

Last week, Marin County eased the coronavirus lockdown enough at golf courses to allow residents here to play but with groups limited to two people. No doubt many golfers were happy, but evidence for the Marin Independent Journal’s headline was hard to spot in its photo of golfer Nate Siedman from Bolinas.

A small bone surprised us by showing up beside our birdbath Wednesday, and I’m fairly sure a raven brought it there for rinsing. From appearances, it is a chicken bone probably found in someone’s garbage.

For a few years now, ravens have occasionally used our birdbath for preparing dinner. Here a raven brings a mouse’s head to the birdbath for washing.

Obviously feeling at home, raccoons often take naps on our deck at night, which makes us feel — surprise — like housemates.

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This posting was written in 2011, and year in and year out since then, it has continued to draw surprisingly steady readership. With Easter Sunday coming up this weekend, I thought it might be fun to post it again.

Easter will be celebrated on Sunday, making this an appropriate time to ask: do you know where the word comes from? Easter is never mentioned in the Bible. In fact, Easter as we know it originated in the pagan world.

This story begins with Gregory the Great (above), who was pope from 590 to 604. At the time, England was populated by pagan Anglo-Saxons, and this prompted Pope Gregory to send a mission to England to convert them to Catholicism.

The conversions would be easier, Pope Gregory wrote Archbishop Mellitus, if those being converted were allowed to retain their pagan traditions. They would simply be told that their rituals, in fact, honored the Christian God.

Missionaries should accommodate the Anglo-Saxons in this way, as the pope put it, “to the end that, whilst some gratifications are outwardly permitted them, they may the more easily consent to the inward consolations of the grace of God.”

Among the “gratifications” permitted were Easter festivities, which had been a pagan celebration of spring. Because the actual date of Jesus’ death is unknown, the missionaries could tell the Anglo-Saxons that their spring celebration should go on as always but to understand it was really all about Jesus’ resurrection.

This redirecting of traditions was so successful that the church then used it to convert pagans in the Netherlands and Germany.

.

The Venerable Bede is responsible for our knowing the origin of the word Easter.

A Christian scholar, the Venerable Bede (672-735), a century later wrote that Easter took its name from Eostre, also known as Eastre. Eostre  was the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe.

Similarly, some of the Teutonic names for the goddess of dawn and fertility (above) were Ostare, Ostara, Ostern, Eostra, Eostre, Eostur, Eastra, and Eastur. These names were derived from an old Germanic word for spring, “eastre.”

Since ancient times, spring has been seen as a time of fertility, so it was not surprising that among the pagan symbols of the season were rabbits (because large litters are born in early spring) and decorated eggs (because wild birds lay eggs in spring).

Bizarrely, these pagan symbols became so intertwined that Easter Bunnies ended up distributing Easter Eggs.

And so it was that in this roundabout way Pope Gregory I unintentionally helped bring about a goofy bunny’s becoming associated with….

the resurrection of Jesus, who is seen appearing to Mary Magdalene as she weeps outside his tomb.

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The president isn’t just two-faced (Huffington Post graphic).

 You may recall the violence when white nationalists including the Ku Klux Klan held a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, NC, in 2017.  They were protesting the city’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.  As The New York Times then reported, “Groups such as the Neo-Nazi movement and the KKK have felt emboldened since the election of Donald J. Trump as president.” 

David Duke, former imperial wizard of the KKK, told the rally they were “going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump to take back our country.”  However, a peaceful counter-demonstration then followed, and this prompted one of the white nationalists, James Alex Fields, 20, of Ohio, to speed his car into the group, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring 34 others.

Fields was quickly charged with second-degree murder and three counts of malicious wounding, but Trump refused to publicly criticize the white nationalist and instead falsely claimed there had been “violence on many sides.” In fact, Trump often amazes us by sticking up for disreputable public figures, such as Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, whom he says is “smart” and whom he credits with having “done an amazing job.” The result can make for some strange alliances.

From within Russia, US citizen Rinaldo Nazzaro runs an American Neo-Nazi group. He “left New York for St. Petersburg less than two years ago,” the British Broadcasting Company reported on Jan. 24.

“The American founder of a US-based, militant Neo-Nazi group, The Base, is directing the organization from Russia, a BBC investigation has found…. The Base is a major counter-terrorism focus for the FBI. Seven alleged members were charged this month with various offenses, including conspiracy to commit murder.

