After the Caldor fire of 2021, our landscape was changed forever. We now live in the green heart of a burnt forest, miraculously saved by the wind and relentless firefighting. We were evacuated for three weeks. Christmas Valley was saved, but sadly other communities such as Grizzly Flats were completely destroyed. I watched a mushroom cloud bloom over the Sierra Nevada mountain range from hot, flat desert over thirty miles away. Chunks of ash blew miles on the wind, sometimes burnt bark too.
Homecoming was surreal, marked by sensory submersion: lingering sickly smoke, red sun, velvet purple-russet-black forest, screaming chainsaws and deep silence.
At first we were not allowed to go into the burn areas, too dangerous. Some trees were still falling, the destruction incomplete. Near our house, there was a small patch of charred willows from a spot fire that had been successfully put out before it spread. Without thinking, I sat down and put my hands in the earth. The instinct to roll the burnt fragments between my fingers came from decades of drawing with charcoal, and I found myself stacking pieces in my hand, they way I always do when I’m working.
There were blades of grass still growing through the charred remains, burnt at the tips but still green. Nature always finds a way, they say. I drew a breath, realizing that Spring would be here in six months, and the cycle of transformation would begin again.
Charcoal & Pastel on Paper
12 x 18″