Parts of the Big Mesa in Bolinas finally had their power restored at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday after being blacked out for more than five and a half days by last week’s stormy weather.

Much of the blackout on the Mesa resulted from fallen lines near the Elm Road home of Serena Castaldi. However, pockets of homes on the Big Mesa, as well as the downtown, lost power for only brief periods. High winds, which were clocked at hurricane force on Big Rock Ridge near Nicasio Friday morning, also caused multi-day blackouts in parts of that town and in parts of Inverness.

Bolinas resident Laura Riley told me that by the time her home got its power back Wednesday afternoon, “my humor was starting to flag. It’s hard to do everything in the dark

“We have a woodstove we heat with normally,” Laura said, and her home’s kitchen stove uses propane, so she could cook. For a while she used up food that was thawing in the refrigerator. “It was fun,” she wryly commented, “for about two and a half days, but how long do you want to eat that old turkey?”

Laura said her home’s on-demand water heater burns propane but has an electric starter, so it didn’t work. Her family, she added, spent a fair amount of time at her brother Ned’s home next door, which also has an on-demand, propane water heater but with no electric starter.

In fact, several Bolinas people told me that the worst part of the blackout was going without hot water for almost a week.


Jonathan Rowe of Point Reyes Station is known for a number of things. He hosts America Offline on KWMR at 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays (rebroadcast at 11 a.m. Thursdays). He is an advocate for a commons in town. He is a contributing editor to The Washington Monthly and YES! magazines. And he seems to do much of his writing on a laptop computer in the open-air coffeehouse at Toby’s Feed Barn.

More than a few passersby have seen Jonathan staring into his computer screen and wondered what kind of stuff he writes. This week, some folks here found out. As a number of people have alerted me in the past 36 hours, The Columbia Journalism Review just published a long article by Jonathan on The Point Reyes Light and The West Marin Citizen, as well as on the types of readers in these small towns. The article titled The Language of Strangers is already online.

Jonathan’s piece is accompanied by Inverness writer Elizabeth Whitney’s transcription of the community meeting a year ago in the Dance Palace where residents said what they wanted in their hometown newspaper.

Columbia Journalism Review, the best-known trade magazine watchdogging newsrooms around the US, is headquartered at Columbia University in New York City.


Every year or so for a couple of decades The Point Reyes Light and I would hear from a woman in Kansas named Melissa Koons. She filled us in on what was happening in her hometown of Newton (pop. 17,000) and on how her own writing was going.

This year when she wrote The Light, the paper forwarded her letter to me. The three-page, handwritten letter provides a glimpse into what it feels like to be an older progressive on the prairie. “Believe me,” she wrote, “it’s very hard to speak my mind in general public here in my own state of Kansas.”

Melissa, as a result, has chosen to speak her mind in A Poem on Ethics: “What is ethics?/ It is:/ People who have a voice./ Doing something about the world’s problems./ What comes to mind?/ Simple:/ Conservation./ Accepting people as they are./ Communication/ To change the viewpoint/ Of world leaders./ So what are we waiting for?/ Is anybody listening?”

Melissa Koons, a free-verse voice crying out on the Kansas prairie.