“Court documents prepared by the FBI describe The Base as a ‘racially motivated violent extremist group’ that ‘seeks to accelerate the downfall of the United States government, incite a race war, and establish a white ethnographies-state,'” the BBC added.

Perhaps Putin’s hosting one of our domestic terrorists is yet another international “favor” our president wants.

First Lady Melania Trump previously modeled for the British ‘Gentleman’s Quarterly’ magazine. Obviously Trump considers her “hot” since he has made a point of prizing “hot” women. Two decades ago, he went so far as to openly promote his teenaged daughter’s sexiness.

In 1997 when his daughter Ivanka was 16, she hosted the Miss Teen USA pageant, and while she was on-stage, Trump turned to the then-Miss Universe and asked, “Don’t you think my daughter’s hot? She’s hot, right?” 

Never before in this country’s history has there been such a bizarre administration, and hopefully there’ll never be another. 

Candidate Bill Bailey (at far right) listening to jazz in Sausalito’s No Name Bar last Friday.

Thankfully, American politics on the local level are generally more traditional and draw more reasonable candidates, at least in this county. In West Marin, Supervisor Dennis Rodoni is currently running for reelection against challenger Alex Easton Brown. In Southern Marin, the Board of Supervisors seat is open, and Bill Bailey is one of the candidates for it. He’s a technical engineer running on a platform of fiscal reform.

Bailey frequently shows up for the Friday jazz performances at the No Name, just as I do. I’m not familiar with his campaign, but I’ve come to recognize him. Even when he’s squinting into my camera’s flash, his low-key, movie-star looks are unmistakeable.

Joining Lynn and me and our homeless friend Billy Hobbs at the No Name Friday was another friend, Guido Hennig of Switzerland, an engineer who visits San Francisco annually for business conferences. Given our nation’s political turmoil, I asked him about Europe’s impression of Trump and was told that it’s generally not very good. No surprise there.

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Artist Billy Hobbs (left) and yours truly on the deck of Mitchell cabin. Billy was homeless for more than five years after his 25-year marriage broke up. For a year he spent his days sketching outside the Point Reyes Station Postoffice, which is where I met him. He had been sleeping outdoors when cold, wet weather set in. This prompted my wife Lynn and me a month ago to invite him to stay with us until the weather clears.

Billy is an intriguing artist, so this week I’m posting a small sampling of his drawings.

The Sacred Tree is Not Dead depicts the chief of the Northern Cheyenne, White Antelope, before he was killed by a U.S. cavalry charge despite having been assured he’d be left alone if he flew an American flag on his tepee.

Lao Tzu, a Sixth Century BC Chinese philosopher. Billy calls Lao Tzu one of his favorite philosophers because of his emphasis on slowing down to smell the roses.

How It Really Went Down. Making his last stand on June 25, 1876, at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer runs out of bullets and is killed, along with all 200 of his men.

Holding Up a Skull and looking through it was inspired by artist Georgia O’Keefe. 

A Pretty Woman. Billy hasn’t quite finished this drawing, but she’s still haunting.

Donald Trump, one of Billy’s rare political drawings. The president bends over to perform another scene from reality TV.

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On a normal evening, this is how Mitchell cabin’s sitting area, dining area, and kitchen look. A journalism student once described the scene as a collection of “mismatched furniture.”

But for three evenings this week, here is how it looked as seen from the other end of the room (thanks to an oil lamp and 11 candles) as a result of PG&E’s turning off power to West Marin, along with many other communities. It was a precaution against high winds that might knock down power lines and spark wildfires in this dry weather.

Although most of West Marin was spared unusually high winds, the blackout cost Mitchell cabin not only its lights but also its water pressure. During the blackout, water coming from our faucets was barely more than a trickle. The cabin’s elevation is close to that of the North Marin Water District tanks on Tank Road in Point Reyes Station. As a result, gravity alone doesn’t provide much of a flow in our household water system, so we rely on an electric pressure pump to have strong streams of water in faucets, hoses, and in the shower.

Nor were showers much of an option during the blackout for any townsperson with an electric hot water heater. With the power back, I finally got to take a shower this morning. If the blackout had gone on for too many more days, Point Reyes Station might have developed a stinky population.

