Reading the Ashes

As someone who never imagined publishing a book and who did not ever think I would be able to call myself a writer and author, I am exceptionally proud to have an essay published in The Common. My essay, “Reading the Ashes,” just came out in Issue 42, and is featured in both the online and print editions of the issue. It is accompanied by illustrations from my sketchbook. I can’t wait for the print version to arrive in my mailbox!

Interview on the Golden State Naturalist

I am thrilled to say that my interview with Michelle Fullner, the Golden State Naturalist, is up! Michelle and I met at Cold Canyon on a supremely hot August morning for a hike and conversation. We talked about my seven years of observations of Cold Canyon, fire ecology, the process of making The Cold Canyon Fire Journals, fire cycles in California, controlled and cultural burning, and so much more.

This episode starts the second season of Michelle’s podcast, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I love the range of interesting and engaging people she has picked to interview. She does a ton of research into each subject so that she can add plenty of background and her own thoughts to the final product. And I feel a strong kinship with her in how we approach science communication. We share a focus on making sure we understand the science behind our topics as fully as possible, and representing our subjects with thoughtfulness, consideration and respect.

I can’t wait to listen to Michelle’s upcoming episodes!

Publication Day!

Today is publication day for The Cold Canyon Fire Journals. I am writing this in utter amazement that the day has arrived, and so proud to have a book out in the world.

My book is the culmination of nearly six years hiking and sketching in a California canyon, burned twice in that time by wildfire. I set out to learn all I could about how the habitats there respond to fire, and how my own observations fit into the larger picture of climate change in California and the western US. It is about the insights and sometimes astounding shifts in perspective that can come from careful study of and immersion in a particular place, from experiencing an ecosystem over time, across the seasons and years.

In writing this book, I wanted to bring readers into this experience, through the narrative but also through my drawings. So the book is full of my actual sketchbook pages, telling the story in conversation with the text, and inviting you to walk with me a little way along the trail.

This project has taught me so much about what you can find when you look closely. It has introduced me to engaging, insightful, funny and warm people. It has helped me discover a writer in myself that I didn’t know existed.

As I watch the latest fires in California during yet another long, hot, dry summer, I am holding close the lessons I’ve learned from the newts and the horntails, the whispering bells and the lichens, and all the other denizens of the canyon.

The Cold Canyon Fire Journals: Preorder Special Offer

I’m excited to announce a special thank you for preorders of The Cold Canyon Fire Journals!

Anyone who orders (or who has already ordered) the book before August 9 will receive an invitation to a virtual workshop and discussion on August 9 at 6:30 PM PST with John Muir Laws, author of The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, Marthine Satris, my editor at Heyday, and me.

We will discuss what inspired me to document the resurgence of the Cold Canyon nature reserve after the 2015 Wragg Fire and explore how nature journaling cultivates deeper ties to the world around us. I will also guide participants through an illustration exercise, with a live audience Q&A to follow.

Here’s how to participate:

  • Preorder The Cold Canyon Fire Journals from your favorite independent bookseller, heydaybooks.com, or any online retailer.
  • Forward your email receipt to coldcanyon@heydaybooks.com to receive your invitation to my nature journaling workshop with John Muir Laws (@johnmuirlaws) on August 9, 2022.
  • Already preordered your copy? Wonderful, and thank you! To join the workshop, send your email receipt to coldcanyon@heydaybooks.com
  • (For any questions regarding your order of the book itself, please contact the bookseller.)

Unable to join us on August 9? No problem! All registered attendees will receive a recording of the event as well as a 30% discount code for the best-selling Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling and details for how to attend the virtual Wild Wonder Nature Journaling Conference (September 14 – 18, 2022).

First Visit After the Hennessey Fire (9/5/2020)

Anxious to see how the area looked after the fire, I drove up to Stebbins once the highway was open again. I was waiting to receive research access to the closed Reserve, but thought it would be good to see what things looked like from the road.

It is a stark landscape but a beautiful one. Without being able to explore very far in space, I focused on details: the color palette, the specifics of curled leaves, the patches of remaining green leaves or needles on trees with foliage mostly heat-killed.

I did notice that the large oak that anchored my view into the canyon on each visit since the Wragg Fire had succumbed to this fire. Drawing its stump was poignant. The place was incredibly still and quiet. I didn’t hear or see any birds save one turkey vulture high above the ridge.