The Cold Canyon Fire Journals

Green Shoots and Silver Linings in the Ashes

“A beautiful exploration of the ecological legacy of wildfires in California.”

— Rosanna Xia, Los Angeles Times

“Enthralling and vibrant, Cold Canyon Fire Journals is an exceptional tribute to the strength, diversity, and beauty of the natural world, championing the importance of protecting our wild places.”

— Foreword Reviews (starred review, July/August 2022)

Click here to see upcoming book events!

I am proud to announce release of my debut book, now available from Heyday.

The Cold Canyon Fire Journals: Green Shoots and Silver Linings in the Ashes is the culmination of five years exploring the legacy of the wildfires that have twice burned Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve. This is a story of fire as a source of transformation and renewal, rewriting wildfire as an elemental power that does not destroy the diverse habitats of California but nourishes them.

My artistic and scientific journey led me to a new understanding of how we must live in relationship to the land. With fire suppression and climate change undermining the regenerative work of wildfire, this story of ecological kinship is an urgent one, showing us how cultivating intimacy with our natural world teaches us what we need to do to sustain it.

The book is fully illustrated with pages from my sketchbook in ink and watercolor.

Available now

Advance Praise for The Cold Canyon Fire Journals

“The Cold Canyon Fire Journals is a celebration of a beauty that is larger than our comprehension. Our beloved world has burned and will burn again, Carlson tells us. But these pages offer a new way to relate to fire, kindling a respect for the natural world on its own terms. This is a book to cherish, to share, and to hold close when the skies once again darken with smoke.

KENDRA ATLEEWORK, author of Miracle Country, winner of the Sigurd F. Olsen Nature Writing Award

“The Cold Canyon Fire Journals is a captivating and matchless invitation to see, through Carlson’s incisive writing and charming artistry, a landscape recovering from fire. The relationship and lessons Carlson derives intertwine with her knowledge of global climate crisis and fire cycles—we are all better for being invited into this journey of recovery and reformation.”
BERONDA L. MONTGOMERY, author of Lessons from Plants

“That place can be a relationship is well understood; that fire is, less so. Robin Lee Carlson puts Cold Canyon, a place she knows intimately, together with fire, an oft-vexing visitor, and the result is a delightfully illustrated reimagining of the fire-catalyzed changes sweeping over us.”
STEPHEN PYNE, author of The Pyrocene

“As we follow Robin Carlson’s adventures and exploration in a post-fire landscape, we are given the raw footage from her nature journals and the deeper insights they inspire. We see the landscape through her eyes, tuned with the curiosity and insight of a scientist and the aesthetics and delight of an artist. This book is an authentic love song to the wonder, resilience and beauty of nature and the power of observation and inquiry.”
JOHN MUIR LAWS, author of The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling

“Robin Lee Carlson spent years field-sketching wildfire impacts, and in The Cold Canyon Fire Journals, she shows us that fire is not inherently bad but a process of change and renewal. Her detailed observations are important, and we can all learn from them as we seek to learn to live with fire in California.”
LAURA CUNNINGHAM, author of A State of Change

“In a time when those who love the living world must hold together joy and pain, beauty and loss, Robin Lee Carlson allows fire to become a teacher that opens both the physical landscape and her ‘imaginative sympathy.’ As a contemplation on ecological change, Cold Canyon reveals how a landscape forged in fire, over time and with loving attention, can deeply alter and revivify our perceptions.”
GAVIN VAN HORN, author of The Way of Coyote and co-editor of Kinship

“Through her fascinating stories and colorful illustrations, Robin beautifully and intimately chronicles a natural community’s journey, from devastation to its spellbinding rebirth.”

ROB BADGER and NITA WINTER, authors of Beauty and the Beast: California Wildflowers and Climate Change

“After a seemingly unending series of catastrophic fire seasons, Californians can’t be blamed for being pessimistic about the future of their state and its globally treasured landscapes. In The Cold Canyon Fire Journals, Robin Carlson traces – in reverential prose and delightful illustration – the multiple rebirths of a cherished Coast Range watershed after the passage of wildfires in 2015 and 2020. Carlson invites the reader on her own journey of discovery and wonder, and finds ‘beauty in things that seem broken.’ For Californians the future brings both fear and hope. Carlson weaves both into her story of the big lessons a small place can teach us about where our world is going, and what we can do about it.”

HUGH SAFFORD, Chief scientist, Vibrant Planet; Research ecologist, UC Davis; US Forest Service, retired

“Robin Lee Carlson was one of the first on the scene after the wildfire at Stebbins Cold Canyon. Her documentary of the recovery is the most engaging there is. Robin has an artist’s aesthetic, a scientist’s care for detail, and a documentarian’s ability to tell the story of a landscape and a fire. The striking illustrations and thoughtful observation of Robin’s book walk us through the transformation and rebirth of a landscape.”

JEFFREY CLARY, Associate Director, UC Davis Natural Reserve System

“I love how Robin Lee Carlson’s narrative weaves art and ecology into a very distinctive, comfortable flow. It connects the dots between all of life’s harsh beauties and wonders in an honest and positive light.”

PAUL HAVEMANN, Reserve Manager, Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve