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.
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!
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.
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!
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!).
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.