“The world, dear Agnes, is a strange affair,” wrote the French playwright Jean Baptiste Poqulin Molière (1622-73). Indeed it is, and I’ve been keeping a record.


Now I don’t claim to believe in such miracles, but a recognizable apparition of Jesus (or is it Moammar Khadafy?) appears on the glass door of my woodstove almost every time I light a fire.

I’ve repeatedly cleaned all traces of soot and creosote off the glass, only to have the apparition’s sad visage reappear again and again.

Pilgrims, supplicants, and expatriated Libyans are invited to send comments to SparselySageAndTimely.com in order to receive information on visiting hours and donations expected at the door.

In an article on “biological clocks,” the Feb. 17-23 Economist noted, “People produce urine fastest at 6 p.m. They are most likely to develop an allergic reaction at 11 p.m. And 1 a.m. is a prime time for pregnant women to go into labour.” (The Economist is British, hence the un-American spelling of “labor.”)

If all this is true, I reasoned, 6 p.m. must begin a flush hour that follows the rush hour, so I called North Marin Water District and talked to Ryan Grisso in water operations. Is there, I asked, a spike in water use at 6 p.m. each day à la the supposed spike at halftime during the Super Bowl?

Ryan checked with his supervisor Brad Stompe and called back to say water use does indeed spike at 6 p.m. However, he added, it also spikes at 6 a.m., so he and Brad were unable to attribute the spikes simply to flushing. They could also have to do with people starting to cook, Ryan said.

It occurred to me, however, that numerous people get out of bed around 6 a.m., and at that hour too, their bodies would function in time with their biological clocks. All the same, the 6 a.m. spike wouldn’t necessarily conflict with the cooking theory, for much of the commuter crowd also starts fixing breakfast around 6 a.m.

For now, I guess, we’ll just have to leave it all dangling and pose another question.


Last week I photographed a raven perched on my birdbath as it tore apart some long, worm-like prey.

What was the prey? All I could tell for sure was that its hide was segmented, its flesh was bright pink, and it was surprisingly long. So I asked Point Reyes Station ornithologist Rich Stallcup what the bird was eating.

He wrote back that he although could not tell me “precisely, it is probably a big grub (beetle larva) or possibly a larval ceanothus silk worm.

“It is not a snake, lamprey, or eel,” Stallcup added with good humor.


As it happened, I photographed a ceanothus silkmoth on my kitchen door a few weeks ago.

If that was one of its larvae being eaten, West Marin just lost a soon-to-be beautiful resident.

But then, there’s no figuring out animals — at least some of the time.

When I moved to Point Reyes Station 32 years ago, my former wife Cathy and I owned a Rhodesian ridgeback named Maria. Despite her size, 120 pounds, Maria was hardly an aggressive dog, but she was a guard dog. We had gotten her after finding prowlers peering in our windows while we were still living in Monte Rio. However, once we moved to Point Reyes Station, Maria’s main guard duties were reduced to scaring stray cats off our deck and lying on our steps keeping watch for our return.

When we did return up our driveway at the end of each workday, I always found it reassuring to spot Maria lying in the grass between the railroad-tie treads of our stairs.

Maria’s died almost three decades ago, so I felt a bit of déjà vu last week when I noticed a blacktail deer had taken over her lookout spot.


I’d never had a guard deer before, but I felt confident it would have caused a commotion had a prowler tried to climb my stairs while it was lying there.

We’ll end with another item from The Economist, which curiously refers to itself as a “newspaper” and not a news “magazine,” which it is.

The word “notorious” has been used facetiously so often that some people have forgotten what it really means. Just as a reminder, The American Heritage Dictionary defines “notorious” as “known widely and usually unfavorably; infamous: a notorious gangster; a district notorious for vice.”

Given what the word means, I was surprised this week by a large advertisement in the April 28-May 4 issue of The Economist for “the São Paulo Ethanol Summit 2007.” The ad proclaims that “Brazil [is] ahead once again” in “renewable energy” and describes the summit as “the first event of global expression on this matter with the notorious presence of worldwide leaders, CEOs, scientists, researchers, economical and political authorities.”

Sounds like a “notorious” gathering, all right.