Remembering Sis Arndt
By Jim Scanlon
The first time I met Sis, was during the
mid 1970s when she called me and invited me to her home I had written a couple
of articles in the first issues of the Coastal Post on the environmental
effects Water District policies on Nicasio and Lagunitas Creeks. I was upset
about a lot of things in those days and felt isolated and alone. I was glad to
talk to someone--- anyone --- who seemed to share my concerns.
The Arndt family home is right off he main part of downtown Point Reyes Station, a large lot with a simple white painted house, garage, workshop, outbuildings and a large vegetable and flower garden. Tall totem-pole-like structures covered with abalone shells rise up along the front of the house. I imagined that California's Indians did things like that.
A short, little old lady with white hair, and a soft gentle voice greeted me, took me into the dining room and made me a cup of tea and after feeding me cookies, she started talking about water, politics and power in West Marin. She started pulling out articles from the old Baywood press which showed that many people long gone had warned of the environmental problems we were facing then. This meeting started my education in West Marin.
Sissy never raised her voice, did not ever seem to betray anger, always spoke calmly, and respectfully, without sarcasm and --- most importantly --- she always knew what she was talking about and what the facts were. She was patient and, although seemingly defeated time and again, she never seem discouraged. These were all problems that I had great difficulty with and I believe I learned from her.
I got to know and love Sis over the years and also her husband Lefty. Lefty, who died just a few years ago, had the enthusiasm and joy of life of a teen age boy. I sat entranced listening to his stories of US Navy life during World War II, fishing stories and life in old West Marin. I don't think I ever heard him say a cross word about anyone, even though many ranchers were upset by Sissy's criticism of their seeming lack of concern for the environment.
Sissy was a close friend of the late Ann West and her husband John. They shared a deep concern for preserving West Marin (and the whole world really!) from destruction. Ann and Sis were an unlikely combination being very different personalities. Ann, who was also, always prepared, was highly confrontational in public.
It was a pleasure to see Ann and Sis together with Leo Cronin, another deceased caretaker of Marin's heritage. They loved, respected and cooperated with each other and that love and respect rubbed off on others. They all got down in the dirt and mud and worked on fish ladders and correcting damage to creeks for the benefit of the plants and animals that lived in them and on them.
Ann and Sis used to walk the creek every day together. I got a call once to come and photograph green sturgeon that were began coming into White House Pool and another time to see a pack of river otters that came from nowhere to frolic at high tide.
I don't want my sadness to distort the reality of these wonderful people now gone. They made life miserable and uncomfortable for a lot of people, but they did not do it to make life miserable and uncomfortable for anyone, but to expose the illusions, falsehoods and ignorance that lead all of us astray and sometimes lead to disaster.
Who will take their place? Maybe you dear reader.