Coffey Park

Coffey Park is Coming Back!

It’s been a while since I’ve been out sketching the firestorm and aftermath story. But the timing was right on Tuesday and we headed out to see what we would find.  Not what I expected surely. Lots of building going on! Lots of homes going up. The debris removers were gone. All of the twisted up vehicles and singed barbeques were gone. And in their place, lumber, and pipes, and carpenters with tool belts. I found a small patch of shade and jumped in!

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watercolor and pen on 9 X 15″140lb CP Arches paper

I’ve gotten tired of the paper one finds in  ready-made sketchbooks, so I’m trying out a system of working on signatures of paper cut to size and later to be bound in books. Bob has signed on to do the binding (after the fact) since he has all the equipment and know-how. Lucky me! I actually do not like this Arches paper for sketching. It’s too hard and too textured, so you have to work too hard to get the paint down. So I ordered the paper I love, which is Fluid 100 paper made by Hand book Co. (Global arts). And that’s what I’ll be using, not this hard stuff. However I really like this size which can either be 9X7.5″ portrait or opened up to full spread at 9X 15″, which is about the size I can manage if I have 30-60 minutes to sketch. I’ll share the whole set up once I get it figured out and more importantly, tried out!

I must say the mid day visit to Coffey Park was good for my spirits. The carpenter reading the blueprints in the right hand corner helps to tell the story of a community which has a chance for a brand new life. I’m anxious to go back and even breathe in all the exhaust from trucks and construction to enjoy the spirit of renewal. It’s been a rough few months since the fire for these folks who lost their homes.

 

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Fire Restoration

The northern California fires of last October left us all feeling vulnerable. The devestation and loss of peoples’ lives, homes, livelihoods, and more is not even close to being put in the past. I’ve been going back out to some of the burned neighborhoods I sketched a few weeks or months ago to observe the physical changes.

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fountain pen and watercolor in 8 X 8″ hand.book trav.e.logue sketchbook

After the fire you could always find the “steps to nowhere”, only then they were covered with the considerable debris of people’s homes that had burned down. Now almost 90% of the lots have been cleared and scraped and are theoretically ready for rebuilding, though little construction has yet to get started. Here you see a cleared lot, no longer blackened. All around one sees the irrepressible greening of nature. So many of the burned trees are now blossoming or budding out!

fountaingroveburn1 Here’s another lot which perches on the edge of the canyon with a jaw-dropping view. The cement foundation of the upper story stands clear and ready while a giant tractor claw rests in the green grass rusting. One wonders if the holdup is the post-fire discovery of toxins in the water system that must be remedied before construction gets underway? The lay of the land looked eerily familiar to me.

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It was the same lot I had sketched (on gray paper) last December when part of the house was still standing! All the homes seen across the way had also disappeared!

Then last week I met Peter Phibbs, the sculptor who works at the Paradise Ridge winery that burned in the fire. I had the opportunity to see some of his creations made from burned wood and grapevines. My favorite was his “Wave”, an on site installation which took my breath away!

Paradise1

It was late in the day with not much time to hear Peter’s fire story or do more than one sketch. On October 8 he was busy at work building a stage on the property when the fire came roaring toward him and he just escaped in time, leaving all his tools and car to the flames. Since then he’s “rescued” a treasured oak tree by turning it into a sculpture that will last for ages. And he was just in the process of loading up and delivering a large burnt wood sculpture to a family who lost their home in Coffey Park (made of wood reclaimed from their property!).

Peter

While he was talking I snapped a picture and sketched this later. Here you see one of the phoenixes of the Tubbs Fire!

The much loved Paradise Ridge wines survived and the winery will be rebuilt. Visit their website to read their touching story. I hope to go back soon to capture more of this scene. The land is still laced with dramatic sculptures and llamas and more! And the vines are thriving.

paradiseridgevines

Burn Mama

The story is always in the details. You can drive by the neighborhoods that burned in the October fires, as I did with my sons who have been visiting from back east. I wanted them to get a feel for this epic event that changed so many lives. But when you sit down to stay a while and sketch the scene, pieces of the story start to creep into your heart and get stuck there.

ForSaleCoffeyPark

This property, like so many others, had passed inspections and been partially cleared. The insurance company was involved. The holiday spirit had been noted in stray decorations. The straw batting was arranged to keep the soil and pollutants from flowing into the street when it rains. And the lot is for sale. Like many property owners now, these folks will be moving on, and new owners will build, and in a few years this night of fires will be history, though never forgotten.

Mr.Ashes

I confess that I had a few moments of despair on that street and wondered why I was still sketching the fire story. So many lives upended.

But then I saw this marvelous burnt-out tree and did a detailed pen drawing of it. When I got home, this creature looked out at me. We’ll call her Burn Mama. She got her hair singed and her lungs full of smoke, but she’s still standing strong in that what’s your problem honey things are going to be OK way.

So when my heart fills with despair, about the fire losses or the sad state of affairs in our country and injustices in the world; when I take stock of things on the turn of the calendar year, I’ll stand with her. She can handle it and so will I/we. Sonoma Strong!