As I write at 6 p.m. Wednesday, power is still off in parts of Dillon Beach, Fairfax, Kentfield, Marshall, Mill Valley, Muir Beach, San Anselmo, Sausalito, Stinson Beach, and Tomales, the Marin Sheriff’s Office has reported. Better wear a face mask when you visit folks there.

But even before the blackout began life here was seeming strange. I looked up from my living-room chair a few evenings ago and was startled to see this damsel outside peering in the window.

Once I thought about it, however, the explanation was obvious. I was seeing a reflection from part of a plant holder hanging inside near the window.

Canada geese heading west to Drakes Estero for the night one evening last week. I get to see them most evenings if I listen for their honking around sunset.

Memories of spring: a kestrel on the railing of our deck.

Dealing with the blackout has been tiring, so I’ll stop here and take a snooze. Goodnight. I’ll sleep tight. And I won’t have any bedbugs bite; after all, Mitchell cabin is not a Trump hotel.

 

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Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936)

What happens when a priest loses his faith? Spanish writer, philosopher, and political activist Miguel de Unamuno provides an inspiring look at the dilemma in his short novel, San Manuel Bueno, Martyr, which I just re-read. The book fascinated me when I took a Spanish-literature class at Stanford, and this prompted me to take a second look some 55 years later.

Unamuno was an early existentialist, and often at the core of his writing is the tension between intellect and emotion, between faith and reason. In San Manuel Bueno, Martyr, Unamuno tells the story of a priest, Don Manuel, struggling with that tension. He is intelligent, hardworking, provides volunteer labor, and is so kind that he inspires the members of his parish to be good to one another. Yet secretly he doesn’t believe everything he preaches.

“The imperturbable joyousness of Don Manuel,” says the fictional narrator Angela Carballino, “was merely the temporal, earthly form of an infinite, eternal sadness which the priest concealed from the eyes and ears of the world with heroic saintliness.”

“The marvel of the man was his voice; a divine voice which bought one close to weeping,” the narrator recalls. “How he did love his people! His life consisted in salvaging wrecked marriages, in forcing unruly sons to submit to their parents, or reconciling parents to their sons, and above all, consoling the embittered and the weary in spirit; meanwhile he helped everyone to die well.”

Ironically, Unamuno was known for standing up for his views.

A key section of the novel describes the death of the devout mother of the narrator, Angela, and Angela’s brother, Lazarus, who was a  nonbeliever. “The peace in which your mother dies will be her eternal life,” Don Manuel tells Angela. He then explains to Lazarus, “Her heaven is to go on seeing you, and it is at this moment that she must be saved. Tell her you will pray for her.” When the nonbeliever starts to object: “But…”, Don Manuel responds,  “But what? … Tell her you will pray for her, to whom you owe your life. And I know that once you promise her, you will pray.”

Lazarus, “his eyes filled with tears, drew near our dying mother and gave his solemn promise to pray for her…. And I, in heaven, will pray for you,” his mother replies. “And then, kissing the crucifix and fixing her eyes on Don Manuel, she gave up her soul to God.”

Lazarus later reveals to his sister that the priest had previously appealed to him “to set a good example, to avoid scandalizing the townspeople, to take part in the religious life of the community, to feign belief even if he did not feel any.” Don Miguel was not trying to convert him, Lazarus explains, “but rather [was feigning his conversion] to protect the peace, the happiness, the illusions perhaps, of his charges. I understood that if he thus deceives them — if it is deceit — it is not for his own advantage…. The people should be allowed to live with their illusion.”

Neither Don Manuel’s deception nor his losing his belief in God ever becomes public, and after he dies, his unsuspecting bishop sets in motion the process for beatifying him, hence the name San Miguel Bueno.

In 1901 Unamuno became rector of the University of Salamanca but lost the post in 1914 for publicly espousing the Allied cause in World War I. His opposition in 1924 to General Miguel Primo de Rivera’s rule in Spain led to his being exiled to the Canary Islands, from which he escaped to France. When Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship fell, Unamuno returned to the University of Salamanca and was reelected rector in 1931, but in October 1936, he denounced the fascism of General Francisco Franco and again lost the post. He was placed under house arrest and within two months died of a heart attack.

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